Borderlands Xbox 360
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Released on 23/10/2009
Borderlands combines the best in first-person action with player customisation and vehicular combat for incredible layers of gameplay depth.
The game features a groundbreaking content generation system allowing for near-endless variety in weapons, item drops and character customization. Borderlands allows for multiple players to share the same game experience simultaneously online in co-op gameplay. Players can freely join or leave each other's games at anytime, or choose to play in the full single-player mode.
These features, along with a rich and deep fiction that touches upon the mysteries buried beneath the surface of a danger-filled planet, combine to form a breakthrough experience that challenges the conventions of modern shooters.
- Gun Lust: Choose from an arsenal of hundreds of thousands of weapons, each with their unique manufacturers, specifications and advantages. A revolutionary new content generation system provides for near infinite tools of destruction
- Co-op Engineered Game Design: Borderlands is built from the ground-up to be an exciting and intuitive co-operative multiplayer experience that rewards players for executing advanced strategies and tactical maneuvers FPS Action Meets RPG Character Progression: Players earn experience and gain proficiency in a number of specialties as they do battle with enemies
- Intense Vehicular Combat: Get behind the wheel of and engage in intense vehicle-to-vehicle combat, complete with extensive damage modeling and spectacular explosions
- Next Big Original IP From Gearbox Software: Experience the action and creativity derived from the pedigree of one of gaming’s most innovative and respected developers
We talk to the main man behind Borderlands...
Hi Randy! Can you tell us who you are and what you do?
I'm Randy Pitchford, I'm the President of Gearbox Software and the Executive Producer of Borderlands.
What are Gearbox known for?
The last game we did was Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway – we've done all the Brother's In Arms games. We brought Halo to the PC. We did Half Life Opposing Force and Blue Shift...
Were you guys responsible for the Dreamcast Half Life that never happened?
Yeah, it was certified and ready to ship and the publisher decided they would rather write it off. The bonus game we did for that was Blue Shift, which we re-worked and launched on PC later.
That's quite a history with First-Person shooters. Borderlands is your first cel-shaded one, though - and I must admit, my instant reaction was ‘why is it Cel Shaded?’
The design actually came from an insurgency in the team!
We made the decision in 2008 to make Borderlands bigger, but our artists were pretty much done, and they were like "what are we gonna do?".So they looked at the original hand-illustrated concept art for Borderlands which had a lot of attitude and character that wasn't there when we were making a realistic game.
Before I knew about it, four or five of them got to work on rendering that in real-time. I agreed they could mock up a prototype but before they showed me I was thinking "this is crazy, we're in the middle of production - whatever they've got, I'm gonna shut it down".
But then I saw it! And it just totally blew me away. It had all this personality - I'd never seen anything like it. There's all sorts of realistic lighting going on, and next to the hand-pained art it's really different. It's kind of like... you know when car makers design concept cars that we never get to drive? Somewhere along the line the design becomes conventional - but we went with the prototype idea, and I'm really glad because it's a really distinctive look.
So were the setting and the world all built before the art-style change, or did you go back and build whole new areas?
A lot of content was more realistic, so everything new we added was built in the new style, but then we also went back over the old stuff to give everything that unique look.
There's this whole Mad Max vibe to the world of Borderlands - can you give us a bit of the background to the setting?
In the Borderlands world, in this distant universe, there's a legend of a Vault. It's known that aliens exist because people have found ruins on planets; started to interpret them and understand their culture. A lot of that race's technology, invention, wealth, power and enlightenment is said to be stored in the Vault - but it's almost mythological; no-one's ever found it.
Some people grow up and become Vault Hunters, finding relics and artefacts for corporations - the most wealthy of which is the Atlas Corporation, who gained a lot of their wealth from reverse-engineering some discovered alien tech. In Borderlands, You are one of these Vault Hunters, and you get to go to this world called Pandora, which is the Planet that the Vault is believed to be on. And so in the game first you're locating the Vault, then looking for the keys to unlock it, and then uncovering its mysteries. The simple way to put it is that you're a mix between Mad Max and Indiana Jones, and the Vault is your Lost Ark.
You mentioned the characters - there's four different ones, all with different abilities. Can you tell us what they'll offer to players?
The four characters all have different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, personalities - and they all have different skills, oriented around their classes.
We've named our character classes to give them personality, but when you play you'll get to name them, decide what colours they wear, build their skills and outfit them with weapons; if you and I both play as a Roland - the soldier class - for example, our characters will end up completely different.
The four classes are the Soldier, the Hunter, the Siren, and the Berserker.
The Soldier, Roland, is ex Crimson Lance, the private army of the Altas Corporation. These guys are tough, like Stormtroopers. Within the soldier class though he has different skills you can focus on; so he can become more of a medic, or specialise in support or infantry specs. He also has a special skill, where he throws down a turret shield which you can hide behind, but which also sprays bullets...
Am I right in thinking there's no cover system?
