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The Arsenal Season is almost here for Apex Legends, adding in a new survival item, significant Ranked changes, a new Legend, and big updates for World’s Edge. During a recent press event for Season 17, Respawn laid out all the changes coming to Apex Legends: Arsenal. We also got a chance to chat with the team about those changes, as well as learnings from last season, what happened with the switch attachments button, how work is coming along on audio fixes, and more.

GLHF: Before we get into the proper questions, I want to ask if you know who's responsible for changing the ‘switch attachments’ button and then reverting it when I got used to it? Because that was a nightmare. Was that an April Fool's prank?

Design director Evan Nikolich: That was something that got rolled up into the final build by accident. So we've been messing with that like, trying it out, and it was meant to be an option. That was a total screw-up on our part.

GLHF: One of my friends was saying “they changed it” and I was like, “No, I don't think so.” And then like muscle memory, I started throwing my attachments on the floor. At least we know now.

So, can you explain the Ranked changes in a bit more detail? Because you briefly went over them on the stream the other day, but it was a lot of information condensed into a couple of sentences. So can you break it down a bit more clearly for me?

Nikolich: Yes. You asked me a bit sharp – what, specifically, do you want to know?

GLHF: All I really heard was unique kills count toward RP (now called LP, or Ladder Points). Is it to take the focus off kills and onto placement? What other changes encourage that?

Nikolich: Yeah, so the big thing is the static entry cost. There's no longer these graded entry costs as you're going up the ladder – Gold costs versus Platinum and Diamond, etc. The big problem is that when you get to the higher end of the band, you are really highly encouraged, and in some regards forced – particularly at a Predator level and Master – to go hunt kills. And so this new system that's putting focus on placement is taking some of that pressure off.

But the big thing, too, is the MMR system that we now have in place underneath the hood. We're going to try to ensure much more competitive matches. Being matched by RP would create this very sawtooth effect and you would get inconsistent matches or people who are at the bottom of Diamond and Masters put into Predator matches even though their skill wasn’t matching up. Now all that stuff is hidden, and we're trying to get a much more consistent grading curve. If you’re one of the best, you’ll be in a match with the other best players in the game.


GLHF: Yeah, I’ve been stomped by Predators in Diamond lobbies before and it’s not fun.

Nikolich: Yeah, so trying to gradate that. Because there can be people who are in Diamond that maybe shouldn't be there, or people who have a high MMR, are very skillful at the game, but haven't worked their way out of Gold or Plat yet, and they're not getting into those other lobbies. So we’re trying to like, snap them back and get a better overall competitive experience, but also still providing that really nice progression system of seeing yourself level.

GLHF: It sounds good because a lot of people were getting stuck in Gold this season.

Nikolich: And so the thing too, is like, when you make this entry cost static, it's much easier to understand what the scoring system is, how it's working. It's not this fluctuating thing and you can present it to anybody. Versus before it was this stairstep thing. I think a player who's coming from outside Apex doesn't really understand it and I don't think I can think of another game that actually works that way. So we're putting more of the colloquial language.

GLHF: It seems smart. What about only getting LP for unique kills – was that to stop people rushing respawn ships?

Experience game designer Aaron Rutledge: Mostly to cover edge case exploits. So we would see in some regions and at some different skill bands, people would be colluding and you would see two different opposing teams repeat farming kills on every respawn drop, just to exploit and extract as much RP as they could out of the system. So for the most part, it shouldn't hit the vast majority of players. If you've already gotten that point for that kill, and they legitimately respawn, you're not going to get that extra point for that kill. But at that point, you're already into later placement so it should be all wash.


GLHF: Yeah, and I mean, a lot of the time when you see a respawn ship, it's not a team you've already fought anyway. Moving on, how do you feel about the class system introduced last season – how do you feel it's gone so far?

Nikolich: I think it's gone well. I've been really excited to see things get shaken up. We're seeing players play with different squad compositions, having debates about what's the best composition. We're also seeing Legend pick rates starting to fluctuate, which is good. Is it perfect? No. We're gonna keep evolving it and I feel this is a first step of us committing to what we call tending to the garden. So constantly working with our existing systems, revitalizing them, and trying to serve player needs. Quite frankly, after four years, our Legends were kind of getting stale and just adding a new Legend wasn't going to shift it that much. And so we put a heavy focus on the Legend meta and how people approach the game. So you know, this season, we're back to form shipping Ballistic and bringing in new Legend. But over the years, you're gonna see us continue to attend to this and try to make the most interesting game possible to play and to watch.

GLHF: I definitely enjoyed it. On a data level, what's the biggest impact you've seen on team composition?

Nikolich: I’m going to keep that close to my chest.

GLHF: Is that because you don’t want people to go against it?

