How Does Borderlands Balance Co-op Play?

Borderlands features drop-in/drop-out co-operative play for up to four players. So what happens when your friend wants to join your game but is at a much higher level than you? How does Gearbox balance the experience?

“You don’t!” says Gearbox president Randy Pitchford.

I asked him how Borderlands balances the potential gap between player-character levels in co-op. Pitchford told me he’s happy to leave that up to the players.

“If you want to measure XP, you can. If you want to host a game where the other guys are around the same level as you, then you can set that up. But hey, you paid your sixty bucks for the game, and if you want to play your level 50 character with a friend who’s level 1, knock yourself out.”

In Borderlands, your character is persistent online and offline. I tested co-op with a friend recently, joining his game with my character just a couple of levels below his. I noticed that the quest I was about to take in my solo game was now greyed out; I’d joined my friend’s game world where he’d already finished that task. The quests we did together we significantly harder than the ones I’d been doing on my own. The enemies were much tougher, too.

“If you wanna do that, then it’s your choice,” says Pitchford. “The higher level guy will bleed off more of the experience. So if you have a level 50 guy and a level 1 guy, the level 1 guy isn’t going to get as much of the XP. The level 50 guy is just going to gib everything in sight just by looking at it and the level 1 guy is going to be like, OK, that was fun!

“But there’ll be a lot of loot lying around that the level 50 guy doesn’t care about, but will seem awesome to the level 1 guy. He’ll be snatching that up, but at the same time not getting as much XP.”

It’s refreshing to see a developer placing trust in his game’s community to make the right choices to find the type of experience they want.

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