Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel interview — Randy Pitchford on why this isn't Borderlands 3, and how he "loves to play on PC"

Q: Can you talk about what percentage of the game is going to be set on the moon?

RP: You spend time on the moon, you spend time in the moon base, there are some other places—I think we're being coy on the locations. I haven't measured the percentage yet.

Tony Lawrence, General Manager, 2K Australia: The moon's huge, there are lots of different parts.

RP: It's not like, “Hey, there's the blue crater. Oh hey, there's another blue crater”. In the same way that when you're on Pandora there's a lot of diverse environments, there's some diversity up there as well.

Q: There was a Ned Kelly reference in the demo—are there a lot of Australian jokes in the game?

TL: You probably heard the voices of the scavengers. That's a lot of Australian there.

RP: I don't want to give away a spoiler but there's a new gyrocopter up there, and they actually cast the guy—his name is [Bruce] Spence —he played the gyro guy in Mad Max. They cast him to do the voice of the gyro guy in this!

Joel Eschler, Producer, 2K Australia: There might even be a cricket reference in there.

Q: Nick Cave as a boss maybe?

JE: I'd like that!

AB: It's also important to remember that a lot of the writing is done by two brits living in Australia. There's a lot of American humour, from the Gearbox side with myself and Kirsten Kahler, and then there's a lot of Australian and British type of humour. So hopefully it'll be an even more comedically diverse game than Borderlands 2, because it's not the same fart jokes with the same three Americans.

RP: What's wrong with fart jokes?

TL: We think Texans are a little bit like Australians.

JE: It's surprising how quickly we got along. We had a pretty large group out [in Australia] in January, and they even came to try out in the cricket nets with us. We had a barbecue and they ate kangaroo.

[A discussion of how Pitchford is now an enthusiastic convert to Nando's spicy chicken then follows]

Q: How does the creative process work on a game like this? Does Gearbox deliver a big brief in terms of what they want?

RP: It's more twisty than that. It's more organic. At some point we said let's set it between the two games. I think early on we were like: “We've got to go to the moon”. I think that was one of the first tentpoles. Everybody was going to expect the whole sequel thing, but we really wanted to dig into the whole Jack character. And we killed him. So that sucks to come afterwards if we want to spend more time with Jack. So okay, how did Jack get into power? I think it evolved from people sitting around the table, brainstorming, iterating, throwing treatments into the hat.

AB: The way it is to get something done at Gearbox: You pitch a thing, then it comes back with what's possible, and then you riff on that, and end up with something that's hopefully pleasing to everybody but still has this quirky personality. The fun thing about working on Borderlands is that a lot games have complete 100% consistency and all the rough edges are completely sanded off, and there's nothing sharp and nothing dangerous. Whereas Borderlands, overall as a franchise and this game included, is all about “Fuck it! Go for it! That thing you're really passionate about? Put it in! We'll have an entire mission about Top Gun. We'll have an entire mission about whatever the fuck.” This certainly has a couple of missions that might not be written for anybody other than me to laugh at, but they're in the game. And I'm sure the Aussies feel the same way about some of their stuff, and I think that's what gives it the flavor it has as a franchise.

JE: Speaking to the gameplay of it, the flexibility of the modified engine allows us to think something up and a couple of hours later we can be playing it. It's awesome to prototype, and chuck in these crazy insane things. They haven't said no yet.

Q: I'm curious about the business case of doing another sequel. Why not a totally different game?

RP: We're making other games, too. I don't think I would have to stretch far to suggest that there's a lot of demand for more Borderlands. If you imagine where that demand lives, it's on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC. We don't know to what extent it will live on the next-gen. I imagine that, over time—probably by the third or fourth Christmas—there'll be enough of an install base.

Because Borderlands 2 did so well there's obvious demand there, and we have not been able to serve it sufficiently well with just DLC. Frankly, as creators, we love the space. We're still arguing inside of Gearbox about how much time we should spend in the Borderlands space versus on future things, because a lot of us really like making Borderlands. But yeah, we are inventive, and if we take the posture that we should only make sequels because they're safe, and it's a sure thing, Borderlands wouldn't even exist. When we launched Brothers in Arms, that was a huge hit, and we got great scores, sold millions of units, and by some business thinking we would only be making Brothers In Arms for the rest of our existence. Gratefully, we can't help ourselves. We like to invent, and so we did create new things. And of course, although we haven't announced anything, I haven't been quiet about the fact we're building new IP at Gearbox.

Q: Would you say Gearbox has learned anything about working with external studios from the Aliens: Colonial Marines project?

RP: We're always learning. In fact, I feel like we're still just infants, we don't know shit. We've been around for 15 years now, and learned some things. Just what we learned in the last generation was amazing compared to what we learned in all prior years. Huge amounts of levelling up. Not only learning the craft of game making, but how to collaborate with talent. We could spend four hours talking about it…

Q: But it was perceived as slightly fraught…

[A 2K rep steps in to say we're wrapping up and that “we're here to talk about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel]

Q: Do you have an idea of size and breadth of content compared to Borderlands 2? Is this more mid-sized?

RP: That's a great question. It comes in the fall, at the time of year that games like to come out, and we're still getting a grasp on scope. It's pretty big. I don't think it's going to be as big as Borderlands 2. It might be as big, or a little bigger, than Borderlands 1. It might be kind of in between the two. As far as price point goes, I don't think that's set in stone yet. It should be priced correctly, so we'll have to see what happens in the market and understand the actual total value proposition that's being offered. But I'm the developer. The guys at 2K will figure that out.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.