Apex Legends Season 10 is mere hours away, and there are plenty of changes afoot. World’s Edge is on the precipice of environmental catastrophe, the Rampage LMG looks to make an explosive entrance, and Seer is arriving to shake up the roster of characters with his distinctive style.
Whether you’re most excited to try the Thermite-powered LMG or jump into the all-new addition to Apex Legends, ranked Arenas, there’s a lot to take in. But tear your eyes away from the Apex Legends Season 10 countdown for a minute to read what eight Respawn developers have to say about the new season.
We sat down with narrative designer Amanda Doiron, Seer designer Hafid Roserie, Seer gameplay lead Travis Nordin, Rampage designers and balancers Eric Canavese and John Ellington, lead game designer Robert West, senior level designer Garrett Metcalf, and team director Steven Ferreira to find out what the new season really has in store.
Ben Sledge, Gfinity: Amanda, you mentioned on Twitter that Seer is Igbo? How did you ensure that representation was accurate and authentic, as a part of not only his narrative, but also his design and all aspects of the character?
Amanda Doiron: The decision to go with Igbo is our that's that we cast for a Nigerian character, and we got Iké Amadi, and he's Igbo. We like to ensure that our voice actors have the [same] background as the characters they voice. So at first, we were just saying he was Nigerian, but then once we knew that Iké specifically Igbo, we made Seer Igbo.
Then we hired an authenticity editor to take a look at what we had so far for animation and art, but also to do a full pass of all his dialogue, to ensure that it was authentic to an Igbo Legend. We also have a very open creative relationship with our voice actors, so anything that Iké felt was off for that background, he was very open about sharing and then adjusting as we went along.
Hafid, did you have a similar process for the design?
Hafid Roserie: For the design for Seer, we worked together with Amanda. So all of the inputs that were being kind of given in terms of the narrative with regards to Seer, we did the same thing on the art side, weaving that into the elements that made up his look. We had a couple of big pillars: we wanted a design that was elegant, that felt combat-ready, that spoke to this character that had a layer of mystery and had a striking look. Each one of the elements that we added visually, was all in service to the narrative and story. And everything that was woven into what brought Seer to life, from the kit perspective, and from the writing perspective as well.
Do you have any skins particularly inspired by Igbo culture?
HR: We have one skin that takes a combination of inspirations. So not 100% exclusively [Igbo], but with Apex, the thing that makes it awesome is that we have a variety of inspirations that go directly into it. So I would say there's a combination of inspirations that take different elements from different parts of [the culture] to create the skin.
There was some backlash from some members of the community that Seer “looks gay.” Apex Legends has a very diverse roster, in a lot of different ways. Would you have anything to say to people who take that diversity as a bad thing?
AD: Deal with it? [She laughs] Apex is all about representation, and we don't create characters just to hit a certain checklist: it's just what feels natural the more that we understand a character and we honor that, and that's what happened with Seer. He's very much based on the androgynous performances in the 80s. And as far as his sexuality goes, I just confirmed that he doesn't limit himself by gender; he is pansexual.
Moving onto a gameplay perspective, was it difficult to make Seer distinct from Bloodhound on Crypto?
Travis Nordin: The comparisons are always going to be there - he's a recon legend like them. There's similarities, but in practice, he definitely plays a bit differently. I think both Crypto and Bloodhound can guide you towards players, either Crypto scouting with the drone or Bloodhound following those breadcrumbs to find out where they go. Whereas Seer is a much more kind of close-quarters Recon information character.
Using the heartbeat sensor, you can get a read on where enemies are around you. You can use that to line up your tactical and it's a much more focused kind of cylinder or beam versus Bloodhound’s wider cone that goes out. Since it's harder to hit, the effects are a bit more potent. So, the second scan reveals health bars, which will be useful if your team is calling out ‘they’re one shot,’ you can actually know if it's a one shot or not. It also does the interrupt too, so that's another mechanic which is probably pretty spicy. And that'll interrupt any shield batteries or rezzing or basically any long press activities that the players are doing. It's on a 30-second cooldown, so I'm going to be curious to see where it settles. Do we open with the Seer attack? Or do we wait until the team's trying to retreat to heal and then we interrupt - because you probably only get one [use of the Tactical Ability] during an encounter.
