The pacing and flow control of Apex Legends’ map design are well-designed

The-pacing-and-flow-control-of-Apex-Legends-map-design-are-well-designed

Apex stands on the shoulders of giants to create its own unique and outstanding battle royale experience: fast-paced and action-packed. The diverse heroes, unique firearms, and rich map elements make every game session filled with freshness. Apex always leaves players anticipating the next round, eager for new experiences. In my understanding, Apex’s level design philosophy is to drive combat by promoting player movement and cleverly control the pace through map design.

How Apex promotes player movement:

Frequent player movement on the map speeds up the gameplay. In Apex, it is rare to see players staying still when the circle doesn’t move. Players are always actively moving, with the purpose of collecting resources, gathering information, and avoiding the circle.

I. The balanced design of resource areas ensures that players do not stay in one location for too long.

The longer a player remains active in a resource area, the less mobile they are on the map. Conversely, shorter activity times in an area result in more frequent movement for the player on the map.

The size of the area determines the duration of activity within it. Factors such as area size, strategic advantages, and availability of resources contribute to the area’s size.

When a resource area is abundant in resources, covers a large area, and possesses excellent strategic positioning (such as being in the center of the map with multiple access points and being easily defensible), players are less inclined to leave this location. They prefer to defend the area and prevent other players from entering. While the presence of shrinking circles can improve this situation, such a design is detrimental to overall map mobility, often turning each match into a battle solely focused on this area. Therefore, in most cases, the design of a resource area aims to balance these elements.

II. Dispersed Resources and Multi-tiered Resource Levels

The distribution of resources within Apex resource points is relatively dispersed, requiring players to constantly move around while collecting resources. With the classification of supplies into different tiers (level 1-4 attachments, large and small batteries, large and small backpacks, etc.), even a high-tier resource point may not provide enough resources for a full team of three with six guns and fully equipped gear. This necessitates moving to different locations and engaging in battles to obtain more resources.

The dispersed nature of resources also enhances the gains from battles. To give an imperfect analogy: it’s like having multiple individuals gathering resources separately and then pooling them together. The time required for a fight is much shorter compared to the time needed to collect an equivalent amount of resources. Therefore, the gains from engaging in battles are much greater than avoiding conflict and focusing solely on resource gathering.

The distribution of resources in an organized manner establishes a profound sense of trust between players and the map: resources only exist within designated points, and there are no resources between these points. Resources within these points are guaranteed to be conspicuous and arranged in a systematic manner, usually avoiding secluded and inaccessible areas. This level of trust allows players to move smoothly and quickly, focusing their attention on capturing or collecting resources rather than “exploring the map”.

There are several crates in the distance!

III. Information

“Someone is there.”

Gunshots, footsteps, skill effects, and projectile effects are made blatantly obvious, as if fearing they might go unnoticed. Exposing this information attracts other teams, especially when the potential gains from combat are enticing. As a result, players tend to lean towards engaging in battles.

If the risks of exposing personal information outweigh the benefits, some people will avoid disclosing their information, which can slow down the pace. However, what if we increase the benefits of this risk? For example, in PVE content like hunting beasts and spider nests, killing enemies can drop resources based on the player’s equipment. This can be a good option in scenarios where resources are scarce and there aren’t many other teams nearby, allowing players to quickly collect the necessary resources. To obtain the corresponding benefits, players can decide whether to engage or not by assessing the risks of disclosing information.

In fact, character skills also follow the same logic. Valkyrie’s ultimate ability allows her squad to ascend and cross terrains, but the elongated trail and flashes can be detected by other players from a distance. Loba’s black market can gather nearby resources, but the resources within its range are all floating. Lifeline’s airdrop resources descend from the sky, making a loud noise and can only be placed outdoors, easily becoming a focal point.

Clear routes in map design help players anticipate the movements of other teams, plan their own routes, and react more proactively; throughout the game, constantly dealing with collected nearby information or exposing one’s own information, there is rarely a dull moment.

IV. Flow and Traffic

Only with flow but no direction will combat not be encouraged.

