Gearbox Learned Hard Story Lessons with Borderlands, Says Studio President
The original Borderlands, while a breath of fresh air amid the suffocating squalor of many unimaginative games, was definitely lacking something, most gamers agree.
Borderlands 2, the anticipated sequel to be released on September 18 (U.S. date; September 21 in U.K.), was already announced to focus on the story element, as seen in an interview with art director Jeramy Cooke on SideQuesting earlier this summer. But in an article recently posted on The Verge, Gearbox Studios president Randy Pitchford gets down to the specifics with story that the team learned with the release of their first-person shooter (FPS) role playing game (RPG), released in 2009. Most importantly, what is and isn’t appropriate with the unique blend of story and gameplay they’re using.
“… [T]he [story] twist that we thought was really clever,” says Randy Pitchford, Gearbox Studios president, to The Verge, “was [SPOILER] when you find the vault, people misinterpreted all those ancient alien ruins and the thing that’s contained inside is powerful, but not in a good way. It’s actually a prison, not a vault of treasure. It’s meant to contain something horrifically evil, so at the end you open this vault expecting ‘cool, give me my treasure’, and instead this evil tentacle monster comes out that tries to kill you and we thought that was a clever twist, like it’ll be so funny and obvious, the planet is called Pandora, everyone will see this coming.
“It turns out that no, the expectation was give me my loot, I opened the vault, give me my treasure and I’m mad at you now for not doing that.”
And player reactions to these “false expectations” aren’t the only thing the Borderlands team noticed. Even the RPG element seemed lost on most purchasers of the original game, buyers who were confused by the highly-subjective RPG genre label slapped on the box.
“The RPGs we were borrowing from were like picking a character, levelling up, selecting loot, skill trees, things like that,” Pitchford says. “What we specifically did not borrow from, in fact we made a very purposeful decision not to do, was things like the choose-your-own-adventure side of it with dialogue trees where you’ll meet the character and there will almost be like a cut-scene presentation, then you’ll be given a choice that you can respond with. … They’re cool, I like those games, but if that means RPG to you, then I think that’s a mistake to blend with a first-person shooter (FPS) because the nature of that loop is completely different to that of an FPS.” –Randy Pitchford, Gearbox Studios President
With considerations of story and story delivery appropriateness weighing heavily on the soon-to-be-released second title in the Borderlands series, Gearbox Studios concluded that mission text–walls of inaudible dialogue describing mission points and goals–will not be in Borderlands 2.
Borderlands 2 will be available for next-gen systems and PC on September 18 (U.S.) and September 21 (U.K.) Be sure to read more on this topic in Tracy Lien’s full article here.