Gearbox heads for the Borderlands

PAX 2009: CEO Randy Pitchford joins creative director Mikey Neumann to discuss the studio's illustrated look, surprisingly entertaining marketing webisodes.

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Who Was There: Titled simply "Borderlands!" Gearbox Software's 2009 Penny Arcade Expo was hosted by president and CEO Randy Pitchford, as well as creative director and writer Mikey Neumann.

Lilith and Claptrap are two characters worth getting acquainted with.

What They Talked About: Gearbox Software's Borderlands may have been in development for four years, but the studio has only just in the last few months given gamers any indication of what it's all about. And that ramp-up is probably a good thing, considering studio head Randy Pitchford learned just before the start of today's PAX panel that Borderlands has passed certification and is on track for its October 20 release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

One of the most notable developments in Borderlands' recent public history has been its dramatic change in art style. Initially announced as having a more realistic aesthetic, the studio revealed in April that it had sidelined realism in favor of a highly stylized, illustrated look. Neumann addressed this decision at the top of the panel, saying that the change freed up the creative process, as it allowed the team to break away from the "plausibility shackles."

As one example, he spoke about the potential genius of healing bullets. Neumann said that one of the most rewarding moments he's experienced while playing the game was scoring a critical headshot on one of his ailing teammates from a lengthy distance using a sniper rifle loaded with the medicinal ordnance.

Pitchford also heavily emphasized how much of a risk it was to make such a dramatic change in the game's art direction, especially considering that $15 million had already been invested into the game and only $10 million was left to spend. However, he used an automotive analogy to explain the final decision, saying that everyone wants the concept car that auto companies show off but never deliver. With Borderlands, he said, the art team delivered the concept car.

Neumann then showed off a short vignette, or webisode, that Gearbox will be rolling out as a marketing effort in the lead-up to the game's launch. More than just a trailer, the webisode featured the goofily humorous robot seen in Borderlands' late-July trailer, who goes by the name Claptrap.

Indicative of the game's M-for-Mature rating, the webisode involved Claptrap attempting to conduct an infomercial for the game. However, instead he enters into an obscene diatribe on a sound technician a la Christian Bale's infamous blowup on the set of Terminator Salvation. There are apparently a number of these shorts in the making.

Quote: "Everything in this game needs to be fun."--Mikey Neumann.

Takeaway: Borderlands' sense of humor alone is worth getting excited about, as it harkens back to the highly mordant gallows humor of Black Isle Studios' Fallout series. Beyond that, though, the game's art looks highly original, the gameplay appears engaging, and with more than 16 million different weapons in the game, there's plenty of stuff to shoot.

Discussion

166 comments
NovaMan3
NovaMan3

From the looks of it, the game has an excellent combat system. Most of the people who have criticized the game play appear to be hardcore FPS fans. You have to keep in mind that this game is still an RPG. There has to be some element of things you can build up. Hence, at the beginning, your shots won't feel very gratifying.

sleepychicken
sleepychicken

Definite buy for me if they get the gunplay down. Love Fallout 3, but the real-time gunplay was lame, but forgivable b/c that's not what that game was all about. This game seems to be all about the guns and combat. Love everything I've seen, but the gunplay has got to be fast and tight along the lines of COD, Halo, Shadowrun, etc...

boricuasnake04
boricuasnake04

I suspect this game will be incredible but what do you guys think should i get it for Xbox360 or my PS3???? im stuck on this one

muzza93
muzza93

i love the front cover for this game

jeffv541
jeffv541

gear box box of gears gears of box box of rocks turd buffet PS3 POOPOO GERRRRRRRRRRRR NAR NAR NAR NAR!!!!!!!!!!!

Sins-of-Mosin
Sins-of-Mosin

Once I get this game, thats all I'm going to play. It has the scope, the co-op, replay, game play, and a lot of different ways to play. It'll be the console WoW but with guns!