The shrinking circle is the most crucial mechanism affecting the flow direction, making all players flow towards a central point. Usually, during the first and second shrinkings of the circle, players are willing to move towards the center of the map, while subsequent movements depend on the position of the circle (the third circle is already smaller than a larger resource point).

The excessive concentration of traffic in a specific area of the map may result in a tight pace and an early end to the game.

The quantity and distribution of high-level resource areas can regulate the flow and traffic of the entire map.

In each map, there are a considerable number of high-level resource areas located on the outskirts, which are preferred choices for most players. These players quickly occupy a resource point, gain a good amount of resources, and then advance towards the middle of the map. Therefore, there must be enough high-level resource areas at both ends of the routes to meet the expectations of players who are actively engaged in multiple team battles, drop zones, and development operations.

The distribution of high-level resource areas in Olympus.

2. The means of transfer affect the flow and traffic of the map.

Similar to the distribution of high-tier loot locations, the Trident vehicles are often found on the outskirts of the map. They are particularly common in the flat terrain of the southern region of the Storm Point, allowing players to quickly move towards the center of the map. On the other hand, the jump pads at the Edge of the World are less common in the northern open areas, indicating a desire to prolong player stays in the northern regions.

The Gravity Cannons provide point-to-point transportation and are widely distributed throughout the Storm Point map. They accelerate the pace of player movement and create focal points for scattered players to converge.

Distribution of jump pads at the Edge of the World

Rhythm

If players are constantly moving without a rhythm, each match’s gameplay experience would rely solely on luck, resulting in unexpected fights and a lack of rhythmic variation and strategic depth. The shrinking ring is the most effective mechanism for controlling the pace of the battle, progressively heightening the tension in the game. However, Apex Legends demonstrates a more sophisticated control over the gameplay rhythm.

I. Typically, the terrain between two resource points is as follows:

There is usually a blank area between one resource point and the next, with no resources. The terrain is open, offering better visibility. Players tend to move quickly through this area without stopping. The blank area is then followed by a chokepoint, formed by terrain obstacles, which narrows the field of vision. Players become more alert and decide whether to pass through quickly or prepare for combat based on the information they have. After passing through the chokepoint, there is usually another blank area, contrasting with the previous narrow passageway. Players can survey the surroundings quickly and make the next decision based on the information they gather.

Example of storm points on the map: The narrow pass between two towering mountains, from the launch pad to the antenna, creates a blocking terrain that restricts visibility. After passing through the blocking point, there is a blank area with wide visibility, providing a panoramic view. Crossing the blank area leads to the resource point.

When it spreads to multiple points, it may look like this:

The ever-changing combination of terrain designs sets the rhythm in Apex games.

II. Design of resource point structures

The design of resource point structures aims to provide unique combat experiences. In the early stages, this influences players’ decision-making on where to parachute and engage in combat tactics upon landing. In the mid to late stages, it offers terrain variations for localized battles.

The size of the resource point determines the duration of active areas. Generally, the active duration of high-level resource points is longer than that of ordinary resource points.

A typical resource point structure usually consists of a main area and several secondary areas. There are some exceptions, such as the Windmill at the Storm Point and the Cultivation Tower at Olympus, but their purpose is to provide players with a unique battle experience.

The main area serves as a landmark and the primary distribution area of resources, providing a unique fighting experience. The secondary areas, on the other hand, serve as resting places and complement the main area in terms of battle experience, while also dispersing the flow of players from the main area.

Take the anemometer at the Storm Point as an example. From the moment players parachute down, they can see a clear division and route design.

The clear layout helps players quickly formulate strategies, such as deciding whether to disperse or gather at the landing point, determining the locations of other teams, and making battle plans. The defined routes assist players in collecting resources from the resource points at the fastest speed, reducing the time of area activity, and promoting the pace of battles.

Three. Empty Areas

Empty areas are not devoid of objects, but refer to the space between two resource points that is usually without resources and offers a wide field of vision. They serve as a connection and transition between two areas and play a significant role. One way to explain them is by comparing them to the concept of a death zone frequently seen in shooting game maps. Crossing through an empty area is often dangerous, and players usually try to pass through quickly. However, for players guarding the surrounding resource points, empty areas provide an excellent opportunity to gather information and secure kills.

