Geek Culture

Geek Interview: Borderlands 3’s Paul Sage Discusses The Evolution Of The Looter-Shooter And More

It’s been quite a ride for the Borderlands franchise in the past decade. 2009 was a revelation for the shooter medium, with the first game effectively kickstarting the looter-shooter subgenre. 10 years and 2 more games (3 if you count Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands), and over 10 DLCs on, and we’re still just as in love with the franchise as we were when we started it. 

So how does one top such an experience? Another Borderlands game, of course.

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The release of Borderlands 3 on September 13 will, no doubt, serve as the perfect love letter for many seasoned veterans of the franchise, as well as a solid jumping-on point for newcomers, whether you’re playing solo or with a group of friends.

It’s been about 5 years since the last Borderlands game, and in that time, the looter-shooter genre has bloated. Sure, the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division 2 have come along and really impressed the hell out of us, but nothing has really topped the irreverent tone and over-the-top action and, most importantly, pure, unadulterated fun a game like Borderlands provides. Paul Sage, Creative Director at Gearbox Software, can attest to that.

“Right away, one of the major differences you have [with Borderlands 3 compared to the other looter-shooter games] is you have a very fun tone. That helps to relax people,” said Sage. “I think that’s something we do very well, which is you can sit down and just have fun with the game and smile. And that’s really important to us.”

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Paul Sage, Creative Director, Gearbox Software.

And that rings true with the overall tone and feel of the Borderlands games thus far. Whether you’re shooting skags on the desert fields of the Badlands, pummelling trash-talking psychos in the face in Frostburn Canyon, or just watching the endearingly annoying Claptrap perform his mediocre imitation of dubstep, you’re always assured of a lighthearted yet immersive experience as you play through the game. 

And, of course, what’s a proper looter-shooter without the loot? The aspect of the player finding different types of guns and other gear has always been the bread and butter of Borderlands, and Sage reaffirms his and his team’s pride in presenting that well across the games, even more so in Borderlands 3.

Another thing it helps us stand out is the way we handle our loot. You guys can tell us, but I think our loot is world-class, and the fact that we have so many different types of guns drop, which means it’s not just a number; it’s an understanding that people are drawn to seeing something new very frequently in a game. And when they keep seeing new things, they’re more interested in wanting to keep playing that game.

If they keep seeing the same thing over and over again, it’s not, so I think in Borderlands,whether it’s 87 bazillion or over 1 billion guns, those guns have a purpose, which is to keep challenging the player to see new things.

Whether a new or returning player, you’ll always want to see your screen filled with these colours in Borderlands 3.

It’s always a satisfying thing to see your screen light up with various colours (but obviously looking for orange or even rainbow for your legendary gear), and the feeling still hasn’t changed in Borderlands 3. In this case, Sage’s comment indicates that they are indeed on the right track on this aspect of the game.

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Sage hails from an MMORPG background, having worked on the likes of Ultima Online and The Elder Scrolls Online, and his belief in making the game accessible to players of nearly any demographic reflects on how all aspects of gameplay, not just the online and social ones, are designed as such in Borderlands 3

“One of the things that I think helped me was coming in with a very real idea of I want to remove the barriers to keep people from playing together,” said Sage. “Level syncing and itemisation — those were things I brought from my background of making [Ultima Online and The Elder Scrolls Online]… Regardless of what my work background is, I know how I want a shooter to feel, and that’s why we have a lot of the modernisation that we have in the game, as far as how you move, how well you can aim and how the controls feel. So that comes from my background as a player more than it does as a developer.”

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The evolution of the shooter genre in general has seen the development of new ways to play the game, and Borderlands 3 has no doubt taken inspiration from these titles in order to keep abreast with fans of today. From enhanced mobility options as seen in the likes of Apex Legends, the recent Call of Duty titles, to Gearbox’s own version of Overwatch, the underperforming Battleborn, there was no doubt a “wealth of experience” in the market that Sage and his team could tap into.

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The rise of the battle royale has also sparked the imagination of a battle royale in the Borderlands franchise. And with the over-the-top tone of the world and its characters, it does seem a plausible direction.

The verdict? “Too much”, said Sage, chuckling.

Regardless, we’re sure as hell pumped to jump into Pandora and beyond when Borderlands 3 rolls out on September 13 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.


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