Does Apex Legends Fix Battle Royale Esports?
Published on March 06, 2019
The battle royale genre of games has become insanely popular over the last couple of years.
Games like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), H1Z1, and Call of Duty: Blackout have garnered massive player bases and made their developers oodles of revenue.
The rising popularity of the genre has inevitably led to professional tournaments and competitions between the games’ best players.
Epic Games made waves in May of 2018 when they announced that they would provide a $100 million prize pool for the first year of competitive Fortnite tournaments.
The giant influx of money from game developers and other entities into battle royale esports has swayed many players to quit their current games in order to chase a piece of the battle royale pie. The top-ten-earning Fortnite players combined have made a whopping $3,469,114 and counting.
The battle royale genre is popping, the players are making a fortune, and the developers are willing to support the competitive scene. Sounds perfect, right? Well, not exactly. Many community members are averse to the notion that battle royale games make good esports.
Some argue that the same mechanics that give battle royale games their replayability also detract from the competitive experience.
This thinking has caused a divide within communities like Fortnite, as players take sides over whether game developers should balance their game around the casual players or the competitive players.
In this blog post, I’m going to break down some of the battle royale mechanics that divide the competitive community and talk about how Respawn Entertainment’s new game, Apex Legends, is trying to fix battle royale esports.
Every Fortnite player knows what it feels like to drop from the Battle Bus to a crowded location only to find a bolt-action sniper rifle and bandages.
The rush of adrenaline that players experience when the odds are stacked against them is part of what makes the battle royale genre so popular. Variability makes battle royale games unique, but it’s also what makes them a tough fit for the esports world.
Let’s take a look at some battle royale mechanics that many argue are making the genre difficult for esports.
A core mechanic of the battle royale genre is the ever-closing circle on the map. In Fortnite, it’s called the storm, and in PUBG, it’s known as the gas, but the circle’s job in every battle royale is the same: bring the players on the map together to fight.
We have all experienced a game of battle royale with “bad circle luck.” You end up spending most of the match trying to reposition and escape the circle, and the whole match feels like an uphill battle.
The next match could be the complete opposite, where the circle closes in around you, and you have ample time for extra looting and engaging enemy players.
Many battle royale games have tried to implement a solution to “bad circle luck” by giving players mobility options for travel around the map. Fortnite gives players planes, ATKs, Quad-Crushers, and Rift-To-Go’s, which all allow for quick rotations around the map.
Balancing mobility items has proven difficult for games like Fortnite, and many competitive players complain that certain mobility items grant an unfair advantage to the players that find them. The spawn-rate of vehicles in Fortnite is not 100%, so there is a chance that luck may not be in your favor when you desperately need to escape the storm in a hurry.
Finding a mobility item could make all the difference in a match where the margin between competitive players is razor-thin. This can be difficult to account for when gambling on players or teams because it adds another element of chance when betting on matches.
If you’ve watched top streamers like Ninja or Tfue, then you’re aware of the damage they can do with the right weapon in the right situation.
Unfortunately, finding the best weapons in the game is up to chance because each item has a fixed probability of spawning. In one match, players might find all the loot they need right from the start, while in the next match, it can feel like it’s possible to loot area after area without finding a viable weapon.
The disparity of weapons and items in competitive play can easily make the difference in a fight. A good example is the battle between top players Nickmercs and Ghost Aydan in the Fortnite Summer Skirmish tournament, now known as the infamous “Battle for Tilted Towers.”
Nickmercs and Ghost Aydan engaged in a gunfight that left both players on low HP. Ghost Ayden then found two Shield Potions and a Slurp Juice in three consecutive chests, essentially getting him back to full health. Nickmercs did not have the same luck with his chests, however, and was eliminated by Ghost Ayden in their next engagement.
Ninja put it best on his stream while watching the tournament by commenting “Bro, that is so lucky!” Ghost Ayden made a name for himself by eliminating Nickmercs in their Tilted Towers battle, and much of the outcome of the fight can be attributed to Ghost Aydan’s incredible chest luck.
Situations like this have caused an outcry from competitive players in hopes that developers will lessen the disparity between items and fix the scenario where finding the right item is a condition for winning a match.
Bettors in a game like Fortnite have no way to predict if the players they wager on will find good items over the course of a match, and no one wants to lose a wager because a player’s first item was healing instead of a gun.
A hallmark trait of battle royale games is large lobbies where only a single team or player can be left standing.
This mechanic adds to the excitement of winning a match: the knowledge that you out-lasted 99 other players on your way to victory. The rush of adrenaline you feel when you achieve victory in a battle royale is unlike anything that other multiplayer games have to offer. The feeling of winning is like a drug for many players, and it keeps them coming back for more.
The sheer number of players in a battle royale lobby makes for fantastic gameplay, but competitive tournaments have struggled to provide a spectator experience that fully encapsulates the action that takes place during a match.
Production crews of competitive tournaments will usually try to follow the action of a match by featuring the perspective of players who are engaged in battle. This can be difficult, though, as a game like Fortnite with 100 players forces production crews to have to decide where to switch the spectator camera and who to avoid.
Far too often, the spectators of a match are left watching a player heal or farm materials while battles take place elsewhere on the map.
The spectator experience of a battle royale can leave many bettors feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth while gambling on a match. Imagine if you placed a bet on a player only for them to be featured on a spectator camera for just a few seconds.
This very real scenario detracts from the appeal of esports betting on battle royale matches for many.
Apex Legends recently burst onto the battle royale scene, and it has quickly become a favorite game for many popular gaming personalities. Apex Legends’ release was a surprise to many; Respawn Entertainment was especially quiet about the game during development.
The battle royale genre has undoubtedly become saturated with so many titles that a new entry into the category has to severely differentiate itself in order to stand out from the pack.