CHAMPION6171994
CHAMPION6171994

16 million guns. So what if they count attachments, or effects, you end up with a crap load more guns than in any other game, ever! This game looks awesome. Got to convince my friends to play co op with me. ANd healing bullets are not lame who said that (kvan33) is just and idiot. Where else have you heard of healing bullets? (other than the ones that suicidal people take to end their misery, for good) Can't wait for this game, plus why would you want to change the graphics (dakan45) it an original look to a game like this. Not too cartoony, but looks detailed

pallex85
pallex85

@KVAN33 I think they said they WOULD have healing grenades. (I'll have to double check that) Not sure about rockets, I mean that would just be plain ridiculous.

Exactlamento
Exactlamento

Okay regardless of the reviews (except if its a 3.0 out of 10 or something) I'm totally getting this game. Fps and even rpgs are sticking to the formula too much. I like a game that will be willing make a risk for the sake of art and fun. Think Ratchet and Clank. A platformer shooter...where the guns are twice the size of the protagionist...who happen to be animals ("cartoon-animal-mascot" of the 90's anyone!)... ...Yeah I thought that the first game would be a terrible train wreck of throwaway ideas, but look where it is now. Cookies for game companies that go out of the norm. They've won me over just for that!

dakan45
dakan45

Please change back the graphics i beg you :cry:

kvan33
kvan33

@lazy_trash - Maybe you are right. Healing bullets ARE cool. I hope they have healing rockets and grenades so that you can heal your whole party at once. Here's a senerio for you: You have this nicely beefed up shotgun and you're trying to take down an enemy. After a few shots, you wonder why they aren't going down. "OH", you say, "I had my healing shot gun rounds in, not my hurting shotgun rounds. Silly me..." Lame.

Blargsman
Blargsman

I certainly like the aspect of focusing on the skills of shooting and having the role-playing elements as more an added bonus. I think Gearbox was wise to stray away from what Bethesda did in focusing more on stats and traits in Fallout 3, so as to not get direct comparisons between the two come review time.

alexbartle
alexbartle

looks like a good change of pace to me, not too realistic just lots of cool fun and cool art style rather than another brown game. I will certainly b getting this one as its been brave enough to go away from what has become the boring norm

lazy_trash
lazy_trash

sounds like kvan33 is in need of some healing bullets, cuz the part of his brain that processes cool things is broken

kvan33
kvan33

I'm not sure what to make of this game. On one hand it looks like it has great potential, on the other hand....healing bullets. Really? Bullets that heal??? Kinda lame.

phish999
phish999

the dancing robot sold me

ElJefeDeMedios
ElJefeDeMedios

I am really excited for this game .. I just wish it came out a little more before MW2. I guess I will just have to jump in and out of each for awhile. FM3 will just have to wait until mid 2010.

face-exploder
face-exploder

Warghost, I agree....This entire team has given straight-forward answers to ever question thrown at them.....that tells me they have NOTHING to hide...which is more than can be said about most developers. I think in a world where everything coming out is way too similar we should be embracing games like this and applauding it's designers. Even if I only see 500,000 of the 16 million they boast.....I will still be overwhelmed....and the fact that the developers have created a system to design guns and even suprise themselves with what pops up is very impressive. I'm all over this like a fat kid on a snickers bar.

Warghost2k
Warghost2k

Some people here are complaining because Gearbox is advertising 16 million weapons, but would you prefer if they just said "We have a lot of weapons in the game"? No, people want hard numbers and facts, not open-ended responses to questions about one of the most lauded feature in the game.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

16 million different weapons is a lie... I hate it when they have something where you have a system of parts, and they use the number of possible combinations to say how many different things there will be... it's just not true. Mentioning you have customisable/makeable weapons is enough without presenting marketing bull**** like that... That said, this game sounds great and I can't wait to give it a whirl.

cparker2510
cparker2510

@SethSOMT executive producer recently quoted the number as 16 million. don't feel too bad...you're half right. 16 million is actually the average of 87 bazillion and your 3 million, according to the math education afforded to me under the no child left behind act.

SethSOMT
SethSOMT

@MrWhite325- When they said "87 Bazillion Guns" in the video, it was referring to the 3 million (actual number) different gun combination. So a candy gun is, unfortunately, unlikely.

