Borderlands 3 Interview — Game Designer on How the Team Has “Stuck To Our Guns”
Borderlands 3's Game Designer spoke to us about the game's development, changes, and whether or not Claptrap will dab in the third installment.
We finally got the first taste of Borderlands 3 gameplay at the game’s reveal event in Los Angeles, California. It has been years since Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel launched and fans are hungry for new content from the goofy loot shooter. Needless to say, it is more of the same Borderlands gameplay you know with some great quality of life improvements including new movement options and loot instancing. We spoke with Borderlands 3 Game Designer Kevin Powell about Gearbox’s newest entry and some of these new features.
Michael: It has been years since the last release of a traditional Borderlands game with Pre-Sequel being the last one. How has it been to come back to this world?
Kevin Powell: It’s been pretty awesome. We’ve made a lot of improvements to various systems and stuff like that. So, it has been awesome actually being able to show this off for the first time. The team put a lot of work into every aspect of this game, so I think its just general excitement to show it off at this point.
M: How long has Borderlands 3 been in development?
KP: It has been in development for a while. I want to say at least 3 years.
M: Why not start that right after Borderlands 2?
KP: Well, we like to branch out and try other things out and so we worked on other titles. But now, I feel it is the right time to work on another Borderlands.
M: While Borderlands has helped popularize the loot shooter, there have been a plethora of games that have taken that formula, like Destiny or The Division, and have set the expectations of what a modern loot shooter is. What does a Borderlands game look like in the wake of all of that?
KP: Well, the team has always known what we wanted to create which is more Borderlands but better. So, we’ve stuck to that. We’ve taken all the things that the players know and love about the previous titles and we’ve just made it better.
M: How will it stick out as opposed to the other loot shooters?
KP: We’ve kind of stuck to our guns in a number of ways. It’s really just the tried and true Borderlands formula but created for everyone, new and old.
M: The cooperative aspects of Borderlands have always been popular. It’s always more fun to play with a friend. But, sometimes you’re gonna play by yourself at some times. How is the balancing of the single player versus the cooperative aspect of it?
KP: You saw the level sinking and everything in the demo, and we’ve really explored so many options as far as making sure that it is really good for every situation. Playing solo will be just as fun as playing with friends, I’d say. But it’s always better playing with friends; who doesn’t like playing with friends?
M: Speaking of cooperative play, what was the idea behind implementing instanced loot instead of the normal loot system?
KP: We have to stay current, and giving the player the option to play with instanced loot as opposed to the classic Borderlands way where someone can ninja loot, I see that as an improvement. So, giving a player as many options as possible I think was the idea there, and being able to choose which way you play, I think that is the right way to go about it.
M: What other aspects have changed to go with that mentality?
KP: Well, really you can just see it in the movement options. We have sliding and mantling. There are so many things that are just quality of life changes that the player has come to expect in years past. So, even with the lost loot machine, we’ve heard the player’s cries, “I got this item and it fell off a cliff and now I can’t get it.” Now, we have a system that will be able to retrieve that loot for you. Just making those experiences better overall no matter how you play it.
M: Going into the world design, everything is split into planets now. First, how big are those planets compared to the original Borderlands map or Borderlands 2‘s Pandora?
KP: We have many planets to explore and can’t really gauge just how big a planet is. But, this is the largest Borderlands game we’ve created. It’s a lot of game.
M: Are the planets split into different sections like the previous games or are the planets just open?
KP: It’s the same Borderlands formula. You have your maps, and you go through different areas. It’s pretty much that same Borderlands formula, just a lot bigger and better.
M: When I first saw that reveal trailer for Borderlands 3, it definitely felt like a nostalgic trip through the past. It had a bunch of fan-favorite characters, even Tales from the Borderlands was represented in there. However, for somebody who is new to the series, they may have felt lost watching that trailer. How are you appealing to the newer players?
KP: All the mechanics I mentioned before; just a lot quality of life stuff that players have come to expect in a first-person shooter. Tutorializing a lot of these mechanics; if you’re just picking up an FPS for the first time, we wanted to make it as easy as possible to make that transition. We’ve put a lot of thought into making sure a new player feels comfortable playing, but there’s a lot of stuff for those veteran players that are already immersed in the lore and the world we’ve built.
M: Speaking of Tales from the Borderlands, does that story affect anything that has happened in Borderlands 3?
KP: Tales of the Borderlands is canon, and yeah, you’ll be running into various characters from that story.
M: There has always been a ton of guns in Borderlands games and that seems to be the case with Borderlands 3. Is each gun “handcrafted” or are they randomly generated?
KP: We have our proprietary system that generates these guns and I think in the previous Borderlands title we had around 300 weapon parts. In this one, there is over 1000. Our weapons team has been working since day 1 with a plan to make this the most awesome Borderlands as far as guns are concerned.
M: What is your favorite gun you’ve seen so far?
KP: Everyone’s favorite is the guns with legs, but yeah there’s so many. I don’t know if I could choose just one, but there are some pretty awesome ones out there. I’d say Tediore is probably my favorite manufacturer right now.
M: So, this may go into spoiler territory…
KP: Oh boy…
M: Does Claptrap dab at all in the game?
KP: God I hope not. (laughs)
M: For the past few years, there has been a lot of fuss over microtransactions. People have voiced their opinions on them. Are there any microtransactions in the game?
KP: No. All of the customization options that are available to you are gained through loot just like in the previous Borderlands titles. The head drops, skin drops, and all other customization stuff is strictly through finding loot.
M: How long would it take to complete Borderlands 3?
KP: We don’t have an exact number right now. It’s just a lot larger than any other Borderlands title.
M: What is one feature that you are excited for from Borderlands 3?
KP: The player rooms are really cool. I think the players are really going to like that a lot. Getting to customize their own space and Sanctuary. I’m pretty excited about that.
M: Where did the idea come from to just make Sanctuary a spaceship?
KP: You’ll have to play the game to figure out how that comes about.
M: Is there anything else you wanna mention before closing it out?
KP: I just appreciate everybody showing up, and I appreciate the interview. It has been really awesome. I hope you enjoy the game.
Borderlands 3 is set to release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on September 13. The first official gameplay was recently revealed flaunting all the new quality of life features implemented in the upcoming release. In other recent news, the protagonist from Tales from the Borderlands Rhys will be voiced by Ray Chase, also known for his voice work on Final Fantasy XV as Noctis. If you want to see what we think of the game so far, you can check out our Borderlands 3 preview.