When we travelled up to New York City in order to go hands-on with Borderlands 2, we had a chance to speak with Zach Ford, the Senior Level Designer for the game. Throughout our entire conversation, one running theme managed to constantly weave its way in and out of each question and answer.
Variety. Whether it comes by way of driving, exploring, story or NPCs, the center of every point we crossed over was variety.
We first asked Ford about the game's level design and how it will relate to the narrative feel. "The way we're delivering story through level design is huge for us," Zach explained. "Level design can really riff off of story and vice versa. It's really great, because we actually hired Anthony Burge; he's a fantastic writer. Sitting with him, and being able to riff off of him constantly improves both our levels and our story. Levels are being built with the story in mind."
The Gearbox team is taking that fun and applying it to more than just level design. The NPCs are also going to be even better and more diverse this time around.
"We're improving NPC interaction, so you'll be able to interact with NPCs a lot. We did it with the third DLC in the original Borderlands; we got really good positive feedback from fans. People really enjoyed talking to and learning about these NPCs. We've taken that even further this time in the sequel. Players interact with NPCs in order to get missions, and, by doing so, you get to learn a lot more of the backstory for these NPCs. And that all fleshes out the story in general."
Gone are the walls of text in Borderlands 2. Ford explained that the team has built up mission objective delivery so that it wasn't so static and stoic.
"One of our new fantastic missions features this time around is that we don't display all of the mission objectives all at once. We actually bring them into the world as you're discovering bits and pieces of the quest itself. This absolutely helps with the storytelling. You could stand there and listen to Mordecai talk or you can run away, and his dialogue will suddenly pop up on the screen so that you can keep doing what you want while getting quests or discussion. So, if you wanna go loot that chest over there, you still gain that mission dialogue. We took huge strides in preventing the wall of text."
As for driving, the Gearbox team is looking to improve exponentially upon that portion of the game. Their experience with one past DLC pack in particular is leading them towards a solid choice for vehicle delivery. "With DLC 3, we learned a great lesson: players like being in four person vehicles," Ford told us. "This time around, we're giving players the Bandit Technical. You've got your driver, your gunner and you've got two seats in the back. The great thing about that…I love riding in the back. I like keeping my weapons and just shooting out the back and going crazy. It's a lot of fun."
Finally, Ford shared something that most of us are exceptionally excited about: environment diversity. It ain't just a world of deserts anymore.
"Snow and grass, a lot of diversity. We've got snowy areas, tundras, grasslands, arid deserts…I can't really talk about the other yet, but… We have a lot more variety. Within the maps we have a lot more variety. So, you might have a snowy area that turns into a big, open tundra. Our levels are just much more diverse, we're trying to flesh out the whole world. It will not be just the same area throughout the entire game."
Be sure to check out our full preview for Borderlands 2 if you're psyched for the game.