Apex Legends developer Respawn Entertainment recently hosted two Reddit AMAs to answer questions from players regarding various aspects of the game. The first AMA took place on Tuesday, shortly after the launch of the Beast of Prey Collection Event, and featured lead game designer Robert West (/u/RoboB0b). West answered questions concerning the event’s new Gun Run LTM and some of Apex’s other limited-time modes. The second AMA was held yesterday, with the discussion focused on the game’s weapons, legends, and overall meta. Weapons designer Eric Canavese (/u/RV-Eric) and lead legends designer Devan McGuire (/u/RV-Devan) teamed up to answer questions about game balance.
Both AMAs revealed some interesting facts about the game’s development (and some hints at upcoming features). With so many questions and answers in both massive threads, it’s easy to lose track of what’s what, so we took a deep dive into both AMA sessions to uncover every interesting tidbit of information we could find. Keep reading for a summary of everything we learned from Respawn’s Apex Legends AMA series.
AMA #1: Gun Run & LTMs
The first AMA was focused solely on questions pertaining to limited-time modes, including Gun Run.
On whether players will see Gun Run’s game-winning throwing knife elsewhere in the game:
West: No plans currently. The throwing knife was designed as the final weapon in Gun Run and is tuned to be quite lethal! Even if we make it an air drop weapon, it would probably need some changes when considering battle royale.
This comes as somewhat of a disappointment to fans who enjoy the throwing knife and seem to believe it could easily be implemented into other parts of the game with a few tweaks. Interestingly, West revealed that Gun Run matches were originally meant to end via melee as opposed to throwing knife, but that it “didn’t feel right.”
Why does Gun Run give players white armor instead of blue?
West: When you’re engaged in combat in most other modes in the game, it’s pretty common to empty your gun and swap to your secondary to finish the kill. In Gun Run, you don’t have a secondary to swap to though. With more armor, you end up in a goofy reload dance while staring into your enemy’s eyes—or someone else steals your kill. With white armor, you can get into that nice flow of kill->new gun->kill->new gun etc.
On how the Respawn team comes up with LTM ideas:
West: We usually have lots of ideas floating around, whether it’s twists on BR or new modes. We’ll write up design specs and pitch ideas to each other, before building prototypes and playtesting. There is always inspiration coming from all over, whether it’s some random “what if” idea that pops up while playing Apex or inspiration from other games and media.
The developer declined to cite any examples of LTMs that didn’t work out, explaining that they may still end up in the game one day.
On whether LTMs are used to play-test future in-game content:
West: Sometimes! We’ve done this in the past with things like EVO armor and I wouldn’t be surprised if we ran more BR LTMs that influence baseline BR in the future.
On how long it takes to develop an LTM, from inception to implementation:
West: It can vary quite a bit. A brand new mode that doesn’t share a lot with other modes can easily be a year or more. Smaller LTMs, like say Armed and Dangerous which is mostly just changing what loot spawns and what loot is available, can be much quicker to get going. Once they’re up and running, we dedicate resources as needed for liveops and maintenance purposes.
On how weapon balance affects LTMs, and whether Gun Run could exist in a previous season of Apex Legends:
West: I think Gun Run could definitely exist in previous seasons! Gun balance can shift as updates are made from patch to patch, but it doesn’t influence choice of LTMs too strongly. For Gun Run specifically, it’s mostly considering what weapons are in or out of the air drop and how that affects the weapon track, if at all.
On the possibility of future LTMs with the respawning mechanic, including TDM:
West: We’re always prototyping new ideas and working on things at different stages of development. There is certainly a chance that we see more LTMs with the respawning mechanic in the future!
On whether players can expect to see another multi-mode event like Season 8’s War Games:
West: There aren’t any current plans to do events similar to War Games. Squeezing multiple modes into 1 event ends up multiplying the work more than it can seem for everyone involved. Lots of work going in close together and many things to test and verify stability. If we consider something like War Games again, it would probably need to rely more on established modes and add 1-2 new, lower scope modes to play.
