March 8, 2012 at 5:48 PM ET
"Borderlands 2,” the sequel to the fan favorite, first person shooter is due later this fall. MSNBC recently spoke with Randy Varnell, the game's design producer, to discuss both the first and second game’s key indigent: a dizzying assortment of firepower to choose from.
According to Varnell, the "heart" of the original "Borderlands" is the combination of classic first person shooter and action role-playing sensibilities, with firearms being the vital link between the two. Both the first and second installments have the player taking advantage of guns that are procedurally generated, and which can be further customized.
It all comes down to the infinite possibilities that can be had: "Even to this day, people on forums post unusual combinations, which in turn leads to people arguing which of their creations is the best!" More variety to the components is being added to the mix, along with additional options and an overall polish.
But the guns are not completely random; at their core, each is the product of a manufacture from the game's universe. Not only will there more in the sequel, but those from returning gun crafters will be easier to distinguish and offer greater personality. Which the player can then tap into, for a more engaging experience.
Varnell believes, "'Borderlands and its guns are all about asking one's self, 'How do I like to play? Do I like sniper rifle, and enjoy great distances but still do major damage? Do I like submachine guns, and be up-close with a fast fire rate?'"
But making all those fake guns is not easy. "It's the classic shooter problem: what makes a gun game feel good? Some say it's just a gun that does a lot of damage. But when you really look at it, and after talking with users especially, you realize it’s a large mix."
"Everything from its core numbers, its base attributes, to what does the muzzle flash look like, the sounds it makes, reload speed, all that stuff." These factors normally account for just one, pre-fab weapon, but "Borderlands" has the unique challenge of being mindful of all the different combinations possible.
Another reason why "Borderlands" is held in such high regard among its fans, besides all the guns, is the degree of interactions between the developer and the consumers. Suggestions made by the players are strongly considered and sometimes implemented.
But is there a suggestion that constantly comes up that Varnell must regularly turn down? "One frequent request is full gun customization, which has been discussed internally often. But it's a very difficult process, ensuring that it makes sense and doesn't upset the game's balance."
Varnell equates complete customization being similar to giving the player "a win button." Which would make the game no longer engaging. "The best combat you ever have is when your shield is depleted and you’re almost out of ammo, when you have to fight for your life. It's that last second victory, like a close football game.”
“Borderlands 2” comes out for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 on September 18th.
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot, and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.