Gearbox’s Chris Thomas talks about the genre-melding shooter and incentives for playing it.
There hasn’t quite been anything like Battleborn, especially not for its developer Gearbox. There have been quirky first person shooters, MOBA titles wherein you level up within the match and co-op campaigns with up-to four bizarre heroes but all of that thrown together into one game? Battleborn is more than just a hodge-podge of established genres though – it offers a fun experience set in a new universe but with the same style and humour that’s defined Gearbox’s most successful franchise, Borderlands.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to publishing producer Chris Thomas a E3 2015 about Battleborn and found out what sets the game apart from other shooters, how players will keep coming back and some of the cooler things you can do.
"There are three big swords, really. You just need to get up close to people and you’re hacking and slashing and you’re using his big, crazy abilities. He can turn into this big whirlwind of blades. A character like that, you don’t have to be a twitch shooter, skill based player."
Leonid Melikhov: Chris, we really like the new trend of shooters offering up a bunch of different playable characters. What can you tell us about the different characters and their different abilities in Battleborn?
Chris Thomas: You’ve seen this game has a huge cast of characters. There are 25 that are playable. Each one of them has their own unique ability, their own play styles, their own personalities which are all hilarious and totally varied. They all have their own weapons and abilities. One of the interesting things about the story and about the characters is they are all part of different factions. They all have their own philosophies and ideologies. They’ve broken into those factions and they’re essentially at war with each other because in the story there is this last star they’re trying to protect.
It’s the last star in the entire universe. So they’re fighting over the resources in that system and that’s part of the motivation of the competitive multiplayer: having all these characters fighting against each other. The 25 that you see in the game, they’ve broken away from their factions and allied themselves with each other to try and combat this enemy that’s going around and destroying the universe; destroying all the stars. Each one of them– there’s everything from: fantasy characters to sci-fi characters. There are crazy combos, like a character in a mech suit. And that also goes into their play styles as well. Play styles are, like, you have tanks, war characters, healers, DPS, melee, magic users. It’s crazy.
Leonid Melikhov: Do each of the characters have a strong background story?
Chris Thomas: Absolutely. In this universe, since all of these surviving civilizations have gathered around the last star– they all have come from somewhere. Most of them have been displaced because they were in their own systems and they had their own stars; and once those stars were destroyed they had to find a way to survive. Each one of them definitely has a cool back-story.
Leonid Melikhov: How do you plan to resolve the issue of veteran players literally beating the hell out of new comers in a game such as Battleborn?
Chris Thomas: There’s a couple different ways. One is having a huge variety of play styles and characters. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people the last couple of days and some people were, like, “I’m not a shooter player. I’m not good at aiming. I just don’t aim very well.” There are characters for that person. You have characters like Wrath, where aiming isn’t that big of a deal because he’s got two big swords.
There are three big swords, really. You just need to get up close to people and you’re hacking and slashing and you’re using his big, crazy abilities. He can turn into this big whirlwind of blades. A character like that, you don’t have to be a twitch shooter, skill based player. Or you can play a support character. While support characters can still do damage, and can still kill other players, they will do a lot of healing and buffing of characters. You can run around supporting your team. The other thing is how we’ve set of the progression system in the game.
We have this healing system that allows to level from level one to 10 within a single match. So whether you’re in story mode or you’re in competitive multiplayer, you’re going to see the character’s complete progression through that one match. And that puts everybody on even playing field.
You’re never going to be in a situation where you picked up the game and you fire it up, and you’re like a total noob, and you’re playing against these people that have been playing for a long time and they’re super good. And they’re already level 50; they’ve already put in the time and unlocked all that stuff. You’re always going to have that even playing field within that match. There are multiple levels of that progression system.
"What makes it really fun and crazy is that each time you play that, it feels different depending on which character you’re playing. So if you’re playing a support character versus high DPS character versus, like, Montana with this crazy, big tank, you’re going to do different things within the map."
