Respawn Entertainment has opened up about its desires to create compelling characters and story-driven games. CEO Vince Zampella, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order game director Stig Asmussen, and Apex Legends head Chad Grenier all spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the studio and how it plans to approach the future of video games. Asmussen is currently set as the studio’s narrative branch director, which will remain as one of Respawn’s key pillars next to multiplayer and VR. Zampella says Asmussen and the exclusively single-player package that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order offered is part of what will shift the developer away from solely being known as the “multiplayer shooter guys.”
Around the time Respawn released Titanfall, many worried a solo gaming experience would soon become a thing of the past, with many thinking gaming would shift over to multiplayer sooner rather than later. Asmussen added to the narrative-driven conversation by talking about these same fears:
In 2014, I don’t think we were talking about single-player action-adventure games being an endangered species. That’s something that happened while we were working on the game. There was a rise in game experiences that were service-based, and people could continue playing over and over. But we stuck to our guns. This is the type of the game we were going to make. I think what happened is live service games expanded the market, but they weren’t taking away the players who wanted to play a single-player action-adventure.
Since Grenier is overseeing Apex Legends, he has quite the perspective on creating interesting characters at Respawn: “We tend to rapidly prototype characters at a high rate and throw them away when they’re not working. We do 10 times more prototypes than what actually make it into the game.”
Titanfall, which Zampella felt suffered from “reading as generic sci-fi,” inspired the team to focus on creating better characters when moving on to Apex Legends:
That’s terrible for me to say about my own game (that it’s generic), but we wanted something more identifiable by going into characters. … To identify with a character, either by play style or because you like who they are and what they stand for, it was important for us to take that next step. Character-based is now super important to what we do.
Zampella ended his thoughts talking about the decision to “join forces” with EA, saying that the publisher wanted him to “help shape the future of EA.” Despite what many may think, Zampella feels working with EA has never resulted in Respawn losing independence.
The CEO also spoke about his newly announced plans to additionally head another EA-owned developer, DICE Los Angeles, in order to rebrand it as a major development studio.