Apex Legends balance dev explains how they assess Legend buffs and nerfs

Apex Legends Valkyrie and WattsonRespawn Entertainment

A Live Balance Designer working on Apex Legends has explained the difficulties of balancing the game’s characters, revealing how Respawn interprets and implements data while ensuring the BR remains fun.

Since its launch back in 2019, Apex Legends’ character pool has been gradually expanding as new Legends are added every season. While new characters shake up the game’s meta in exciting new ways, it does mean balancing becomes more complex.

New characters can counter existing ones, or have their weaknesses exposed by the characters already in the game. However, any adjustments can have knock-on effects for future characters, meaning Respawn have to get their balancing right.

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While addressing Wattson, a Legend who many believe needs a buff but Respawn have said otherwise, Respawn’s Live Balance Designer John Larson explained the complexities of making adjustments and how interpreting the data can be incredibly challenging.

Wattson Apex LegendsRespawn Entertainment
Wattson was released in Season 2 of Apex Legends, but has been a hot topic in Season 9.

Responding to a graph from Daniel Klein, which shows Wattson at the very top of Arenas’ win rate, Live Balance Designer John Larson said: “Before everyone grabs their pitchforks, this is due to the removal of Low Profile. High-level assessment of something that GENERALLY holds true in this game: balance changes to abilities don’t come close to moving the needle in the same way hitboxes and damage multipliers do in terms of win rate and encounter win rate across all skill levels.”

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He went on to explain that ability changes generally affect better players, while hitbox and general damage adjustments have broader impacts.

That is why, following the removal of Low Profile, Wattson is incredibly high in terms of win-rates, despite her mediocre abilities.

He continued: “While legend win rate generally follows the same trends across skill buckets, what does change significantly is the spread. At the 50% mark, win rate range between highest and lowest legends is 0.8%. Amongst the top 1% of players, this is 7.8%. Without getting lost in the weeds, I want to make it clear that we look at much, much more than raw numbers when considering changes.”

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Larson finished by stating that they are still looking at Wattson changes, despite her obviously high win rate and buff off the back of Low Profile’s removal.

It goes to show the level of thought that goes into Legend balancing, and how different skill levels see huge variation in characters’ viability.

We will of course update you of any balancing changes if and when they come. When they do, though, rest assured that Respawn will have considered nearly every outcome.