Something strange has happened to Apex Legends. Or, specifically, the Apex Legends community. For a lot of its life, Apex has been held up as the best a battle royale could be: Innovative, fun, story-driven. So why has the player-base turned on Respawn, the developer?
Even a cursory look on Twitter, Reddit, YouTube comments, and other places where fans gather online, shows a deluge of criticism about nearly every facet of Apex Legends.
From lack of new content (there hasn’t been a new mode added in 6 months), constantly faulty server issues and connection problems, a slow turnaround on crucial game fixes, you would think everything is going wrong for Apex.
In reality, the game is as popular as it’s ever been. Steam player counts show that Season 10 has the highest average player count of any season. Twitch stats for Apex are up across the board – more streamers, more viewers, more hours watched.
So, what has Respawn done wrong? There are three main problems that have caused this unprecedented level of animosity towards the Apex development team. Surprisingly, monetization, a problem that has been central to previous anger from the community, isn’t top of the list.
Servers and errors
The first is the servers. Or just general connection errors. Throughout Season 10, and especially since the Evolution Collection Event, the game has been close to unplayable for some. A barrage of ‘code’ errors are an hourly issue for certain players: code:leaf, code:net, code:snake, code:wheel, code:shoe.
It’s not clear why the frequency of these errors has increased since the collection event dropped on September 14, but it is clear that no other battle royale game, or online game in general, has this volume of connection errors, two and half years after its release.
This is certainly an ongoing priority for Respawn – at least the devs say it is, and we have no reason to doubt them. But at this point, it has to be questioned if the fundamental infrastructure that underpins the game’s network is insufficient and in need of an overhaul.
Slow to fix, quick to sell
The next issue, and one that affects everyone – even those lucky enough to escape the majority of server issues – is a slow turnaround on fixes and quality of life changes.
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An ‘unready bug’ (where a player is repeatedly ‘unreadied’ for a match, and has to ready up over and over) has been in the game for over 100 days. Wattson’s Ultimate ability, central to her gameplay, has been effectively broken for over 30 days. Animated Banners have been causing game crashes. Making matters worse, two of these bugs were said to have been fixed, but remain a problem now.
Slow fixes are one issue, but it is compounded by a very quick fix for other problems – namely those that affect revenue. A bug causing packs to give higher chances of epic and legendary items was patched within 3 hours. Animated banners still cause game crashes, and yet three new animated banners were added for players to acquire in the Monsters Within event.
You guys were about to lose money so you acted fast!
Pity you cant even recognize/acknowledge the Wattson ult issue let alone fix it
— BirnoOCE (@BirnoOCE) October 12, 2021
And there are more bugs beyond this; friends lists, inability to purchase bundles if you own one of the items, inconsistent audio, music randomly playing in-game, crashes caused by Crypto’s drone.
Certainly, some minor fixes like pack drop rates are likely a lot easier than fixing a core gameplay bug like Wattson’s Ultimate, but for the average player, all they see is months of waiting for meaningful fixes, while store errors are fixed in a matter of hours.
Skins, not content
The Halloween event for 2021, Monsters Within, can be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Halloween events in previous seasons have been a highlight of the year, with custom lobbies, the Shadow LTMs, and yes, new cosmetics.
This time around though, we only get one of these – and it’s the cosmetics. Admittedly, the Shadow Royale LTM will return later, but only for the last week of the event. The trailer showed a nighttime Kings Canyon, but that too will only be in play for the final week.
There’s no spooky Halloween lobby either. While this is a minor point in the grand scheme of things, it’s another thing that players can point to as a disinterest for events to do anything other than sell cosmetics. And, cosmetics are not content.
Now, players are calling for others to boycott the event entirely, feeling it is the only way they can send a message to the developers.
What can Apex devs do?
Challenging as it is, Respawn need to target two areas to get fans back onside: game stability and communication. If the server and connection errors were alleviated as much as possible, to a more acceptable level, a lot of built-up frustration would subside. This has been a constant, ongoing task for Respawn’s network engineers though, so it’s difficult to be optimistic.
The other is communication. Respawn devs have largely shut down on social platforms, and given the animosity they face, it’s understandable. But, it’s also no excuse for the lack of consistent, transparent communication.
In April, they released the first ‘Respawn Responds’ blog post – which was promised to be delivered every month. It’s now October, and we’re still yet to get the second post. So this appears to have been canned – but nothing has been presented in its absence.
Instead, players are left to random Twitter replies and the odd Reddit comment to get any kind of indication of what devs are working on, and even then these responses are often vague and filled with developer-jargon not accessible to the average player.
Ryan Rigney, director of comms, has a thankless task in trying to turn this around, and explained the difficulties they face in a well-thought-out Twitter thread.
BTW, in those situations where you're not able to talk, the audience will tell you repeatedly that "all we want is communication." But this is actually a trap.
If you repeatedly promise fixes for a problem that may take a long time to solve, they'll come to resent you more.
— Ryan K. Rigney (@RKRigney) October 13, 2021
This acknowledgment goes both ways though. While players need to understand that it’s not simple to “fix the game”, the developers should equally understand it’s not good enough not to do so.