Respawn Just Released The First Episode Of A New Apex Legends Docuseries
Inside The Studio is a new series showing all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into bringing Apex's legends to life.
Part of what makes Apex Legends stand out from its competitors is Respawn Entertainment's focus on creating three-dimensional, believable characters. While is Apex far from the first hero shooter to feature a diverse roster of playable characters, Apex delves much deeper into narrative design than your average live-service shooter, giving each character a complex backstory that players can relate to and identify with. So how exactly does Respawn go about bringing these characters and their intricate storylines to life? The Titanfall 2 developer answered that question today with the release of the first episode of Inside The Studio, a new docuseries that details the complex process of creating Apex's legends.
Catalyst may have joined @PlayApex just last week, but her journey was written in the stars years ago. ✨— Respawn (@Respawn) November 9, 2022
Learn more about the collaborative process that is creating a Legend in Respawn's first episode of "Inside The Studio." pic.twitter.com/8kVi7z6DR5
The five-minute video gives players a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to legend creation, focusing on Season 15's debut legend, Catalyst. In it, lead writer Ashley Reed (who inspired Ash's human name) reveals that the game's developers knew from the beginning that they wanted a trans woman to join the legend squad, and were toying with the idea of ferrofluid-based powers for a while as they tried to come up with a compelling backstory.
But it wasn't until former Respawn game designer Samantha Kalman (the mind behind Storm Point's delightful, murderbot-infested IMC Armories) pitched the concept of a "techno-witch" that Catalyst's personality truly started coming together. Kalman herself is a trans woman and practicing witch, and her significant influence on Catalyst's design is obvious. But of course, the creation of every legend is a group effort, and no legend is complete without a talented voice actor.
"It's so much more impactful when you're telling open and honest and authentic stories where you have nuanced and three-dimensional characters," says Catalyst voice actress Meli Grant.
Grant is also a trans woman, keeping in line with Respawn's tradition of casting voice actors with personality traits and life experiences that are similar to the characters they voice (especially when it comes to women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community). Another great example of this is Valkyrie's voice actress Erika Ishii. Ishii is a queer Asian-American woman, just like the character she voices. This tendency towards casting voice actors who share similarities with their legendary in-game counterparts makes for authentic vocal performances that come from a place of personal experience, not imagination.
Lead character designer OT Harrison dropped another interesting tidbit regarding character design later in the episode, explaining that during the development of Seer's backstory, Respawn reached out to Black employees for feedback.
"They reached out to Black Respawn employees multiple times throughout the process, and it was something I really appreciated," says Harrison.
The episode also reveals that Respawn worked closely with GLAAD to ensure that Catalyst was portrayed in a manner that would allow her to be open about her transition without reducing the entirety of her character to her gender identity, or reinforcing harmful tropes and stereotypes.
"I want this to be a character that people find fascinating," Grant said of her mindset during her recording sessions. "I want it to be someone that people pick and want to play not just because the character is 'meta' that season."
Reed chimed in again later in the video, describing a challenge the narrative team faces every season: trying to create an exciting character with powers that are larger than life, but who also has a relatable and realistic personality that players can empathize with.
Also mentioned were the steps that went into bringing Catalyst's powers to life from both a gameplay perspective and an aesthetic one. Her massive wall of ferrofluid presented a challenge to animators, though the devs eventually overcame it after a good deal of experimentation (and scrapped ideas).
"It's honestly the most metal thing you've ever seen," Reed said of the end result.
But ultimately, the episode revolves around Respawn's commitment to accurate, respectful representation of LGBTQIA+ characters.
"There's nothing like seeing yourself there [in the game] in some way, especially if it's something that hadn't happened to you in the past," Harrison said regarding the historical prevalence of straight white males making up the vast majority of playable characters in video games--a trend Respawn Entertainment is determined to make a thing of the past.
The video's intro sequence listed it as "Inside The Studio 01," and the wording of the tweet itself suggests that more trivia-filled behind-the-scenes videos are on the way in the near future. Be sure to keep an eye on the official Apex Legends Twitter page if you want to see more, as it appears that the Inside The Studio series will only be posted on Twitter--not the Apex Legends YouTube channel.
Apex Legends is free to play on console and PC. A mobile version of the game, Apex Legends Mobile, is available for download on Android and iOS devices.
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