PC Gamer

Only the greatest warriors wear a nipple hat.

Did you wear the Colovian Fur Helm? If you played Morrowind you probably did. The Colovian Fur Helm is a piece of armor you can easily get at the start of the game it literally falls out of the sky for you, being worn by a wizard whose spell doesn't work as intended and you'll probably keep it for a while. At the start of Morrowind decent helmets are hard to come by, especially if you're cheap. The downside is that the Colovian Fur Helm looks like a big hairy nipple. No matter how badass the rest of your armor is, topping it off with a hat that makes you look like one of the Coneheads will ruin your ensemble.

I thought about that hat recently when I was watching Hearthstone designer Ben Brode answer criticisms about the recently added Purify spell, which players have called a bad card. Actually they've called it worse things than that, but let's stick with bad. Some players actually like winning with bad cards, Brode explained, before going on to discuss its potential for use in a non-competitive fun deck . Long past the point where it was a liability, I wore that silly Colovian Fur Helm because I'd started thinking it was funny defeating ghosts and monsters while wearing a conical nipplehat. It was bad, but that's what made it perfect for me.

Plenty of games have items in them that prove unpopular with players. Maybe they're equipment in an RPG, cards in a digital card game, guns in a first-person shooter, or power-ups in an arcade game. They could be ugly. Their stats could be terrible. Most players may shun them, but they still serve a purpose.

Guns & ammo 

James Lopez, producer on the Borderlands series, provides me with the excellent names of several guns from Borderlands 2 that players considered bad: Flakker, Bane, Fibber, and Crit. They all had their moments to shine, however, as there was an ebb and flow to the popularity of guns in the games some were popular right off the bat but some were 'undiscovered' for a while until the community found things that made them special , he says.

The Flakker for instance is a shotgun that shoots multiple explosive projectiles. They detonate at medium range, making it almost worthless against distant or nearby enemies. Plus, it fires very slowly. While the Flakker seems underwhelming for a weapon of 'legendary' rarity, it does have its uses. The sniper character Zer0 can combine it effectively with his Rising Sh0t ability, which lets him earn bonus damage for a short duration after every successful attack. The amount of bonus damage increases every time you hurt an enemy, so a single good shot with the Flakker can max out that bonus, after which you switch to a better gun to make use of it.

The Bane on the other hand is a submachine gun that drops your movement to a crawl and constantly shouts at you. When you shoot it screeches like Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber making the most annoying sound in the world, and it announces every reload by bellowing Reloading! Even taking it out it will make it announce Swapping weapons! Dropping the in-game volume to zero won't prevent it from ruining your eardrums, either. And yet there are people on YouTube using The Bane to defeat Borderlands 2's endgame raid boss Terramorphous the Invincible.

Borderlands is an unusual case in that most of its guns aren't unique like the Flakker and Bane, but procedurally generated. They combine effects in randomized ways so you might end up with a sniper rifle that reloads almost instantly or a pistol that shoots burning bullets. It creates variety and depth, Lopez explains, as well as the possibility of the user getting a one of a kind gun that nobody else will have. You might pick up two Maliwan fire SMGs of the same level but they re not going to be the same. And it might turn out that one is more your play style than the other, and the one you don t like might be perfect for someone else in your party.

When you do find a unique gun in a Borderlands game, something with a name like Good Touch or Teapot, you know it's special. That inspires players to figure out why a seemingly bad gun exists instead of chucking it aside like the disposable randomized weapons Borderlands games are full of. As Lopez puts it, Giving them names creates a theme about the gun, a connection to how you got it, and can also inspire the community to learn more about it through forums, videos, wikis, etc.

Should more guns have voice acting? Probably not.

The drone & the skullcap 

At the other end of the spectrum from Borderlands and its millions of guns is Assault Android Cactus, a twin-stick shooter in which each of its playable android characters only has two weapons. Some are regular fare like a flamethrower or a beam laser, but the android named Aubergine wields something different: an indestructible drone called Helo that causes damage in a circle and controls like a fishing rod. Hold down fire and the drone moves further away from her; release and it's reeled back in.

Aubergine is the most divisive character in the game, says developer Tim Dawson, some people dig her, but a lot of players couldn't get their head around controlling her Helo drone while moving. She was meant to be an out-there character and push the envelope in terms of twin-stick shooter mechanics, but because she takes so much more work to get good at, plenty of people never did.

