This is Ellie. You may have seen her in the latest Borderlands 2 trailer (unless you were distracted by the dangerously high levels of a-whimoweh), but up to now we didn't know much about the series' new NPC. I recently had the opportunity to send the Gearbox team a few questions about Ellie's design, origin, and role -- read on to find out who she is, how she came to be, and how Gearbox seeks to defy stereotypes.
These written answers were a group effort by the Gearbox team.
Who is Ellie? What role does she play in the story?
Gearbox: Ellie is Scooter's sister. From a pure purpose level, we needed a character to introduce our new Bandit Technical vehicle, and since we were already using Scooter elsewhere in the game, it didn't make sense for him to do it. Still, Scooter is "the car guy" in our universe and it felt like anyone who introduced a new car should still be connected to him in some way. Thus, Ellie was born.
The narrative goal with Ellie was to have a character who hits all of the tick marks of a good Borderlands character (funny, unexpected, looks as if they could probably kill you in thirteen different ways if you got on their bad side), while also making an independent female character who looked the exact opposite of how most females tend to be represented in games. We also wanted to make sure that, through her dialog and visual design, we never cast her in a light where the player is encouraged to pity, laugh at, or mock her because she doesn't look like Jessica Rabbit.
How did her design come about?
GB: Ellie is one of Moxxi's daughters from Borderlands 1. Being that she was Scooters sister we knew we had a challenge coming up with a character that wouldn't be dwarfed by his over the top personality.
Originally this led us to a design where she was hugely muscular and tough playing off the idea of a woman who was more manly than Scooter was. This muscle-bound incarnation ended up being a bit too abrasive and bandit-y so we decided to keep her large size but at the same time soften her body shape. In this way she ended up being a strong woman with her own unique silhouette and style.
Who voices her?
GB: Jamie Marchi , who is awesome.
Was animating such a unique character a particular challenge?
GB: She certainly had some challenges unique to her size! We went through five iterations of neck fat and positioning so that she could make eye contact with you without her neck looking wrong. Making her balance look believable also required some special positioning; we had to lean her entire model back further to compensate for her chest size. Speaking of that, Ellie is one of two female characters in the game with custom chest animations. Our animators have a general rule that cup sizes over "D" cup get custom chest animations. The other character with "special" animation work is Ellie's mom, Moxxi.
Does she ever bludgeon anyone with that giant wrench?
GB: No, but she does straight-up murder a dude in a really gory way less than ten seconds after you meet her. So, there's that.