Illustration: Apex Legends (Respawn)

Over the weekend, the frustrations of Apex Legends players percolating over the battle royale game’s microtransactions boiled over as a developer on the game called players who are rude to developers as “ass-hats” and called one player a “dick.” Understanding why a developer would do that means understanding why the community is so angry.

Prior to this incident, the Apex Legends subreddit was a generally peaceful place, one where the community enjoyed a friendly relationship with the developers of the game, Respawn. The subreddit even had a flair that would tag responses from developers on the game, as they would occasionally participate in threads. After the game’s limited time Iron Crown event last week, which introduced new collectable items, things in the subreddit took a turn over the microtransactions. Fans were most irked by a rare skin that costs $170 dollars of premium currency to unlock..

For the most part, even as members of the subreddit were frustrated with the microtransactions, they were quick to shift the blame to EA, who bought Respawn in 2017. EA is a habitual target of ire for video game enthusiasts, recently over repeated controversies with microtransactions and is seen as meddlesome with the studios it acquires.

On Friday, Respawn changed the event so that exclusive skins would also be available in the game’s normal store this week, for the standard price of legendary skins, which is $18. This doesn’t include the $170 skin, but it will be obtainable via lootboxes rather than an outright purchase after the event is over. Following those changes, a Respawn developer wrote a post on the subreddit, and things got more heated.

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In that post, Drew McCoy, project lead at Respawn, made a comment about the event and the reason for the change, saying that the developers “will not engage with temper tantrums.” He was seemingly trying to explain why the developers were making a change in the face of player anger, while signaling that expressions of anger from players wouldn’t always trigger a change. He added that “[he] has been in the industry long enough to remember when players weren’t complete ass-hats to developers and it was pretty neat.”

A commenter responded to that with a long comment that began with: “Well I guess you can also remember when developers weren’t money grabbing fucks that scammed their players too?” McCoy replied “Hey everyone - found the dick I was talking about.” Afterward, the subreddit exploded in hostility towards Repsawn. Currently, the highest upvoted post in the subreddit with over thirty thousand upvotes is a screencap of a YouTube comment referencing McCoy’s comments.

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Later in the thread, McCoy tried to clarify his comments: “No, I’m not trying to paint all players with a huge brush - I’m commenting on the fact that nowadays its just easier and less stressful to not post anywhere if you’re a dev. That sucks.”

Kotaku reached out to Respawn about this situation but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

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Update 8:02: Respawn CEO Vince Zampella tweeted a statement about interactions between developers and players on the Apex Legends subreddit at 6pm today. It included an apology to “fans that were offended.” It continued: “I will always stand by our team here at Respawn and support them on speaking out against some of the toxic and nasty being directed at them, including everything from death threats to comments aimed at their families and loved ones. But we shouldn’t contribute to it when we do comment, and add to the very thing we want to prevent. We need to lead by example.”

No one likes being called a dick, especially when in a situation when you feel like you’re unfairly being asked to spend money. On the other side of the equation, game developers tend to take a lot of verbal abuse from angry players, and it’s inevitable that sometimes developers will lash back out. We’re only two weeks out from the developers of upcoming indie game Ooblets were harassed for their announcement that their game would be an Epic store exclusive.

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The relationship between developers and players is on a knife’s edge in the world of Apex Legend and elsewhere. The ability to immediately communicate with—or insult—anyone you can think of has helped bring us here. It’s unclear how we get past it.