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Apex Legends: Hunted - Our Big Respawn Interview
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 01:05pm 05/08/22 | Comments
Apex Legends: Hunted introduces Vantage, the next Legend that also happens to be a sniper. We sit down with Respawn to talk about the new kit and how her back-story came together.

With Apex Legends: Hunted sees the arrival of Season 14 and a brand-new Legend - the first outright sniper class for the popular battle royale, Vantage. The youngest person to join the Apex Games at 18, Vantage (Xiomara “Mara” Contreras) grew up on the remote and barren ice planet of Págos with her mother where she learned to be self-sufficient, hunt, and survive. Stumbling on a derelict prison ship, Vantage learns that it crash landed there many years ago with her mother aboard as cargo.

This back story is laid out in the impressive Stories from the Outlands: Survive animation, that sets the scene for the hunter, and sniper, to join the line-up of Apex Legends. As for the kit itself, it leans into the high-powered rifle fantasy that comes with being a sniper in a first-person shooter whilst also making use of Vantage’s cute little bat companion Echo for momentum and quick traversal. One of the key components of Apex Legends adds a distinct flavour to the idea of a sniper class in the game.

With the character breakdown above, Vantage’s arsenal is one that blends movement, scouting, and sniping.

Passive - Spotter’s Lens

    Using her Spotter’s Lens to read tactical information on enemy squads at a
    distance, Vantage always has the upper hand with critical intel like Legend name, Shield rarity, team size and range.

Tactical - Echo Relocation

    Vantage’s companion Echo is at the ready to help her reposition herself in a fight.Using her modified jetpack and targeting system, Vantage can launch herself towards Echo’s position and take the high ground.

Ultimate - Sniper’s Mark

    There’s nowhere to hide from Vantage’s custom sniper rifle, which reveals
    enemies with its scope and with its ammunition: a successful hit highlights
    opposing squads for 10 seconds accompanied by a diamond marker, and damage scales up with each hit.

Ahead of her reveal and the arrival of Apex Legends: Hunted we sat down with Respawn to talk about all things Vantage. Speaking to Chris Winder, Lead Legend Designer on Vantage, and Kevin Lee, Narrative Designer on Vantage, we began by talking about how a sniper might fit into the game.

When looking at the sniper in a competitive shooter in a first-person shooter, they tend to have a very specific role. Also, something of a niche role as well. How did this idea of a traditional sniper factor into the design of Vantage?

Chris Winder: The challenge was to create a character based around that sniper fantasy, long-range engagement. But, without prescribing a particular gameplay style. For those players who want to play that way they could, but it was not forcing the character of Vantage to be that way or play that way. At the end of the day, Apex is a BR shooter based around the loot that you find on the ground. So your skill with those guns and the guns that you find along the way should dictate quite a lot about how you play the game. Definitely more so than the abilities.

For Vantage we wanted to create some gameplay that encouraged that long-range engagement. Giving her the Passive, to give you information on squads that are out there, and giving that sense of being able to scout from long long distances, is one. And then the Ultimate fills that role of adding a sniper weapon, a long-range weapon that you don’t have to go anywhere to find to maximise that potential with this character. Those are some of the things that we kept in mind when we were developing Vantage and trying to find the right expression for a Sniper Kit in Apex.

Has this kit or idea for a Legend been something that the team has been kicking around for a while? Even something specific, like an Ultimate all about giving you a high-powered sniper rifle.

Chris: It is something we've been thinking about, not just a sniper, but thinking about different characters that engage at different ranges. We have Maggie who gets in people's faces and has an affinity for shotguns, so she gets really close range. Rampart with her affinity for LMGs. So the question was, what would a character look like with sniper rifles? We started trying out different things, and then yeah, that kit turned into Vantage.

The addition of Echo feels like an active measure to add some mobility and lean into that side of Apex. As a BR where the map is continuously changing and there's loot and there's constant movement, how did Echo come into the picture for Vantage? Even as a cute little companion.

Chris: At first the kit didn't have any mobility. We were really just focused on long-range, trying to make her this sniper character. So there was always some version of the rifle and some version of a passive that was tactical, which could do different things like scan targets. The problem we ran into, which we knew would be a challenge, was that engaging at longer distances meant that you were further away from targets that you were damaging. So trying to finish off the kill could be a problem if you have no quick way to get there. They'll just heal up before you even get there.

Related: Apex Legends: Hunted is Bringing Big Changes to the Map that Started it All

Another problem was the fact that you could become separated from your team very easily, as your team keeps moving forward you're hanging back to play the sniper. With no tools to close that distance, that’s a problem. And when we were play testing these things that turned out to be an even bigger challenge than we thought. So we began to prototype and test this idea of mobility that fit Vantage, as well as having it feel unique compared to all the other mobility tools we had in the game. We didn't want to give her a grapple like Pathfinder or a jump pad, stuff that’s already in the game. Trying to find some unique expression for that movement came with the idea of a companion.

A companion that could fly around the world. It was a bit more autonomous at first and did other things as well. But definitely, a big part of adding a companion for Vantage was adding a mobility tool. The team definitely latched on to the ability from a functional standpoint, but being this small companion people immediately started projecting personalities onto Vantage’s companion. The team then did their magic and turned it into Echo.

And players can’t shoot Echo, which makes sense.