Even though you can only level up from one to 10 within the match on the Helix, the more you play a character, the more it will rank up as well. You unlock different skins for those characters. You unlock new augmentations for your Helix. So you can further customize how you play that character, as well as how you rank up with those characters. There’s also a command rank. There are, like, multiple layers. All the experience that you gain will also level up your player rank and that will unlock all kinds of other stuff.
Leonid Melikhov: What can you tell us about Incursion mode? Do you think fans need to worry about it?
Chris Thomas: I don’t think so. I think that all the multiplayer modes definitely feel like you’re playing a first person shooter. With the exception of the fact that you have all these weird abilities and you’re doing stuff that you normally wouldn’t do in any other shooter, really. That move was definitely inspired by MOBAs. It’s a lot of fun. You have the minions in the map that I controlled. So they’re running around helping you trying to get down to the enemies base to destroy the base. That part will feel familiar. But there are other multiplayer modes that are more traditional. We have one called Devastation which is a capture and hold objective based mode. That one is going to feel very familiar to people. People are going to be able to hop right in and be, like, “oh yeah! I’ve done this. I get this.”
What makes it really fun and crazy is that each time you play that, it feels different depending on which character you’re playing. So if you’re playing a support character versus high DPS character versus, like, Montana with this crazy, big tank, you’re going to do different things within the map. And you’re going to be playing a different style. It’s really cool. There’s also Meltdown. Meltdown also has the A.I. controlled minions, but the idea there is they’re trying to cross the map, trying to get to certain points on the map where they get incinerated and your team will gain points for that. You have to juggle multiple things. You have to escort your minions, destroy the enemies before they get where they’re going. And battle the other heroes all at the same time.
Leonid Melikhov: Sounds pretty hectic.
Chris Thomas: It’s gets insane.
Leonid Melikhov: How big are the maps?
Chris Thomas: They’re definitely pretty big and complex. The map from the story mission that we are showing is huge. And the story missions are obviously going to be broader than the multiplayer maps. Multiplayer maps are going to be, by default, more encapsulated. The story mode is going to have big, massive maps and environments to travel through.
Leonid Melikhov: How do the NPCs affect the matches?
Chris Thomas: The multiplayer matches, or the story mode, or both?
Leonid Melikhov: Both.
Chris Thomas: In PVP there are only the minions that you’re going to have to deal with. And they definitely affect how the match plays out. Because you’re gaining experience from those and they’re also doing damage. They definitely will affect things. In story mode we aren’t really going in to what the other NPCs are going to be yet, and how they’re going to affect the story. There will be plenty of NPCs.
"Gearbox is known for making these really cool art styles that stands out and really pops. One of the inspirations for it was they really wanted to create an art style that really made all these crazy characters feel like they could cohesively live in the same universe."
Leonid Melikhov: We are pretty confident that the game will run in 1080p on the PS4. But what about the Xbox One?
Chris Thomas: Yep.
Leonid Melikhov: Finally a good answer, not dodging bullets. Moving on, some people say that the art style, they aren’t too crazy about it in the game. Maybe it’s a byproduct of only seeing the trailer. I, personally think the in-game art works. What do you guys think about that? What was the thought behind the art style?
Chris Thomas: Gearbox is known for making these really cool art styles that stands out and really pops. One of the inspirations for it was they really wanted to create an art style that really made all these crazy characters feel like they could cohesively live in the same universe. That can be difficult when you start talking about all these different genres of fantasy and sci-fi and more realistic stuff.
They took a while to figure out what that is. Just like on Borderlands 2, there’s a creative process there that you try a bunch of things. You try a bunch of things to trying and figure out what actually works. Once we got to this, everyone was like, “oh, that’s it. That works.” These characters suddenly mesh together and you can believe that they’re from the same universe. That was the main inspiration for it.
Leonid Melikhov: What do you guys think of Oculus, and HoloLens?
Chris Thomas: I think that all of us are pretty excited about it. I’m personally excited about it. We don’t have anything right now that we’re working on. But it’s really cool. I’m really excited to see where it goes in the future and how people start adapting and start adopting it. I would like to have one in my house, personally. As always, we are in the business of making great games. If all of those VR style units start exploding, and people really love it, and the tools are there to make great games, sure.
