The Making Of Kelli “Sydney” King

Kelli King, also known as “Sydney” is a PAYDAY 2 character that was released earlier this week. She is the second character I have worked on since I took on the role of Game Writer for the game.

Jimmy was the first character, but as he was the result of a collaboration with the Hardcore Henry movie (, he wasn’t designed by us at Starbreeze; and instead, I got to read the script of the movie and watch some uncut footage (this was before the movie had premiered) to try and get a sense of Jimmy’s personality. Based on the reception from the community and my colleagues, it seems as if I succeeded which makes me very happy 🙂

On to Sydney then.

So, Sydney is the first original playable character I created for PAYDAY 2.
The guidelines I received from upper management was that we were to introduce an Australian female heister portrayed by Georgia Van Cuylenburg. That left me a lot of room to come up with what kind of person I wanted her to be.

The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted her to be crazy, on the verge of mental. A person who fully embodied the life of a criminal and who basked in the chaos she created. I wanted her to be young and ambitious, with a clear goal in mind that she wanted to leave her mark in history as one of the greatest criminals to have ever lived. To achieve this, she would have to team up with the PAYDAY gang, because let’s face it, no one does it better than them.

As always when I come up with a character (regardless of medium), I get an image in my head of how they look. One of the awesome things about working at Starbreeze is that I have the opportunity to work with amazing concept artists who takes what I have in mind and bringing them to life. Sydney’s hair was the first thing I imagined when I started working on the character. I wanted her to have a fiery red mohawk and a more thrashed outfit that would capture her wild and chaotic spirit.

The picture below is the result of the first briefing I gave Joakim, who’s an absolutely amazing artist (

sydney version 1 (2)

I was happy with this iteration, to be honest, the only thing I would have wanted was more yellow in her clothing, a yellow tie for instance. I think it would have looked great and symbolized the element of a fiery spirit even stronger. But, remember, I am not the Art Director at Starbreeze, so at this point I left the appearance to the professionals and began working on her backstory. They had gotten enough ideas from me that they could run with it.

The art team worked a bit back and forth, and had her more “punk” than I had imagined, but I was still very happy with the result when they showed it to me. She looked mean and cool and crazy at the same time, which was the goal from the start. Below is a picture of her final appearance and how she looks in the game today. I think this style is more fitting to the PAYDAY gang and that they did a great job 🙂


For her backstory, I wanted her to be a wild spirit from a young age. I didn’t want a traumatic experience to have shaped her into what she is today; rather I wanted her to have such a strong personality that “regular” life was never an option for her. She was simply born to spread chaos and disobey the rules of society. As she grew up, she realized that the life of crime was her destiny, and would ultimately be her only way to gain fame for the one thing she was good at.

When I started writing her voice lines, I talked a lot with Georgia (the actress portraying her, who’s an Australian herself) about using different curse words and lingo that would make her feel authentic. That part was very important for me to get right, because I know we have a large group of Australians playing the game.

That’s all for this time, but I’ve posted her complete backstory below for those interested in reading and learning more about Kelli “Sydney” King. If you guys have any further questions, just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll get back to you 🙂

Kelli “Sydney” King

Biographical Information

Name: Kelli King

Aliases: Sydney

Affiliation(s): The PAYDAY Gang, The Dingos

Age: 24

Nationality: Australian

Language: English

City of birth: Melbourne

Family: Peter King (father), Kelly King (mother)

Hair color: Dyed blue

Eye color: Hazel

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Portrayed by: Georgia Van Cuylenburg

Voiced by: Georgia Van Cuylenburg


Kelli “Sydney” King is an Australian former gang member, and the fifteenth character for PAYDAY 2.


Kelli King grew up in Melbourne, Australia and was a rowdy child right from the get go. She would suddenly have outbursts of anger, usually ending with violence of some sorts. Her parents tried everything to make her “normal”, but nothing worked – Sydney was simply not like other children.

Kelli grew up hating all kinds of rules and authority. She couldn’t stand it when someone told her she wasn’t allowed to do something. This behavior grew worse and she was eventually kicked out of school. Her parents grew more desperate and threatened to institutionalize her, so she ran away from home

and ended up joining a criminal gang called the “Dingos”.

The Dingos consisted of troubled youths, all with an appetite for violence and disobedience – but no one was crazier than Kelli which she often displayed by pushing her limits to the extreme, always looking for the bigger rush.

