How APB 'Torpedoed' Developer Realtime Worlds

Illustration for article titled How APB 'Torpedoed' Developer Realtime Worlds

The developer of Crackdown and APB, Realtime Worlds, was recently hit with layoffs. Members of the APB team were axed, as was much of the team developing social gaming software Project MyWorld. So, what happened to the promising studio?

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According to a commenter at Rock Paper Shotgun going by the name ExRTW, claiming to be a former employee of Realtime Worlds on the Project MyWorld side, it wasn't just one thing that contributed to the studio's demise. The game was delayed multiple times, it didn't have good driving or combat mechanics and was "really a product of fairly directionless creative leadership."

The "real killer," ExRTW writes, was the business model, a decision that was "out of the team's hands."

"The game has issues, but I think if you separate the business model from the game itself, it holds up at least a little better. The problem was that management looked at the revenue they wanted to generate and priced accordingly, failing to realise (or care) that there are literally a dozen top quality, subscription free team based shooters. Many of which, now, have progression and persistence of some sort – for free."

The alleged former employee further blasts Realtime Worlds' management for failing "spectacularly to manage expectations," citing confusion about the game's subscription model, a too-buggy public beta and an intense focus on APB's standout character customization.

"RTW tried something bold, and fucked it up," ExRTW writes. "It tried to make what amounted to two MMOs at once, as well as self-publish. I have to hand it to [studio founder David Jones]. He's ballsy. But in the end, we couldn't do it, and I think the whole company will go under sooner rather than later."

If an accurate portrayal of APB's development at Realtime Worlds, it's a fascinating, disheartening read. But it could also explain a lot.

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Redundancies At Real Time Worlds [Rock Paper Shotgun]

DISCUSSION

Any not-mega developer—and hell, even the mega-developers, should carve this into their god-damn chest. MMO's are hard.

People lament the lack of innovation, 'WoW-clone-itis', and deride every game that doesn't try to break from the formula: But herein lies the problem with being experimental. MMOs are expensive as hell. MMO's teams are gigantic. They're staff borders on bureaucratic and requires management to be on the fucking ball at all times. And they cost money. Enough to wreck your company. Enough to kill it with one stroke. And even if you do alright, the payoff isn't immediate. From an investor perspective, MMO's are like nightmares.

So investors expect returns. No, they demand returns. WoW sells, make it like WoW. Subscription models make a lot of money, make it a subscription model. The only thing you can really convince the people who are investing in said product is telling them you're going to charge more. Free to play? If your budget is in the triple digits, cover yourself in hamburger, jump into a tank full of sharks and convince them not to eat you—it's more likely going to happen.

It's unfortunate that the APBs, the Hellgates, the Tabula Rasa's have to pay dearly, but this is the other problem with MMOs. Its gamers will hold you to a high fucking standard. We're paying—monthly, hourly, getting nickeled and dimed, and anyone who does that expects more. They don't want to pay $15 a month to be bored. They don't want to pay fee for a game that runs out of steam an hour from the character creation screen.

But companies need to be more realistic about this. They have to be smarter about stuff like this. It's a damn shame that so many guys out there lose their jobs because of a screwed up vision, a lack of control, a reach that exceeds their grasp that badly. Even a worse shame when it could be avoided if these guys focused their energies on something that wasn't likely to bankrupt them in the process.