Credited as the original creator of Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, programmer David Jones founded Realtime Worlds in 2002. The Dundee, Scotland-based studio produced Crackdown first, an open-world experience wherein players portrayed a biologically enhanced Agent tasked with dismantling crime syndicates in a dystopian metropolis. Its incredible success propelled Realtime Worlds to greater heights, providing the cache necessary to recruit additional staff and focus on the pursuit of a far more ambitious project—the MMO that initially hit the ground running as APB: All Points Bulletin.
Realtime Worlds touted APB as an urban MMO buttressed by the cops and robbers motif; players could assume the role of either side of the law, wreaking havoc as criminals or toeing the line as law enforcement in the name of justice. While Jones widely talked up the notion of reinventing massively multiplayer online games, the public and press could only imagine a GTA-styled MMO, giving way to misconceptions that drove unreasonably high expectations. In the end, it all came tumbling down without much notice.
Five years of development, multiple rounds of funding, two publishers, and a meandering vision climaxed in one of the industry’s most shocking failures. It didn’t help that APB remained in production so long that it found itself competing in a market that evolved past what the project had on offer. Thus, the down-and-out MMO’s chances of successfully mounting a comeback were contingent on factors well outside the realm of bug fixes and better-balanced gameplay. And its eventual return failed to reignite widespread interest in the product, proving that even the best-intentioned endeavors rarely receive a second chance at a first impression.
This is the tragedy of APB: All Points Bulletin.