The lights are on
The Borderlands we've all come to know and love is a drastically different beast than the one that debuted in our magazine. In a recent panel hosted by Gearbox Software, key team members clued us into why they opted for a complete visual overhaul so late in the development process.
To give some context to the decision, they first provided an outline of the project pipeline.
The TimelineConcept: April 05 - October 05Prototype: November 05 - October 06 Development One: November 06 - August 07Development Two: September 07 - October 08Final Push: October 08 - October 09
Three-fourths of the way through production, Gearbox head Randy Pitchford approached publisher 2K with a proposal - a complete visual redesign of the game. Expecting the worst, Pitchford was surprised that 2K agreed that the change was needed, excited by the direction Gearbox proposed. Why did the developer and publisher agree that such drastic measures were needed?
(original Borderlands screenshot)
The Purple CowHow did the team justify the change? In a sea of "brown games," Gearbox worried that their title wouldn't stand out. Thinking about its reception, they began to wonder if it would simply look like "a poor man's Rage." They needed something to grab the attention of potential customers - a purple cow. Seth Goodin's book Purple Cow instilled the mantra "be remarkable, or be invisible," in the team.
The decision wasn't only influenced by aesthetics, however. Gearbox worried that the art style and gameplay contradicted itself in a way that couldn't be reconciled. Borderlands hosts player characters that can jump well beyond human limitations, and bad guys explode when shot. They decided that a more exaggerated art style would allow them to move forward without divorcing these entertaining gameplay elements. Lastly, Gearbox reasoned that the decision would improve the overall quality of the final product because when teams have varying levels of talent, it's hard to maintain a standard of quality in a photo-realism approach.
A New DirectionThe change wasn't an easy one. Gearbox confessed that the massive redesign
demoralized the original art director to the point that she left Gearbox and now works in a different field entirely. Still, the
move felt correct to the bulk of the team. The new design style was decided by committee, giving those invested in the project a chance to voice their opinion. Goals included a fresh approach that would be standout, fun, break plausibility, kick realism out the window, and, of course, be beautiful. A retro influence was chosen and color was noted as being of high importance early on. Words like "attractive, fun, colorful, stylish, animated, and unconventional," helped to funnel ideas into Borderland's final form.
The ProcessIn order to maximize efficiency, the all-encompassing "Art Director" position diversified into several more specific jobs - Art Director, Art Producer, Out-sourcing
Art Director, Art Lead and Lead Environment
Artist. Also, they implemented a "Merry-go-round" approach - making sure that all team members were pushing in the same direction.
The ResultsBorderlands has been a critical and commercial success and the team believes the redesign was imperative in this regard. Ultimately, changing the style afforded Gearbox more freedom. As a result they were able to exaggerate character design, flesh out weapon customization in fantastical ways and keep the game humorously visceral. While the effort was a major gamble, it paid off.
What do you think? Was the change well worth it? Or did you prefer the original style?
I definitely like the art style that they choose. It totally worked for the game.
I like the look from the cover way back when but the new art direction is pretty awesome.
it looked wayyy better before the change. in my opinion the cartoony look doesnt work for it very well
The New Style is alot nicer and better!
pretty cool original scenes. I like both styles in their own way.
I think the art style fits wth the comedy. I don't know if a lot of the comedic elements would be the same if the original graphics had been kept. But the original graphics would have been cool to see in the game.
I remember when they debuted the new graphics. I was highly confused since I had recently watched the old trailer over XBL. Though the end product was great, I would have much rather preferred the realistic graphics over the cartoonish ones.
the new art style is awesome. they made a right move.
The change was the reason I did not pick this one up.
I played the game a bit and can say that I thought it was great, but I did not like the art direction, or cell shaded games in general.
I love the look and feel of this game. Cant wait for any "GOTY" style release and a sequel!
You have to go watch the original gameplay footage on youtube. The original trailer looked amazing. I didn't like the art style change, but this was still a pre-order purchase for me. I'd pay another $60 if Gearbox could put an hour of original gameplay in the GOTY edition. And if they could toggle cel-shading in game... well... that'd be awesome.
I think it was worth it. I think if it came out how it was orginally envisioned, I would have pushed it aside because I would consider it a general wasteland/post-apocalypse game. I really enjoy the orginal characteristics that make up the game today.
I love the new style they put in the game. I was wondering about this when the game came out! I went back and looked at the old copy of gameinformer, and was like wow, that's really different. I think the new art style is definitely better. Animated, stylish and colorful is better then gritty realism! This being said I kinda liked the enemy models before they changed them. Especially the Skages they look way cooler! o well.
The more you know
At first I hated the idea, but after playing it I loved it.
Boarderlands is a great game....but it gets old rather quick, even with DLC. Mad Moxxie's sucked, Zombie Island was fun but somewhat short, and General Knoxx's was....well that came too late for me cause I had already turned it back in and deleted my game/DLC to make room for other stuff. Friends that played it said that they were just tired of it all when that DLC came out. I hope they make a return trip to Pandora....but as a sequel...not DLC.
I like the change it DOES make it stand out.