Interview: Talking Borderlands 2 with Gearbox's Anthony Burch and Paul Hellquist
[Continued] Page 2
GZ: Alright, here’s a related, yet detour-ish question. I must ask, who’s idea was it to include the “Hyperion's Energizing Bane” weapon as an Easter egg? I don’t think I’ve experience a more annoying, yet delightful (and powerful) weapon in all my years of gaming. Have to applaud you guys on that one.
AB: We actually all came up with that one together, to some extent. Matt came up with the final gag, though.
PH: The Bane was an awesome collaboration between mission design and gun design. Anthony and I really wanted to do a quest where there was a cursed weapon that everyone wanted but as soon as they got it the curse became apparent and drove the owner mad causing them to discard it and the story of the weapon went on. We wanted the stats or gameplay that the weapon brought to the table to be the curse so that players would naturally become part of the history and story of the weapon. This whole premise was inspired by the 1950 western film starring Jimmy Stewart called Winchester ’73 which is a bunch of stories following this gun from owner to owner.
Ultimately, most of the gameplay “curses” we tried weren’t fun and weren’t giving the feeling we wanted. That was when Matt Armstong, our weapon designer, suggested that the curse be less about the stats of the weapon and more about the experience of using it. That led to him suggesting it make such an awful sound that, despite great stats, you eventually can’t stand to use it anymore. It was definitely the right call.
GZ: Okay, moving on to post-release, what was the team’s response to the overwhelming positive critical reviews? Were you guys surprised by any of the negative aspects listed? Perhaps shocked that reviewers and fans enjoyed a particular part in the game? I mean, having browsed a number of outlets’ (including ours) “Game of the Year” list, it must feel wonderful to rack up such an extensive list of awards.
AB: I honestly spent most of my time being sad at any negative comments and effectively ignoring the positive ones, because the human psyche is stupid.
PH: It certainly feels great to get all of the positive reviews and awards. No doubt.
Speaking only for myself, I’m with Anthony. Missing a 90 metacritic average by 1 point is agony and just makes me say, “What could I have done to get that one additional point.”
GZ: Staying with post-release, Borderlands 2 is an enormous game filled with countless activities to take part in, yet it’s one of the least bug-plagued games in recent memory. Do you guys put extra emphasis on beta testing the game, or is there something you guys try to do to add extra polish? And on the topic of bugs, why are these nuisances plaguing games in such a momentous way? Are games just becoming so large that testers can’t keep up, or perhaps are development times being squeezed shorter and shorter that glitches and bugs are being missed?
PH: Borderlands 2 is a huge game. Our internal QA and our QA at 2k Games did a great job with testing. Our production team also worked very hard to make sure that the team had a significant period of time where our only priority was to fix bugs. That said, there are still plenty of bugs in Borderlands 2. I think we just did a good job crushing the worst most obvious issues so that most people’s experiences are not significantly impacted by them.
As far as the issue at large goes many projects don’t get the time required to resolve bugs when nearing ship. Making games is really hard. Making games on some of the difficult deadlines we are given is even harder. Unfortunately making those dates that are important for the commercial success of a title sometimes results in a buggier project.
GZ: While many developers call post-release the quote-unquote “finish line,” it’s really only another starting gate for Gearbox when it comes to Borderlands 2 DLC. We’ve seen an unusual trend in video games where games travel to unexpected territories: Red Dead Redemption with zombies, Saints Row: The Third with outer space, The Matrix. Though Pandora is already a “fantasy” land, have you guys teased the idea in-house about tackling something similar to that in future DLC, in terms of unexpected territories?
PH: Yes, we entertain all kinds of bizarre ideas when thinking about DLC for Borderlands.
GZ: Lastly, anything you guys can tease us with when it comes to future DLC? What can fans come to expect with the last few add-ons for this spectacular experience?
PH: You just might see one of those bizarre ideas in the near future.
We'd like to thank Anthony Burch and Paul Hellquist for taking the time to sit down and answer some of our questions about Borderlands 2 and its downloadable content. We hope you enjoyed what they had to say. Look forward to more interview in the coming months with notable faces from the gaming industry.
You can follow Tate Steinlage's every day life of college, Sporting KC, and yes, gaming on Twitter, @SteinlageT.