Why senior Apex Legends producer Josh Medina is his favorite person to have in the room:
West: Josh is my favorite because when he’s around you never know what to expect. Pure chaotic energy. You need an adventurous spirit to withstand long exposure to Medina. Yes, I can confirm if we might see more new LTMs in the coming months or not.
Though worded in a somewhat unclear manner, this answer also appears to confirm that new LTMs are on the horizon. This isn’t too shocking, as it’s nearly time for Apex’s Halloween-themed Shadow Royale LTM to make its annual appearance.
AMA #2: Weapons, legends, and balance
The second AMA got off to a somewhat tense start when Reddit user /u/MooseMaster21 asked, “Many seasons ago, Pathfinder was given a temporary passive while a real one was being brainstormed. At least, that’s how it was presented to the community. Are y’all still brainstorming, or have you decided Pathfinder doesn’t deserve a real passive?”
Oof. Shots fired! Thankfully, lead legends designer Devan McGuire came armed with an answer.
McGuire: We’re very aware of this perception of Pathfinder, and we’ve heard numerous suggestions of new Passives from the team and the community. We are looking at it, but we don’t want to slap a new passive on a Legend who is already well-liked, powerful and performing well at the risk of adding to his already potent combat power or shifting development time that is needed to service other Legends or meta concerns, when there’s no immediate need. But I’m hopeful the future is friendly in upcoming seasons.
Meanwhile, Redditor /u/Aixcix had a question for lead weapons designer Eric Canavese, asking, “Is there a particular reason why the G7 Scout gets the most out of a grey/blue/purple mag? There is no other Gun which get‘s 50% more Ammo by getting a Grey Mag (from 10-15).”
Canavese: Good question, we were actually talking about this just the other day in one of our balance syncs. We actually do like that the capacity increases on mags from gun to gun differ and aren’t linear. There’s some interesting micro decision making to be had when some weapons scale better with attachments than others. We like that players can discover things that might make them think about the loot differently. The Scout is a great call out as a weapon that scales very well with a white mag, whereas a 301 only gets 2 more rounds. If I wanted to get the best bang for my buck on white light mags I know which one I’ll use until I get the blue mag. This gives weapons more personality, something that we’re always looking to enhance and push on. Our line-up is unique and it’s fun that players have strong opinions about each weapon on the roster. We don’t want to lose that by normalizing something like mag size increases–as trivial as that may sound.
/u/Aixcix then followed their first question up with a more light-hearted one, asking Cananvese, “What were the craziest weapon idea you guys came up [with] in meetings which almost made it into the game?”
Canavese: Now we’re talking. We prototyped a shotgun where each of the pellets was basically a bouncy ball, you could shoot it into a room and it was pure chaos. Each bounce reduced the damage of the pellet and it was designed to be sort of like a flushing out tool, but ultimately taking bullet damage from enemies you cannot see yet felt… unfair. We ended up scrapping the idea but it was a pretty hectic couple of playtests.
One very early iteration of the Rampage lit people on fire and allowed you to “paint thermite” wherever you shot. It was actually pretty cool to tactically put thermite patches down but we found layering in shooting the ground people walked on to maximize their panic and your own area control was just too much—in a number of ways.
Another fiery question came from /u/henrysebby, who asked, “What’s the point of doing an AMA when you only respond to the softball questions?”
Canavese responded calmly with an answer that one redditor labeled a “gigachad reply,” ignoring the question’s obvious bait in favor of a humorous Titanfall reference.
Canavese: The Softball is an interesting one and we’ve definitely considered bringing more Titanfall weapons into Apex. Truth be told, it’s an Anti-Armor grenade launcher designed specifically for Titan combat and we just don’t have those sorts of challenges and enemies in a typical match of Apex. I know what you’ll say, “But Eric, what about the Charge Rifle! That’s an anti-titan weapon too!”. We feel the precision on the Charge Rifle translates a bit better to Apex’s boots on the ground gameplay and fits nicely into our sniper category. For the Softball we’d need to look at a new weapon category or making it specifically a care package weapon, and in a previous thread I’ve talked about why designing and building care package only weapons has its own challenges.
From there, things carried on a bit more calmly.
