We chat to Gearbox about Krieg, Tiny Tina, and what's next for BL2.
By James Pinnell on May 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Earlier in the month, we sat down with Borderlands 2′s creative director Paul Hellquist, and lead writer Anthony Burch to talk about the upcoming, final DLC for the game — including the Psycho Pack and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. We’ve had to keep it under wraps until then — but now we’re free. Read their thoughts below.
GON: So, the Psycho Pack. Before we get into the meaty detail of the new playable maniac, can you tell us what else is changed in this new DLC?
Paul Hellquist: Ahh, besides him?
Paul: I think we have some fixes for the main title that came in the compatibility pack, but nothing too significant. You know, its basically just Krieg. But other than that, when you spend your money, you’re just getting him. If that’s what you’re asking.
GON: Oh, okay. Was just checking to see if there was anything else there?
Paul: Nope, it’s all Krieg. ….I know how this sounds to the consumer, but like any other character you play in Borderlands, you have another set of eyes to go through existing content, playing with builds and just enjoying the different viewpoint.
GON: Hopefully, he’s enough! So, Psychos tend to be the enemies we kill in Borderlands, rather than the anti-heroes we play. What’s so special about the new Vault Hunter, Krieg? Is he proficient with explosive axes and super charged chainsaws?
Anthony Burch: Ahh… definitely the explosive axe thing happens. The thing with him, narratively, we were trying to figure out, basically what you said – “We kill Psychos all the time, why is this one special or different? Why isn’t he just another crazy dude I want to kill?” We have a short film coming out that’s going to shed some more, very specific, light on that. But for now, one of the cool things we did with his battle dialogue is that he’s got a 1 in 100 chance that instead of being a snarling, angry, hulk-esque kind of voice – you’ll hear a really normal, sane sounding voice that doesn’t endorse what Krieg is doing very much.
It’s his inner monologue, playing with the idea that every other Psycho has lost his sanity, Krieg is like 99% of the way there, but he’s still got 1% of the person left inside him. The person he was before he turned into a psycho, that’s trying to at least drive his violence in the right direction – if you’re going to mass murder, it might as well not be babies. So he’s still got more sanity than most of the others on Pandora, so you know, good for him.
Paul: Yeah. That’s sort of the underlying thing – I think of him like a runaway trailer truck coming down the mountain, and lost his brakes. He’s really hard to stop but maybe you can make sure you don’t run over the pedestrians, but instead you’re running over the bad guys.
GON: So he’s got a conscience of sorts?
Paul: A very, very small one that has enough control to point him in the right direction.
GON: Can you tell us about some of his skill tree?
Paul: One of the things I wanted to do was get people into the shoes of those Psychos. I mean, you’ve seen so many different types of Psychos that you’ve fought – you’ve seen the big mutant ones that have the bike pike, you’ve seen the ones on fire all the time, or the others that blow themselves up. I wanted to grab as many of those things you see the enemies doing and allow the player to do those things on their own.
So, one of the skills he has is called “Light the Fuse”, and its one of the 1-point skills in the middle of the tree, and that replaces your “Fight for your life”. So there’s this new style of play to revive – instead of being trapped on the ground and not able to move, he’s allowed to sprint around but has to put his weapons away and pulls out a bundle of dynamite – ripping off sticks and throwing them at people while he’s still running around. Then, you can detonate the whole bundle – if you kill someone with any of the dynamite, you are revived.
So it provides a whole different way to play that mechanic, and it keeps him very active and kinetic, in your face. But that’s just one tiny element of new and exciting things we’ve never done with skills before.
GON: Sounds like an “explosive” development. *Ahem*. So I have to ask, Why was this pack not included in the Season Pass?
Paul: Well, we established that the season pass early on is just for campaign DLC. So, the character DLCs are a separate thing, and, you know, come with their own separate price point. That’s pretty much it.
GON: Okay. Moving on. Dedicated BL2 Players have been itching to find out more about this final story pack. Hell, we don’t even know what it’s called. Can you enlighten us?
Anthony: Sure, it’s called “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep”, and the basic premise is that Tina, (redacted), and — wait, not (redacted), he’s dead. *laughs* Tina, Mordecai, Brick and Lilith are playing a game we call “Bunkers and Badarses”, but anyone who’s older then 3 years old will realise its just, you know, a Dungeons and Dragons type of experience, and the entirety of the DLC takes place within this D&D type module that Tina is DM’ing. So now we’ve got this dual story going on, where in the main campaign, you’re trying to take down the Handsome Sorcerer and rescue the beautiful queen and restore light to the world, and all this other generic fantasy bullshit.
But this DLC is actually about how Tina isn’t acknowledging that (redacted), and (redacted) and a bunch of other characters died during the events of the main game, and that the D&D campaign is like a way for her to accept that basically, a bunch of her friends are dead.
Paul: Now I know that sounds super “Whoa, that’s heavy” – *laughs*
GON: Very deep.