Apex Legends has done just that, and the developers at Respawn have crafted a shooter that aims to correct the shortcoming of many other battle royale esports. Let’s take a look at how Apex Legends spins the battle royale genre to make it better for esports.
Apex Legends does not go out of its way to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the circle mechanic present in most battle royales. The circle in Apex Legends, known as the Ring, works very similar to Fortnite or PUBG; a series of concentric circles close in to bring players together.
Respawn Entertainment improves on the classic circle mechanic by giving players a multitude of options for rotations while not making the options RNG (random number generator) dependent.
Certain Legends in Apex have mobility as part of their kit. Pathfinder’s zipline has a relatively short cooldown and can quickly transfer an entire team from one place to another.
Bangalore moves faster while taking enemy fire to escape from dangerous situations. Wraith’s Dimensional Rift can teleport a team from one area to another in the blink of an eye. Bloodhound’s ultimate ability increases his speed for a short duration.
All of the abilities listed above give players an immense amount of utility to choose from, and if used correctly, they can get a team around the map efficiently and quickly. This is not the only mobility that Apex Legends has available in the game.
The basic movement mechanics of Apex, left over from Respawn’s previous franchise Titanfall, allow players to slide and chain together fluid movements that can get players around the map in a hurry.
On top of the player movement mechanics, the map in Apex Legends is very friendly for player movement.
There are ziplines located around the map that propel Legends into the sky and allow them to redeploy their jetpack for a short period of time. Players can cover an immense distance after taking one of these ziplines. There is also no fall damage for Legends, which means that cliffs and mountains are not obstacles, but instead, they’re opportunities to pounce on unsuspecting enemies.
The effort made by Respawn Entertainment to decrease the dependency on luck when it comes to player movement will help to make Apex Legends a more viable esport moving forward. The top competitive players would rather have their deaths be due to a lack of skill than a lack of luck, and this is a core focus of Apex Legends.
The loot table in Apex Legends will be familiar to those who have played other shooter games. Shotguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols, sniper rifles, and light machine guns are all staples of the FPS genre, and variants of each are present in Apex Legends.
Weapons in Apex have attachments with varying levels of rarity that improve the performance of the guns they are equipped to.
Apex Legends includes some interesting features to help players find the best loot in the game. There are designated “High Tier Loot” zones at the start of each round where players can choose to land.
This area of the map is usually more heavily contested than other zones, but the payoff for landing in a High Tier Loot zone can be well worth the risk. Players who land in High Tier Loot zones know what they are getting themselves into and are rewarded handsomely for coming out on top.
The reward for taking risks by landing in a certain area differs from games like Fortnite or PUBG, where the most strategic option for squads is to land somewhere uncontested in order to get all the area’s loot. Although this is a smart play, it leads to a boring gameplay loop of a quiet early game because players are actively trying to avoid combat.
Apex Legends also improves upon the reliance of luck from item spawns by making its healing items commonly available and interchangeable.
There are currently five healing items in the game.
Any Fortnite player knows the pain of taking a Large Shield potion at the start of a match only to find the next chest drops Small Shields that can’t be consumed. Apex Legends does away with this frustration and chance. Each health item in Apex Legends has the potential to get a player back to 100% health, and each shield item can restore a player to 100% shield.
Legends also come equipped with healing abilities that help to supplement items in the game. Lifeline’s D.O.C. ability can heal her teammates, lessening a squad’s reliance on finding or carrying healing items. As the developers add more Legends to the game, expect the release of more “healer” archetypes like Lifeline.
The looting and healing mechanics in Apex Legends are designed to suppress the involvement of luck within a match. Bettors will surely gravitate towards a game where the outcome of a match is more dependent on skill than luck.
Apex Legends features lobbies with 60 players. This means that there is a maximum of 20 teams in any given match. This is in contrast to Fortnite where Solo play consists of 100 teams and Squad play consists of 25 teams. Apex Legends’ decision to use lobbies that have 60% of the players that are in Fortnite lobbies will ultimately help the game to grow as a viable esport.
As we covered above, production crews in battle royale tournaments often have a difficult time following all the action that takes place within a match.
Apex Legends helps to alleviate this problem by giving production crews fewer decisions to make when it comes to which players to show on the spectator camera. This should allow production crews to capture more action as it happens in real time and showcase a higher percentage of the total players in a match.
Smaller player counts in lobbies should ultimately benefit the gambling scene because it will allow for more focus on individual players and teams. 60-player lobbies make choosing the winner of a match less of a crapshoot than it is in other battle royale titles.
Bettors who wager on specific teams will get to see their picks featured on the spectator camera more often throughout a match, which will ultimately lead to a better gambling experience for all.
Apex Legends’ current trajectory of player growth is steeper than what we saw for both Fortnite and PUBG.
Twitch and other forms of digital content are currently fueling the rise of Apex Legends’ popularity. Apex Legends has been able to capture the attention of many well-known streamers and content creators to create a grassroots buzz around the game.
The incumbent battle royale games have seen a dip in their viewer count since the release of Apex Legends. These are all signs that the community will continue to grow, and as it does, fans of other battle royale games will migrate towards Apex Legends.
The most important factor for the success of any esport is a thriving community of fans to support the competitive scene.
Respawn Entertainment must continue to appease the Apex Legends community by consistently updating the game and facilitating the growth of competitive play. There will be a horde of fans willing to consume Apex Legends esports as long as the game continues to be popular with the casual player base.
Apex Legends is already smashing records, and it has captured the attention of the gaming world. If Apex Legends can continue to grow at the current rate, I have no doubt that it can surpass Fortnite as the top battle royale esport.
And with all the things Apex Legends has done right, I believe it does have what it takes to fix battle royale esports.