Following on from Tuesday, MCV continues its discussion with Gearbox President Randy Pitchford, asking where Borderlands fits in the shooter genre.
Was there a specific intention to have Borderlands stand out almost as a kind of retort to the type of shooters which have been pervasive generation, or did it just kind of end up that way?
From a design point of view, our ambition was to leverage the fun we had with engagement principles that existed in RPGs in a shooter. That’s something we always felt was possible, but not done.
Shooters are really fun in the moment-to-moment gameplay. It feels really fun just to move and to aim and to pull the trigger, and to get feedback when you hit and to play from a first-person point of view – it all feels amazing.
But, when we play some of the great RPGs like Diablo, it’s less about the skill test. In fact, in a lot of those games, there is no skill test. In a lot of those games, what makes it fun is the idea of growing your character, collecting loot, levelling up and things like that.
So it occurred to me that these two ideas were not mutually exclusive. In fact, they would be really compatible together. So our ambition from a design point of view was to blend those concepts and find a design that leveraged choice, discovery and growth from role-playing games and brought that into a fundamentally ‘core’ shooter gameplay loop.
I think Borderlands succeeded at that.
Our goal has always been to entertain people. Our goal was never to make a statement – we’re just trying to create engaging entertainment.
When you talk about engagement principles, are you referring to differentiating between short and long term feedback loops specifically?
Yeah, like engagement analysis over time. For instance, when I get caught up in a loot loop, the thing that motivates me to do whatever the game asks in order to see if I can get a better piece of equipment so that I can feel more powerful, which is a compelling bit of engagement that can span over a long period of time.
With a typical shooter, the fun we’re having is about the skill test. It’s about moving and aiming. In fact, at the end of most shooters the character is identical in terms of its skill to the character at the beginning of the game. But yet, they’re still a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, when you think about Diablo, there’s no actual skill to the game-loop. You’re taking a cursor and clicking on icons, whether it’s a physical object in the game-space or an actual icon, you’re just moving a cursor and clicking on things. As a skill test, it’s no different than the skill required to launch the application. But it’s amazingly fun because we like the idea of choosing a character, growing that character, choosing its stats and performance and unlocking capabilities that improve its gear, configuring that gear, customising the look of it. All those things make a different type of entertainment.
So those two ideas are very different, but they’re not mutually exclusive. The things that make a shooter great are not at all mutually exclusive with why it’s fun to play those RPG games.
We discovered that as an idea, committed ourselves to proving it to be true, and set about the assembly of a game design situation that brings those ideas together.
Thank you for your time!
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