She ran with the Dingos for several years, robbing stores and fighting other gangs. That kept her satisfied for a while, but after some time she was starting to get bored. It wasn’t extreme enough. And while some of the other Dingos would maybe decide to leave the criminal life behind someday, Kelli knew she could never do that. She would never fit in to society and be like everyone else.

As she became older her anger and hatred was directed more towards the system itself, and that’s why she decided the Dingos alone couldn’t satisfy her needs anymore. She wanted to take it to the next level and challenge the perception of how life was supposed to be lived.

It was around this time that she one day stumbled upon a news article talking about an infamous group of criminals called the PAYDAY gang. Kelli realized that this group of criminals were living the life she wanted, and not only that; they were getting the fame and recognition she had started to crave.
She wanted a piece of that fame.

With that in mind, she left everything behind and traveled to America in pursuit of her new goal which was to join the PAYDAY gang. To accomplish this, she knew she had to prove herself to them. She was going to have to do something extreme…

Washington seemed to be where they operated from, so when Kelli arrived she got herself a small apartment, a police radio to monitor the PAYDAY gang’s activity and the weapons and explosives needed to pull her plan off.

The time finally came when she decided to crash an ongoing bank heist executed by the PAYDAY gang. Out of nowhere she showed up and attempted to steal their loot. The element of surprise mixed with an array of explosives got her the edge she needed.

The officers at the scene were just as confused as the PAYDAY gang seemed to be, which resulted in a wild west-shootout between the three parties. In the end, Kelli succeeded to escape with a bag of cash, which she had barely managed to secure.

The days after, she waited in her apartment. She knew it would only be a question of time before the PAYDAY gang would retaliate. She’d read that they had gone after a certain Hector Morales and executed him for double-crossing them. They were not going to let her get away with what she’d done.

In the mean time, she felt a moment of acknowledgment as she saw that her stunt was headlining the papers and various news reports. This could be her future if her plan worked out the way she was hoping.

A mysterious voice suddenly took control over her police radio. The man speaking claimed to be Bain, the infamous individual in charge of Crime.Net. He casually stated the address she was located at and warned her to not try anything stupid. “I respect your spirit, miss King,” he said and Kelli gasped as she heard him mention her surname.
“You are good, but you’re not that good. You made it personal by attacking us, and the gang isn’t too happy about that. I don’t blame them. You lack real experience but you have balls – I’ll give you that. I’m guessing that was the purpose of your little stunt? To show you could play in the big leagues?”

Before she could react, the door came crashing down and several guns were pointed in her face.

It was the PAYDAY gang.

“Right on cue,” Bain continued. “You wanted our attention? You got it.”

Kelli nodded and smiled

It was time the world learned the name of Kelli ‘Sydney’ King.



6 thoughts on “The Making Of Kelli “Sydney” King

  1. A lovely read, it definetly shows the more human side of game development, and the actual depth of the characters. While Overkill/Starbreeze has done some questionable things as a company I do admire how this shows a different perspective, there’s actually people working behind the scenes of the big-name companies 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment! I really appreciate it, and I’m very happy you enjoyed the post. I hear you, we all forget that sometimes when it comes to big companies. But, believe me, we’re just a group of people who love making games and watch our players have a good time 🙂


  2. It’s great to read more into her back story! Sydney is my favorite character and I purchased her DLC within minutes of it being released, which I had not done with any other Payday DLC. I really like her anarcho-punk aesthetic and how her Perk Deck is called “Anarchist.” Anarchists are fiercely political and it would be great to see more of that from Sydney; such as her toppling corrupt and exploitative business leaders, doing “Robin Hood” activities to help the poor, or stealing hoarded weapons from Neo-Nazi groups. Those would all be very “Anarchist” set-ups for a heist. I look forward to seeing where your stories take us, next!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve loved this character since the moment I heard the announcement (I think it was PaydayCon in 2015), all because she was voiced by Georgia. I only knew her from Final Fantasy 13, but the character she voiced in that trilogy is the only one I can even recall. When PD2 used to have the mountains of DLC it was funded off of, I never bought them for full price, always only on sale, since I was a broke student but I wanted to play the game my friends and I loved. Then Sydney came out. Day 1 instant buy for me, never looked back and never have I regretted it. I stumbled upon this article tonight, and I have no idea if you still read this blog Mr. Samir, but thanks for creating my favorite Payday character.

    Liked by 1 person

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