The new season of Apex Legends (opens in new tab) got off to a bumpy start earlier this week thanks to changes to the game's battle pass that dramatically slowed player progression. The blowback was enough that EA changed direction (opens in new tab) almost immediately, but it faced criticism for what some players felt was an attempt to squeeze more money out of them by increasing the pressure to purchase battle pass levels.
In a response posted to Reddit (opens in new tab), however, Respawn's director of community and communications Ryan Rigney said there were no ulterior motives at play in the battle pass changes—it was just a simple, honest mistake.
"I don't know how else to respond to this other than by saying, bluntly, we aren't masters of manipulation. We actually just screwed this one up," Rigney wrote.
"Today in a meeting with a bunch of leads, Chad, our game director, was like, 'hey, I played for six hours last night, why did I only get one level.' And like three other people chimed in to go, basically, yes, Reddit is right, this feels bad, and somebody should've called it out earlier," he continued. "We had a conversation where we realized that--because we often reset our accounts and wipe our progress when swapping builds for playtests--a lot of hadn't been paying attention to what it felt like to go through the s7 battle pass."
Rigney said that he's seen a growing tendency among gamers to view bad decisions and reversions by studios as intentionally manipulative: Do something that developers know their players will hate, and then walk it back to look like the good guy. He categorically rejected that theory, though, saying, "Any studio that would intentionally puts out shitty updates isn't a place that makes great games, and it's not a place I'd want to work. I know the team at Respawn feels the same way."
Today on a call with design leads for Apex, about half the room was complaining about the Battle Pass, and commenting that we should've focused more on that as well as bugs and stuff during playtests. We missed the mark with v1 here, but gonna try to make good. https://t.co/xPm2CumqkpNovember 6, 2020
He also touched on why Respawn made the changes in the first place, saying the developers believe that stars, the new measure of battle pass progression, "are just easier to track than a more inflated currency like CP [Challenge Points]." That could be reverted too, but Rigney expects the studio will give the system a proper shot at working first.
"The thing with live-service games is, you gotta learn to iterate. You gotta try new shit every once in a while. When you put out something new, and it's got problems, devs don't want to just completely turn tail and run. They wanna understand it deeply, maybe tweak a few knobs here or there and then watch the impact to see if maybe they can't learn something new," he wrote.
"Maybe we should abandon stars and all the rest that came with the S7 Battle Pass changes. Maybe we shouldn't. That's not my call. I'm just the comms guy. But I would always want to put in an honest effort to try to keep the good and fix the bad by iterating first. Otherwise you miss out on chances to learn, and you let fear keep you frozen in place."
Another big change to Apex Legends in season 7 is the addition of a new character, a time-traveling Scottish astrophysicist mom named Horizon. Despite her pleasant, motherly demeanor, Emma figures she's "the perfect addition to an aggressive squad (opens in new tab)."