The upcoming removal of tap-strafing from Apex Legends brought a heated debate, and associate live balance designer John Larson shared his two cents on the matter today. According to him, tap-strafing comes as a design problem that would be unhealthy—even if there was full parity between controller and mouse and keyboard.
Tap-strafing “is something I’ve thought about nearly every day since seeing it for the first time,” Larson said. The mechanic allows for “skill expression” and “outplay opportunities,” but, according to him, it turned into a “forbidden fruit.”
The debate on tap-strafing touches on the differences between controllers and mouse and keyboard. Though each has its pros and cons, “it’s a bummer we can’t have gameplay parity” between the two, according to Larson. But the problems of tap-strafing, Larson said, are far deeper than just a divide based on input method.
“This is why I believe tap-strafing exists solely as a design problem,” Larson wrote. “Even in a MnK only Apex world, or a scenario where controller and MnK could tap-strafe just the same, I don’t believe it would be a healthy change with the freedom it currently allows.”
Larson expanded on the reasoning behind the removal of tap-strafing, including major points that Respawn mentioned when its official Twitter announced the upcoming change. Firstly, it’s “highly inaccessible,” and “it’s an opaque technique that’s practically impossible to learn organically,” much less without strange keybinds.
Making tap-strafing more accessible, however, would exacerbate some design flaws that come from the technique. As Larson said, the technique has “terrible readability and limited counterplay,” and making it more prominent could cause concerns for the possible impacts the mechanic would have in the future.
Tap-strafing “is exacerbated by movement abilities,” as per Respawn’s official wording. Larson named two culprits—Pathfinder and Octane—who bring “greater gameplay concerns.”
Larson mentioned a possible “mobility creep,” a possible scenario if developers continued to tread in the direction of buffing movement. “While many love the freedom that Apex’s movement system affords, constraints are just as important,” he wrote. If Respawn were to double down on legends with movement abilities, that “mobility creep” could open a “pandora’s box,” according to him.
“If this was Octane legends (more so than it already is), can you imagine how much we’d have to buff defensive character abilities to stand a fighting chance,” Larson said.
The designer also assured that Respawn brought its best mouse and keyboard players and some pros into the mix, and will let pros “play around with the changes” to ensure other movement techniques don’t get removed. “I know it’s a contentious topic, and because of that, it’s hard for me to feel great about the decision. I do think it’s the right one though.”