We quiz marketing VP Steve Gibson on Gearbox’s ambition, the benefits of sequel development and what they’re up to next.
Usually we don’t relish interviewing marketing executives from big studios. As you’d expect they’re all too aware of the games PR machine and aren’t willing to budge an inch outside of their ‘corporate message’. Fortunately for us however, Gearbox’s VP of Marketing Steve Gibson is the complete anthithesis of that stereotype, and was more than happy to talk candidly with us about Borderlands 2, his studio’s impressive body of work, Aliens: Colonial Marines and what exactly would happen if Valve came knocking on thier door asking for another spin-off set in the Half Life universe. Here’s how the interview went, funnily enough with Steve asking us a question to kick off…
Steve Gibson: Have you played Borderlands 2 yet?
GamerZines: Yeah we have, and we liked it a lot more than we thought we were going to actually…
Steve Gibson: I’m not sure how I feel about that (laughs).
GamerZines: The original Borderlands was good for what it was – a very loot-orientated shooter – but the sequel seems to add a lot more to that core formula including an actual story.
Steve Gibson: We call it, a ‘True 1.0′. There was so much invention going on there, it was amazing we got it out the door.
GamerZines: It seems like you guys are a lot more confident of your approach in the second game.
Steve Gibson: I think so, we feel like we have a good formula. We’ve just expanded on it.
GamerZines: The characters as well particularly stand out, Tiny Tina especially is like Harley Quinn mixed with Cowboy Bebop’s Edward. Do you think shooters could be a lot more inventive when it comes to character design?
Steve Gibson: I don’t want to speak about what everyone else is doing, but what we’re really proud of is in Borderlands as much as the storytelling could’ve been criticised in the first game, we think that the characters were all memorable. Claptrap; everyone remembers. Scooter, Mad Moxxie, all those characters we built are really memorable. We feel like we can do better in storytelling terms and players will feel that, when they get their hands on the full game. Tiny Tina is great example of that because she stuck with you, right? And you’ve really only spent thirty minutes with her.
GamerZines: We don’t tend to think about idle animations when playing a game, but during the demo we did put down the controller just to see what she’d do without any input and inevitably enough something funny did happen. Does Borderlands 2 offer more of those little touches? Incentives to be part of the world and rewards for players searching out potential easter eggs.
Steve Gibson: Oh man, we love easter eggs! The number of references in this game is just ridiculous! If you go through Tiny Tina’s questline, heck all of her questline names and all that kind of stuff, it’s all over the map. Our guys love that part of the game, as this universe gives us the freedom to put that crazy stuff in.
GamerZines: Borderlands 2 seems a bit more RPG-like than the first game too.
Steve Gibson: We try to ramp that up. So far what we’ve shown of Borderlands 2 showed off some pretty guns, some surface areas and a much more vibrant colour palette, but now we’re showing off the stuff that people who want to play solo and dig into the roleplaying side will get a kick out of. Hopefully you had that feel.
GamerZines: I did and I think the new emphasis on story actually feeds into the biggest problem the first game had, which was when you played Borderlands on your own it really didn’t feel like a complete experience. Do you think you could’ve done more with that game?
Steve Gibson: Everyone feels like they could’ve – that’s the way it always is, you always feel like you could’ve done more. Usually when you start to build a game, you have grand ideas and then time and budget, and all those other things are taken into account and you scope back. Lots of good games happen that way, but what’s weird is that as Borderlands 2 was being built the original game was doing better and better [in sales]. We actually added more people as we realised that the popularity of the [original] game was stronger than we anticipated, so we actually got to do more than we initially thought we were going to do. It is a bizarre turn when you’re at a studio and start adding to a project – it’s the biggest team size we’ve ever had, biggest budget we’ve ever had. We feel good about what we’re shipping and we’re sending it off to certification in the next week.
GamerZines: When you talk about having the biggest budget and more developers working on this than anything else, it’s indicative of how Gearbox has grown in stature and significance over the past few years. How difficult is it to keep all your different projects in check? You’ve got Aliens: Colonial Marines and Brothers in Arms going on in addition to this.
Steve Gibson: Yeah it’s a fun challenge. The balance of doing your own brands versus being able to work in a world like Aliens, which is one of the most popular IPs out there, is really fun. What’s really interesting is how diverse all the things are that we’re working on, like Brothers in Arms. When we created that brand it was all authentic warfare and tactical combat, and Borderlands is such a different beast to that. Aliens on the other hand is a whole other inspiration for the world of sci-fi. The guys who care about the authenticity of Aliens are just as passionate as the guys who care about the authenticity of actual war. You wouldn’t believe the fan mail we get, like four page letters explaining how the sound effect for the Pulse Rifle is just off by the tiniest pitch and our sound guy is like, “I’m fucking trying!” (laughs).
Tags: Borderlands 2
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