The drone has advantages, like being able to cause damage to enemies while you hide behind a wall, but it's tricky to get used to compared to more straightforward tools like the shotgun or the drill. Not many players bother getting to grips with Aubergine and her drone.

Aubergine's drone weapon sets her apart from most twin-stick shooter characters.

Even so, I'm glad she's in the game, Dawson says, she came about from realising our weapon designs were stagnating mid-development and sitting down to brainstorm something off the map. She's not only a good character for players who stick with her, but her existence in the game challenged us to make later weapons like the Railgun and Giga Drill more distinctive.

Assault Android Cactus also has power-ups that appear regularly throughout each level. Each power-up initially appears as a red Firepower boost (adding hovering guns to your arsenal), but if it's not picked up immediately will transform into a yellow Accelerate boost (adding movement speed as well as slurping pick-ups toward you), and finally a blue Shutdown (sending enemies to sleep). The fact that players can choose which of the three power-ups to collect by timing it right inspired a vigorous debate on the game's forum over which was best.

Accelerate came off worst of the three by a fair margin. Despite boosting speed, decreasing damage taken and pulling battery and weapon orbs in, some players began actively avoiding Accelerate, says Dawson, seeing it as a wasted opportunity to grab one of the other two power-ups, both of which had more overt offensive potential.

Cards with negative and positive effects are chosen less, but fit certain playstyles.

In the choose-your-own-adventure card game Hand of Fate, each of the player's items is represented by a card that becomes that piece of equipment and appears on your avatar when combat begins. They fall down on you like rain, if rain was made of helmets and axes. Though Hand of Fate is a very different game, just like Assault Android Cactus and its Accelerate power-up, players prefer equipment that has overt offensive potential .

According to its creative director Morgan Jaffit, Something we notice a lot is that people generally prefer items with direct effects, rather than those that act on another system. A good example there is Skullcap of Prophecy, which reduces your cooldowns if you kill an enemy with a weapon ability. There's a lot going on there for a player to think about how often do they kill enemies, how often do they get to use weapon abilities, how does reducing cooldowns help them, etc.

The Skullcap of Prophecy can be part of a powerful combo when used with weapon abilities capable of finishing enemies off, reducing the cooldown on the ability that triggered the Skullcap in the first place in a repeatable loop. Most players don't bother with it, however, preferring to use gear that increases damage directly or doesn't require a decent weapon to synergize with.

Gear that has negatives as well as positives generally gets picked less than items that are a straight benefit. Morgan Jaffit

Likewise, gear that has negatives as well as positives generally gets picked less than items that are a straight benefit, says Jaffit. Forbidden Armor give you bonus damage resistance, but stops you being able to heal. People tended to just wear slower, less effective armour instead of dealing with the downside.

And that's up to you. Choosing not to use items that handicap you whether they provide some balancing advantage or exist simply to let you challenge yourself or fit a specific theme you're roleplaying is a choice that's yours to make. But even if you do make that choice, the bad items you avoid still serve a purpose. As Jaffit says, you always need contrast. No single item is 'good' in the abstract, you need other items to compare them to.

If every card in Hand of Fate or Hearthstone was perfectly balanced for use with every playstyle, there would be no thrill to finding ones that suit you. If the power-ups in Assault Android Cactus were the same you'd never race dramatically across the level to grab the one you like, and if every gun in Borderlands was useful at every range and in every situation you'd never switch between them and find the perfect moment to bombard some bad guys with a shotgun that shoots exploding swords.

Even beyond stats, items with no value can be imbued with purpose by passionate fans. In Dark Souls, one of the starting gifts, a pendant, does absolutely nothing. Why would anyone pick it over a key that unlocks doors throughout the game? Fans of Dark Souls labyrinthine lore speculated on how the pendant might fit into the mythos until director Hidetaki Miyazaki revealed that it was basically a prank. But by then it had served its purpose, making Dark Souls just a little bit more mysterious.

One man's trash...

That Colovian Fur Helm served a purpose too. When I finally sold it in favor of wearing something made of enchanted green glass, I felt like a proper hero for the first time, not that joker straight off the boat with the pointy head.

I would have missed the Colovian Fur Helm, but fortunately the shopkeeper I sold it to was so impressed he put it on immediately and continued wearing it for the rest of the game. Everybody's bad item is valuable to someone.