On changing the Spitfire to a light ammo weapon, and the balance between light and heavy weapons:
Canavese: It’s not always just the number of weapons within each ammo type. We look at many factors and one of the determining factors in this decision was the balance of medium to late game viable weapons within the ammo types. The early game light ammo offerings are plenty, but lack robustness towards the later stages of the game, whereas Heavy ammo had quite a fleshed out late game line up. Pulling the Spitfire into light ammo helps even out the spread and gives us more breathing room when we think about what weapons will be going into the crafter or care packages. A perfect example of this is when the 301 was in the crafter and Scout in the care package—it didn’t feel like light had enough viable weapons in the late game which pushed us into a lopsided heavy meta.
On the future of “filler weapons” like the P2020 and Mozambique:
Canavese: There’s a power curve in any given match of Apex and these weapons represent the beginning of that power journey. We’re always looking for interesting ways to spice our early game weapons up and provide meaningful ways for their impact to remain relevant farther into the game but there must still be a natural progression. We have clear graduations of power like the Mozambique into the Peacekeeper and we’ve got ones that are fueled by preference like the Peacekeeper into the Eva. What each of these provide is a clear decision point in which players can choose what works for them. If everything were preference the game would lack depth throughout the phases of a match and if everything were a linear power progression the game would lack agency. Apex is about doing your best with the hand you were dealt, and sometimes that hand is a Mozambique and 2 sniper stocks.
On the future of overpowered “scan legends” like Bloodhound and Seer:
McGuire: We understand the frustrations around Legend abilities that scan and their tactical dominance at higher levels of play. Some of these abilities, however, are core to the play patterns and identities of the Legends themselves so it’s not a simple task to address. We are actively looking into it, and playtesting potential iterations, but we want to be comfortable with changes that reduce the frustration without reducing the value of these Legends in the squad before any release.
On potentially using Banglaore’s smoke grenades to negate scanning abilities:
McGuire: Bangalore’s smoke hard countering scan abilities has come up before, but we are more keen to find a way to address the frustrations with scans on whole rather than enforce a her to be the answer to the problem, especially if the result would take away from Bangalore’s personal play potential off her own smokes.
On why it takes so much time to correctly balance certain legends:
McGuire: There is a competing reality in a Live Service game like Apex where developers have to prioritize their work efforts between feature development for future seasons, and balance changes to the existing game. Sometimes minor balance changes are simple to make, and just require tuning numbers. Other times, they require rewriting abilities or pulling in new animations, visual effects or audio that must be added to development schedules on top of current release timelines. However, none of these changes can go out without testing – both for bugs, and to validate that the impact of that change actually works to solve the problem, and doesn’t create new ones. Because of this, it can take time to see balance changes make it into the game.
Other interesting subjects covered during the second AMA include:
The AMA ended with /u/Bo3z asking the question we’ve all been dying to know the answer to: Why can’t players shoot Vantage’s sidekick, Echo, like they can shoot Crypto’s drone, Hack?
McGuire: This sounds like a joke, but it’s actually a good question and one that came up often in Vantage’s development, and was discussed a number of times. The short answer is, there’s no gameplay need to. Unlike a Crypto Drone, Echo provides no direct threat to the enemy player. He doesn’t deal damage, or scan or track opponents. If anything, he’s a tell for opponents that Vantage is near and foreshadows her plan allowing for potential counterplay. So the only value to shooting Echo, would be to deny the tactical movement altogether and grief the Vantage player.
We had considered at one point that players might be able to shoot AT Echo, disrupting the targeting as he played a brief dodging animation, but it only served to make the ability less reliable.
Flying to Echo to reposition for height is a core part of Vantage’s identity as a character, and we wanted counterplay around reading and reacting to that action, rather than denying it outright. That way you feel good as a Vantage who gets to USE her ability. And you feel good as a player who reads that action and successfully punishes a poorly used launch – rather than removing the fun of the gameplay altogether.
McGuire finished his answer with a very compelling point: “Also, Echo’s so cute!”
Hopefully Hack didn’t hear that last bit. Something tells us offending an EMP-armed drone isn’t a great idea.
For more information on Gun Run and the Beast of Prey Collection Event, check out our Beast of Prey event guide.
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