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Hard Edge Creativity: Defining Borderlands 2

November 7, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Do you lose access to some of the shortcuts? A lot of games have tread in the footsteps of other games -- in the conventions.

AB: Not necessarily; if anything it might help clarity. Because when everything has to be perfectly realistic, and shaded, and stuff like that, it's hard to bring things out from the environment, and draw attention to them. And we already have this rough concept art style, I think.

SK: Yeah, and that's one of the things: we just really wanted to be us, so we didn't want to be somebody else. And really, when we looked at the artists on the team and the designers, and even the writers, as we started making these visual changes, it started influencing game design; it started influencing, obviously, the writing.

And that was really cool, because instead of like doing a me-too, we were just kind of saying, "Well, this is us, and we're happy to be who we are." And I think people may see that in the way that the game came together.

It sounds like things take a creative turn when you move outside the box.

SK: Yeah, it was interesting because the game design was always good. Like, the loot loop always felt nice; but there was something that wasn't quite "there." And when that slid into place, it seemed like the idea bubble just turned on for people, and game designers started doing crazy stuff, like creating midgets and big arm dudes. The writing got more interesting, the names of the guns.

And that's where I think a lot of people really enjoyed that life -- we were intentionally funny. [laughs] And it also just kind of said, "We don't take ourselves that seriously. And we're not trying to be pretentious at all. It's more about just having fun with it."

It seems like the first game was really an underdog, and it really performed very well. The second game, well, now you've got the built-in expectations thing going. So how does that affect you guys creatively, this time around?

AB: It's an interesting line to toe. Because -- I can only speak narratively -- but the challenge was there's a lot of people who really liked the characters and the world of Borderlands -- how do we satisfy those people, while also acknowledging that some people maybe wanted more out of it?

And so the solution we came up with was like, "Alright. Well, the Vault Hunters from the first game as playable characters, we want to make some new character classes, so let's make those guys NPCs." If you've played the first game, you already have this built-in attachment to them, this emotional attachment, especially if you played as them.

And let's use them to drive along the story. But also tell this brand new story about this brand new antagonist called Handsome Jack, and what he's done to Pandora, and set it five years later, so it feels like this fresh start; it doesn't feel like I'm walking into the same desert, on the same bus, and dealing with all that kind of stuff. And the gun system and what we've done with that -- taking something awesome and turning it up to 11, essentially.

SK: It's kind of a tough situation, because you want to invent, and you want to make these things new. But if you don't stay true to what you were, people might cry foul. But you also don't want to get into... a thing I say a lot is that I'm imitating myself, like, "is this what I would've done?"

It's not about that. I think Borderlands is -- and will always be -- more about what feels best for the game, and what is the gut reactions to those things. But we really wanted to give somebody something worthy of the original.

We were very fond of the first game, and we really want to make a true sequel, and make it worth people's time to check it out, and not just re-skin the last game and play the same character, shooting the same things, in the same environment.

AB: Seeing the environments really, to me, sort of encapsulates how we think about a sequel. Because it's like you have these beautiful new arctic tundra areas, and these grasslands and stuff, and it feels completely new; all you mostly saw in the first game was just dust and dirt and all that stuff.

But even though it looks very different, it's still in that Borderlands style -- it still feels very harsh and very wasteland-y, and still feels connected to Pandora. It doesn't feel like we were like, "And now we're on planet X!" And you have no connection to the original game.

SK: That was one of those things that, as you go, "Okay, we're going to do this, but does this feel like Borderlands?" And luckily, the way we render the art and the way we draw it and create this stuff it helps the cohesion there.

But we also know we're not making beautiful, lush environments. It's still harsh -- everything around every corner wants to kill you, but it's just to stay true to the nature of what the game is.

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