Apex dev talks mixed inputs, aim assist, and more

In the realm of Apex Legends, one debate reigns supreme: no, it’s not whether you think Loba should be with Bangalore or Valkyrie. It’s mouse and keyboard vs. controller.

Aim assist, tap-strafing, and many more discussions about elements of Apex gameplay and its competitive integrity always seem to find their way back to the topic of a game featuring mixed inputs. On Friday night, Respawn Balance Designer John “JayBiebs” Larson took to Twitter to address these conversations and revealed some interesting facts about the two different inputs.

Larson’s’ TwitLonger specifically addressed Cloud9 coach and streamer Jamison “PVPX” Moore, who had offered up suggestions as to how to tweak controller gameplay so as to give the two inputs a better competitive balance. PVPX’s ideas revolve around giving controller players more accessibility towards movement options like tap-strafing, moving while looting, and more keybind options (for example, not being forced to use the same button for reloading, opening doors, and reviving teammates), in exchange for tuning down aim assist’s strength in the game.

Controller in Apex Legends

Buff: tap strafe capability

Buff: move while looting

Buff: interact/keybind separation

Nerf: aim assist

— C9 PVPX (@PVPX_) January 6, 2022 First off, Larson addressed tap-strafing, noting that controller’s lack of natural access to the movement option isn’t his primary problem with it. Instead, he cites combat readability and how movement options that already exist in the game, like Octane’s ultimate or Pathfinder’s grapple, exacerbate how impossible tap-strafing can make reading a combat situation. It’s not a balance issue at all, to Larson, but rather it “exists as a design problem.” With that said, it seems clear that tap-strafing won’t become any more available to controller players any time soon.

Next, Larson talks about moving while looting, and drops one of the most surprising facts in the entire thread: moving while looting on mouse and keyboard is actually a bug. It was never intended to be in the game initially. Importantly, it’s a bug that Larson says Respawn will never fix, as it’s become such a core combat mechanic to the game. The ability to move while looting and quickly swap a player’s body shield is a large reason why fights and third parties in Apex feel so fast and fun, and it appears the devs are quite pleased with that happy accident. That said, it appears the looting options on controller are “hardcoded” and simply not able to easily change, so controller players will still have to stand still while looting a death box for the time being.

Larson concluded his TwitLonger by saying the developers are “exploring options” for controller players and their keybind issues with only so many buttons on a controller, while also noting that tuning aim assist in the game is not out of the question. He cannot promise an aim assist nerf for PC players, but assures players that the Respawn team are “actively evaluating it.”

The entire TwitLonger provides more depth to balance and design decisions, and is well worth the full read. Overall, even if players disagree with Larson’s ideas on the mixed inputs and how to balance the two, it’s nice to see developers pull back the curtain on some of these decisions. Inviting players into these discussions is healthy for the game, no matter what input you use to gun your way through the Outlands.