How Apex Legends embraces its diverse roster

Apex Legends is Respawn Entertainment's free-to-play battle royale. Apex Legends' smooth movement mechanics and potent hero skills make it popular. The narrative team's care in writing and designing Apex Legends' characters sets it apart from other battle royale games. Few live-service shooters have as extensive lore and believable, lifelike characters.

Every legend has a backstory, motives, desires, and pet peeves. Respawn develops its characters by adding legend relationships. The ever-evolving status of each character's interpersonal ties provides the legendary depth, with in-game voice lines that change from season to season based on plot developments from prior seasons.

Respawn has made it obvious that it appreciates diversity and inclusivity and wants to cultivate a varied, inclusive playerbase. Gibraltar and a nonbinary character debuted in the game (Bloodhound). Loba, Fuse, Valkyrie, and Seer joined the roster in later seasons.

Other LGBTQ+ legends were around. Bangalore's lesbianism wasn't revealed until Season 13. Players had watched Bangalore and Loba's originally adversarial relationship progressively develop into passion, culminating in Season 9 when Loba's near-death experience horrified Bangalore enough that she refused to take their relationship further—or even admit that they had one.

Apex's developers integrated different facets of Bangalore's personality into a natural plot progression. Bangalore's trust issues, PTSD, and guarded personality fit seamlessly into the game's scenario. By the time her sexual orientation was verified, few (if any) players were surprised because everyone knew Bangalore, similar to how many individuals sense a close friend is LGBTQ+ before they come out.

Respawn's characters aren't tokenized or reduced to their sexuality, gender, or race. Loba is an excellent example; when she debuted in Season 5, there was no revelation about her sexuality (or Bangalore's, who would go back and forth with the alluring thief in later seasons). Loba was just hinted at. Loba often refers to all the legends (save Revenant) as "beautiful" Her sexuality affects her speech but doesn't define her.

Respawn employed a confidently gay character to narrate Bangalore's coming-out narrative. Bangalore's chat with Loba revealed that the former IMC soldier had feelings for a woman. Loba and Bangalore's romance didn't feel forced or contrived in Season 9 thanks to Respawn's great character development across four seasons, which primed gamers to expect it. Season 9's biggest surprise wasn't that Bangalore and Loba liked one other, but that Valkyrie threatened their relationship.

How can Respawn manage a tale with 21 primary characters, each with their own backstory, personality quirks, and preferences, all of whom were introduced in Season 13? We wanted to get answers straight from the developers of Apex Legends, so we contacted Ashley Reed, the game's main writer, and Manny Hagopian, the game's narrative director, by email. In the following, we will transcribe the questions asked and the answers given.

Are there times when you wish you hadn't made queer and straight relationships between playable characters canon in Apex Legends instead of having the legends date NPCs?

Hagopian: In hindsight, I don't think our correspondence was particularly regrettable. When we make a decision, we stick to it until we have a better option available. The best part about Apex is that it allows us to experiment with new ideas and make adjustments as we see fit. The world our characters inhabit is full with bad options, therefore it seems to reason that they will encounter these as well. It is precisely because we share these flaws with our characters that they feel so authentic and real to readers. However, I believe that keeping our characters interacting with each other rather than NPCs outside of the games is a powerful way to maintain the talks happening in the here and now and to better define the relationships among our Legends.

When asked where the fun was, Reed replied, "Nowhere." At first, while everyone (including us) was still trying to figure out what Apex was and where it fit in our universe, I was hesitant to introduce relationships. After the Broken Ghost mission, though, we began to dabble in more dramatic interpersonal narrative, and it was a lot of fun to write the squabbles and will-they-won't-they scenarios alongside the action. We knew we were onto something when the audience responded positively. Romance is now a tool we can use to portray the whole range of stories about these characters, from their darkest hours to their greatest triumphs. It would be bizarre if the Legends only ever interacted with each other—get out there and make some friends who don't fire at you!—so we'll give some wiggle area for fans to have fun and construct their own scenarios, and we'll introduce key characters who aren't playable. However, this allows us to investigate yet another part of our personalities.