Respawn finally pulled back the curtain on what went wrong with Apex Legends ranked in season 17 today. And, importantly, the devs have also presented how they plan to change things for the better in season 18.
In a blog post on the state of ranked, Respawn made its first major statement on the new ranked system that was introduced in season 17. The ranked changes were widely panned by the player base due to how inflated the Master rank had become, and how the most consistent strategy to gain ladder points (LP) in the new system and rank up was by simply hiding and avoiding fights, making it less likely to be eliminated from lobbies of a higher skill than many others.
Respawn acknowledged the issues presented by some of its tuning decisions and how those played a role in making players more inactive than ever during ranked matches this season. It also acknowledged that there were some bugs that added to the issues, giving players more LP than they should have received and allowing them to climb the ranked ladder more quickly.
To remedy this, the team is implementing several changes in Apex season 18, a few of which include a different ruleset for players in Diamond and above, which is something many top players have suggested repeatedly over the last year or so.
To start, Respawn noted that “overly generous” LP gains on the ranked ladder led to many players outpacing their hidden MMR and causing those players to stop receiving any bonuses for things like eliminations as the system tried to bring their rank in line with that MMR (which it wasn’t able to do, again because of how simple those LP gains turned out to be). In season 18, there will be a “minimum elimination bonus” to ensure players feel somewhat rewarded for getting kills and winning fights.
In addition, Respawn is going to be tuning down how much LP can be gained per match, and will also institute higher “stakes” and bigger LP losses in Diamond and above as it tries to curb the runaway inflation that’s led the Master rank to be the most populated rank in the game.
In a move that does address a ranked issue but already has some pros and ALGS personalities registering their discomfort, Respawn will also be looking to adjust ring timings and damage in season 18 and beyond to more strictly enforce teams to play within safe zones and not be able to camp out beyond the safety of the ring.
While it’s true that ranked players often try to hide outside of the ring and tank damage to gain higher placement points, teams in the ALGS often go outside the zone to find better routes into endgames. The difference between ranked and pro play is so great that many players and coaches are fearful the new changes spurred by ranked will force teams to completely change their playstyle a couple of months before the ALGS Championship.
Respawn also promised better matchmaking that would more closely pair players within ranked divisions, maintaining manageable queue times, and trying to increase mid-game encounters to create better pacing throughout a match.
And while there were plenty of issues to sort through, Respawn did note that players and teams were generally staying alive much longer in season 17, creating more endgame engagements across a wider variety of ranks. Unfortunately, that phenomenon also had a bit to do with the most telling graph posted in the blog: time spent idle.
As you probably already knew, a lot of the teams that popped up in these endgames got there by hiding and avoiding any and all engagements.
Respawn seems to believe that with the right tuning and the adjustments promised, this ranked system can still succeed. The team is even having a Reddit AMA on July 21 for fans to ask questions and give feedback on the promised changes. But the player base will have to hold their breath until season 18, given just how far short of expectations the ranked system has fallen so far.