Wattson, Apex Legends’ newest hero, will enter the game when season 2 begins on July 2. She’ll be new to everyone, except the developers who’ve been playing her for a year already, figuring out exactly how a defensive-oriented Legend should work.
“Characters take a long time — a year and a half-ish to make,” Executive Producer Drew McCoy told Polygon. “Wattson has been playable since the middle of last year at least — like fully playable with all the abilities.”
It takes a while because building a new character in Apex Legends isn’t just about figuring out what they can do. It’s about how they interact with everything else in the game, from other characters to the environment to a certain kind of player. In fact, imagining a real life player is where Wattson came from.
“It was born out of the character designer who designed her [for] a friend,” McCoy said. “He understood his friend and his friend’s personality and play style, and he’s like, ‘I want to make a character for him, for that type of player,’” McCoy said.
Wattson arises, and Respawn plays her. Wattson evolves. Respawn plays her more. Wattson’s evolution continues.
“It’s eventually going to find people within Respawn who are play testing, who are like like, ‘Oh I like this character. I wish it did did XYZ … or people playing against her and understanding, ‘Hey, should she be a lot easier to counterattack?’ or ‘She’s too easy to counteract’ — whatever it is.”
Wattson’s passive ability is an example of that evolution. It’s called Spark of Genius, and it allows two things: Ultimate Accelerants fully charge Wattson’s Ultimate, and when Wattson stands near interception pylons, it boosts her Tactical Ability recharge.
“The passive has changed a lot,” Lead Project Manager Lee Horn said. “I think her core set, it’s pretty unique.
“When we were doing Bangalore and Gibraltar, we had these sort of massive bombardment sort of kill you abilities in a battle royale, and [Wattson’s] ultimate was born out of, ‘We need some sort of counter. How do I have an answer to that?’ So I think … we kind of knew where she would fit.”
McCoy jumped in to finish Horn’s thought.
“But the passive being insta full recharge of your Ultimate from an Accelerant, I don’t think it did that originally until we saw how much people were force-feeding Lifeline [Apex Legends’ medic class] and wanting to have an alternate route for uses of Ultimate Accelerants.”
So who’s Wattson for? According to Horn, a particular, underserved kind of player, who isn’t comfortable with an aggressive character like Octane.
“We definitely want to have a variety of play styles, and we were looking at sort of defensive style,” he said. “We hadn’t really served it with more than Caustic. And so Wattson was sort of our second evolution of defensive play style — sort of a thinking player’s character, where you’re going to think two or three steps in advance, set up your perimeter, anticipate where they’re coming from, and try to attack versus ‘Oh my God, someone’s there, let me use my abilities and kill.’ So it’s really like I’m someone that likes a little slower pace, like some think, anticipate and get the payoff for setting up all the traps.”
In a way, Wattson not being for everyone is the point, as McCoy said.
“A good Wattson player is anticipating that something is going to happen,” he said. “For me, it’s not a good character fit, because I can’t think that far ahead — and if I do and I start placing stuff and it doesn’t play out the way I expected, I’m like ‘Ah, it didn’t work!’ But for that type of player, that’s the purpose. It’s like ‘I think this is going to happen. I’m going to close these choke points so I can force a fight coming out of here.’ And if that happens? Yeah, that’s like all the dopamine rush of that type of character personality.”