Respawn played with muted mics to get Apex Legends' smart comms system just right

Apex Legends' smart comms ping system allows rapid and precise communication without the use of a microphone or text chat. Here's how playtesting helped make that system possible.

One of the most standout features of Respawn’s Apex Legends is the title’s ‘smart comms’ ping system which gives players a way to clearly and effectively communicate on the fly without access to a keyboard or a microphone. 

The system itself lets players ‘ping’ a point of interest with a quick press of a button. This displays a marker on teammates' screens and triggers a vocal callout from in-game characters.

Players can open a wheel to select the specific ping they want to send out, but the default callouts are entirely conditional to what was tagged, making it simple to warn of an approaching enemy or alert a teammate to a neat item find without needing to use in-game chat.

It’s a neat touch that opens the squad-based battle royale game up to players that, for whatever reason, wouldn’t want or be able to use microphone-based chat with randomly assigned teammates, and Respawn says a lot of thought went into creating a system that accomplishes just that.

A tweet sent by the game’s official Twitter account offers a quick rundown of how the dev team playtested to fine-tune this feature. For a month, the team muted mics and assigned random in-game names to playtesting devs, requiring an entire arena of three-person squads to call out enemy locations, strategy suggestions, and neat finds using only the in-game smart comms system.

“That allowed us to feel things out in an authentic way,” reads the tweet. “Awesome to see folks using and enjoying Smart Comms!”

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