Borderlands Preview and Interview

A new hands-on Borderlands preview and another interview with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford both reached the web over the holiday weekend.

The preview is up at Big Download:
You can select one of four separate characters to play in the game, each with their own powers and abilities. They can also level up and improve their stats and abilities. But make no mistake; Borderlands, while having some RPG elements, is at its core a twitch-based shooter. Item drops include weapons and ammo in addition to loot and you spend the majority of your time shooting creatures from the planet.

The four player co-op that we got our hands on in the 2K Games booth was certainly additive. Much like the Left 4 Dead series you have to stick together in order to survive. Otherwise creatures like crabs that bury themselves in the sand and animals that are crosses between lizards and packs of dogs will make mince meat out of you.

While the interview is up at IGN AU:
IGN AU: On that, Borderlands isn't afraid to disguise its RPG backbone. Things like the damage points actually popping up on-screen when you're shooting someone, for instance.

Randy Pitchford: I think there's some value to that. They're subtle; they fade away. But when you need them, you can tell. You can see your critical there, or when you're doing 16 points of damage let me try this other gun; oh wait now I'm doing 18 points; that's even better. And you can see, when you throw a grenade and it lights someone on fire and they're running and screaming, you can see all the red numbers popping up -5,5,5,5...

IGN AU: Do you think many developers are scared of showing that kind of framework?

Randy Pitchford: We were, so definitely.

IGN AU: Why?

Randy Pitchford: I dunno.

IGN AU: Is it because developers talk down to players a lot of the time?

Randy Pitchford: I dunno! It's hard to say. I mean, does it break immersion?

IGN AU: But does it matter in a game like Borderlands?

Randy Pitchford: Well, it does but we haven't broken it. We get sucked into it and we love our game. The thing is, look you're not going to trick anyone. You're playing a video game. You are actually playing a video game and you're not actually there. Video games are supposed to be fun, and there's a system there and you kinda got to know how it works. But at the same time, the way we did that [the damage numbers] shows how you can expose some of that stuff without necessarily taking you out of that experience.

If you've never seen that before, your first impression might be "whoa, that's interesting they're showing the numbers." But then you play the game for ten minutes and it's totally natural.

Another thing that's interesting is that a lot of RPGs the first thing you do before you even get into things is that you make decisions about what skills you're gonna have and what your character's going to be like - and you don't even know what you're going to be tested on yet. So Borderlands does the opposite. It begins with simple choices, and as you play we build that out. The world opens up, the choices open up and it's a big connected world where you can choose your path. And you can also just follow the path too because we know there's the shooer guy out there who's used to the linear experience. If you want to, you can just follow the waypoint from mission to mission. You don't even need to read the mission text.
Floating damage numbers are very, very scary. Instead, they should show us the formula that's used to calculate damage and then throw in some variables so we're forced to do a little Algebra before we can determine which gun is the most powerful.

"You hit Wasteland Raider for ((X - 4)/(Y * 3.2))² points of damage!" with a 3-second fade would be perfect.