There's cover in the world, but nothing you can dig into.
Ah so it's more Halo than Gears of War.
Yeah, exactly! So, where was I...
Sorry, I interrupted didn't I! You'd explained the Soldier class.
Ah, yes. Right, so, Mordercai is the Hunter - he's a skinny, tall dude who's a master sniper, with a lot of skills that focus on sniping and stealth, with a spec called the Assassin spec. And he's a bit of a Beastmaster too; he's got a Bloodwing, which is like a Falcon, and you can invest skill points into developing that as well.
Lilith is a Siren; which means she's a one in a billion creature who's been touched by this Alien technology and developed mystical powers. She can do a Phasewalk, where she becomes a ghost-like apparition that's invisible to enemies - phasing into another dimension like when Frodo puts on the Ring - and there's a big explosion happens when she phases back in, which stuns enemies. She's got a whole host of other abilities and skills that compliment that, and she's really good with sub-machine guns, pistols and lighter weapons.
Brick is the Heavy; he's a HUGE dude, and carries big weapons like rocket launchers. Of course, all of the characters can use the different classes of weapons, but the classes that specialise in certain weapons can develop some skills that give them advantages with those weapons.
Do you think there's a danger of bamboozling instant-gratification shooter players with all these stats and specialities?
If we dumped it all on top of them at once, yes. But we don't, it's all very patiently layered into the game. By the time the game asks you to make a choice about a weapon, it's just a chest with a couple of pistols; you're ready to make that choice. The same when it introduces grenades.
You don't even get your first skill point until you're level five; and then the game walks you through the process - you don't get a choice with the first skill point, and after that it opens a tree, and then you've got a choice of six. And then when you get more points, you've got a question of "do I want to keep developing this skill, or spread them out?"
What's important is that in Borderlands, the choices aren't all at once. Some Role-Playing Games ask you to go through this complicated character development process before you even know what the game is, and that's too much; action gamers don't want that. Also, we're making choices before we're even equipped with the information about the impact of those choices! By the time you start to be exposed to choices in Borderlands, you have a feel for the game; so like, "oh, yeah, I'm using the pistol a lot, so I'll develop that skill." We layer that in intelligently for that gamer - because we're that gamer. Gearbox's history is all about shooters.
But Borderlands is also part RPG...
It is. Y'know, I think there's something really, really compelling about loot games. Have you played Diablo?
I've played Phantasy Star Online...
Ah, interesting! So you get it! There's something SO compelling about developing your character, building your skills, getting more powerful and getting more stuff.
What's interesting with Borderlands is that we're clearly coming from a shooter angle. There's control configs for Halo and Call of Duty; the mechanics of moving, aiming and shooting all create a really solid, honed FPS gameplay loop.
But when we layer on top the compulsion of choice, discovery and growth from loot, skills, missions and the world to explore, it adds something to the experience. I mean, when I play Halo, the Master Chief is the same at the finish as he is at the start. It's interesting because the shooter loop... moving; aiming; dodging; shooting... it's just a raw, visceral, satisfying experience. And we just want to be part of that story; push it forwards; never knowing what will come next. I love that about Halo.
BUT... we've never had an opportunity to grow in a First-Person Shooter; to become more powerful so that the guys who were trouble for me earlier, I can go back later and just OWN them. In Borderlands we can do that; it creates this whole new level of gratification, with you just gibbing things almost by looking at them, and you feeling like a badass - it's really, really exciting.
My next question was going to be asking about how Borderlands differs from RPGs - but I think you just answered that!
Actually, there are some things we're not doing that RPGs do, like dialogue trees. Where an NPC (none-player character) will talk to you and you'll have a choice of A, B or C... like in BioWare games and Fallout and Oblivion.
I know some people like that stuff, but for us, it just slows the game down. We don't play games to navigate dialogue trees; it just doesn't exist at all in Borderlands. So we didn't take everything from RPGs. What we took was the compulsion; it's about loot, growth, choice and discovery. Everything that lets us get value from those concepts is what we borrow from RPGs.
How much of a story do you try and tell in that big, open world? I asked a similar question of the Producer behind Red Faction Guerrilla, obviously that's very cutscene and narrative driven...
There's not a lot of cutscenes in Borderlands; there's, I think like, three! One at the beginning sets things up, and there's a couple at the end.
But there's this technique where we introduce a character or situation; like, a boss ambles out, and then he does a pose, and then a cool title card with his name comes up... it's more about attitude, and just making sure you know that this is an important moment, not trying to make a movie.
We do a good job of that type of storytelling at Gearbox, quite honestly - we were nominated for Best Original Story at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences on Brother's In Arms: Hell's Highway. But in a game like Borderlands we don't want to slow things down with a lot of cinematics. The story in Borderlands is your actions - your plot that you're developing based on what you choose to do. So there is a story, in that each character has a role to play in how you get to a goal. But it's not forced upon you.
