What's The Story With Borderlands?

We know that Borderlands is part shooter and part RPG. But how much RPG is it really? We asked Gearbox president Randy Pitchford just what's the story with Borderlands?

Well, actually, we asked him: what's in Borderlands for the gamer who likes a good story?

Pitchford, as we've now come to expect, had an interesting take on the question:

"Depends on what you mean by story. If you mean the type of person who likes to read a lot of text or likes to watch a lot of cut-scenes, then frankly, I think that person is probably reading books and watching movies.

The people that are writing the best novels in the world are much better than the people writing videogames. I'm sorry! I love our craft - and I love our videogame writers - but you know what? There is no videogame writer right now who can hold a candle to a Shakespeare or Jane Austen... or even fucking JK Rowling. So that's where we're going to get our passive entertainment in literature - we're going to get it from the best in the world.

And if we're talking about film, then... hey, we've won awards for our story-telling here at Gearbox with the Brothers In Arms series, but still... we're going to get our movies from Spielberg or Bruckheimer or whoever, and those guys are much better at it than any game maker ever will be."

This shouldn't be interpreted as Pitchford arguing that story has no place in a videogame. Instead, at least in Borderlands, the story is pitched as something secondary to the moment-to-moment gameplay. In a sense it's optional.

"Borderlands has a really interesting story," he says, "and a compelling back-story that makes the world plausible even in its insanity - you know, it makes sense and we've thought it through. But having said that, we do not shove things down your throat. You will not find a single dialogue tree!"

Similar to World of Warcraft, the NPCs you meet who give you quests are essentially kiosks. You "talk" to them and a screen pops up with a brief blurb to give a bit of colour, the mission objective, its difficulty level and your reward. You either accept it or decline, and that's it. This isn't Fallout 3.

I mentioned the WoW comparison to Pitchford, recalling a quote from Blizzard earlier this year wondering why they bother to write entire novels in their games when no one actually reads all that text.

"Exactly!" says Pitchford. "Some people do though, so we've decided to make our quest descriptions really short, but entertaining. If you do bother to read them, they're actually really fun to read. It all ties together. Like in World of Warcraft, those guys are just totally goofing off; on the one level they're got this really serious story, but on the other hand it's like, "Holy crap, I just did the Back to the Future questline!"

Yeah, Borderlands is kinda like that. I haven't found the Back to the Future questline yet, although I may well have looted a flux capacitor from a toilet.


Comments

    Oh come on. I think we're finally coming to the age where story in video games can at the very least stand on equal footing in terms of story telling with other forms of media (GTA IV, Bioshock, etc. not to mention JRPG's). This just starts up the whole "video games as art" debate again.

    That's a bit rough... I've read Harry Potter, and I can tell you, there's better video games out there.

    Video games don't need massive cut scenes or walls of text to tell story, that's simply cramming other mediums in, what many people fail to realise is video games can provide a good story in other ways: by letting you customize and role play a character, making unrepetative game play that at least appears to have a purpose in advancing the overall plot, having varied and interesting characters that break the typical archetypes and using music and the environment to to subtlety give layers hints about the story behind the world.

    I enjoy books and films because they have good stories, I also enjoy video games that have the same and i don't see why video games don't need a good story, good doesn't necessarily have to mean long or convoluted but simply something that isn't simply cliches added to stereotypes added to archetypes with a mcguffin thrown in. With the quality of mainstream movies these days I would say videogames can outdo films on storyline if they simply follow this advice.

      Although ironically, as of lately, the most cliched and games that bearly have any story or structure for that matter have been praised for its story.

      I agree with Coll; I like to think of my games as interactive movies/stories - way beyond what you can do (i.e. interact) with than on a DVD or in a book.

      Well, the game isn't a RPG, thats clear enough. But for the bright side of things, whats there is mostly entertaining. There are some heartwarmingly dark moments, and a few slapstick giggles to boot. The maps are tightknit, without much useless wandering to end up finding "nowhere". All the shop and mob respawns happen quickly, and there are no quests that bore you with traveling 100 miles to have a non-memorable dialogue with an npc- everything is fast paced about this game. It feels like replacing the fallout3 character with duke nukem, and i think most reviews are unfair to the game. Is it an RPG? No. But it IS a decent dungeon crawler/first person shooter mix with a few bangs and laughs along the way. Who doesn't like leaping a ravine with your buggy, splattering the poor bastards on the other side as you land? The focus may be narrow, but the execution can be quite dynamic with the plethora of weaponry at your disposal. I'd give the game an 8 out of 10 from what i've seen so far.

    I felt the story line in Batman: Arkham Asylum was exceptional. Not too heavy not too light. I mean it was fairly on rails but it seemed natural.

    In fact it could easily have been a movie.

    The quote gun

    Automatically records or downloads any sound byte that has the slightest humor value and then is able "to shoot it" by telepathically implanting the quote in the brains of your enemies at over 1000 times per second. This causes them to go completely insane and to rock back and forward in the fetal position babbling the quote until they starve to death. The best way to make any joke get old fast and can also be used effectively to return certain phrases back into normal speech as each quote has a quote "quota" that once reached renders the quote powerless either to incite humor, irony or disgust.

    Also in development are prototype models that fire cliches, idioms, stereotypes, slang and jargon.

    I do believe that this indeed is not the borderlands competition.

    i.m gonna hate borderlandS/.

      Yes, you seem the literary connoisseur.

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