Respawn devs reveal future of Apex Legends solos after Old Ways event - Dexerto
Apex Legends

Respawn devs reveal future of Apex Legends solos after Old Ways event

Published: 8/Apr/2020 7:07 Updated: 8/Apr/2020 7:48

by Isaac McIntyre

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There’s bad news for Apex Legends players who want to play alone ⁠— despite duos finally arriving in Respawn’s battle royale in the Old Ways event, it looks like a solo playlist may be a long way off, if it arrives at all.

When Apex first launched in February 2019, it came packaged with one playlist: trios. While other battle royale titles like Fortnite, and Call of Duty’s short-lived Blackout mode went with four-player squads, Respawn sliced that to three.

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14 months later, Apex now has permanent duo-queues as well. Unfortunately, solos may not be so lucky. On February 3, Josh Medina teased solos may have a chance to join the battle royale. Last week, he slammed that door shut.

Now, design director Jason McCord has put all the developer’s cards on the table regarding solos. In the Old Ways dev-stream released on April 7, he admitted solos were probably too “unhealthy” to add to the battle royale.

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According to the Respawn designer, data gathered during solos in the infamous Iron Crown event ⁠— which saw devs dub fans “ass-hats” after monetization complaints ⁠— reveals why solos just won’t be possible “any time soon.”

Respawn devs have slammed the door on solos and thrown away the key -- at least for now.
Respawn Entertainment
McCord slammed the door on solos and threw away the key for now.

Apex Legends is not designed for solos, says McCord

The crux of the issue surrounding potential solo playlists, McCord explained, is that Apex is “a team game first and foremost.” Everything in the battle royale had “started there,” with the concept of multiple players working together.

“We have designed our game around teammates ⁠— not necessarily trios ⁠— but our legends’ designs have a bunch of abilities that are really useful in squads, but are completely useless in solos,” the Apex designer said.

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“The game also has a ping system that is really important. We also have an in-depth revive system. All of these things won’t work in solos. We don’t want to double down on that [not using features] for many reasons.”

The controversial Iron Crown event was the last time solos appeared in Apex Legends.
Respawn Entertainment
The controversial Iron Crown event was the last time solos appeared in Apex Legends.

Iron Crown data suggests solos don’t work

Data collection during the Iron Crown event’s 14-day run in August last year also seems to have chalked any hopes for solos. During that event fortnight, new player retention dropped considerably, McCord explained.

“We actually saw some pretty unhealthy data. We got some good feedback, yes, some of you really enjoyed it. You thought it was really good,” he said.

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“One particular piece of data that we looked at though was that new players were much less likely to stick with the game if they only play solos. That was one problem that we saw. That is why you’re not seeing solos in this patch.”

Will solos ever have a place in Apex Legends?

The news might be a little grim for those who don’t want to have to rustle up a friend or two to drop into Apex Legends. It’s not all bad though. While the Old Ways event definitely won’t have solos, things may change, McCord said.

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Respawn is listening, he said. Fans across social media have been baying for solos for quite some time, McCord admitted. The developers know that, and that’s why they haven’t simply binned solos without a second thought.

“We do know that people want a way to practice and play alone though, so we know that,” he said. “We’re going to keep exploring ways to let you play just like that. For now though, grab a frag, go into duos, and enjoy that.”

Solos may not be coming, but there’s still plenty to do beyond “grabbing a frag” in Apex at the moment. The Old Ways event has brought with it a host of new content, from duos, to legend and weapon buffs, and much more.

That’s all for now, but there’s always more on the horizon. Respawn recently revealed they’re already hard at work on not only Season 5, but 6, 7, and 8 too. Solos may not be here now, but they could be coming in the future.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends SBMM controversy: Is EA rigging your matches?

Published: 8/Oct/2020 14:06

by Calum Patterson

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In the midst of Season 6 in Apex Legends, the controversy about SBMM (skill-based matchmaking) has reared its head again. A 2017 paper from EA researches appears to show a nefarious matchmaking algorithm, leaving players both concerned and angry.

But, before you grab your pitchforks, there are a few key facts that have been lost among the debate on social media.

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In an attempt to better explain what we know about matchmaking in Apex, the research from EA, and what it all actually means for you – the player – here is everything you need to know.

First, though, if you don’t know what SBMM even is, here is a quick recap.

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What is SBMM?

