The lead writer speaks to esports.gg at ALGS

Esports.gg sat down to speak to Ashley Reed, a Lead Writer at Respawn Entertainment, about developing Alter, her favorite pieces of lore, and creating storylines for a live-service game like Apex Legends.

Read on to find out Ashley's favorite relationships in Apex Legends, how new Legends are designed, how Respawn deals with data leaks, and what the connection between Alter and Horizon might be in Season 21.

Creating a new villain for the Apex Games

Alter is the newest Legend to join Apex Legends for Season 21. Unlike most of the other more heroic characters, Alter is a true murderous villain.

Even more unlike all of the other characters, Alter doesn’t have a real backstory or solid lore. Instead, she chooses to make up a new backstory for every person she speaks to, creating a chaotic first impression.

The inspiration for Alter’s personality was simply the chaos that her abilities caused.

“This is a character who was created by our writer, Jaclyn [Seto], working with our narrative director, Amanda Doiron. There was real interest in, 'Okay, what is an interesting villain character who works with this kit?' And this kit is all about causing chaos. That permeated everything about the creation of the character. What would someone who enjoys chaos do? How would they present themselves? The idea of, 'She’s never gonna tell you the truth of where she came from,' became a big part.”

As for why Alter is a villain, the answer was another simple one. Apex Legends hasn’t had a real villain for a long time.

“We were saying we hadn’t had a true just awful person character since Ash so we were like it’s time.”

Alter is the first villain since Season 11 (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)
Alter is the first villain since Season 11 (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)

The development of the Legends doesn’t start with their personality, since the goal of Apex Legends is first and foremost good gameplay. What comes first is the ability set. Then the personality follows through the development process in writing, art, and animation.

A gameplay first type of character design

The design process for a Legend is long and collaborative. Alter’s release is a good example of how long it takes to finish a Legend, since the portal Legend was revealed over two years ago in a massive data leak, though her lore was not finalized yet.

“The process is pretty long. I would say there is at least a year of active development and sometimes Legends can be in the pipeline longer than that. I think Valkyrie was originally scheduled to be a season six launch, and then she didn’t launch until nine.”

Gameplay comes before lore in a Legends development (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)
Gameplay comes before lore in a Legends development (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)

That long and arduous pipeline begins with Legend abilities. From there, the Legend grows through a collaborative process with narrative, animation, and art.

“It’s like a triangle of design, narrative, and art playing off each other to create a full package, but the initial spark of inspiration comes from the kit, because we want to make sure every character feels like they fit in the gameplay.”

Lore in a live-service game

Beyond Alter, keeping up long-running storylines and lore for multiple characters over the course of a live-service game is a challenge. Ashley explained that the writers have been exploring what the Legends do outside of the Apex Games for a while, but that now they want to hone back in on the Legends and their relationships within the context of the Games.

“Something we’re trying to explore in the future is this is a sport. This is a sort of like Olympics or the World Cup, like a big contest that people really focus on. We’ve been, like last year, a little bit outside that. We’re like what do the Legends do when they’re not in the games?”

Apex's lore will refocus on the Apex Games (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)
Apex's lore will refocus on the Apex Games (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)

“We want to come back to what do the Legends do in the games? How do those relationships work? So, exploring the depths of those older existing relationships is part of that and the way that they work together. But we also want a nice mix of characters talking to people they maybe haven’t in the past, and characters deepening those relationships.”

Alter and Horizon's connection

In fact, Alter already has a connection to one of the Legends. Though it was only hinted at the very end of her Stories from the Outlands trailer, the connection seems major.

A picture of Horizon and her son in Alter’s possession definitely points towards a strong relationship of some type. As to what that connection may be, Ashley Reed could only say “No comment on that”. 

A picture of Horizon and her son in Alter's posession (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)
A picture of Horizon and her son in Alter's posession (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)

However, she did elaborate some on the hint.

