Do we really need an introduction here? This is friggin’ Borderlands 2 we’re talking about. The sequel to that game no one thought would be success and ended up turning out to be a massive hit and beloved by millions of gamers. Yeah, that game. With Borderlands 2 being one of 2012’s most anticipated titles, any small details is enough to get you pumped for Gearbox‘s latest installment.
After nearly 2 hours of playtime with the title (Read our impressions here), RipTen’s Managing Editor, Michael Futter, and I sat down with Senior Designer, Zachary Ford, to discuss our time with the game and whittle out all those details you have been dying for.
RipTen: What was your thought process for refining the art style going into Borderlands 2?
Zach: Well in Borderlands 1 when we first created the art style, it was still new to us, but we refined it over time. After Borderlands 1 shipped, we could see what we did do well, and what we didn’t do well. How did our inking, and how we could refine the rendering engine. So in Borderlands 2, we were going to hit it with good stride. One improvement we did was lighting for instance. Lighting helps a lot. This time around we have day and night cycle, we’re also able to do a lot broader lighting within the environments. Which is huge. On top of that, learning to do better lining and textures.
RipTen: One of the things we noticed while playing was the water. It looks amazing!
Zach: Oh my gosh! We have so many technical artists that just love playing with shaders and trying to find new ways that are both cheap and perform well on consoles and PCs. On top of that, look fantastic. So yeah, we definitely improved on the water in the game.
RipTen: So, we also noticed that most of the elemental effects are back; electric, fire, corrosive, explosive etc. With the addition of slag (Editor’s note: see our preview for details on the new Slag effect). What was the thinking behind throwing that in the mix?
Zach: All of our characters have to deal with depth right? We got the guy that’s up front taking all the bullets, we have the support class keeping back healing the team up. Slag, really, is an element we’re able to use for a support role. Yesterday I was playing with Randy Varnell, one of our producers. He would slag the guy. I would use my electrical weapon to take down the shields as a duo we would just demolish enemies, hordes of enemies, and that was fantastic. So we really wanted a support role element. It’s also Eridian based, which also comes up in the story. Little bit about slag, and what does if you consumed it as a person.
RipTen: It’s interesting you mentioned Eridian. Are Eridian weapons making a comeback?
Zach: Yes. We have Eridian type weapons. They are coming back, and we have more variety out of them. So I think you’ll be pretty pleased when you see how we’ve adapted and evolved that.
RipTen: Are there any other weapon types or weapon effects?
Zach: We hit the drawing board and really wanted to refine all the weapons. We created a new manufacturer: Bandit-made weapons. So now the Bandits are making their own weapons, they’re very Bandit-y and have their own personality. Bandits don’t want to reload, they just want to go crazy and keep shooting bullets. So we’re creating a lot of variety that way.
RipTen: So you have these disposable weapons now. Is that a Tediore thing?
Zach: It’s definitely a Tediore thing. Tediore is all about not keeping that weapon around, just make a new one! Keep shooting bullets. Tediore is every mans weapons, one of my personal favorites actually. Once you start reloading, you can’t re-use it constantly. My favorite thing to do as a Gunzerker is, I keep my ammo capacity low and I’m just duel wielding, chucking Tediore’s constantly. Every weapon is a little different too. If you throw a Tediore rocket launcher, it acts as a Javelin. It goes spiraling out, so your last rocket is a… rocket.
RipTen: Are there any other manufacture traits such as Tediore’s disposable weapons?
Zach: Vladof is very Soviet, so you’re going to see things inspired by AK47s, but they’re all just about spewing bullets. So they have gatling guns, multiple barrels etc. Maliwan is really high-tech, so it’s all about elemental bonus and different elemental weapons. Bandits are all about huge magazine size, so your constantly shooting bullets. Jakobs, which one of the great things about Jakobs is the weapons fire as fast as you can fire. So the faster you pull that trigger, the more you shoot.
RipTen: One of the few criticisms in the first game was that the trading had to rely on the honor system. I throw my weapon on the ground, you throw yours, and I don’t have any way to stop you from grabbing both. So what is the trading system like?
Zach: Trading is as simple as walking up to your friend saying “I want to trade”. Just hold B, the trading prompt comes up. You can put your weapons, money, any kind of gear you want in there. Then you can either trade for it, or you can duel for it.
RipTen: You can duel for gear? How does that work?
Zach: You put what you’re going to duel for, the other person puts up what they want to duel for, press duel, and off you go. Who ever wins gets the weapons.
RipTen: Excellent. So is that in place of the multiplayer arenas for the first game, or are they making a come-back?
Zach: We’re still playing around with those concepts, but we know the players love dueling. Players dueled all the time. So we really wanted to improve on dueling as well. So you can say “This is what’s on the line”, and brag to your friends. So not only did I beat you, but I got your weapons.
RipTen: Is there going to be a bank off the bat? We know that was one of things players wanted out of the box.
Zach: That’s one of the things we noticed. Players wanted banks. They wanted more slots, and they wanted to keep their weapons. We were impressed by how many people love hoarding weapons. So, yes, banks will be in.
RipTen: In Borderlands 1, there was kind of this build up. Find the vault, then at the end, there’s the end boss. Then, not a whole lot else until DLC came along. How did that influence the way you guys approached the narrative construction for Borderlands 2?
Zach: What we realized is, players really wanted story. So we actually decided this time around is getting more character interaction, getting a strong antagonist (Handsome Jack) and telling a rich story with compelling NPC’s. Players love the game, and want more story. So lets give it to them. We have a broader mission tool-set with branching missions, for instance. So we’re adding a lot of new mission tools, better interacting with NPC’s, and delivering a strong, strong story.
RipTen: So, Claptrap. Assuming he’s back?
Zach: Claptop is back.
RipTen: Everybody loves Claptrap. I have to be honest, my favorite character from Borderlands is Scooter.
Zach: Scooters back.
RipTen: Are we going to be able to meet his mom?
Zach: *laughs* I don’t know if she’ll make an appearance yet. Her lady parts might still be aching, but the previous four characters are coming back. And they’re coming back strong.
RipTen: Awesome! Thank you so much for your time.
Zach: No problem!
Not good enough? Still have more questions, or want to know more gameplay details? Send Michael Futter (@mmmfutter) or myself (@T9X69) a tweet, and we just might give you the answer you’re looking for. If we’re not cool enough, you could always bug the shit out of Zachary Ford (@zaford20) himself. Just don’t tell him we sent you. I could see it in his eyes, he’s an evil ClapTrap!