2 years ago I did an interview with Battleborn’s creative director, Randy Varnell, and one of the things we talked about was cut content. Randy could tell us about a few things that sadly didn’t make it into the game. One of those things was a playable character Annabelle and Iron Fist. She was a little girl that drove around this big mech. Randy was excited to bring her into the game, however, the team was having trouble implementing quadrupeds into the game. These type of characters quickly got stuck on the terrain. For the players that bought Battleborn at launch and thought the experience was bad back then, well the experience with the quadruped characters was a lot worse. Also turning around with these characters required additional work as they sometimes couldn’t turn around. This was because the back of the hero sticks out and cannot move through walls or other objects, therefore players got stuck. Communicating to a player who is in a first-person mode that there isn’t enough room to turn around isn’t a thing you want to do. This is why there needed to be some kind of force that pushes you away from the object in order to make the turn possible. I imagine that applying such a thing to all objects is a task on its own. All in all, these issues didn’t provide a fun experience at the time and would have needed a lot more work to become so. Therefore the team moved away from the quadrupeds in favor of more “simpler” designs. This decision also directly impacted the design of ISIC.
Story Time with Jythri
Now that you know why Annabelle and her robot got cut from the game there initially wasn’t a lot to talk about. The interview with Randy didn’t go in-depth on her but focused on Ejo-Lorr so we as the community didn’t know anything else about the character until last year when a random ‘story time’ with Randy popped up on the Battleborn discord. Here he shared an image of Annabelle which had the size of a postage stamp. While it’s hard to make out the details, we did get a little impression of her. We can see that there is an LLC color scheme going on there. We have a turret on one side and a big “Iron Fist” on the other.
I personally am getting a bit of a spider vibe seeing this image. So it could be possible that Gearbox somehow would implement that as part of her character. The way you present yourself tells something about you, Annabelle could have had a fascination for spiders. Making that part of her character trait she could have had some interaction with Oscar Mike as he is afraid of spiders. This way Annabelle could tease Oscar Mike on the battlefield when they interact. Also, delighted callouts can be made when encountering a sentry in PvE or PvP.
While Annabelle was a cool character concept but some staff members expressed their concerns about having a kid in a first-person shooter. This also caused that Annabelle herself also got put on the back burner. Due to the nature of this small image, we don’t have a quality image of Annabelle herself, until recently concept artist, Matias Tapia, posted some of his Battleborn artwork. While displaying a wide range of LLC characters, none of them showed a lot of resembles to the little girl sitting in the cockpit. However, this triggered me to dive deeper into the history of Battleborn and went digging into the archives. After some digging, I found a character that gave me the impression that she could be the one sitting in the cockpit. If you look closely you can see similar features with her hat and hair color.
Finding out about this was pretty exciting for me, I can see her sit in the giant robot. Her posture and facial expressions give me the impression that she is bored and waiting for some excitement. I learned from Anthony, GBX Senior Producer, that Annabelle was going to be a tinkerer or an engineer. She had a base prototype model with a couple of attacks. Anthony couldn’t remember her attacks when I reached out to him.
I can see the engineer part manifest in Phoebe as Annabelle would probably be a genius at her age if she was the one that constructed Iron Fist. I can also see ISIC’s skill set work with this design. A plasma cannon in one arm and a shield in the other. The Plasma dash would probably be a leap with a devastating landing that would wreck everything in its path. And I can also see ISIC’s ultimate move be implemented into Iron Fist.
Let me know what you think of this character, do you think Annabelle should be included in Battleborn 2 if Gearbox software and 2k games pursue a follow-up?
Matias Tapia just got approval from Gearbox Software to post his Annabelle & Ironfist concept art on his portfolio. And these images prove my “theory” that the artwork of the girl with blue hair is Annabelle. One of the artworks from Matias shows her sitting inside the cockpit of Ironfist. The artwork contains various angles of the character, this is done so that the character modelers know how each side should look and apply that to the character model. The cool thing is that we also get to see some other variations of the character that was up on the table. Most of these alternative versions share a common theme regarding her posture. When asking Matias about Annabelle he mentioned that she is not bored but annoyed at everyone else’s implausibility. However, Matias could only speak for his artwork. As far as he knows is that Annabelle’s narrative wasn’t fully developed after being put on a back burner.
Other than the big mech/creature + little girl trope. In my head, she was meant to be a tone setter for the LLC’s scientific side. She was meant to paint it as a meritocracy. Personality-wise, she was both meant to be the most implausible character who was constantly annoyed at everyone else’s implausibility. Again, only in my head since her narrative didn’t developed after being put on a back burner. As far as I know. – Matias Tapia
Official Annabelle & Ironfist Artwork by Matias Tapia