Little Apex Talks #1: Knockdown Shields

I’ll cut right to the point — I think knockdown shields are nearly unusable.

Not saying that it’s a meaningless design, though — it does its job as titled: fending off bullets zipping toward my poor Bangalore. One would assume that its purpose is to keep you alive for as long as possible; the reality is that, whatever the quality of the K.O. shield you possess, you can still be erased from World’s Edge in a matter of seconds.

Speaking of seconds, let’s do some math and see how a shield performs against gunfire.

From A Statistical Perspective

Here’s a table that lists out the statistics for every tier of the knockdown shield.

Resource: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/02/07/apex-legends-armor-and-gear-season-4-helmet-backpack-knockdown-shield-body-shield/#bodyshields
(Seriously, someone should make a database that keeps track of all the items and all the changes.)

Also according to this website, the gun with the highest DPS up-to-date is the Devotion (255). Take this gun, spray it all on the shield, then give it a few taps on the victim’s hitbox on the head, you’ll end up with a most-efficient time to kill (TTK) of 0.64 ~ 3.19 seconds, depending on the quality of the shield; swap out Devotion with the gun that has the worst DPS, you’ll find that the charge rifle will take 4.75 ~ 25.72 seconds to kill (the drastic raise is predictable — top-level knockdown shield has health 6.5 times larger than your basic white plate).

So, a “standardized kill” — draining the shield before actually hitting the flesh — will take from 0.64 seconds (Devotion, all headshots) to 25.72 seconds (Charge Rifle, all torso shots). If we treat the center of this margin as the average time for one to take out a foe, it’ll take an average player at most 13.18 seconds to complete the job. Yes, at most — in reality, an average player might “miss” a few shots; some pellets may reach the flesh before they meet the barrier.

Note: I must clarify that this number model is inaccurate, as it does not take drop rates of loot into account; rather, this number assumes that all weapons and knockdown barriers have the same drop rate. Unless Respawn publishes an official stat table of loot drop rate, the best we can do as players is to approximate the table by playing and recording. If you ask me to take a guess, it’d be around 7-8 seconds at maximum.

What does 13.18 seconds mean? In Apex Legends, every hero moves in the same speed — 7.4m/s. This means that within this length of time, enemies can travel around 97.5m in distance. To give you a better sense of how that distance feels like in World’s Edge, I tried to calculate myself running for 13 seconds.

The blue line indicates the approximate distance. Thanks to my two unknown teammates who disconnected at the beginning so I can bring out my tests?

Note that this is purely running — there’s no sliding down the hills, grappling or ballooning. This means that an opponent can cover even longer distance than this within 13 seconds.

Why am I covering all these numbers? Right. Let’s talk about gameplay.

Gameplay

To your teammates, 13 seconds is already a short time since they have to sprint to your location, and depending on the location, they might need to navigate through the building or run in zig-zags — not the most efficient way — to avoid taking damage.

To the enemies, 13 seconds is long because their gunfire attracts nearby teams who wants to third-party. It’s actually more efficient if they use the time to knock out the last man standing; but a finishing move takes 5-6 seconds to complete, and normally a kill doesn’t take longer than that. Practically speaking, the shield doesn’t really stop your enemies too much, but indeed gives them a decent time pressure.

To you, however, the shield grants almost no advantage, unless you happen to carry a golden one. You function the same as every knocked-down player in any other Battle Royale title, and the shield’s design is hardly a subtle one. From my experience, its usually better for me not to open my shield, unless I want to become a glowing target in my foe’s viewport.

So, How Do We Fix It?

The question here is functionality — the knockdown shield doesn’t provide much help to its user. The most direct way to address this problem is to make the shield do something more, i.e. add powers to it. In fact, the Golden Shield is a great example, but it’s too rare to be found in the fields of World’s Edge. If a shield also takes different attachments that yields different abilities upon knockdown, it would allow more interesting dynamics towards middle – the end of a gunfight.

However, this could create an extra problem — every fight can include too many surprises. In a life-threatening brawl, players expect faithful outcomes. Attachments to other weapons such as scopes, chokes and add-ons only grant the user a minimal amount of advantage. A player isn’t necessarily at a disadvantage even if they don’t know what attachments their opponent has. Since we’re talking abilities, they might drastically change the status of either themselves, their teammates, their enemies, or even the environment itself. These changes, if not done with extensive playtesting and validation, might bring too much variables to the attacking player.

Alternative Solution

Let’s not think about knockdown shields — or assume that the results of a fight changes little, with or without it. What is a way to introduce interesting end-fight development without surprising players too much?

Think about Mirage’s ability: Encore. Makes him almost invisible when he is downed for a few seconds. It’s not the strongest passive of the roster, but it’s a great inspiration for knockdown abilities. Since every hero has their own fixed ability, it introduces more possible outcomes, and because abilities are tied to characters, they yield less surprising factor to the match.

Think about this (they might be terrible ideas, but hey, they’re ideas)

  • Octane: When downed, begins running with an increased speed by 200% for 4 seconds.
  • Caustic: When downed, drops a capsule.
  • Crypto: When downed, reveals killer’s location on map and outline in view.
  • Wraith: When downed, drops all items immediately, but teleports to the nearest beacon.
  • Lifeline: When downed, grants all remaining teammates a health boost.
  • …And many more.

Anyways, that’s the end of my “rant”. I still like Apex Legends! It has great dynamics, interesting abilities and genuinely the flow of the game is very smooth, compared to PUBG or Fortnite.

I’m Brian. A game designer from Taiwan.

Published by

Brian Teng

Game Designer | San Jose, CA

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