Realtime Worlds boss Dave Jones has been showing off the huge amount of customisation options featured in forthcoming PC and Xbox 360 title All Points Bulletin.
Speaking at the Game Developers Conference, Jones discussed his decision to stay away from traditional MMO genres for APB. "The more fantasy you go, the more sci-fi, basically you're diminishing your audience," he said. "People these days don't want to learn things over and over again. Making games contemporary, urban and cool lowers the boundary."
So for APB, he explained, Realtime Worlds decided to "replace geek with chic" - Air Jordans instead of Stalker Boots, Raybans instead of telescopic eye goggles, AK-47 instead of Braggart's Bows and so on.
Then it was time to show off the character creator, "a big part" of APB. "Effectively it's user-generated content," he observed. "But one of the problems is 90 percent of user-created content is crap. We've all seen Second Life."
Jones said he wanted players to be able to make unique characters using a free-form, high quality and easy-to-use system. He demonstrated the high level of detail you'll be able to choose - not just your character's body shape and skin colour but things like hair length and how pronounced their veins are. You can even place moles and freckles wherever you like, or choose how old scars you've selected look.
There will be a huge wardrobe of clothes to choose from and these are also customisable. You can use a decal creator to design your very own logo and apply this to your outfit. Plus you can place the decal on your character as a realistic-looking tattoo or stick it on your car. You can share it with fellow gang members so they can do the same, and buy and sell decals within the game.
To demonstrate the potential of the character and decal creators, Jones showed off some he made earlier - "The Geek Squad". An APB-created Peter Molyneux appeared on-screen, complete with Lionhead-branded jacket and trademark black polo neck. Jones also created characters looking impressively similar to Warren Spector and Richard Garriott. For the finale, he presented an in-game version of Shigeru Miyamoto - and as the camera panned down it was revealed he was wearing only boxer shorts. Covered in images of Toad.
Cars are fully customisable too - according to Jones, you can expect the same level of depth as you'd find in a standalone racing game. There are all sorts of cosmetic tweaks you can make, and you can also fiddle about under the bonnet.
Even the in-game music is customisable. Realtime Worlds has established a partnership with music sharing site last.fm and they've developed a system which will let you choose what tracks your car plays as it drives round. If you pass another player who also has one of those tracks in their MP3 library, that's what they'll hear as you drive by.
According to Jones, there's no grinding in APB. He took inspiration from Counter-Strike - "the best online game ever". Instead of "playing like a programmer" in games like World of Warcraft (which, Jones was careful to point out, he's a big fan of), the fun and reward will come from interaction between players. Because you have more freedom, missions are dynamic and entertaining even if you repeat them. "Players will come back again and again because the gameplay is fun, not because they are working their way through a grind," Jones promised.
A grindless MMO? Sounds intriguing. We'll find out if Realtime Worlds has pulled it off when APB is released later this year.
Update: Ellie missed it because she had to duck out the session early, but Jones confirmed one other intriguing feature of APB at the end of his talk. Players will be able to carry video cameras in the game and use them to make movies and post online. Jones said his testers had already used this feature to re-make an entire Final Fantasy VII battle sequence in APB's world. This was part of his philosophy of supporting emergent behaviour among players, and it certainly sounds cool to us.