Apex Legends has experienced a bit of a PR rollercoaster over the past few weeks: while Season 7's new map, legend and vehicles went down well with players, slow progression in the latest battle pass caused some players to complain about grind - angering much of the community and forcing an emergency change from Respawn. To answer community concerns, several members of the Apex Legends dev team recently held a Reddit Q&A in which they addressed the unpopular battle pass. But the team also touched on another topic: the worrying problem of crunch in the games industry.
The comment on crunch comes from Apex Legends game director Chad Grenier, who was responding to a player who wanted more LTMs and felt Respawn was being "slow with content". Grenier assured the commenter the team was not scared of LTMs, but explained they normally drop-off in interest after a few days, making a two-week format unsuitable. He then went on to state that Respawn was trying to avoid crunch - and content would perhaps release a little slower as a result.
"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," Grenier said. "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."
This isn't the first time Respawn has discussed the problem of crunch this year: back in July a Glassdoor review discussing crunch drew attention on the Apex Legends subreddit, and was then addressed by Grenier and other Respawn developers. At the time, Grenier noted the shift to working from home had been particularly challenging for the team (via USG). In my interview with Grenier ahead of the release of Season 7, he similarly told me it had been difficult in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic (and some projects such as the game's Nintendo Switch version had to be delayed ), but the team has now settled into a better rhythm.
"The first month was just the chaos of trying to figure out 'how do we do this' and get computers to homes, get VPNs and all this set up... and it definitely took us a bit of time to get up to speed, to the capacity we were at working from the office," Grenier told me. "But now, in some ways, we're working more efficiently - there are benefits to working from home. I think we're at full stride at this point, it just took us a month or so to get there. It's got its challenges, there's no human interaction and things like that. It's hard, in a lot of ways, but we actually released Season 6 from home, it was our biggest season that we've had, and now we have Season 7 and we're anticipating it will be even bigger."
It's good to see Respawn reaffirm its position on avoiding crunch, particularly given the challenges of working during a pandemic - which can see home life and working life blur together - and the added pressure of constantly needing to update a live service game. Frankly, the amount of content Respawn has released with each season feels like plenty to me.
As for that problematic battle pass, Grenier directly addressed the allegation that Respawn was deliberately trying to squeeze players for more money. "We are not trying to play negotiation games with our players," Grenier said. "Respawn is made up of passionate gamers just like yourself. We also aren't trying to secretly force you all into buying more battle pass levels."
More changes to the battle pass are planned in future, including a way to "give players more agency on challenge completion".