Following the recent u-turn over Apex Legends' Season 7 battle pass, some of Respawn's developers bravely took to reddit to field community questions. There were a lot of recriminations and gnashing of teeth about corporate overlords, but amongst it all were some insights about Apex's future and Respawn's culture.
Apex launched with trios, three-person squads, before adding the option to play in duos. Ever since there's been the open question of whether the game would be adding quads... and the answer's no.
Jason McCord, a design director on Apex, writes: "We don't have any plans to release Quads. We needed to decide this early on in testing. Trios is the magic number for us. That's when the legend composition really shines and the X-Men vs Avengers fantasy starts to shine through. When you play Quads, which we tested early on, the combat becomes nearly untrackable. It's chaotic in a negative way."
McCord went on to list problems that, while solveable, mean Quads won't be part of the game's future. "This [chaos] wouldn't be a total deterrent for a limited time mode if the rest of the game wasn't designed around Trios. Our lobby, for example, is designed for 3 people. Our loot distribution is designed for 3 people per squad. Even something like the banners placed around the map don't have room for a 4th. These are all technically solvable problems with enough effort, but because we feel that Trios is the sweet spot we aren't pursuing Quads currently."
Respawn's community engagement is good, certainly relative to the competition: it's all-too-easy to dunk on the developer for screwing up with the battle pass launch, but the fact is it responded fast, acknowledged the mistake, and has made concrete changes in response to player feedback.
Apex Legends game director Chad Grenier got into the battle pass argument and ended his explanation for the mistakes made by saying "please keep in mind that Respawn always has your interests in mind, so please assume positive intent!" In a pure example of internet discourse at its finest, this resulted in Terranical01 describing his words as "a massive lie." To his credit, Grenier resisted the urge to respond in-kind. He instead addressed the charge that Apex doesn't deliver enough content updates and limited-time modes, pointing out it has "a lot" of LTMs and the current format works, before adding:
"We also refuse to crunch the team, so we'll probably be slower at making content than if we worked 15 hour days but that's just not something we're willing to do. We have nearly doubled our team size since launch to accommodate the content demands, so we're really trying to bring you quality content at a healthy pace."
The near-doubling of the team size on Apex is perhaps unsurprising, given that EA's ambitions for the title are in the billion dollar category. It's also strange that some think the game hasn't been supported well enough: Apex is free-to-play, has had a new season roughly every three months since release, constant major or minor events, and launched with 8 characters and now has 15. That seems like a pretty good deal.