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 Borderlands  developer wonders why the game hasn't been cloned
Borderlands developer wonders why the game hasn't been cloned Exclusive
July 23, 2012 | By Staff

July 23, 2012 | By Staff
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    30 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



"We're in an industry where people do nothing but steal from each other," says Gearbox Studios president Randy Pitchford, whose Borderlands 2 comes out this fall.

When Borderlands came out, many gamers and critics praised its blend of RPG quest/loot mechanics and polished shooter gameplay. It's a formula the developer feels is ripe for the taking.

"I'm actually astonished that we're about to launch a sequel and no one's stole it from us," says Pitchford. "The formula's right there. No one's stolen it yet. That's weird."

"Not that I want anyone to steal it, or I'm challenging people to steal it," he adds.

One of the biggest challenges of promoting the first game in the series, he says, was talking about it without giving away the secret of its gameplay success, says Pitchford.

"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.'"

The full interview with Pitchford, in which he discusses in detail what it takes to make the right decisions and thrive as an independent triple-A studio in 2012, is live now on Gamasutra.


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Comments


mike madden
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While I agree that I am shocked others are not following this model as much as others, it still comes down to execution of the idea. The same design in two different teams hands more often than not, will become two different game experiences. Decisions made during the course of the project, as most know, alter the end result of the game. Its those decisions that can take a game from a 70 rating to a 85+

Robert Boyd
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Really? Borderlands is a good game and I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel but it's not that unique. Heck, you could say that Hellgate: London had a very similar idea (Diablo-style RPG meets shooter) a few years before Borderland's release. And these days, it feels like you can scarcely find a pure RPG or shooting experience; they're all Shooter/RPG hybrids.

Michael DeFazio
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i didn't find any of the individual game mechanics unique in borderlands...but the way the mechanics were put together (the overall package) was a "fun".

in a sea of hyper-realistic/gritty/scary/tense action 3PS's and FPS's, it was a breath of fresh air. (bright, tongue in cheek, simple, fun) Gearbox seemed to really emphasize: "hey, people like to shoot stuff, lets make a game where it's fun and rewarding to shoot stuff" -- hence the attention on all the guns and fun ways to blow stuff up and be rewarded for it.

it's not a cerebral game that is heavy on exposition/ pretense/ challenge/ strategy or anything like that, (it kinda seems "arcadey" if that makes sense) it excels at making it fun and rewarding to get your quick (single or multiplayer) fix.

Jerome Humbert
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I think whether Borderlands has been copied or not pretty much depends on what you mean by "copied". As Michael (DeFazio) said, I too don't believe "any of the individual game mechanics (being) unique in borderlands". Instead, this is the combination of all those bits that is unique. I think that in this way the game has not been copied, as far as you understand "copied" as refering to all those stuffs put together.

Of course e.g. procedural weapons and items with color-coded quality/rarity are not new; Diablo, WoW, and many others do it too. Of course RPG-style stats, skills, and experience points in FPS are not new either. And those game mechanics are probably the easiest to copy.

On the other hand, the fun Borderlands brings through a unique atmosphere and a lot of humour, that is much more difficult to come by with in my opinion. Remember the grumpy General Knoxx? I truely love his dialogs. The crazy Dr Zed, the game intro, "Brick as himself", the music, etc.? Awesome. Because this is a package. Same game without the toony shading? Not quite the same I bet... And I believe this is true for every single game mechanics. Gearbox did a great job putting them together and ending up with a coherent and consistent ensemble.

At least that's my opinion...

Kevin Fishburne
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@Robert Maybe he's like me and, ironically, doesn't have a lot of time to play the ten billion games that are released every year. It's something that's always bothered me about making games...ya just don't have much time left over to play a lot of them.

@Mike I agree, a great idea needs great execution to really knock people over the head with the intended experience. A lot of great ideas have been implemented either poorly or in isolation from other features thereby leaving less than a whole package.

[Edit] Should have hit F5 before posting. :) Good call Michael and Jerome.

Aaron Casillas
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Hmm tried it before it Borderlands came out, too expensive.

Michael O'Hair
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When I think of Borderlands, I think of Diablo with guns. Developers tend to clone the current killer app... if no one is beating down the door or rooting through your garbage to clone your work, well, I'm sure the conclusion is obvious at this point.

On the subject of cloning, let's clone Dolly the sheep next. But we only have 300 or fewer attempts to get it right... or we can clone Duke Nukem in about a decade. Maybe the next one will be better than the last one. Maybe not.

JB Vorderkunz
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Borderlands sold well, especially in correlation to expectations, at 2.85 Mil units - just because other games with established audiences have sold better doesn't invalidate that - so it's not entirely unreasonable to wonder why no one has cloned it.

And for the record, DNF (see what they did there?) was an incubation project, not an original Gearbox thing, but I'm sure that was obvious.

Jean-Michel Vilain
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You want to clone Gears of War because it's been a best seller.
You want to clone Super Mario Bros because it's cheap.
Borderlands is neither of these. It's not a killer app. And developping a FPS mixed with RPG elements, thus a HUGE solo content, is very expensive. And risky. Who would literally clone that.......
You can imagine people trying to mix FPS and RPG elements in another way, like Hellgate London did (lol).
Plus there is another problem. There are some gameplay that are very easy to clone. But characters and atmosphere is something a lot harder to plagiarize, given the talents inside the video game industry. I mean, you can hardly find investment or motivation for something like "OK now, we are going to clone Valve's Team Fortress style and characters".
And a good cast/mood is required when you insert RPG elements, IMO.

