In a review on Respawn Entertainment's Glassdoor page, a current developer anonymously detailed his mostly negative experience of working on Apex Legends. On Glassdoor, current and former employees as well as job interviewees can post public reviews of what it's like to work or interview for a company.
Since Glassdoor isn't widely accessible without an account, a full screenshot of the post (opens in new tab) has since made its way to the Apex Legends Reddit.
The negatives the employee describes centre on working conditions at Respawn during the pandemic, which made it necessary for developers to work from home.
"Mostly every other game company (Epic, Activision, Bungie etc.) have extended project deadlines and feature/content road maps to accommodate for lower efficiencies and general stresses/anxiety during COVID 19, but not on the Apex project," the post says. "I feel extremely stressed and burnt out trying to keep our seasonal releases on the same aggressive timeline as pre-shelter in place productivity."
Other games such as Fortnite, Destiny 2 and Final Fantasy XIV have all seen significant delays to new content due to the pandemic. For Apex Legends, though, its Season 5 delay was announced just a few days before it was set to launch, and it was only pushed back by a week.
The post further states that "[Respawn] have no idea how to do a live service project, which means poor planning decisions and no sizing of work, means we actually have very little idea of how much we can accomplish in a given month."
The employee also criticises working up to 13 hours a day and the lack of attention given to employee health.
Since the post appeared on Reddit, several developers have responded. Chad Grenier, Head of Apex Legends, wrote a detailed reply (opens in new tab), stating: "Transitions to [working from home] all of a sudden during a pandemic was indeed very hard on the team, took some getting accustomed to, and we all had certainly never gone through this before so we're all in some uncharted territory. We certainly didn't have the tools, tech or systems in place to make a smooth transition to going from several hundred person team on the same campus to a completely remote studio."
Regarding deadlines, Grenier states that, "I was vocal to the team about their deadlines. Like a broken record I continuously asked that people speak up to their managers or producers if they will not be able to get their work done on time without crunching. Delays would be ok, we would just need to know one is needed."
Grenier goes on to say there were indeed delays to Season 4 and 5, as well as content down the line, due to employees needing time to adjust. Overall he describes the changed working conditions during the pandemic a learning experience in which not everything went well.
While it's great to see the head of the project take the anonymous complaint seriously, asking employees to self-report their decreased productivity is complicated. On the one hand, it asks employees to trust their leaders have their best interests at heart, on the other hand Grenier reiterates that "nobody wants to let the fans down" and "everyone wants to fix that bug or finish that one cool feature". That way of thinking implies a certain expectation that's easy for developers to internalise. A developer who has to ask for a delay may easily feel they're letting Apex fans and the team down, and thus refuse to ask for more time. Announcing company-wide delays instead can free developers of that responsibility.
While several game companies have reported a general sense of adjustment to the new conditions, this is certainly not true for everyone.