Chris: There were times when Echo did more, more to enemies and was more of a direct threat like a Crypto drone where the drone itself is directly the cause of the scan or the EMP. So there was a desire to be able to shoot at Echo in some way and potentially discourage or shoo it away. As Echo evolved and became purely linked to mobility for Vantage, it wasn’t going to become a target for enemies. The way I like to think about it is like the place that Pathfinder’s grapple attaches to, it's not really something that you're going to shoot to try and disconnect Pathfinder mid-grapple.

Shifting gears to Vantage, a hunter that grew up on the barren ice planet of Pagos. How did the beginnings of Vantage, the character, come about?

Kevin Lee: Originally we got together and we started to see the beginnings of the kit that Chris was putting together. From there we talked about what we would want to see from a sniper character in the Apex world, among our other Legends. Who would fit into that roster, but also stand out as their own entity? Our cast of characters is colourful and big and filled with big personalities. We wanted to make sure she stood out not just in our lineup, but also amongst snipers in other games.

Oftentimes, you think of a sniper and you think of a grizzled loner who shoots people from afar and says grizzled stuff. Where could we take that, and make it really interesting? So we started thinking about a young Legend, who turned out to be our youngest Legend at 18. And we began thinking about a hunter, somebody who lived in a remote wilderness somewhere, who really grew up from a young age just having to survive, having to cut their teeth, against all odds with their mom. It just sort of all tumbled and snowballed from there. Once we had those basic building blocks Rachel went away and came back with almost what you see in the final model, even with Echo. That was the first time we saw Echo as the little Arctic bat too.

As the youngest person, and someone that grew up on a remote ice planet with her mother, she’s disconnected from the wider world. But, she’s self-sufficient and all of that comes across in the Stories From the Outlands animation. Diving into the Apex Games with the other Legends, is Vantage naive? How does her upbringing factor into her dialogue and how she interacts with and perceives other characters?

Kevin: She can come across as naive, but I think that's the wrong way to look at her. She doesn't have experience with civilisation and things like social rules and manners, even laws and governments are completely foreign to her. And in many cases, totally irrelevant because she grew up perfectly fine without any of it. Even something like ‘don't tell your crush that you like them’, if she likes someone, she would just walk up to and say, ‘I like you’. That's what you do in the wild, you go for what you need to go for.

And that definitely plays out in the dialogue. Our Legends have lots of drama and intrigue and things going on covering the previous 13 seasons that Vantage might pick up on because she's smart and very perceptive. But, she doesn't know not to speak up about it or poke this character about this or that thing. We definitely get some mileage out of that in Season 14, and it really plays into who she is as a young person that goes in headfirst and has a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity about the world that she's in.

Her mother's history, being a fugitive, was that established quite early as the driving factor for her to get involved in the Apex Games?

Kevin: We figured that she would just be with her mom on this planet, keeping it small. We have a lot of complicated parental dynamics amongst our Legends [laughs], so we wanted it to be, complicated, but in a fresh way. And so we have this question about her mom, her guilt, finding out what she did. Did she actually do it? How did she end up in these circumstances that landed her in jail? It happened during the Outlands Civil War. So there was a lot of stuff going on and lots to unpack. Now that Vantage is in civilisation she can figure some of this stuff out.

When it comes to creating the backstory, how deep do you go when it comes to history and connecting it with the lore, and keeping track of the wider Apex universe?

Kevin: When we were creating Vantage we really wanted to have answers in place for why her mom was on this planet and really understand the timelines of that. Making sure it's synced up with the Outlands Civil War, and that plays into like how old her weapon is, how old her clothing is, and the technology in that ship that she landed in.

We work all that stuff out because we really want to have as much stuff as we can to play with when we're coming up with dialogue and thinking about how she'll relate to people. And we have ideas for the future, stuff relating to what happened with her mom and other things I can't get into [laughs], that plays off of this established lore. We have archivists on hand who help us keep track of all the pieces and make sure we’re accurate too.

Chris: As devs on the game, we're all fans of the characters. The fact that there's such a strong base of lore in general, with cool back-stories and interpersonal relationships, the planets, it feels like a real universe. So when we're creating new characters like Vantage, there's a real passion from the team. Where does the bat come from, and how does it live? Her rifle, how does that fit into the universe? There it made a lot of sense if it was some old model of one of the guns that we have in the game - so it’s an old model Sentinel. That just comes from the team being inspired by the lore and history that's already in the game, and wanting to put some meaning behind just about everything.

The end product always looks seamless in terms of a character and how they fit in. If a kit exists as gameplay before being fleshed out into a full character, what does that look like?

Chris: Apex Legends is a multiplayer game, and the competitive integrity of the game is really important. So we're always looking at what the game needs or at least what we think it needs. Maybe some playstyles are underserved or some playstyles are over-represented and may need some sort of counter. We start with the gameplay, and we’re trying out ideas all the time, giving ourselves the flexibility to jump around as needed to make new kits.

As we start to gain some confidence in where a kit is going, we get narrative and art involved pretty early. I had the kind of beginnings of the Vantage kit, not even named yet, but we were confident in where the kit was moving. We really cared about the character feeling holistic, her kit is something she actually wears, she's got the whistle attached to her chest, bullets from her sniper rifle in a satchel on her leg. We try to kind of make everything feel cohesive because they all sort of build on each other, where art can inspire gameplay, and gameplay can inspire the art or the storytelling.

Apex Legend: Hunted begins August 9.
Read more about Apex Legends on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

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