Please support Game Informer. Print magazine subscriptions are less than $2 per issue


Borderlands Easter Egg Pays Off After All

by Jeff Marchiafava on Nov 04, 2009 at 11:30 AM

A week ago I posted a story to my blog recounting the trials and tribulations I went through to decode an Easter egg in Borderlands. It involved a QR code, a crappy cell phone, and some mad MS Paint skills. The reward for my hard work – the name of Gearbox artist Nick Wilson, followed by a cryptic “HO OH” – ultimately failed to justify the hours of sleep I had lost decoding the message.

The story ended up garnering some attention on various forums, and the response I’ve received from readers has been a mix of praise for my dedication, and the unabashed mocking of that dedication in light of the underwhelming payoff. In essence, I set myself up to be laughed at, and some readers were more than happy to oblige. But after a few email exchanges and a covert, in-game meeting with Nick Wilson himself, it is I who shall have the last laugh – a laugh as maniacal and vengeful as one of Pandora’s deranged Midget Psychos.

The purpose of our meeting was to talk a bit about the Easter egg and the development of Borderlands in general – and for him to shell out a pile of premium loot for my sleuthing efforts, something Gearbox employees have been doing with other players that managed to discover their secrets.

After setting up a game and exchanging a few pleasantries, Wilson spewed out a giant pile of glowing guns that would make any fan of Borderlands drool. He had tailored the selection to my current character’s level (35) and my personal preference for weapons (revolvers, sniper rifles, and machine guns...and things that explode). He also threw in some personal favorites, which I will spotlight below. But what was even more impressive than my newly acquired arsenal was the insight Wilson shared on the development of the game, which I will pass on to you now.

These new guns sure are powerful...I think this used to be a human.

Wilson said the Easter egg had been a last minute addition. The letter it appears on originally had Gearbox’s address instead, which was flagged late in the development process; it didn’t really make sense to have an address in Texas showing up on the planet of Pandora. Wilson was put in charge of changing it, and because everyone else was sneaking in their own calling cards, he decided to add his own name with a twist appropriate for an FX artist.

As for the “HO OH”? I was so punch-drunk from testing my new stockpile of loot that I forgot to ask him what it meant. But an earlier email suggested it was a Leeroy Jenkins-esque battle cry, and Wilson confirmed today that it was. Here’s what he had to say about it, as well as Easter eggs in general:

"I did use it as a battle cry for a game tournament several years ago, it was actually the battle cry for my whole team – it’s kind of weird because I guess I thought it sounded like something you’d hear in a sports arena (hOoooOo OoOohhhh), but I’m pretty confident I was the only one who ever thought it was really that funny. When it came to putting all these easter eggs into the game, I think a lot of people felt inspired by what they saw going in – it’s easy to remember nearly a decade ago playing Perfect Dark and how people went totally nuts for cheese, a piece of cheese hidden in every level. Isn’t that ridiculous? You still find videos all over YouTube about the things too… this was my attempt to create a little more intrigue in Borderlands. I hope everyone that found it is reminded that there is a very real group of talented people behind the games we enjoy, and we’re all very grateful for the opportunity afforded to us to entertain you on our projects."

PSA: Exploding shotguns make things explode! The more you know...

During his wholesale gun charity, Wilson also mentioned it was his first attempt at an Easter egg. He liked the idea I had proposed in my original post about using Easter eggs as codes for unlockable content, but pointed out difficulties with that strategy; promotion codes are often times not known until after a game is completed, and because Gearbox is still a small development team they simply don’t have a lot of extra resources to devote to something only a fraction of gamers would find. That said, he also stated he already has a ton of crazy ideas for Easter eggs he could do if they get to make a sequel.

The keyword in the above sentence is “if”; as of now, Gearbox doesn’t know if Borderlands has been a big enough success to warrant a sequel. Wilson said everyone thinks the game is selling well, but they haven’t received any official numbers yet. When seeing the game’s massive scope and the depth of its gameplay, it’s easy to forget that this was a small development company taking a huge chance on a game that’s radically different from other FPSs and RPGs on the market. Throw in the aesthetic curveball added to the game late in the development cycle, and it’s remarkable how amazing the game turned out to be.

Yeah, I'd say that's pretty critical alright...

Wilson sounded genuinely pleased when I told him how much the GI team has been enjoying the game, and he says the positive feedback they’ve received from forumgoers and user reviews has been equally rewarding. He also said this was the game everyone on the development team dreamed of working on, and that they all have more improvements and ideas they’d like to put in a sequel. If they get to make one. So if you like what Borderlands is doing, why not drop by the Gearbox forums and let them know you’d like a sequel?

Now, on to the loot!

These are some of my favorite new guns, courtesy of Nick Wilson:

AR War Cobra

Even though the War Cobra’s level requirement is only 31, the solid accuracy and major boosts to reload speed, recoil reduction, and accuracy make it my new favorite assault rifle. Thanks to my character’s boosted critical hit damage, almost every headshot is an instant kill. Which is nice, when the gun sports hellfire.


T.K’s Wave

This version of T.K’s Wave is from the second play through, and packs a considerably more powerful punch, raising the original's 17x9 damage to 93x9. Wilson designed the game’s unique bullet pattern, which he said was inspired by Super Metroid, his all-time favorite game. Wilson said the effect replaced an earlier smoke trail, and was really just an afterthought. It makes me wonder what kind of crazy things the team could dream up for a sequel...

ZX43.2 Detonating Shotgun

This might be my favorite weapon Wilson gave me, in part because I never found a shotgun I was completely happy with. With 32x7 damage, an extended clip, and explosive capabilities (increased by character’s passive skills), all I can say is that this shotgun completes me.

GGNS Long Sniper

I’ve been favoring a Fearsome Volcano sniper rifle for a number of hours, but this GGNS might just take its spot, thanks to the high damage count and accuracy – not to mention the damage and critical hit bonuses. I can’t wait to try it out.

Bone Shredder

The Bone Shredder is one of the first powerful guns players will come across. On a second play through it's considerably more impressive, jumping from 10x2 damage to 62x2. At first I thought that was still pretty weak, until I tried it on the battlefield – critical hits were doing 533 points of damage on equal level Bruisers. Given its solid fire rate and my class mod that regenerates SMG ammo, I think I’ll be holding on to this puppy for a long time.


The Patton is another gun most players will come across. In fact, I already had one in my inventory when Wilson offered me his. The difference? This Patton features a 3.7x zoom scope – and with a gun this accurate, it makes all the difference. With all of my character’s abilities and proficiencies added to the mix, headshots were clocking in at 1847 a pop. That's worthy of the general himself...

Those are just a couple of the guns Wilson gave me. Some others are less powerful, and a few special guns are even stronger than these – but I think I'll keep those to myself...everyone has their secrets, right?

Have you found your own deadly gem amongst Borderlands' plethora of weapons? Why not drop by our Borderlands group and share its stats with your fellow gamers?