PC Gamer
Oct 29, 2015
Community Announcements - GBX_Jwhite

October 29, 2015

Version 1.7.0 Update

General

  • Various balance refinements and tweaks, with special attention given to Maya to make her more in-line with the other characters.
  • The Fastball grenade has been added to Boll’s loot pool.
  • DLC offers from Steam have been added to the in-game DLC menu.
  • Players will no longer encounter a progression blocker in the mission “A Match Made on Pandora” at the objective “Talk to Moxxi” in the Wedding Day Massacre DLC.
  • The mission “Cleaning Up the Berg” will now adjust to the current OP level instead of always being level 72.
  • The wedding party should now always appear at the appropriate time during the mission “A Match Made in Pandora”.
  • Missions that can be failed and re-attempted will now show the correct level when the player re-accepts the mission.
  • Chests that are dug up by varkids in the Wam Bam Island mission “Fun, Sun, and Guns” will now appear for all co-op players when unopened.
  • Gun-based splash damage will now scale correctly.
  • The Aquamarine sniper rifle has been updated with the proper stats. It was previously incorrectly categorized as an SMG. Players with this weapon in their inventory at the time of the update will have an SMG in its place. Future drops of the Aquamarine sniper will be correct.
  • Player locations will now display correctly after being revived.
  • French, Italian, German, and Spanish language versions of the game will now properly display Critical Hit FX.
  • Jack’s protective probe will now take damage from Maya’s Phaselock ability.
  • Kill Skills will now properly receive bonuses modified by external sources (i.e. class mods) upon activation.
  • Weapon abilities will no longer be retained when using the inventory to swap weapons during the weapon-swap animation.
  • The color red will now appear appropriately for players using the “Protanopia” color-blind mode.
  • Players now have the option to choose a “Camera-Based” driving control setting.
  • Badass stats will no longer display multiples of the same choice when selecting a Badass Rank stat bonus.
  • Tweaks to improve performance while navigating menu screens.
  • The game will no longer become indefinitely paused if the status menu is opened when the HUD is not displayed.
  • Updated the presentation of the SHiFT EULA (End User License Agreement).
  • Fixed an exploit to duplicate SHiFT rewards while playing in split-screen.
  • Players at OP level 4 or above should now find it easier to find a game via matchmaking.
  • Players will no longer see placeholder graphics when joining into a 3 or 4 player game on certain maps.
  • Bloody Harvest Halloween candy item card text will now display correctly when colorblind mode is active.
  • When a user switches weapons just before using a travel station, their holstered weapon will no longer appear to have a plain white texture if viewed from third-person
  • Players can now sort their inventory by value and vending machine inventory by price.
  • A rare issue where an object could appear to have a bright, neon-colored texture will no longer occur.
  • “Use” prompts will now appear and disappear more quickly, resulting in a more responsive gameplay experience.
  • Unowned DLC will no longer appear in the Fast Travel menu as a valid destination.
  • Various stability improvements.
  • Memory adjustments have been made to prevent audio dropout in some cases.
  • When playing with the language set to Spanish, the text for the “trade” option has been corrected.
  • Minor text fixes.
  • Green quality corrosive and explosive nova shields can now spawn in-game.
  • McNally will now be the appropriate level in the mission “The Bane”.
  • Drop rates for the Cobra have been increased in Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage.
  • Players will no longer be permanently slowed by the sorcerer’s “slow” skill.
  • NPCs will no longer become invisible for clients during play sessions with many map transitions.
  • Community Day 2013 head and skin customizations will no longer disappear from the player’s inventory if they save and quit before using them.
  • Torgue weapons will now glow correctly
  • Some skin customizations that previously did not drop from any source can now drop in-game.
  • All items will now have impact audio when dropped from inventory or in the world.
  • Game difficulty scaling will now reliably return to the appropriate value after fighting Raid Bosses.
  • Purple rarity rocket launchers will now use the appropriate material.
  • Subtitles in the side missions “My Dead Brother” and “Lost Souls” updated for accuracy
  • Brood the Invincible’s nameplate will now appear correctly.

