Is that billions of guns in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?
Borderlands 2 is an interesting proposition for developer Gearbox. The first title, which was obviously successful enough to warrant a sequel, was actually something of a surprise for many of the people involved.
The second, then, will enter a world that's actively anticipating it, with many slavish fans even talking of taking time off from their regular activities just so they can consume it as soon as possible.
What impact does that change in status have on the team that are working on it? How did they approach the task of extending on a game that was already quite large in scope? What did they risk changing, and what did they keep the same?
We put these questions and more to Randy Pitchford, the outspoken CEO and President of developer Gearbox Software...
Borderlands 2 is about to come out; what do you think fans will like the most about it?
I think if you’re fan of Borderlands 1, you’re going to be surprised and excited by the new experience; all the new places you’re going to explore, the villains you’ll be dealing with, the challenges you’ll face, and the adventure you’ll go on. You’ll also be able to get excited about all the new tools that you’ll be able to use - the weapons, the skills, the capabilities, the gear that you’ll find, and the characters that you’ll meet and get help from along the way.
I think a fan of Borderlands will appreciate that while the experience is all new, and it has a lot of surprising things that comes along with it, it remembers what made Borderlands great, and it chooses to iterate and perfect those game systems - the loop of playing an FPS-action game with RPG element blended onto it in the very special way that Borderlands does. And these all tiny little refinements, either for flow, convenience or quality, should be appreciated by fans.
When we play Borderlands 1 now that we’ve played Borderlands 2, it feels like going backwards, it feels like the stone-age. It feels as if you went back from an iPhone 4 to and iPhone 3, it’ll feel old and slow. Even though it’s the same fundamental form-factor and operating system, there’s something about all the improvements that make it difficult to go backwards.
Was there any pressure to include Move or Kinect integration in Borderlands 2?
Well, certainly the first parties would have wished for us to care about those things, and there were some questions asked and requests made, but it’s difficult to imagine how motion could play into the game design. The game was never intended to be interfaced with that, and in my experience anyone who makes a motion control game, or a motion control that’s trying to imitate something that could be much better done with a button press or joystick move, those games fail. They’re just not as exciting.
I think motion control can work best with a paradigm that’s just not possible to do with a button press or joystick tilt. There’s nothing about Borderlands that suggests motion control would improve it.
I think a gamer that has had experiences with motion control, and has played videogames with traditional controllers will appreciate that strategy that we took. As a consequence, zero percent of our attention was diverted or distracted by gimmicky motion controls. 100% of our attention was spent to make the game better and of higher qualities.
Is the Vita version a possibility now?
I was asked about the Vita version in Great Britain, and we were demonstrating Borderlands 2 at an event and someone in the audience asked me what I thought about the idea of Borderlands on Vita. I said I’d love to play Borderlands on Vita, but we just don’t have the time and energy right now to make it happen, but I’d love for it to exist.
I think that if Sony were to get really excited about the idea and would want to put the resources behind it and make it happen I’m sure they would know some teams that would love to do it, and I wouldn’t be a blocker to that. I talked to Christoph Hartmann (2K Games President) and I think he’d like the platform, but he said that we don’t want to get distracted on this kind of stuff, but obviously we care about getting our games in the hands of gamers. He wouldn’t be opposed to it either, but I think it’d really take Sony stepping up because we’ve all got other things we’re prioritising.
The first Borderlands was quite quirky and funny in parts; is there going to be more humor in Borderlands 2?
We love entertaining people, and humour is a big part of that. If you like the humour of Borderlands 1 then you’re in for a treat. We did a lot of improvements in our production values in how we’re communicating information and storytelling and how characters interact with players.
We’ve had a lot of fun with our characters - we’ve created some new ones. If you haven’t played the original, Borderlands 2 will be a great time to jump in because we treat every character as an introduction and if you’re familiar with them you’re going to love them, but if you haven’t met them before you’re going to really appreciate meeting them for the first time. We have a lot of fun with that.
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