“I can say that is something that was seeded intentionally. We love setting up stories for either immediate or something further development later on. So, that is definitely something we want to seed. It is the connection that Alter and Horizon have and what that means for both of them.”

Dropping hints for future lore in a live service game can provide some fun opportunities to combine characters and places. In fact, Catalyst and Broken Moon weren’t connected in the lore until the developers realized how perfect of a fit they would be. 

“We were working on Catalyst and Broken Moon at the same time and then we’re like, 'Wait, somebody does the whole moon crystal thing and the moon map?' So, as we started dropping hints about Broken Moon, Catalyst got worked into that.” 

Favorite teasers for the Legends

Of all the hints and lead ups in Apex Legends, Ashley revealed that the Revenant teasers were her favorite in all the lore, even surpassing Alter's recent Stories from the Outlands.

“The correct answer is Revenant, because we had that whole lead up of like, the fake Legend and he kills the fake Legend. All right, that was so good.”

Also, note, sorry to all the would be Forge mains out there, since Ashley didn’t know there is still a dedicated subreddit for the long dead Legend.

“Oh my god, that’s real? There’s a Forge mains subreddit? Oh my god, that’s so funny. I feel so bad, but that’s so funny.”

Also unfortunate news for the Forge mains, but Forge was always slated to die like some sort of buff, sacrificial lamb. 

“He was created to die. Sorry.”

Forge the moment before he's murdered by Revenant (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)
Forge the moment before he's murdered by Revenant (Image via Apex Legends on YouTube)

“The team was just getting used to the concept, not of leaks necessarily, but they hadn’t done a live service game before, so they were just getting used to the concept of data mining.”

“They’re like, 'What if we use that against them? Like, what if we take the things we know they’re looking at and we make a fake version, and then we put that in as the new character?'”

And so Forge was used to trick the community and subvert expectations made by data mining with a clever twist… of Revenant’s knife arm through Forge’s chest.

Favorite relationships

Everyone has their favorite Apex Legends relationships, even the developers behind the game. Ashley revealed that her favorites are Crypto and Wattson, Bloodhound and Fuse, and Loba and Banglore.

“I’m gonna enrage some people because I’ve seen online that people are like, eh, we don’t love this, but I love Crypto/Wattson. I think they’re very sweet. I like that they kinda casually became friends because they realized like, 'Oh, we’re both kind of nerds and we like this stuff.' So, they’ve got complications and they don’t always necessarily behave the best, especially related to the secrets he’s trying to keep and her being like, 'You shouldn’t keep secrets from me,' but I do like that they’re very sweet.”

Fusehound fans rejoice! (Image via MadLad on YouTube)
Fusehound fans rejoice! (Image via MadLad on YouTube)

“Bloodhound and Fuse are great. Bloodhound kind of getting over past unfortunate circumstances and Fuse being like, 'Hey, I’m just here for a good time, not a long time.' And Bloodhound’s like, 'I appreciate this energy.' So, they’re very cute as well.”

“I love Loba and Valkyrie, but I also love what’s going on there with Loba and Bangalore. They’re like, 'We don’t really know each other, we just like each other’s presence, even though we started as enemies.' I do love an enemies to besties narrative.”

A new ship?

Interestingly, Ashley suggested a dark horse ship later on alongside the more traditional ones.

“My insane theory that I like is I think Revenant’s in love with Lisa Stone because that’s the only explanation for why she’s alive.”

You can certainly make a case for this ship, since Lisa Stone has lived through not one, but two majorly traumatic interviews with the simulacrum.

Season 21 of Apex Legends is currently live, so you can now enjoy Alter and her chaotic powers right now. In fact, there are some very unique voice lines between the Legends for players to enjoy. For example, Alter asks Wattson where her giant robot arm is, a clever callback to Wattson's concept art and to Alter's multiverse adventures in the lore.

Thank you to Ashley Reed for speaking with us at the ALGS Year 4 Split 1 in LA! For more behind the scenes interviews and other esports news, check back on esports.gg!

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