So it's more about getting four people together and blowing stuff up...
Yeah, absolutely. And you do get a sense that certain players have these problems, or these goals, and you end up working with them on certain missions to give you certain rewards, like a piece of the key to the Vault. When they add together, you can kind of tell the story to your friends later - like, ‘yeah, we went here, did that mission there, blew that guy up, got that weapon from there’... but the plot is never heavy-handed; it's delivered through the missions, character interactions and your playing experiences.
The reason you're buying Borderlands is to be in this world, exploring, kicking ass, taking stuff and using it to make yourself better.
Would you say this is the biggest Co-Op game on next-gen consoles in terms of Content volume?
Yes. There's no doubt that Borderlands go not just a step, but waaay beyond anything similar. Mass Effect and Fallout came from the Role-Playing side and layered shooting on top; BioShock started with shooting and layered on a bit of role-playing; choices about your Plasmids, for example. And upgrading skills with taking photos. So there are lite RPG elements there.
Borderlands though comes from both the shooter side, AND we've gone pretty much all the way with RPGs too; you're getting experience points; you're levelling up; there's a skill tree... and we have co-op, that NONE of those big shooter RPGs have got. BioShock 2 is going to introduce competitive multiplayer, but I can't fight against players in Mass Effect or Fallout.
Borderlands has it all; you can play with your friends, play alone, set up a team deathmatch or just duel someone out in the wasteland in the middle of a game. And what's most neat about it is, these aren't modes. Whether you invite a friend to join your game or you join theirs, you can do it all; and your character's persistent so it's not a separate game each time.
Does having one big, consistent world make things like downloadable content harder to implement?
No, it makes things more exciting. Think about it; if we make a new area, a new story, or new content, you take your character with you. Right now the level cap is 50... well, that gives us some room! Maybe with future DLC we could raise the level cap, or give you some more skills or features as your levels go up. I think that makes it more compelling.
The thing is, Borderlands has so many aspects that we're looking forward to learning what it is that our customers want the most, whether it's "hey, I want a bunch more missions" or "I want loads of new loot" or "can I have an extra character class?" or "Give me a whole fresh plot?" Maybe they'll like vehicle combat - that's a whole other element to Borderlands too; maybe players will be having whole big Road Warrior type battles in the wasteland that we can add things to. Or maybe the competitive stuff... maybe people will really love organising and playing against their friends.
It's hard for us to anticipate, so the first DLC we do will probably add a little bit of everything, but then we'll know what people want more of. Maybe they'll want more of everything and we'll have to work our asses off! Either way, I'm looking forward to it.
Sounds almost recession-proof as consumer products go...
We'll see! [laughs] There's certainly a lot of value in Borderlands, which is important right now, but it's also very challenging to bring a new promise, a new brand. People who loved Call of Duty are going to buy the next one. But we may automatically get the guys who are like ‘okay, what's new’. However, there are also a lot of people who like videogames, but they aren't so invested that they're already looking for the next big thing.
So getting the awareness is what things like this interview are about . If we succeed at this, then hopefully the game will be successful, and then it will be better for creators like me, and publishers like Take 2 to take risks with original stuff.
So, on one level, when you talk about the economic situation and people's purchasing decisions, Borderlands is probably... well, I'd say definitely the best value in shooters; probably some of the best value out of all games out over Christmas. But it has to overcome the challenge of a new brand. If it works, we get to make more great games - and ultimately that can only be a good thing for gamers.
Will Borderlands meet the hype and be this winter's big breakthrough brand? Check back between now and launch on 23rd October for hands-on impressions and the full review.
Interview by: Mark ‘Loot N Shoot’ Scott
Interview Published: 06.08.09
Fans eager to get back to business in Borderlands 2, the sequel to Gearbox's inventive first-person role-playing loot-dropping genre hybrid, can finally put a big red heart around September 21st on their calendar. That's when the game launches in the UK and Europe, three days after its American debut.
Pre-order and you're allowed into the Borderlands 2 Premier Club which offers access to exclusive downloadable content and gameplay perks. The Vault Hunters Relic, for example, will improve your loot-finding odds while playing. The Golden Key unlocks the Golden Sanctuary Loot Chest, and with a name like that you know the contents must be exciting. Firearms enthusiasts, meanwhile, will enjoy the Gearbox Gun Pack, which is a pack of guns. Special ones, mind you.
The game takes place four years after the events of the first game, and finds you - and up to three other players in drop-in co-op play - butting heads with Handsome Jack, an entrepeneur who wants to industrialise the planet of Pandora and clear out all the treasure hunters and mercenaries. That'll be you, then.
Borderlands: Interview With Randy Pit… (07/10/2009)
We talk to the main man behind Borderlands...
Hi Randy! Can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Fans eager to get back to business in Borderlands 2, the sequel to Gearbox's inventive first-person role-playing loot-dropping genre hybrid, can finally put a big red heart around September 21st on th…
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