Jo Wylie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Who here likes Borderlands?” At the answering roar from the packed Main Theatre, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford threw a joke to the crowd: “Oh, I thought you were all here for our work on 007: Nightfire.” And so the Gearbox Panel started, Sunday morning at PAX East 2014. With Gearbox panelists Randy Pitchford (President), Brian Martel (Executive VP), Mikey Neumann (Chief Creative Champion), and moderated by Andrew Goldfarb (Content editor), the panel was fun from start to finish.
Following a quick cosplay runway show led by Andrew and Mikey, the rest of the panelists were welcomed. After a quick aside about the fifth – and final – headhunter DLC, Son of Crawmerax, Andrew led the conversation towards the very exciting release of Borderlands 2 on PS Vita. Randy Pitchford told the somewhat strange story of how this came about; how he made a meaningless remark about how much he would love to see Borderlands on Vita, and how in the following months Gearbox was swarmed with messages, mail, and tweets about how much the fans were interested.
The panelists made sure to thank the fans for the support, saying that without proof that people would buy the final product, they would never have gotten the investors and interest they needed. In the end, it was Iron Galaxy that picked up the Vita conversion, “The company behind Divekick,” the team joked, saying they were going to plaster that on the cover.
After a while, Andrew drew the conversation back to the next item on the list: Homeworld. Originally a 1999 sci-fi strategy game, Randy talked about how Homeworld was a big part of many of the Gearbox team’s development as gamers, calling it a “real gamer’s game”. So, when they saw that the IP was going on sale earlier this year, they jumped on it (with an offer of $13.5 million, no less.) Gearbox wanted to completely overhaul Homeworld while simultaneously staying true to its core, keeping the original gameplay and plot.
The panel talked about how they’d completely replaced the renderer and graphics. They also expressed a desire to make Homeworld available to everyone, repackaged and sold as the Homeworld Remastered Collection. They also went on to announce a Collectors’ Edition of the game – which, in response to fan votes, will include a foot-high, light up model of the iconic Homeworld mothership.
Mikey Neumann took the deck for a short but heartwarming section titled, ”Why We Fight.” He talked about a few inspiring fan stories and relayed the amazing fan feedback Gearbox is lucky enough to enjoy. Leading with chat about a fan who’s birthday was approaching, Mikey introduced a special guest: the voice of Claptrap, David Eddings! The entire Main Theatre then joined them in wishing the lucky fan a happy birthday, with Claptrap leading the sing-along.
Back to business, Andrew got everyone back on track to discuss the next portion: the future. The team excitedly introduced a new installment of Borderlands, Tales from the Borderlands. The game heralds a partnership between Gearbox and Telltale Games, the company famous for its episodic, story-driven games such as The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead. Tales from the Borderlands is described as less of a shooter and more of an interactive TV show. Fans of Telltale’s other games will recognize the style, and everyone can look forward to an exciting story set in the amazing Borderland’s sandbox. The new game will follow the shenanigans of two new characters, Fiona, a swindler and con artist, and Rhys, a cybernetic Hyperion businessman.
Finally, the panel got to the topic many were anxious to hear about, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. After some banter about the name – “Why couldn’t it have been Borderlands 1.5?” – the team got into the details. They had announced the Pre-Sequel the previous Wednesday, and many fans had been at the Gearbox stall in the expo hall enjoying gameplay, but there was still a great deal of excitement about the game.
The team reported that the game would stand alone, and there was no need to have played previous games (though by the look of it, it would be better if you did). Also, Pre-Sequel wont be next-gen because as Brian Martel and Mikey Neumann were quick to point out, “Having the first and second games on one console and then the one that, chronologically, fits between them on another console? That would kind of suck.”
The story of Pre-Sequel follows four of Handsome Jack’s lackeys during his rise to power. As for the setting; “Playing through Borderlands 2, you look up at that moon base and you’re always wondering what’s going on up there.” So that’s where players are headed: onto the moon base. This is promised to give a whole lot of new, exciting features such as low gravity, zero atmosphere, new enemies, and more.
The panel closed with a screening of a never-before-seen, unused teaser trailer. Randy explained that they went for another teaser, leaving this one completely exclusive to the panel, much to the excitement of the audience. The teaser trailer showed shots of the moon, bad guys, and the moon base, and it was set to Handsome Jack reading a slightly… edited version of “Ozymandias.” (“My name is Handsome Jack, Super Cool hero: Look on my works, you guyssss, and despair!”)
The panel ended on a high note, with surprise gifts for every audience member and a lively atmosphere. With such a fun and friendly panel, Gearbox really pulled out all the stops at PAX this year. No doubt, everyone in the room left more excited about upcoming projects from Gearbox than they went in, if that were even possible.
Keep watching out for updates on these games and others on Emertainment Monthly!