The lights are on
Borderlands 2 is a critical and commercial success, with Gearbox succeeding in making it bigger and better than its predecessor. Now that it’s been in gamers’ hands for a couple of months, we spoke to Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford about the sequel’s development and future.
Game Informer: We know that you did the voice for Crazy Earl and creative director Mikey Neumann is Scooter, but are any other characters voiced by members of the team?
Randy Pitchford: The biggest role from a Gearbox team member is David Eddings, Gearbox VP of Licensing and Business Development, playing the role of Clap Trap. He also does the voice for TK Baha. Several other people on the team do parts here and there. The audio guys, Raison and Mark, have done a bunch of bandit voices and other content. Most of the key roles have been cast with professional voice actors, but occasionally we have the perfect voice amongst us already.
Did you ever consider making the original vault hunters playable, or did the plan from the beginning focus on new characters?
From the beginning of Borderlands 2's development, we knew we were going to bring a whole new cast of heroes. It was really important to us to make sure that Borderlands 2 was a full-on 2.0 experience and developing new characters and skills is a key part of that. However, we love the heroes of Borderlands and I'm really glad that we worked them into the narrative in such an important way.
Is there any one class that the dev team tends to prefer over the others, or is it pretty spread out?
It's pretty evenly spread out, which is one of the indicators that we're doing it right. Everyone seems to have different favorites and various people on the team keep telling me about how they change it up and go with something new. About a week after launch I got some data from the live team about what customers are choosing. Their favorite seems to be Zero, with over 30% of the customers picking that character. Least played is Salvadore, which is interesting because well built and with the right gear, Salvadore easily has the highest damage potential of any character in the game. I played a lot of Salvadore during development because he was the first character we really had going. I switched to Zero when the Bloodshed tree got sufficiently fleshed out and had a blast. About two months before launch, I started playing with Maya and really like her. With the retail version of the game, I finished my first play-through with Axton. I'm looking forward to building a level 50 Gunzerker with my retail copy of the game and I think I'm going to do a playthrough with a Mechromancer.
The various skill trees allow for some crazy class customizations. What’s the most ridiculously overpowered character that you’ve seen?
A Rampage-built Gunzerker with a bee shield and a pair of Conference Call shotguns seems to be the most overpowered configuration at the moment. There's a mild nerf coming to the bee - just fixing the down-side, but not hurting the upside. We're pretty cautious about nerfs - we'll balance with new gear instead. It's going to be hard to beat the bee shield, though, so we may have to do more to it...
Secrets like the Minecraft and Dark Souls areas are all over the internet. Are there any big Easter eggs or secrets that are still relatively undiscovered?
There are a ton of secrets in the game, likely uncountable. A lot of good stuff has been discovered, but there are a lot of esoteric things and convoluted references that are mostly just us entertaining ourselves that I'm not sure will ever end up on an Easter egg list. One super minor Easter egg is a picture of Wastelander Panda, which is a cool/interesting indy film project out of Australia that caught my eye. Some folks have found the hidden panda image and have asked if it's a reference to an animated film or an MMO expansion. That's funny.
The Minecraft area isn’t just an homage, as it features actual creepers and what looks like Minecraft assets. What kind of communication did you have with Mojang to make this happen?
We reached out to Notch and he was down with it, so it happened. We had a Minecraft server at Gearbox and a lot of us have had a lot of fun in Mojang's game. Some of the experiences in Minecraft create revelation that goes back into our own work. It felt right to not just do a reference but a more built-out homage and game play space.
Tell us a little about the creation of Bonerfarts. Were there any other incredible names floating around for them?
The mind of Anthony Burch is a wonderful thing. There are just so many goofball words and names that come up during development. If you think Bonerfarts is strange, you should've seen some of the stuff on the whiteboards that never made it into the game. Way too early for it to stick, Mikey tossed out a genius character name: Quazimofo. We're going to have to bring that one into play someday. Maybe Quazimofo can ride around on Butt Stallion.
With the success of both Borderlands games, can we look forward to the franchise continuing?
No. That's it. We're pulling the plug. Kidding. We're having fun and we seem to have a huge number of fans that want more. So, we're doing a lot of stuff to add on to Borderlands 2 and will think about where it goes from there when we have a moment to breathe and think.