Apex Legends: An ode to the doors

Some gamers think that games are created by pulling a series of levers. They believe that changing something in a video game is as simple as moving a lever into position and sitting back with a donut. If a developer wants to add a co-op mode, they simply press the “Add Co-op” button in Unreal Engine. Easy as pie. However, this is about as accurate as Homer Simpson’s depiction of working in a nuclear power plant.

It’s pure fantasy. In reality, developing a game with co-op is a nightmare. If there is only one user looking around your level, you know exactly which elements to hide to save memory and which not. When there are two or more players, it gets much more complicated. There are quite a few other factors to consider, but this is not an article about co-op. No, this is much more interesting. This, dear readers, is an article about doors.

The door problem

Door in Apex Legends.
Doors pose problems for developers. In , you’ve done a great job with the challenge.

Game developer Liz England once wrote a brilliant essay called “The Door Problem” in which she lays out exactly why doors are such an implementation hassle for game developers. Doors aren’t just a passageway into another room – adding a door creates a number of design problems. Can the AI walk through doors? Can doors be blocked so the user can’t get anywhere? What happens if an AI gets stuck in a door? And so on and so forth.

That’s why most games opt for the “easy” option and give us functional doors that do only the bare minimum. They open and close. Sometimes they just open. Sometimes they don’t open at all and you see a loading screen instead. Sometimes you follow a soldier and he opens the door for you. When they are more than just doors, it’s usually in stealth games where you can peek through the keyhole or slide an optical camera under the crack on the floor.

Doors in Apex

Game scene from Apex Legends.
Doors are ubiquitous in the setting of Apex Legends and help shape the gameplay.
There’s one area where you don’t see much innovation with doors other than taking them off their hinges, and even that is rare. That’s the case with first-person shooters. “Apex Legends” is the exception. “Apex Legends” has the Swiss Army Knife of doors, the General Grievous of doors, the “Spider-Man 3” of doors. They’re almost too versatile. Almost.

Doors are an essential part of the gameplay and an important factor in outsmarting your opponents. However, they have a few rules:

  • Doors always open inwards.
  • If something physically blocks the door, it cannot be opened further than the object allows (yes, doors have multiple states between open and closed).
  • Certain weapons are capable of pushing doors open.
  • Some weapons, abilities, and equipment can break down doors.


So that’s the playground – a comprehensive set of rules that essentially creates a metagame within “Apex Legends”. Think about the consequences of the first rule for a moment. It gives an advantage to those who defend themselves, as an attacking user must force their way inside if someone is holed up in a building. Of course, it is possible to attack through windows as well, but that is a whole other discussion.

Then there’s blocking. In Apex Legends, when you kill an enemy, he drops a loot chest. If you happen to be standing near a door when you die, the chest will block the door. There are fights in the early game where a bunch of death chests completely block a door, so characters are trapped inside and forced to go through another door, where a team that the noise alerted is usually waiting for them.

Certain character abilities, such as Caustic’s gas traps, can be used to block doors. Then there’s body blocking, where users push their character against a door to prevent enemies from entering. If you are near a door, the other team can’t open the door from the outside because it only opens inward. This is often a good way to get a heal in the middle of combat, as enemies will have to think quickly to get around the door or out of the way altogether.

Caustic in Apex Legends.
Caustic and other legends block doors with their abilities.

Destroying doors also brings with it a whole host of tactical considerations. When someone blocks a door with their body, the natural instinct is to immediately unhinge the door. However, this requires two melee attacks. The first signals your intent and prepares the opponent for the second. The kick animation will also make you vulnerable for a few seconds, so any self-respecting user will be ready for you as soon as the door breaks into pieces.

A better option is often to throw a grenade that also blows up the door. If you throw a second grenade just as the door explodes, you create a perfect breach. If you have a Rampart on your team, you can get them to shoot the door and the person on the other side with their minigun. A charged Rampage LMG has the same effect, but isn’t quite as deadly.

Some weapons – most sniper rifles, the 30-30 repeater, and the Wingman, to name a few – also allow you to open doors from a distance instead of destroying them, as long as you shoot at the handle. This tactic is handy when people are entrenched but not blocking the doors. It’s also a good way to force the enemy team to close the door to lure them in for a grenade or barrage.

Attacking teams can use body block doors to their advantage by filling a building with grenades and blocking the exits. This is hard to do, but super satisfying when it works.

And then there’s the pre-aiming. Since the doors have glass panels, you can easily catch a glimpse of the other side as you approach. That’s when you can take aim at an enemy to quickly take him out as you walk through the door with your finger on the trigger.

Apart from all these combat scenarios, the doors in Apex Legends serve as climbing platforms. Open a door from the inside, climb on it, climb up again – now you’re on the roof. Well done.

These features go a long way toward making Apex Legends the battle royale game of choice for many gamers. It’s never just about aiming and shooting – outside of team composition, character abilities, equipment, and the map you play, there are dozens of tactical considerations to be made on the fly, and all of that is supported by the most deft motion controls of any first-person shooter. The fact that there are a thousand words written here about doors should tell you everything you need to know.

Many thanks to Kirk McKeand (GLHF) for his ode to doors!

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