Let’s just address the elephant in the room. Apex Legends is a hit. A striking phenomena that has both become wildly popular and inexplicably historic. For all the things we’re taught and learned as Game Designers we can never truly gauge how an audience will accept a title we ship; No matter how much QA and Playtesting reveals. Without any such ramp up in marketing, hype or anticipatory teasers, Apex Legends has achieved a godly amount of success. To understand this let’s try to understand the landscape of the market it has emphatically swallowed up in its clutches. The Battle Royale scene. Inhabited by titans such as PUBG, Fortnite, and Blackout; the BR scene is quite lush and ripe. But what made this game capture the hearts and minds of gamers across the globe? The one thing that I will continue to argue as a Game Designer, over and over. The game is great.
Time and time again, products try to overwhelm you with bells and whistles and endear you to purchase their MTX and IAPs with cosmetics. But as conversations about monetization continue to scale with the industry and the F2P market; more and more entrepreneurial minds try to capture a segment of it all for the quick dollar. But my view on this matter has always stayed the same. Make a great game first. And that’s what Apex Legends is. For all the fluff and dazzle of BR games and free ones for that matter; nothing will captivate an audience more than a great game. Free solves the barrier of entry problem. Cosmetics and material IAPs and MTX solve the problem of return on investment. But to make either of these things work, the game must be playable and good. Fortnite is a good example of a BR game that capitalized on Minecraft’s success and the BR genre’s mindshare in player’s around the world.
Apex? Capitalizes on the need for a solid, entertaining, and all around great experience in general. What Apex had going for it was the complete and utter lack of player foresight. No one knew what it would play like. Fast forward to its release where the visuals are stunning, the controls are intuitive, and the gunplay is extraordinarily crisp. But to expect anything less from Vince Zampella and the folks behind Titanfall would be foolish. The gunplay from Infinity Ward and subsequently Respawn, will always be buttery smooth and its an experience that no other BR game can capture.
Let’s run through all the things Apex Legends just gets right.
Gunplay: Enough said.
Looting: Fast, crisp, and incredibly intuitive from a UX perspective
Communication: Encouraging solo players to have fun with randos by giving us an amazing single button pinging system that nearly covers the entire spectrum of communication needs in a microphone-less world.
Overall UX: The menu systems, the on-boarding, the character selection, all the way to the Jump is smooth and puts close to zero steps in between for the player to have to deal with. Press Play, Select Character, and Jump.
Basic BR Elements: Shrinking area of combat: DONE, Amazing level design: DONE, Incredibly diverse weapon selection: DONE
Character Design: Not enough can be said about the diverse cast of characters that are seemingly from the outset all from different parts of the world. I was quite proud that for once a starting cast of characters were not all Caucasian with a few other races sprinkled in on top.
Well done Respawn. Well done.