With the Ultimate, you throw out that heart chamber with the micro drones and it forms the sphere where you get to see enemies who are moving faster than a crouch walk or firing their weapon. It's not a full scan though, you just kind of get these footstep VFX and a diamond lock on, so there's some counterplay there as the enemy: if you stop moving or if you are healing you're not going to be revealed.
The heart chamber he throws out can be destroyed, so as Seer you want to be smart with where you place it. Crypto has some counterplay there as his EMP destroys it, and Mirage is also a fun one – if Mirage Ults... If Seer Ults and then Mirage Ults, it's chaos; there's footsteps going everywhere as Seer’s Kaleidoscope goes off. But with the heartbeat sensor, there's only heartbeats on the real Mirage. That comes into play with Seer going closer, and if Mirage is reviving [using his invisibility passive]. you could use heartbeats to try and figure out where he is, so it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out as well.
Does Pathfinder have a heartbeat?
TN: Yeah, Pathfinder and Revenant both have heartbeats. The heartbeat sound isn't quite so literal, it's kind of like a synthesised one. During development, we were questioning how we offer different sounds for the non-humanoids - do they not make sounds? But in the interest of clarity of gameplay, we settled on the same sound. It's kind of like how we suspend disbelief with like Pathfinder using a medkit and putting a syringe in his robot arm to heal.
On a similar note, how did you make the Rampage distinct from the Spitfire? How did you make sure that players didn't just feel it was the Spitfire 2.0?
John Ellington: The biggest difference is the really slow rate of fire as compared to the Spitfire. It's meant to be this like heavy LMG that really excels at mid-range, and because it's slower to fire, it does have a much higher base damage.
The other big distinguishing factor is the charge mechanic - similar to the Sentinel but using a Thermite Grenade, you charge up your gun and then that increases the rate of fire so it has a bit more versatility when you do want to push into that close range engagement. You're going to want to charge it up first, because of the slow rate of fire it's not going to be as effective close range like the Spitfire would be. It definitely feels different to shoot because it is really slow and methodical; it's really good for people who are good at tracking and keeping that rhythm.
How closely do you work with the team that balances Legends? Because from my immediate thoughts of the Rampage, it benefits Rampart, obviously from extended mags, and Fuse because he can carry twice as many Thermite Grenades. Did that come into the decision making?
JE: It wasn't the main factor of why we did it, but it definitely is a nice benefit for those characters. There's a fan following for Rampart, and there are people that are Rampart mains obviously, but she's not necessarily the most used character out there. We definitely tied in the Rampage with Rampart - Rampart has made the weapon, so there's definitely some connection there. But it wasn't specifically, ‘oh, we're gonna do this to buff Rampart,’ it's more like ‘it's an LMG, so she is going to benefit from this weapon.’ With Fuse too, it wasn't necessarily that we're doing it because we wanted to buff Fuse, but it’s going to be a nice thing that his passive can benefit from.
Eric Canavese: We do work pretty closely with the Legend designers, we have weekly syncs with them where we all talk about what are we all working on and how do they all synergise. Something fun about the Rampage is that the first prototype was before we made the change to stack only one grenade in the inventory - that's how long ago we prototyped this weapon, it was when you could actually have two grenades in a stack in your inventory.
So, when that change happened, we were also working on Fuse at the same time. We were like, ‘oh, this is perfect: Fuse has got two grenades, the Rampage can take grenades, this all works and it's a nice little package.’ But we have to roll with the punches as all these meta changes happen season to season, it could affect something we're working on a year out.
Can you share how much it will cost in Arenas?
Robert West: It's 500 at the start. It's kind of priced in a way where there's somewhat of an expectation that you're going to buy a Thermite with it, but it's quite strong with a Thermite. So I think it's pretty standard on upgrade costs, and then the base price is 500.
On the subject of Arenas, can you explain the rationale behind the leaver’s penalty in Arenas? Because it's just a timeout, right?
RW: Yeah, it's a timeout. Primarily, we want to encourage players to play out and finish the match. You can maybe get lost in battle royale and kind of rat it out, but in Arenas, if you're down a man or two, it's really tough to win that fight and come back. There'll be a little bit more incentive to stick around in Ranked because people are investing more there, they don't want to lose points. But even in casual, one person leaving can ruin the experience for everyone, so we're trying to encourage people to stick around and play it out.
