Apex Legends, the new free-to-play battle royale from Respawn Entertainment, does anything but play it safe and adopt the common tropes of other games within the genre. One big thing they have decided to do differently is lowering the player cap in comparison to games like Fortnite and Blackout, which can hold one hundred players.
During our conversation with Respawn’s design director, Mackey McCandish, we asked why they decided to opt for three-man squads that make up twenty teams in a total player pool of just sixty.
“We playtested a lot of stuff and through playtesting, and through theory crafting, we identified pretty early on there’s something special about three man squads that was an ownable and defensible space. Because if you make a game entirely around three man squads, you can design around that,” explained McCandlish.
“For example, Lifeline can put up a shield when she revives somebody which would have no purpose in a solo-only queue. If you’re playing free-for-all by yourself, that ability wouldn’t manifest. So, there’s a whole design space there. On top of that, being in a three man squad with a max of sixty means you’ve got a 5% chance of winning as opposed to being one man out of one hundred. So it makes the hope pay off a little more often. In a sort of a moment-to-moment gameplay sense, we’re a medium time to kill game unlike Titanfall where robots have lower time versus pilots and so on, I’d like to think one player left alone still has a chance against three.”
“Once you go up to four it’s harder,” said McCandlish. “I mean I know some people solo queue in a battle royale and pull off some spectacular stuff. In general, though, there’s more of a hope and opportunity to be that one man or woman who beats three. We also wanted players to not feel too overly safe, when you’ve got four there’s much more awareness.”
McCandlish went on to sum up, “I think you could say, especially with the map, which is a bit smaller but more intimate and includes some of those traditional deathmatch elements, arenas you can master, having three-man squads promotes the mastery of those areas.”