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INTERVIEW: Why Randy Pitchford says Borderlands 2 is like an iPhone 4S

INTERVIEW: Why Randy Pitchford says Borderlands 2 is like an iPhone 4S

2K recently threw an event for Borderlands 2 at the Justice & Police Museum in Sydney, where MCV spoke to Gearbox President Pitchford.

Were you able to do everything you wanted with Borderlands 2 that was cutting room floor material in the original?

I don’t know if we have much cutting room floor material in Borderlands 1, but this is very much Borderlands 2.0.

I notice you have an iPhone. This is a 4, 4S correct?


Ok, so I had the first generation iPhone, and when it appeared, it revolutionised things. It had almost the same ‘form factor’ as this device, right? It had the same operating system and suddenly we’re looking at icons and we’re simply touching them to launch whatever it is we want to do, whether it’s taking a photograph or calling someone on the phone or reading our email or even going to the app store to get more apps.

It changed everything, but it was very much a 1.0 in the sense that it was the first time this invention had existed. When the sequel appeared, they didn’t invent a whole new phone, but iterated on what worked – they polished the form factor to make a much nicer piece of consumer electronics. The software runs better, the hardware inside is actually faster, there are new features that have been added, and that’s kind of the approach with Borderlands 2. We didn’t reinvent anything, and we didn’t throw away the engine that made it special.

We’re definitely iterating, we’re definitely perfecting the systems that made Borderlands 1 such an engaging and successful thing.

Having said that, though, it’s not a phone, it’s a game, which means it’s experiential. So the story, the characters you’ll meet, the adventures you’ll go on, the challenges you’ll overcome, the environments you’ll explore: all of that in Borderlands 2 is entirely new.

But the underlying systems that make the game mechanics work, this is what we’ve iterated on and perfected.

It seems you’re trying to hone and perfect a multitude of shooters, with countless miniature variants in gameplay. You’re trying to nail the loose-firing arcade shooters, the pixel-perfect accuracy sniping games and everything in between.

Yeah, we almost have to cover them all! The variety of the different weapons and different skills means that part of the appeal of Borderlands is that there’s a path to every play style. So your character and your gear kind of lead you towards that path.

But what’s neat is that the system we built for Borderlands 1, we created all these little dials for all of that. Something like accuracy has to not just be a specific unmodifiable algorithm, we have to create an algorithm that allowed that to be a whole spectrum from zero accuracy to perfect precision or whatever floating points we want to hit in between.

So we created algorithms which allow us to turn dials along those lines, so that the skills feed into those dials, the weapons feed into those dials, and it works for everything.

What’s neat about it is that there’s no one right way to turn the dials. The way the dials are tuned is different for each individual person, so our game system allows through the loot and through the skills, to always be looking for those things which are best for our way of playing.

What’s fun about it is that along the way, we discover things we didn’t expect that give us different responses and different feedback and different experiences, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Borderlands became a bit of a hobby for a lot of players. Even though people have completed like five playthroughs, a lot of people, even some of us, keep on playing the game looking for different loot, different items that give us a rare edge case to give us more angles to those new things we’ve discovered.


Part 2 of this inteview will be available on Thursday.


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