Do you think a timeout is harsh enough?
RW: I guess we can wait and see - I feel like I've been seeing people stick it out. Primarily, I think players are leaving and then probably re-queuing and playing the next match. If you have to wait 10 minutes [until your timeout is complete], you could probably have finished the match in less than 10 minutes. We will evaluate and wait and see if we need to do anything harsher, but I think it's doing the job and keeping players in.
The other big decision is that you only get AP if you win?
RW: Everything kind of comes down to winning or losing. Ultimately, with an MMR system where you're sorting all the players right on based on skill level, that really defining factor is whether you won or lost the match. With Battle Royale, when you have 20 teams, we give points for placement. Then some players perform really well, so you get points for kills there.
But at the moment, I don't feel like those things are really necessary in Arenas, and kind of keeping it down to what actually matters and what's going to be affecting your MMR is really if you stick it out and win with your teammates.
In Arenas it's more important to play as a team?
RW: Yeah. And we'll evaluate - it's a live game, who knows what updates we might make in the future, but I think it fits really well to just do win/loss.
Garrett, what's your favourite map change in Season 10?
Garrett Metcalf: That's a tough one. We really brought a lot of love to the northern region. Refinery has been wiped out, there's a big lava crack there. The POI called Climatiser that replaces it is huge and it provides a lot more loot to fight over, so it's going to compliment a lot more squads on landing. Another big thing is the Gondolas, obviously, they're going to bring some awesome new clips, which I'm sure we'll see all over Twitter and Twitch, so I can't wait to see those.
There's also a big lava dam now, that's controlling the lava flow that's pouring down towards it. There used to be just like a big hill divider there that kind of separated Epicenter and Refinery, but we wanted to bring in a better relationship with that hill that can have a good combat relationship with Epicenter, as well as when you turn around 180, it can have an awesome relationship with the new POI Climatiser. I think we're going to see a lot of awesome gameplay come from that lava dam, it's going to act as the anchor point between the two. Especially around end circles where you're going to be able to interact with the POI down at Climateiser and turn around and keep people at bay from both sides.
Do you ever think of the ALGS and the competitive scene when you're designing these kinds of things?
GM: I for sure do. I'm not gonna lie, I watch Twitch all day while I'm developing here. I'm always watching the top pro players play, I'm watching their scrims. I take a lot of pride in esports in my map designs, but that's not to say I don't think about casual players, too: we need to make it fun for everyone. But I'm always watching the pros play World’s Edge, I like to see how they play the areas that I'm changing.
While I'm developing it, I always keep that in my mind and make sure that I'm just keeping as many options for them and not limiting them. I think in a battle royale and an open space type of game mode, you need to provide players options, so I always keep pro players in mind too while I’m designing.
Steven, were you overseeing the whole team in the run-up to Season 10? How hard was that to coordinate everything?
Steven Ferreira: It's not just me, there's a is a big leadership team that helps support all the amazing devs that we've got on the team. We've got people across tons of locations, we obviously have two big studios, but we have people scattered around the world, and we're all working from home for the last year and a half to almost two years now. That requires a lot of logistical support. And really, it's not me, it's the team, I just give them the tools they need to make creative decisions and not be slowed down or blocked by anything outside of the pure fun of making a game that we all love. Kudos to the entire team at Respawn, because they just kill it every season, and this one was no different.
Are there plans to go back to the offices?
SF: We're scattered across multiple countries, so it's definitely a challenge to figure out how that works. The situation with COVID is different from location to location, it's always changing, so we've done it a few times, where we've kind of opened up and tested getting a few people back into different studios. And then we've gone back and put people back in at home.
I think we're still a long way out from ever going back to the way things were two years ago, and I don't think they'll ever fully go back to the way they were. I think there are a lot of things that are changing across the industry in terms of remote work and that'll always be a reality in making games now. But we're seeing a lot of cool things; having people on our team that otherwise would never have been able to do so because they weren't located in a particular city. And I think it opens up [opportunities] to even more great talents and more creative people around the world.
Apex Legends Season 10 launches tomorrow and players will be jumping in to test every change and addition to the extreme. But for now, all we can do is speculate on what’s to come – and maybe enjoy one last spray of the Spitfire before it is vaulted to the care package.