Nikolich: Yeah. What people say is not always accurate to what we see in the data.

GLHF: What about the new Weapon Mastery system – are you hoping to see that impact the guns people use? Maybe we’ll see more people rocking the L-Star.

Rutledge: I think people get really tunneled on their favorites. They're like, these are my old faithfuls and that's all I'm picking up. I would doubt this system has much impact in the competitive modes – people aren’t going to change their behavior in Ranked, they're going to use what wins, right? But in Pubs or in Mixtapes… You know, it's a slow-burn progression system. So it's not like you feel a significant level up in a single match. So it doesn't really drive your behavior too hard on a match-to-match basis. But between matches, you look at your mastery system, and you might pick up [a weapon] and do a little damage just to push it over the line. But it's pretty subtle, and it's a slow burn.

GLHF: And the Legendary skin you get for reaching level 100 with each weapon, is that you choose an existing Legendary skin or have you made one specifically for each gun for this?

Rutledge: There are no unique skins. Not yet, at least. So for the system, as it stands today at launch, you get a customized Legendary Apex pack. And when you open it, your center will always be a yellow you don't own for that gun.

GLHF: Okay, that makes sense. And while we're on the subject of guns, is the Bocek coming back to floor loot this season?

Nikolich: No.

GLHF: Oh, for God's sake. It wrecks people.

Nikolich: Basically, we like to keep the power in crafters. I agree. it's super powerful and that's the fantasy we want to deliver on, and trying to keep the floor loot healthy right now. We're happy where it's sitting but never say never. We could bring it back to the floor, just not right now.


GLHF: Yeah, I mean, it does change the game when a couple of teams have a Bocek at the endgame. The new Evac Towers are really cool. I feel like they might shake things up in a pretty significant way, as well as getting rid of Valkyries. Broken Moon, the zip rails on that I really enjoy but they make the rotations obvious. And everyone kind of goes to the same spots all the time. Is that one of the things that you're trying to address?

Lead game designer Josh Mohan: They'll be usable on every map, but there wasn’t one map we were targeting. But definitely, one of the goals with Evac Towers is just opening up creative choices for players – you can place them literally anywhere. So yeah, as opposed to zip rails or even the existing redeploy balloons, which have fixed placements this is just trying to open up that tool to everybody. We've been playing with it a lot internally, but we never can go through all the different possibilities. So we’re really excited to see what players do with it.

GLHF: Have you seen anyone use it as a distraction yet? Like, so that people think they're about to redeploy, and then they just run.

Mohan: Well, there's a health pool on it. So sometimes it can draw fire. Yeah, it can be a bit of a red herring if you want to use it that way.

GLHF: Yeah, I'm interested to see what people because like, I've written about it before, how doors are a major thing in Apex. Every tool has so many different uses. I can’t wait to see what the public does with this.

Mohan: Yeah, that's the nature of a PvP game, right? Like, it's all about these strategies that develop, and counter strategies about all these items. And we're trying to make them robust enough that they can stand up and be used in lots of different ways.

GLHF: I picked up Ash's heirloom. I finally got my heirloom shards the other day, and it's really cool. It just makes me feel better as a player to have an heirloom, even though it's completely in my head. But I was wondering because obviously, you've got better at creating these things over time. And then if you go back to Octane, he's got like one animation for it for his heirloom. Are you thinking about going back and revisiting the old heirlooms like Octane’s and bringing them up to scratch with the new ones?

Nikolich: Yeah, so I think as we showed with Wraith, we're definitely willing to go back and try to upgrade things. I think that's something that's super important. People spend time with the Legends, they build relationships. And so being able to revitalize and bring things up to standard, it's always a good time investment. So I won’t say we’ll do Octane’s next, but we're definitely investigating which ones we're gonna be doing.

GLHF: Fuse.

Nikolich: Yeah, a brand-new heirloom.

GLHF: A guitar. How are you feeling about the performance of the Nemesis? Because obviously, that came in last season. And I really like it, but it does drop people a lot quicker than the other ARs if you’re accurate.

Mohan: Yeah, I'm really happy with it. I think it disrupted the game in a good way. I think it actually made a viable third option in the AR space. We're gonna keep it where it's at going into next season, we’re not going to tune it any differently. Maybe will evolve it over the next couple of seasons. But for now, we'll stay with that.

Apex Legends Season 16 Lifeline with the Nemesis

GLHF: I think you might have addressed this before. I'm not sure. But the RNG nature of Apex Legends is important to the game, getting loot and stuff. But have you considered adding a starter pistol – a new weapon that you can fire one shot before reloading or something? Just something so drops don't feel so completely random – you know when you drop with another team, and then you bump heads and you both scatter over the loot and they get the gun?