Paul: Haha, yeah, but that’s happening at this very meta level. What you are actually experiencing is all the wild and crazy fantasy stuff that is coming from Tiny Tina’s mind. So, you are living inside her imagination, which is really cool.
Anthony: Yeah, which basically means that we get to change things on the fly in front of the player, like Tina’s not the best dungeon master, so you’ll come across a combat and the enemies will be like level 90 or something like that — which isn’t even a real level — and your characters will just freak out. “How the fuck are we supposed to do this?” and she’ll go “Gahh, I’ll fix it” and rebalance the combat in front of you. Or she’ll have a boss fight you can’t win, they’ll complain, and she’ll say “Ok ok” and fix the boss fight.
Again, the stuff I talked about earlier sounded really dark but it’s really thematically in the same vein as if you played Tina’s side missions, the tea party side mission, it’s really in that vein. All you’re ever doing is fun, silly, crazy shit like punching a guy tied to a chair while she talks about tea and the government and society. But the actual impetus for you doing that quest is “oh wow, she’s actually torturing that guy to death because he killed her family” so, it’s dark and crazy – but like Paul was saying the full experience is really just raw and fun. What would fantasy tropes look like in the Borderlands 2 context?
It’s got more new enemies, more new art, re-did all the vending machines and everything else to make them look more fantasy. Basically poking fun at nerd culture, D&D culture, tabletop stuff, because this DLC was made by a lot of guys who care about that stuff – we’re not doing the Big Bang Theory or anything, where it’s like “Haha fuck you nerds”, its nerd humour for and by nerds. It’s cool and fun.
We’ve also incorporated a ton of new features: like raid like content where you fight up against mobs and huge bosses, or incorporating magic into weapons and skills. It’s really adding a lot more of the RPG style elements into the game. Changing it up.
GON: So, ending the pack with a blast, a full total conversion of the game almost.
Anthony: Yeah, almost – that was the thing exactly, knowing it was the last campaign DLC in the pass and the team just wanted to go out with a blast and close out Borderlands 2 in an exciting and neat way.
Paul: The team just got super excited about this idea, the season pass DLCs have all had some theme. The first one was pirates, then biker gangs, then safari, and you know, these well known tropes from Western culture we wanted to put a BL spin on. So we thought, what theme do we want this time, and the one we got really excited about was this combination of fairy tales and table top. It evolved into this situation where you were playing her mind, so the team went all out.
Anthony: Way, way too many quests.
Paul: We just wanted people to truly feel like they got their moneys worth out of that season pass.
GON: So, it sounds like you guys just sat in a room and decided to do everything you wanted to do previously.
Paul: We worked our arses off on this one.
Anthony: Steve Gibbs, our marketing VP, basically called it an “irresponsibly big” DLC.
GON: You have been very secretive about this final 4th DLC, moreso than any other, was the reason due to its size or scope?
Anthony: To be honest we had no idea what the fuck it was for a fairly long time. No joke.
Paul: Yeah, it took us a long time for the concept to develop honestly. Once it did, we just got really excited about, and had a ton to do.
Anthony: We didn’t know if we could complete it in the timescale that we had. At first we thought it was a little bit too much for Borderlands, but then after a couple of days writing we just decided to try it anyway and see if it worked.
Paul: There weren’t any other ideas that were more exciting, so we thought we should just go for it. We didn’t want to talk it up and it would be months away, we wanted to keep it fresh and hype it a bit closer to release. To be more around the corner.
GON: What’s next for Borderlands?
Paul: It’s unclear at this point.
Anthony: It basically it depends on how well this DLC does.
Paul: It’s all about the fans and sales at this point. We have new consoles coming up, so do people still want to buy content for the older games? It’s up to the marketplace.
GON: How about Borderlands 3? Eh?
Paul and Anthony: Haha. Nice try.
GON: And finally, even though it’s well and truly off topic, our readers (and most of the world’s strategy gamers) are clamouring to find about about your acquisition of the Homeworld IP. You have already mentioned that you are looking to re-release the originals, but what we’d love to know is if Homeworld 3 is in the works and whether Gearbox is developing it.
Anthony: All we are willing to say is what you already know. Honestly, we are also the least informed people at Gearbox. (laughs) We found out when you found out.
Paul: Pretty much, no information. Sorry guys.
GON: Well, it was worth a try! Thanks a lot for your time today guys.
Author’s Note: A few commenters have mentioned previously that my transcriptions tend to be quite rough – the nature of these interviews are that they are *always* live. They are not scripted, edited, email conversations. Many of them are either in person or over Skype/phone, and much of the responses are very casual in nature.
At GON, we do not edit responses (outside of removing umms/ahhs/broken sentences), which we think represents the personality of the developers – in this case, Anthony Burch (lead writer) and Paul Hellquist (creative director), who were probably two of the most honest creatives I’ve ever spoken to.