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Gearbox's Hurley On Why Co-Op Matters For Borderlands

Gearbox producer Simon Hurley has been talking to Gamasutra about the developer's original IP FPS/driving hybrid Borderlands, revealing that it was "built from the ground up" for co-operative play, and suggesting: "The persistent character is core

Chris Remo, Blogger

September 17, 2008

3 Min Read

Upon its initial announcement, Gearbox Software's upcoming Borderlands drew heavy comparisons to id Software's Rage, with its FPS/driving hybrid gameplay and desolate landscapes -- comparisons that amused producer Simon Hurley, who hypothesized "convergent evolution." The reveal of the game's extensive weapon system, which uses a procedural system to generate some 650,000 possible pieces of equipment for players to find, has also been seen as reminiscent of Blizzard's classic hack-and-loot extravaganza Diablo. It's been in development for about two and a half years, but the idea has been germinating at Gearbox for much longer, Hurley tells Gamasutra -- and simply defining it in terms of other games is selling it short. "It's an idea that several of us have been throwing around for quite a while, even when we were working back on Halo for PC, and, certainly, doing Brothers in Arms," he explains. "More and more people got on board with it, and we started looking at, 'When do we launch our second IP?' "Brothers in Arms was very well-established as a franchise, and we wanted to build a new one. This was the one that most people were excited about, so we went ahead and did it, and a lot of those core people came." He points out that, though Borderlands has received a lot of attention for its Diablo-esque weapon and loot system, the game is not randomly generated from a level design standpoint like Diablo is. "It's going to be a very crafted experience," he said. "You know, when you start throwing the word out 'randomization' into a game, people get an idea that it's going to be, 'Who knows what'll happen?' We're doing a very crafted experience, and there are certain elements of it that are randomized, but we try and keep that within a core gameplay structure." Comparisons between the two games are more appropriate when it comes to Borderlands' take on four-player co-op play: "We're all big fans of co-op gameplay, so we said, 'Let's build for co-op from the ground up.' Say I'm halfway through the main campaign, and I jump into your new game." "I can take my character into your game, with all of my leveling and skills and weapons. I can find new weapons in your game; I can trade you weapons I have; we can continue playing, and then I can take that character back into my game and continue going with all that equipment intact. The persistent character is core to the title." Hurley is confident that Borderlands as a complete title will be plenty unique. Its current state is actually the result of great deal of iteration, rather than a deliberate attempt to fuse a number of existing game concepts. "We had some different times during the development of the project, where we've said, 'We think we're going to be going in this direction,' and once we get a thing in place, we're said, 'Wow! That's even better!' he recalled. "It comes out with an iterative game design, but it gets us to a superior quality product."

About the Author(s)

Chris Remo


Chris Remo is Gamasutra's Editor at Large. He was a founding editor of gaming culture site Idle Thumbs, and prior to joining the Gamasutra team he served as Editor in Chief of hardcore-oriented consumer gaming site Shacknews.

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