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The Illusions We Make: Gearbox's Randy Pitchford
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The Illusions We Make: Gearbox's Randy Pitchford

October 12, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

BS: The enemy thing is still interesting to me, because it seems like most RPGs now are leveling enemies parallel to your levels.

RP: I think it's a terrible mistake. I don't know why they do that. I personally think World of Warcraft got it right. In the level 1 area, if I go back there at level 20, I can just [makes killing noises]. I know I'm powerful.

You know what feels great? If you reach the level cap, which I think now is 80, go into the Dead Mines, which is one of the lowest level instances in the world, and you can like pull the entire instance and just [makes killing noise], and you just feel like the biggest badass. And you look badass. You've got this incredible gear and sick weapons with shit glowing on them. You can just go in there and just own all the stuff. You feel like a god to them, and you are, and you're supposed to be because you've reached that level. I think that's great. That's part of what drives us there.

Remember Mario Kart? When you're playing multiplayer, do you actually feel good about the fact that you're ahead, but because the other guys are behind, the game cheats and makes him drive faster?

BS: Yeah, rubber banding. Not so much.

RP: I fucking hate that. I understand why they do it, especially in the multiplayer context, but in the single-player game? Dude, I'm winning, so fuck you. But if I'm behind in single-player, sure, give me a boost, give me some help. But if I'm in front, let me dominate. Let me own this because that's where I am. That's how good I am.

BS: In the Mario Kart example, it could wind up getting boring if you've figured out all the tricks to the levels, if you're just always just zipping around everybody.

RP: Then guess what? When you're that good, you've also figured out the rubber banding. If I'm playing single-player, I can game the shit out of that. There's a point -- they haven't eliminated that point where I will never lose this race. So, they haven't actually fixed that problem.

I think what they've done is they've made a game design where if players are close together in skill, they've kept the tension in a competitive match. I think that's not a bad design in that context. But if you're talking about a context of a role-playing game, especially where you're not playing competitively with other people, I don't think that's a good decision at all.

I think that because we've played Mario Kart and we know what that feels like, even if can appreciate the design value in the context of that competitive game, we don't feel good about it. We can imagine that if we applied that to other cases, we'd be really pissed. If there's gear at stake, I've actually leveled up and I'm powerful, and I've invested this to get that power, and the game robs me of it because it's trying to auto-balance me. It's like, "Screw you, game. Let me have my power. I earned it."

And we do that a lot as designers. When I say "we", I mean there are a lot of designers that do that. I think game designers need to get over themselves. A lot of game designers want to show gamers that they're in control of their world. There is a sad percentage of game design that is like, "This is my world and my rules. You're going to play the game the way I intended to play it." You know what? As gamers, we just want to have fun. Sometimes, we know the fun things in spite of the game designer, but the space designer is not letting us have it. Get mad at him.

BS: Though sometimes it can be too much of a sandbox. For me personally, once you let me loose in Grand Theft Auto, I actually stop playing. I'm just like, "Screw it," and then I get bored.

RP: One of the problems is if you don't have something driving you and compelling you towards a path, and you need that, then you're going to feel lost and without a motivation. So, I think that's where that falls apart. That's a different problem. That's the designer's fault, too, actually. That's the designer's fault thinking he made a world so compelling he doesn't need to help you understand what to do next and to motivate you to do it. And then he's failed there.

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