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The Guts of Gearbox

July 23, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

You said going after the Call of Duty audience isn't a great bet. Obviously, Borderlands is quite not that bet.

RP: Look what JR [EA CEO John Riccitiello] is doing with Battlefield and Medal of Honor, where he's really saying -- he believes it helps him and EA to really go head-to-head with Call of Duty. Certainly, you can make a case there. If EA were to get a game that is almost the same kind of pitch, basically, as Call of Duty, but outsells it, I think that probably would feel good to the EA guys.

But to do that, you really have to put in a lot. You have to really go for it and spend a lot. You have to basically not only out-brute force the market leader, but you have to out-clever them. The game has to be better. The marketing and production effort -- everything has to be bigger and better, and then you might kind of match or come close.

If you do it over time, maybe you can start to change the trust equation, and get people thinking that they should trust your take on the same pitch more than the other guy's. Yeah, you can do that, and certainly anyone -- like, let's say there's the best boxer in the world, and you want to be the guy that beats the best boxer in the world.

You could do that. But there's a whole lot of sports. Why let our brains get beat in and put so much energy, when we're not even sure we can beat the best boxer? We can create new sports, or we can win some other sport. I think it's a saner approach to bring things to people that they haven't seen before and they don't have alternatives for.

It's kinda like Jerry Garcia. He said something like, "You don't merely want to be the best at what you do. You want to be the only ones that do what you do." If you're the only ones that do something that people find as valuable? You don't have to worry about competition. Like, Borderlands has zero competition. It doesn't have to worry about that at all.

I'm actually astonished that we're about to launch a sequel and no one's stole it from us. The formula's right there. No one's stolen it yet. That's weird. We're in an industry where people do nothing but steal from each other. That's kind of interesting, isn't it? Not that I want anyone to steal it, or I'm challenging people to steal it. When talking about Borderlands 1, it was really confusing, because on one hand we gotta scream from the highest mountain to get attention because it's a new IP. On the other hand, it's like, "Shit, we don't want to tell people our secret because then they're all gonna copy it because it's so good."

As a studio, do you ever want to put bets on smaller projects? I know you have done small projects.

RP: We do, we do. We have some things, and we've done some in the past, and we'll do more in the future. Again, you always have to make good decisions. We don't do it just for the sake of it. Usually the things that we get involved in come from some passion about something that we think should exist, and deserves to exist, and would not exist but for us doing it. Whether that's something we're doing with somebody else's property or some new property that we have to create or something we're doing with our own property.

Like, we don't sit around going, "Okay, guys, let's do a small game. What should that be?" It's kind of the opposite. It's like, something else will happen and we'll kind of be like, "This should exist!" And what is that? Doing Samba de Amigo really emerged from -- we're Nintendo fanboys, and we used to have Samba de Amigo on Dreamcast tournaments at Gearbox, and Nintendo tells us about the Wii. We get briefed about the Wii. When the pitch is, "Look, you're going to have these two things in your hand and you're gonna shake them and that's how you play games." And it's like, "Dude, this is the Samba de Amigo platform!"

That just seemed like an obvious connection with us. So, we called up Sega and were like, "You guys are doing this, right? You heard about the Wii and what it does and how perfect it is for your property?" And they're like, "What?" We're like, "You gotta be doing this!" I'm like, "I'll do it!" They're like, "But that's Sonic Team. You guys are a Western developer." I'm like, "Dude, I love the game. Let them trust us with it. Come on. We'll do a good job." And they let us go for it! And it wasn't a big investment, it was kind of a fun thing that we did there. But it made money and made people happy and it's a worthwhile effort for everyone involved. We had fun with it.

And that's how that kind of thing happens. It didn't come from, "We need to make a little Wii game." But because the Wii was a new platform and because we wanted to do something on the Wii, that actually gave it more momentum, like, if it had been just another thing on Xbox, that might -- I'm not saying it wouldn't have happened, but it wouldn't have had that extra angle to it. In addition to being this cool thing that made a lot of sense, it was also a thing where, "We could also get some action on the Wii, just in case." As that's going to launch, we're going to figure out what that's all about. And, this is kind of a way where we can play with another genre. And, we've always loved peripheral games, we play them in the arcades and that hasn't really come home yet. That might be something. What if that is something? Maybe we should try that.

And, of course, Guitar Hero blows up. We weren't wrong there. But it's also faddish. So, but what if that's a thing that it re-shifts to? We'll have a little step in there, so, if we need to we can shift more energy in that direction and we'll have credibility. So, there's a lot of other strategic things that made that particular decision make sense. And we've got a few things going on right now that we haven't talked about but that'll appear later. Different vectors.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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Kale Menges
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I've always admired Randy's passion for making games. It's always great to see the CEO of a successful studio like Gearbox still have that wide-eyed fanboy look on his face when he talks about his craft.

Luis Guimaraes
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I only have one question: when will we get to play a snow setting with white aliens?

JB Vorderkunz
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Best boss in the industry? sounds like it. Best place to work in the industry? sounds like that too. How many other AAA studios build what they love while being business-smart about it? Some for sure, but surely not all of em.

Ole Berg Leren
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"No one's stolen it yet. That's weird. We're in an industry where people do nothing but steal from each other."

Sounds like he's projecting a bit. Borderlands, to me, was a highly derivative title with a lifeless visual style. When they revealed the loot-system, I was a bit stoked. I imagined that a gun with the "acid/corrosive" modifier would actually shoot streams of acid. Maybe lay out pools of the stuff to make it a bit deeper, tactically. What I got was bullets that were also acid.

Playing the game on PC was horrid, as I am primed for 1:1 mouse-movement. Having played CS:S for well over 500 hours(conservative guess), it really bothers me. When any of my retained skills don't carry over because of lack of precision, I get frustrated and that colors my entire experience.

The cars handled like bricks with wheels, and I was tired of it 10 minutes into the first car-area.

The TK Baha plotline would've gained a lot if they had established him a bit more.

In the end, my expectations were smacked around by Reality and Uncle Shoddy-Port.

Joe Dyer
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The key to any game is playabilty. You have got to keep the player engrossed in the game. Borderlands does that. It hooks you in and is one of them games where putting down the control to live your life seems like a ridiculous idea!me and my brother played through the first game at least 3 times. The best part about it?just as our attention started to stray...DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT!and not shoddy downloadable content either!Full maps/missions/storylines that would hook us right back in again!

Gearbox knows what they are doing,they know how to make a game work and i look forward to Borderlands 2!

Barney Holmes
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Great to hear a CEO speaking up for the integrity of honestly crafting a creative work that brings something into people's lives. That's what is worth paying for rather than the focus on price tags and market share that tends to compromise creative directions AKA shooting yaself in the foot.