The smaller the size of the empty area and the presence of suitable cover, the faster players will move through it. Conversely, larger empty areas with less cover will make players more cautious in their movements. Empty areas effectively regulate the pace of battles and enhance the overall gaming experience.

The blank area in front of the oasis in the Olympus map.

The blank areas between two major resources are usually filled with wilderness, serving as buffer zones and resting areas for players to adequately prepare for the upcoming battles.

4. Chokepoints

Chokepoints are obligatory passages, often characterized by narrow terrain that restricts the battle area and forces the passing teams to focus on the immediate combat. These are usually paths between two mountains, and sometimes caves, gates, or passages between two hollows. The design of unique chokepoints in Apex is related to its time to kill (TTK).

2. Chokepoints can effectively promote battles, guide the flow of the map, and regulate the pace of combat.

The area of the third circle is approximately equal to the area of a larger resource point. Blockade points before this can effectively promote the occurrence of battles. When players all advance towards a central point, they will be gathered together by the blockade points. This helps players anticipate the movements of other teams.

3. The presence of shrinking circles turns blockade points into true blockades:

There are three routes connecting the antennas and the danger zone. However, given the current circle shrinkage, players are highly likely to choose to pass through the middle. Without the shrinking circles, in order to avoid the risk of fighting in the danger zone, players might have chosen to go around it from both sides.

The shrinking of the circles reduces the number of pathways. The smaller the circle, the fewer the paths, and the more difficult it is to avoid battles. As a result, the fights become more intense.

Controlling the rhythm of different maps actually means controlling the flow of players.

The flow can be intense or relaxed. If players move quickly in a single direction, it indicates that they are exploring. If players move slowly and stay within a small area, it means the rhythm is slow. When certain areas of the map have high traffic while others are ignored, it not only hinders providing diverse experiences for individual players but also affects the overall rhythm of the game. In a well-designed map, the initial flow of players is dispersed, they move quickly with a certain beat, which creates a desirable rhythm.

Several key factors in map design influence the rhythm: map size, duration of active areas, and number of points of interest.

Generally speaking, the larger the map size, the slower the pace. In Apex, the storm point is the largest map among the four, but there is no sense of the pace becoming sluggish. The respawn has cleverly designed this map to provide experiences that other smaller maps lack:

– More blocking points have been designed to distribute players throughout the large map and control their flow, layer by layer, like a sieve. This also helps to ease the pressure of the final circle battles.

– Numerous gravity cannons have been implemented, changing the free-fall points of the balloons to point-to-point transfers using the gravity cannons. This accelerates the flow pace and restricts the uncontrollable movement directions in the large map. The use of gravity cannons comes with a significant sound increase, adding risk.

· The map with the most PVE content has many design points for PVE: it increases the efficiency of players collecting resources in the large map, and also increases the risk of exposing information.

The more points of interest there are, the more players will be scattered, and the distribution of advanced resource points will have a significant impact on players in the early stage. The map of Kings Canyon is the smallest in size and has the most compact pace. It is easy to encounter fights and if one wave is not finished, the next wave has to be confronted. Therefore, Kings Canyon has the most advanced resource areas and the fewest ordinary resource areas, aiming to scatter players as much as possible in the early stage and extend the active duration of player areas. Olympus, which has a similar size to Kings Canyon, adopts a different approach: the number of advanced resource points remains the same, but the total number of points of interest increases, spreading out the distribution of resources and further dispersing the flow of players in the early stage, alleviating the pressure of mid-game battles.

The longer the duration of regional activity, the slower the player flow. However, it is interesting that if there are very few points of interest and the duration of regional activity is extended, it also has the effect of promoting battles. This is because when a team of players is moving between points, they are likely to encounter another team still occupying a resource point, resulting in more battle scenarios taking place within the points of interest, such as the edge of the world.

2 thoughts on “The pacing and flow control of Apex Legends’ map design are well-designed

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