Nikolich: Yeah. I mean, we are always looking at how we can evolve the BR. We're now four-plus years and heading into our fifth year. And it's actually one of our priorities: how do we evolve and shake up the fundamental experience of the BR itself? In terms of RNG and determinism, you have to be really careful. When you take RNG out, it's very hard to walk back and put it back in and you make things very deterministic. You can end up over-servicing the honing nature of the game and maybe make the skill gap too large. So it's definitely a balance we're trying to strike. But it's not to say we aren't investigating things and trying things out internally to see what we can do to shake it up.

GLHF: Yeah, I guess from a new player's perspective, sometimes dropping in and being the one who gets the gun is kinda nice. We spoke about this last time we had an interview, you mentioned that there were a bunch of technical challenges in addressing the audio issues. But you were trying to do things behind the scenes. I was wondering if you've made any progress there since last season?

Nikolich: We've made a few fixes to a couple of bugs. Nothing that we can talk explicitly to. But we still recognize we still have issues with ducking and occlusion and things of that nature. We actually quite recently reprioritized our bug backlog and went back to bugs that we've had since the beginning of Apex. Audio is definitely high up there. We're very focused on fixing it. The big thing, too, is fixing it in a clean way that doesn't break the game. So we're always prioritizing game stability. I wish I could say there's a silver bullet, but it's actually this huge interconnected web.

GLHF: Yeah, I think that's one thing that players sometimes don't realize about games – you might fix one thing and break ten other things.

Nikolich: Yeah, and I don't expect them to. At the end of the day, you're playing the game, and you expect it to behave a certain way, and when it doesn't, it’s super frustrating. I agree. When I don't hear footsteps or something, it's frustrating. But we're trying to do something about it.

GLHF: How do you feel about the state of LMGs in the game right now? Because I just don't see them much. You see them on the floor, obviously. You just don't see him in people's hands.

Nikolich: I think they’re an acquired taste, but if you can hit with the Rampage… The big challenges is when you have weapons that already exist on the floor, people have built preconceived notions about how the guns behave and what the meta is. That was the big advantage of bringing the Nemesis in – it was super disruptive and brand new and so immediately you have this perception of “this gun is strong”. Another example that I was struggling with is like, you can tell people the Prowler is strong – and I think even some of the pros are like “don’t sleep on the Prowler” – but what we see with the Prowler usage rate is that it really is no different than the other SMGs is and maybe even lower. It’s difficult to use, but also a preconceived notion of “the Prowler isn't the strongest”, even though, statistically, it is. And so I think you'll see over time as things change and adjust that people get used to different things.

GLHF: Yeah, the problem is a weird one, because I never pick up on purpose. But if it's all I can get, I'll use it. And sometimes I surprise myself, actually.

Nikolich: I would recommend picking it. I mean, I'll say when I play TDM and the Prowler’s an option, that's the loadout I'm using. I’ve gotten good because of it now.

GLHF: I definitely need to get good with it first, because I'm shit with it. Can you tell me about the reasoning behind moving the construction stack down to Rampart’s area?

Lead level designer Jeff Shaw: Yeah, absolutely. So it was a bunch of things. One was we were looking at just making Fragment a much healthier place on the map. It's the center of the map. And so if the center of the map gets really hot and really populated. It can actually have an impact on the endgame and the mid-game, especially in Trios. Maybe not in high-rank lobbies, but definitely in lower-skill lobbies. So that was something that we were really trying to address this season with this update. So moving the construction stack – it’s the most popular building on the map and so we moved it over to an area that was less popular in the hopes that that would spread out landing distributions and help ease people into the mid-game and keep the population of the match a bit higher entering the mid-game.

GLHF: I hope you know you’ve ruined my landing spot by filling it with try-hards.

Shaw: Honestly the new place stacks is in is pretty fun. We like it a lot. It's not dead center but you still get the same experience of going up and down ziplines and fighting on those.

GLHF: Oh no, I like landing at the skyscrapers near Rampart’s thing and they've all gone you've put up the stack now. The stack is horrible because the people who are good at it just slide up and down the zips, jumping all over the place and I don’t know what’s happening. So yeah, I just you to know that you've ruined my life.

Shaw: Well, we like to be disruptive with our changes and make people think differently about approaching a map that's been in the game for so long.

GLHF: No, I'm excited. It looks like you've made some cool changes. I think I saw a bridge connected to the middle floor of stacks?

Shaw: So all the buildings so, if Lava City was one of your favorite places to drop, that point of interest was all about these rooftops that we've connected to each other. But we're feeling like it wasn't really hitting the mark so when we did stacks, we really liked that idea. Let's actually explore that idea. So it's all about getting on the rooftops using these interconnected bridge ways and stuff like that. It's a really layered point of interest. It just flows a lot better.