Leonid Melikhov: I know Valve started sending out dev kits. Have you guys received them?
Chris Thomas: I’m not sure.
"[On Borderland 3] Yeah. It’s going to be super ambitious. With the new generation of consoles there’s still a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to it when they finally do get everything kicked off. It’s not quite there yet. Not quite in development."
Leonid Melikhov: Borderlands 3 was, kind of, technically announced at PAX. In January, I think. Around six months ago. But the game was not in development. They were recruiting a team or something like that. Have you guys started developing or conceptualizing– is anything going on right now with development?
Chris Thomas: There’s lots of recruiting still coming up for sure. Gearbox is trying to build that team right now. I’m sure there have been discussions on the game and what the game will be. As far as actual development, it hasn’t gotten started yet. The team has to solidify first. They need a ton of great people to make that game.
Leonid Melikhov: Sounds like it may take another two or three years?
Chris Thomas: I don’t know.
Leonid Melikhov: Is it going to be an ambitious project?
Chris Thomas: Yeah. It’s going to be super ambitious. With the new generation of consoles there’s still a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to it when they finally do get everything kicked off. It’s not quite there yet. Not quite in development.
Leonid Melikhov: So with that being said, when is the game coming out? Is it coming out this year?
Chris Thomas: It’s going to come out this winter.
Leonid Melikhov: This winter. So is that, like, December, or January?
Chris Thomas: Just this winter. Winter is coming. It’ll be on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Leonid Melikhov: Are you guys doing Windows 10, Xbox One cross play?
Chris Thomas: I’m actually not sure yet. I don’t think that we have really gotten there yet.
Leonid Melikhov: You don’t want to have a segregated community.
Chris Thomas: Right. Right now there’s just no solution to that.
"We love eSports. eSports is great. I always talk to people about– especially when we’re talking about Battleborn– I always believed the community creates eSports. The game has to be great. If the game is great and the community is there and they really love it, then they’re going to turn it into an eSport."
Leonid Melikhov: Makes sense from a development standpoint.
Chris Thomas: So if that’s something the fans want, please let Microsoft and Sony know.
Leonid Melikhov: If they can collaborate on that. Makes sense. Awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the game?
Chris Thomas: Just that we’re super excited about it. We’re excited about everyone here being able to get their hands on it. Everyone we’ve talked to so far has been really excited. They really like it. It’s been in development for a while now and it’s just awesome to see people play it.
Leonid Melikhov: What’s the one feature you’re mostly super excited about in the game?
Chris Thomas: Right now it’s story mode. The story mode is so bad ass right now. Like, the humors there, and it’s great to be able to jump in and play with any of these characters. That’s another thing I love about Gearbox games, they always find these really great voice actors and they’re always hilarious.
Leonid Melikhov: How long will the single player be?
Chris Thomas: We’re still in development so we don’t know exactly how long it’s going to be yet. It’s going to be a pretty, big, epic game.
Leonid Melikhov: So it’s not just a multiplayer game with a story tacked on? Or vice versa? It’s a full package.
Chris Thomas: It’s a full package. We can’t even try to say how long it’s going to be yet.
Leonid Melikhov: Last question. What do you guys think of eSports?
Chris Thomas: We love eSports. eSports is great. I always talk to people about– especially when we’re talking about Battleborn– I always believed the community creates eSports. The game has to be great. If the game is great and the community is there and they really love it, then they’re going to turn it into an eSport. They’re going to create the eSport. If the developer and the publisher are good, they’re going to help the community, they’re going to create the tools to support the community and that’s really how those things are born.
Leonid Melikhov: If people want Battleborn in eSports, you guys would be full on support it?
Chris Thomas: We’re always happy to be excited about that sort of thing. If the demand is there we are going to do everything we can to support the product.
Leonid Melikhov: Sounds really good. Thank you so much for your time.
Chris Thomas: Thanks.