Jeremy Reaban
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Well, look at The Sims. That franchise has sold tens of millions of copies, yet there hasn't been any clones from major companies, just a few shovelware quality clones done with a sleazy angle.

Steven An
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Well, one can see FarmVille and all the FarmVille clones as Sims-like games. They're casual simulations. Look at all the zoo/pet/business sims on iOS. I think that's the modern effect of the Sims.

Evan Combs
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I don't know, I always viewed Borderlands more like a FPS Elder Scrolls with less story.

Luke Skywalker
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I think the word "Original" is Waaaay overused people. The arts have accepted the fact that we have entered the postmodern era. Games did this a while back, but no one wants to talk about that......

JB Vorderkunz
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The idea that nothing is totally original far predates the "postmodern era" - so is your statement hipster-ish irony or do you really think that something must be *entirely* original for it to be labeled thusly?

Luke Skywalker
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I'm not going to get into semantics with someone who uses the term 'hipster'.

I will say that the term "Original' is way overused by people from within and outside this industry to serve their own needs of either promotion or criticism (as convenient). That 'Original' seems to have come to represent for many a Panacea of something with no thematic or gameplay forebears.

I consider Borderlands to be both 'Original' and 'Derivative", and I don't think that's a bad thing.

JB Vorderkunz
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hipster: n. Someone who badly photoshops an avatar pic while using a fake name on a non-anonymous website with the intent of humorous irony.

Thank god no one will question my semantics. JUST KIDDING - obviously coming from a guy using a badly cropped photo of a bear statue, the above is a joke.

Seriously though, if you think the "original" is overused in the game industry - look at fiction publishing, pretty much every book has an obligatory blurb using the two words "Original" and "Compelling".

Luke Skywalker
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Wow....

Did you even read what I wrote or were you too busy trying to show me how clever you are?

(before complaining to Gamasutra about me using a Psuedonym).

".....and outside this industry to serve their own needs of either promotion or criticism (as convenient)."

This is a site about games, so I took it one step further in reference to games.

Your snarky comments do not advance any kind of thoughtful discussion, and your inability to reflect on what people post in response to you because you are too busy coming up with something 'clever' to denigrate them with leads me to believe you are incapable.

JB Vorderkunz
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thin skin noted.

"from within and outside this industry" reads to me like you're still referring to discussion of games, as in Pros and Critics & Fans use original too much, with the latter two being technically "outside the industry" - but you had to go all Keith Olbermann on me for misreading your nuanced grammatical construction <---- That last bit is sarcasm, Jedi Knight.

Luke Skywalker
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Under Bridge Residency----->noted

JB Vorderkunz
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Ok my last Gama comments post ever i swear:

Seriously? You've failed to note that I have a valid point vis-a-vis your ambiguously worded response by 'out clever-ing' me, oh Man-behind-the-Mask? Obviously I'M the troll.

Shawn Frison
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I think the game he's looking for is Dead Island. Not a clone, but clearly the same genre (diablo + FPS).

Steven An
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I think people are too busy cloning COD.

Arjen Meijer
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Mainly the perfectly executed Co-Op could be worked out similar in other games, for the rest I can't see any real unique elements. But he's right we don't have BorderWorlds or something like that yet.

Todd Boyd
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NeoCron did it first! :)

Jeff Degginger
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Here's my response to this article:

http://expositoryconundrum.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/article-revie
w-borderlands-developer-surprised-no-ones-stolen-his-stolen-idea/

Duong Nguyen
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Borderlands is a big game, it's up there in AAA realm. Within that space only few dev houses can develop games of that caliber and size and they are all competent enough to make something great. They are off making games like RDR2, Mass Effect, Gears of War, etc.. Those who could clone it don't bother because they have their own milti-million seller niche and really what's the point of cutting a pie in half or 4 ways when you can own another pie whole.. Those who would want to clone it can't because they are usually smaller companies or indies and they don't have the funds or resources to clone such a large game. Instead they go orthogonal and you get something like Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress..

Levett Washington
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Not sure why it would even label it as stealing. Its an idea that has been shared. Sure Borderlands is a great game but the Shooter/RPG formula has been around for a long time. Not only that the other developers with the computer know how are busying putting together games that they think will do well on the market.

Eric Geer
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At this point in time in the gaming industry. The only games that can be considered "innovative and new" are those that are based on "experiences"---they cannot be placed in a specific genre besides "experiences"

Generally speaking, everything has been done and done again. We are in the days of hybrids. Which is what Borderlands is, as well as just about every other shooter out there. Actually could probably say this for just about every genre of game.

For everyone complaining that this isn't a winning game combination... Well come off your soap box or high horse and commend the studio/developer for creating a great hybrid game, not shunning it for being refuse/reuse/recycle(because like it or not---new and innovative games are about 1 in a 1000 right now) Whatever game you are working on is probably...just more of the same.

Troy Walker
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why is there so much hostility in this industry?

justin revell
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I don't think its that wired that no one has jacked the formula. 99% of FPS gamers don't want level system for there weapon they just want to aim and shoot. This is the only reason I stopped playing I kept on forgetting that I had to level up because it was RPG based other then that its a great game. Keep up the great work!!!


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