Respawn Entertainment’s battle royale game Apex Legends came out of the gate with a bang. Now that the initial burst of excitement has slowed down, the development studio has released a roadmap for the future. Its aim is to please players, but also avoid employee crunch and burnout.
When Apex released in February, it was suddenly the hot new thing everyone was playing—including me, a person who does not typically enjoy competitive games. Its fast-paced gameplay, inventive, diverse characters, and unique resurrection mechanic brought in players by the millions. (Paying Ninja a million bucks to stream it probably also helped.)
Now that Apex has time to cook, players have voiced some issues they’re hoping Respawn will address. Cheaters run rampant on the PC version of Apex, and players have asked for character nerfs and buffs as well as some granular quality-of-life changes. A repeated subject of player criticism was the game’s first Battle Pass, which they felt did not have enough rewards, especially after players surpassed level 100 of the pass. (Personally, I found the skins to be lackluster.) Players are hungry for new content, and with viewership on Twitch down to around 40,000 concurrent viewers from over 300,000 at launch, Apex Legends is losing some steam, although it remains quite popular
Today’s blog post from executive producer Dave McCoy addresses many of these issues and lays out a plan for future development.
“While we’ve made some good progress towards a healthier game, as our community grows issues have come up that need to be addressed,” he wrote. “The stability of Apex Legends is very important to us, and we’ve been doing a lot of work internally to improve our processes across the board.”
Some of the existing issues that McCoy named were slow server performance at the start of matches, audio issues, issues with hit registration, and cheaters. McCoy also said that Respawn would announce more details about the second Battle Pass during the EA Play fan event in June, which will take place just before E3.
On the topic of new content, McCoy prefaced details about the upcoming Battle Pass with a statement about Respawn’s culture. “We know that, in addition to addressing issues with the game, everyone is hungry for us to add new content. The studio culture that we’ve worked hard to cultivate, and the health of our team are very important,” he wrote.
“We take those things into account when we discuss our content roadmap, the production schedule, and the frequency in which we can update the game. Our long-term goal is to ensure Apex Legends always feels alive and thriving, with a focus on quality of content over novelty or speed of release,” McCoy wrote. “At the same time, we want to maintain our culture as a development team and avoid crunch that can quickly lead to burnout or worse.”
The blog post comes on the heels of a report from Polygon about the culture of crunch at Epic Games, the developer of Apex’s primary competition, the gargantuan entity that is Fortnite. It seems like Fortnite adds new content to the game on a daily basis, and that has lead to brutal work hours, with employees regularly pulling 70 hour weeks, including working on the weekends. Some employees who refused to work on weekends ended up fired, according to the report.
Respawn seems determined not to make those same mistakes and lose people to crunch and burnout, and perhaps is hoping to remedy some of the crunch that, we’ve heard, some of its developers have had to face in the weeks and months since Apex Legends has launched. But the demand for new Apex Legends content—more skins, characters, and new additions to the meta—is in conflict with keeping Respawn’s team healthy and happy. Although I love Apex, I know I haven’t played more than a few times since the Battle Pass. I just felt like there weren’t enough new things for me to explore. I appreciate Respawn trying to set expectations for fans, to let them know that while changes and new content are coming, they will come at a relatively slower pace. I’m just afraid that even with this blog post, the unending desire for content will still aggravate the most vocal complainers.
In today’s blog post, McCoy emphasized that patches and updates to Apex Legends will be “large, meaningful changes.” This stands in contrast to Fortnite’s approach of adding new features as often as possible.
“Just as we’ve done since launch, we will continue to address exploits, necessary balance changes, bug fixes, and small features throughout the course of a season. For complete transparency, our goal isn’t, and never has been, to patch or update content on a weekly basis,” McCoy wrote. One hopes that this will lead to both long-term success and a healthy and happy development team.