Borderlands 2 is fascinating for reasons other than the presence of a reported "bajillion" guns, each randomly generated as you roll around Pandora in pursuit of new nemesis Handsome Jack. Gleefully brainless at first glance, Gearbox's much-anticipated "looter shooter" has a serious core. One key NPC is a hidden attack on the way women are portrayed in videogames, for instance.
Here to discuss finding the balance are art director Jeramy Cook, and writer Anthony Burch. Look out for part two of this (enormous) interview later in the week, and pick up a copy of issue 89 for lengthy hands-on thoughts.
When you finished Borderlands, was there anything you wanted to fix or improve?
Jeramy: Oh yeah, we had a huge list. From an art standpoint we wanted more cohesion. If you look at the first game, there are lots of things we didn't have time to ink and style. So if you look around you'll find things that can look realistic here and there. So we obviously wanted to finish all that stuff ported over.
We also knew that we had done this desert environment in the first game, and we had much bigger plans when we first started - all these varieties of different environments - but of course on that really tight schedule we couldn't achieve that. But this time we started right from the get-go, with like "okay, we're going to have grasslands, we're going to have volcanoes, frozen wastelands, modern cities and of course classic desert settings".
There was a lot. I think variety of the environment was a huge goal of mine personally.
Was that purely a visual consideration or did you also want to vary the kinds of scenarios players encounter?
Jeramy: We had this vision for a larger world. And at some point it becomes a bit of a cardboard world if it's all exactly the same, you don't really believe in it.
Think about all the variety in North America for example, and it doesn't feel very big if you're just confined to this little desert space. So we wanted it to feel like this huge rolling adventure, where you've travelled a long way and explored a lot. And I think that's a big part of the fantasy of our universe, just this sense of being on the edge of the universe and out there exploring.
Claptrap's back. Were you surprised by the success of that character? Or was it the case that you always loved him and wanted to put him in?
Jeramy: It was an interesting one. Internally we had some fun times where it was like, when he was first conceived we were like "hmm, this guy's kind of annoying". Mikey [Neumann] did some writing for us, and David Eddings did the voice, and it synthesized into something bigger than what we had started with.
He had so much personality, a little cube with an eyeball or a trapezoid, or a parallelogram or whatever [laughs]. You know, this very simple shape, but I think he was able to emote a lot - from his flaps, from his antenna, his eye and wheel bouncing around. So I think people just started to, you know - you can read what you want to into that character, so people would just connect to him.
We had players who hated him too. They would get into the first sequence and just start shooting him all the way through. Like, "when will he die?!"