This week, Apex Legends celebrates its second anniversary by launching its eighth season with a new character, new weapon, and loads of map changes to Kings Canyon to boot. It's strange to think about how far Respawn Entertainment's battle royale has come. When it first started, there was just one map and eight playable characters. Now we have three maps to explore and 16 Legends to play - and the devs don't seem to be slowing down either. I recently chatted with some of the folks at Respawn all about Season 8 Mayhem, as well as probe them a bit about what's in store for the future.
Let's start with Fuse. He's the new Legend who made quite an explosive entrance in his debut cinematic. Described as a "one-man wrecking crew", his kit includes the ability to carry more grenades than other characters, and throw them further and faster than anyone else too. He can also shoot cluster bombs that spit out mini concussion mines, and his ultimate launches a mortar that encircles enemies in a ring of fire. However, in early development, he had a slightly different affinity for bombs.
"At the very start, he was supposed to be this bomb defusal expert and he had abilities that we related to that," game designer OT Harrison tells me. "But after a lot of iteration, we decided that the fantasy of the character that likes to blow things up is a lot more fun to go with our anniversary and theme of Mayhem."
Fuse arrived at the Apex Games aboard a big airship, which was in the sky for mere minutes before crashing down onto Kings Canyon. It's the sort of event games like Destiny 2 and Fortnite have done live in-game, and as much as I love Apex's animations, I wondered if we could ever see Respawn try these sorts of game-changing live events.
"We have talked about things like that, a lot, I think that there is... I'll keep it nice and clean, I think there's a possibility that you could see it someday," design director Jason McCord tells me. "It's an exciting opportunity to do something like that in-game. But it's a ton of effort for one moment, and that's sort of the thing we've gotta get just right. We've gotta make sure that if we do something like that it's really coming in at the right time."
It may not have been live, but Season 8 is still making some big changes to Kings Canyon. The aforementioned crash has opened up a whole new area to the north, aptly named Crash Site, as well as caused other tweaks all across the map. I was curious if the devs find it a bit sad to wreck locations that have been in the game for ages, but world director Eduardo Agostini says they're more excited to get in there and switch things around. He adds that before we see another new map like we did last season with Olympus, we're likely to see more tweaks to Kings Canyon and World's Edge first.
"To put out a brand new map takes a lot of effort, so in the meantime we have the luxury of revisiting our existing maps and doing smaller, more meaningful changes to them that can still give everyone a fresh experience," he says.
Seeing as the arrival of Olympus also brought with it Apex's very first vehicle, the Trident, I asked if these "fresh experiences" might involve something similar on the existing maps. I reckon hoverbikes would fit in nicely on Kings Canyon. Alas, it doesn't sound like something in the game's immediate future.
"The vehicles were tuned very specifically to Olympus, but we did test it on other maps just for fun to see what they were like," McCord tells me. "If we were to try and bring the Trident over we'd have to make a lot of adjustments to the other maps."
Never say never, though. McCord says that since they've already done one vehicle, they have the groundwork to move the Trident about, or potentially make something new. "It'd be way in the future, but we're all excited about the idea," he adds.
When I interviewed McCord last May, he told me they were already working on Season 11. Now, he mentions they're as far as playtesting Season 13. He notes that Respawn haven't always been so on top of things, however, and staying ahead has been one of the biggest challenges the devs have faced working on Apex.
"When we launched the game, we were a team who made boxed products. We were a team that made Titanfall 1 and Titanfall 2. With boxed games, you work really hard up to a point, then you launch it, then start thinking about DLC, and everyone takes a break. It's a nice breathing period." he says. "We did that for Apex, and we probably shouldn't have."
"Season 1 was like, 'oh my god, we have to have a Season 1, and then a Season 2?' We weren't prepared to see the game explode right out of the gate. In Seasons 1 and 2 we were barely thinking about Season 3. We just didn't have time, we had to finish those. Now we're on Season 8, we're playtesting Season 13 content regularly, and I feel like we're well out in front of ourselves."
It's good to hear there's plenty more to come, though I'm definitely getting ahead of myself, the new season hasn't even arrived yet.
Apex Legends Season 8 Mayhem drops tomorrow, on Tuesday the 2nd of February. For more details on what to expect, have a gander at the Apex website.