Permanent Hot-Fixes

  • Permanent Hot-Fix to add Community Day heads and skins as world drops.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue in which the Tiny Tina’s damsels can become invisible.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix "Release the Beast" sometimes not activating.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue with critical hits not registering properly sometimes when using the “Interspersed Outburst” Mechromancer skill.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an inaccurate skill description for the Mechromancer’s “Buck Up” skill so that it properly displays the recharge as 100%.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix Wilhelm so that he takes damage from the Ahab rocket launcher.
  • Permanent Hot-Fixto adjust camera zoom when Krieg is in the gunner seat of the runner.
  • Permanent Hot-Fixes to fix incorrect attribute presentations for relics.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue in which skrakks can deform when running PhysX.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue so that Deathmark can be applied more than once in a multiplayer game.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue in which Zero's deception ability will not activate properly when triggering the skill while firing and reloading a Tediore SMG.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix a missing VO in ‘A Match Made on Pandora’.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to fix an issue with some weapons having low DoTs applied.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to modify Vermivorous so that he always drops something from his unique pool.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to increase the bulk collect radius.
  • Permanent Hot-Fix to increase the drop rate of legendary items across the game.
PC Gamer

If you've ever been curious about Borderlands but haven't gotten around to giving it a go due to the eternal cash flow struggle, now would be a good time to turn your attention to the Humble Bundle. The collection revealed today includes the original Borderlands, plus The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Mad Moxxi's Underground Riot, and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, all for whatever price you want to pay.

Those who beat the average purchase price will also get Borderlands 2, along with the Psycho Pack add-on, the Mechromancer add-on, the Creature Slaughterdome add-on, and a coupon for 75 percent off Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in the Humble Store. And for 15 bucks or more, you can tack on the Borderlands 2 season pass, which includes the Captain Scarlett and her Pirate s Booty, Mr. Torgue s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock s Big Game Hunt, and Tiny Tina s Assault on Dragon Keep add-ons, the Headhunter 5: Son of Crawmerax add-on, the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2, and a coupon for 25 percent off off stuff in the 2K Store.

"But wait!" he cried, waving his Ginsu knives at the assembled onlookers with mad abandon. "There's more!" As in more games that will be added to the bundle on June 30, the mid-point of the sale. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is the most obvious candidate, but it would be kind of strange to make it free in a bundle that also includes a coupon for the same game. Dare we hope for Tales From the Borderlands?

Money spent on the Humble Borderlands Bundle can be directed toward 2K Games, the Humble Bundlers, or the National Videogame Museum, at your discretion. The bundle is live now and runs until July 7.

PC Gamer

Borderlands creator Matthew Armstrong has left Gearbox, he confirmed on Twitter over the weekend. As both creator and writer of the first game in the series, Armstrong was also involved in Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in various capacities. 

News of Armstrong's departure follows the closure of 2K Australia last week, the studio responsible for last year's The Pre-Sequel. With work complete on both The Pre-Sequel and the recent Handsome Collection for consoles, Armstrong told Game Informer that he'd taken the opportunity to leave at a time when he was "non-vital".

"I could leave without damaging Borderland or Gearbox too much if I did it at this moment, so now was the time," he said. "I think Gearbox will do great in the future, and I think Borderlands will stay strong and awesome. I've been thinking about it for a while. I'm not quitting out of anger or getting fired. It's just time for new adventures. I'm an inventor. I'm ready to make something new. Not just new to me, but new to everyone."

We're likely to see a Borderlands 3 at some point but probably not for a while: Gearbox only started recruiting for it in January

Community Announcements - Drcane
The Steam sale is extended one more day! Save up to 80% off on the Borderlands franchise. http://store.steampowered.com/search/?snr=1_4_4__12&term=borderlands
Community Announcements - Drcane
The Borderlands franchise is on sale for up to 80% off on Steam this weekend. Sale ends 3/23/15. http://store.steampowered.com/sale/2k_publisher_weekend/
PC Gamer
PC Gamer

That happy looking fellow above is Paul Hellquist, who you may know as the Borderlands 2 creative director. He's standing in front of the Robot Entertainment logo because he's left Gearbox to join the Orcs Must Die! studio as a lead designer, it was announced today. That means Hellquist won't be working on any forthcoming Borderlands games, but he will be working on Orcs Must Die! Unchained.

Hellquist has quite the resume: before his senior role on Borderlands 2 he spent nine years at Irrational Games, during which time he worked as lead designer on BioShock. Now he'll work on the MOBA-esque Orcs Must Die! Unchained, which our Emanuel Maiberg went hands-on with last year. Robot Entertainment CEO Patrick Hudson says the next phase of that game's beta will be detailed soon.

As for a potential Borderlands 3, as of February last year Gearbox hadn't started development. "We know we want it and we know it should exist, but we don't know what it is yet," Randy Pitchford said at the time. If it's Borderlands you want though, 2K Australia's Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel arrived late last year, as did Telltale's Tales From The Borderlands.  

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