SethSOMT
SethSOMT

I am not gonna lie, the box art of this game makes me want it alone. Then, throw in all the cool features of it, and I am seriously excited!

darkspartan1992
darkspartan1992

forza 3? or this? only time will tell, but leaning towards this cause i luv me some good shooters.

xxalucard66xx
xxalucard66xx

@Iathan94 It's open to opinion, but I personally prefer this style. It reminds me of the darkhorse comics, and I'm sure everyone can agree they were definitely for adults.

GodsPoison
GodsPoison

Im gonna be so freaking broke in october.......Fallout 3 GOTY, Demons Souls, andnow borderlands added too my must have list!? good god i hope i dont have any important bills due.....

lathan94
lathan94

To be brutally honest i would have preferred to keep a realistic gritty art style. I know plenty of games have gritty art style but i enjoy a realistic looking world instead of a cartoonish looking world that doesnt draw me in as much.

Spiritwolf99
Spiritwolf99

This is either going to be a GOTY candidate or flop really, really badly. I hope it's the former.

MrWhite325
MrWhite325

I hope you can hold every gun at once, and just walk around and kill things.

MrWhite325
MrWhite325

i wouldn't put it past them if there was a gun that shot candy, or even a bazooka that shoots out small spiders....SPIDER GUN!

St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

i will have to invest in a new gtx 260 and some more ram before this drops, llooks real fun so i want to make sure i get the best from this title

skyydragonn
skyydragonn

hmm healing headshots..... I may just have to try this out if for no other reason than that fact.

reillysranger
reillysranger

Claptrap-I think I lost the beat, if they get this right this will be a classic. Can't wait for this to drop, it looks like it's gonna be a lot of fun, plus the gazillion guns doesn't hurt!

bennae66
bennae66

the funky trailer... soooo cool... a gazillion guns... fps baby... rpg baby...

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Definitely one of the games I've been looking forward to for this Fall. Throwing in Fallout 3, Diablo, and a tiny pinch of WoW together seems to be shaping up into a very badass combination.

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

no I didnt work on the game cparker but I can just about say 99% chance you and everyone who plays Borderlands will have a good time with it. I sense a winner and I am not particularly a Gearbox fan.

RandomCTG
RandomCTG

yeah I need money too. This game definitely have features new to gaming and I couldn't be more excited.

mbashour
mbashour

there are definitely some things new in this game that will probably crop in future games. the healing bullets for example is pretty interesting. and software to create in-world objects could be really useful for large open-world games. this wasn't on my radar before, but now that there's like 3 games coming out between now and 2010, i'm definitely getting it

-DirtySanchez-
-DirtySanchez-

87 bazillion guns i havent been excited for a game this much in a long time

SkeletalKnight
SkeletalKnight

Been waiting for this game for a long time now... FPS meets Diablo: brilliant!

DamnedApples
DamnedApples

Healing bullets! That's what I've always intended to with my guns...now people will finally believe me *shifty eyes* looking forward to healing rockets...and maybe healing tanks...

The_AI
The_AI

I personally can't wait for this game. This could be a massive hit if they get it right.

cparker2510
cparker2510

@guitarist1980 not smart to guarantee that the game will be anything, unless...well, unless you a) worked on the game personally and b) have a working knowledge of every player's personal definition of "fun" and "long." and if you satisfy both of those conditions...then i apologize for my impudence, jesus (or omniscient-equivalent.). ... of course...i do think this game is going to be a lot of fun, and it will probably join the list of games that have sucked away more than 80 hours of my life. but my expectations are reasonably low. for me, a paddle ball qualifies as a fun experience, and if the stretchy connecting string is of sufficient quality, a long one as well.

Unheard-Volume
Unheard-Volume

So we've all know about the games cooperative multiplayer, and the "duel" mode!, but I want to know more about the competative multiplayer! (This game seems to have a bit of everything in it and I can't wait!)

YoungDab
YoungDab

I will buy it for PC when it comes out.All games that are multiplatform will go to PC and all system exclusives will get bought.

tommynj
tommynj

Already have my copy on reserve. Can't wait!

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

notquitesure dude regardless this game will be a blast, no game is perfect but i guarentee this game will deliver a fun long experiance if you want to explore and get awesome stuff. + there adding some really nice downloadable content. And if your pc can run this game the guys at giant bomb said the pc version owns.