I spent my Saturday travelling down to London to watch a bunch of teams battle it out in Apex Legends, for a chance at winning a $1 million prize pool at the Apex Legends Global Series (ALGS).
If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s a battle royale title like Fortnite, but with a higher focus on gunplay and movement.
Anyone can jump in and slam a few hot slugs through someone’s chest, but it takes hundreds of hours and more than a little natural talent to get anywhere near the level the pros play at.
From recoil control to map knowledge, they’re just on another level, and it’s a thrill to watch teams with names like “Moist” play their little mind games.
But it’s an entirely different game when the pros play it.
Before they even enter the tournament, they have little friendly matches called scrims, where teams fight over territory.
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In the game proper, there’s a gentleman’s agreement in place so they all drop at the locations they won in the scrim.
Occasionally a team goes off script, but it usually doesn’t end well for them when they do.
In a regular match of Apex Legends, there’s often only a handful of teams left by the time the map has shrunk down to the final circle.
In pro leagues, it’s a party.
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It’s not uncommon to see four or five teams gathered in a single building, each occupying a floor, a wall, or a rooftop – all waiting for another team to make a mistake.
When there’s big money on the line, no one wants to make the first move unless victory is assured and they’re not going to get stomped by a third-party squad immediately after.
All of the main action takes place in a frantic showdown in a tiny play space at the end of a game.
In its latest season, developer Respawn changed how players are awarded points in Ranked matches.
The new system sees placement – what position you finish the match in – weighted higher than kills.
You could kill ten people, and it won’t matter if you don’t place high.
I’m personally mixed on this because obviously, placement is what should be important.
We’ve seen in previous seasons how putting too much weight on kills leads to everyone dropping together and half of the lobby getting wiped in the opening minutes, which leads to less exciting endgame battles.
But now it’s swung too far in the other direction because people are inherently selfish creatures.
Watching the pros, they often employ what a regular player would call “ratting” strategies, which is where a team simply hides and waits out the competition until fighting is unavoidable.
But even with all of Apex Legends’ innovations in communication tools, you will never be able to force random people to work together.
In ordinary Ranked matches, there will always be those people who land well away from their team and sit in a little cubby hole for the entire match.
It’s unavoidable if the system only rewards placement.
It’s easy to see what Respawn was trying to achieve here once you’ve seen how a match should play out, so hopefully, it can find a nice middle ground between the old system and the new.
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Because even if the professional players do play carefully, they sure know how to use the guns when it comes down to it.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.
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