Skill-based matchmaking is the name for the predominant system used (or allegedly used) in the majority of online, PvP, multiplayer games. Respawn, the developers of Apex Legends, have confirmed that their system uses skill level as a factor in matchmaking.

They’ve said that this system has always been there, will stay, and that they are constantly trying to improve it. The say SBMM is better for the long-term health of the game, and for keeping players playing and having fun.

However, this 2017 paper, written by a handful of researchers from EA, appears to argue the opposite; that fairer matches are not actually best for ‘engagement’ (i.e. keeping you playing or spending). Instead, another system called EOMM is apparently better. So, is SBMM not actually a thing at all?

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SBMM in Apex Legends
Respawn Entertainment
SBMM has been a hot topic in Apex for ever since launch.

Is Apex Legends rigging you to lose?

The short answer: No.

Respawn’s Principal Coder Michael Kalas has confirmed that Apex Legends does not use EOMM, and said “no one working on Apex matchmaking has read the patent.”

“Apex matchmaking is designed off skill. It’s not literally designed to make you lose, spend, nor play longer,” Kalas confirms. “Apex features are designed and measured to result in fun, entertainment, accomplishment, playing longer, etc.”

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Some players, even professional players, have said based on their own feeling and experience, that there is some kind of system working against them in matchmaking.

Perhaps players are right to feel this way, perhaps not. We will probably never know for certain, as publishers like EA and Activision will never reveal the inner-workings of their matchmaking algorithms. This is because, once known, players could deliberately attempt to game the system. 

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What is the EA research paper?

First, remember that this 2017 research paper is not linked to Apex Legends. After all, Apex was released two years after this paper was published.

It is simply a study, testing if such a system is successful at increasing player retention, and in turn, spending. This system is not SBMM. In fact, it argues that SBMM is actually worse for increasing player retention.

The system is called EOMM = engagement optimized matchmaking. Rather than matching players randomly, or based on their skill level, it combines a number of different factors, to try to increase ‘engagement.’

The paper concludes that “EOMM significantly outperforms all other methods in the number of retained players.”

What is EOMM?

Engagement Optimized matchmaking (EOMM) “aims to match players in an optimal way that maximizes overall player engagement.”

Based on a player’s last 3 outcomes (W)in, (L)ose, or (D)raw, the risk of them quitting changes. The paper presents this table, showing that three losses in a row, or two wins and a loss, will result in the highest risk of quitting (4.9% – 5.1%).

However, if a player has DLW, LLW, LDW, or DDD, their risk of quitting is almost half (2.6% – 2.7%).

A simplistic appraisal of this system then, would be, if you get a win, you might get a harder opponent the next match. If you lose, you get an easier opponent. Keeping the balance of wins, losses, and draws, is core to the EOMM system.

The fear is that the game could be “rigging” your matchmaking, to make you win or lose in a certain pattern. The goal of this system is to increase player engagement; things “such as time or money spent in the game, the number of matches played within a time window, or churn risk.”

But, the research paper was based on 1v1 matches, which might apply to a game like FIFA, but not Apex Legends. However, it concludes that EOMM could easily be applied to other, more complex matchmaking.

AC Milan FIFA 21
EA SPORTS
Games like FIFA could use EOMM, because it’s based on 1v1 matches.

Of course, EA and Respawn want players to be engaged with their game. They want players playing, staying to play more, and hopefully, spending money. So, it stands to reason that they would employ some matchmaking algorithms to optimize this.

But, this study was based on 500 players. Not the tens of millions who play Apex Legends. In the real world, there are countless other factors to consider, including ping, server location, partying up with friends, and much more.

What about SBMM?

The paper on EOMM argues that SBMM doesn’t work because of one key reason:

“Consider a cautious player who cares about protecting his rank among friends, and a risk taker who enjoys difficult matches. Pairing them with similarly skilled opponents will affect these players very differently. Even for the same player, their expectation on the coming match when they just lost three games in a row can be very different from that when they recently performed well.”

In their testing, EOMM retained 0.7% more players compared to SBMM, after one round of matchmaking. This might not seem like much, but over more matches, this number will increase: “For players who play 20 rounds of matchmaking games within eight hours, there will be 15% more players retained by EOMM” than SBMM.

But, the dislike of any system that is not purely random and based totally on connection, cannot be denied. It became a massive issue during Call of Duty’s Black Ops Cold War Alpha recently, where even pro player Scump pleaded with developers to make changes.

We can only hope that the developers take into consideration players’ concerns, and promote having fun in the game, and not just “engagement.”