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Jan 22, 2013
Here's a look at the new costumization options available in Borderlands 2. Each set is available for 80 Microsoft Points or $0.99 / £0.75 / 0,99€ for the Xbox 360 and PS3/PC, respectively (separate from the Season Pass). You can find a shot of the "Madness" set below.
Without divine intervention and after that nice guy gets a lucky shot (and why wouldn't he?), you (or what's left of you) are probably headed to the nearest respawn point. And just like that, within the game, Pum! Your character appears out of nowhere.
Save points are a bit different. Usually, in games that allow you to save at any moment (ie: Deus Ex: Human Revolution—and I'm glad it lets us!), you just reappear in the same exact spot with the same exact gear you had.
Other games save when a big boss battle is coming up or when you choose to save (e.g. Serious Sam 3 BFE), and you just reappear on the point where you saved.
Saving a game and respawning is something that happens outside of the world of the game; the player is conscious of this, but the character is not, thus breaking the fourth wall. But there are exceptions to this rule, and Borderlands is one of them. So, how could one imagine a respawn point working?
The physics of respawning
In Borderlands, there are New-U stations that "store the character DNA against the possibility of accidental death or dismemberment" and can "digistruct" an entirely new body to replace the recently deceased one, a hand-wavey way to explain how the game save works.
We're going to discuss a bit of physics in this article, but thinking about an action game, being completely faithful to the laws of physics would be a bit boring. For example, if you die, you die, and that's the end, as long as our knowledge of the laws of physics goes!
New-U stations save the game when the character walks within range of it. We will get into the physics of the matter (if you pardon the pun), but just the idea of explaining why a character can reappear is interesting. There's even a tunnel when you're being brought back and an associated cost of 7% of your character's funds! It can be a lot from the player's perspective, but that's just pocket change considering you are actually "reconstructing" a character.
In a nutshell, New-U stations use solid light to digistruct a person, weapons from holsters, even cars. Therefore, the DNA explanation mentioned above is not sufficient. When you are reconstructed from a New-U station, the character returns with all its weapons, ammunition, clothes, etc. So if the New-U station stored only DNA, it would be a bit hard to reconstruct stuff that doesn't have DNA to begin with—think back-in-time-terminator-naked style. There's also the use of another term, "solid light," that is an actual scientific term, but again applied in a science fiction way, in a sense of light transforming into matter.
So how would a more physics-based "reconstruction" work?
Making a "new you" (who's exactly like your "old you")
Lawrence Krauss (a fantastic physicist and writer) did some calculations on a similar problem, the transporter from Star Trek. There are other issues that Krauss discusses, but the physics of acquiring the data from the object and reconstructing it would be similar. Krauss even goes into a deeper philosophical question: are human beings only the sum of their atoms? Is there something else that makes us human, besides matter? It's a very interesting question, but one that we will not delve into. So we're going to stick with physics questions: how much information would one need to store in order to recreate a human being? How do you acquire this information? And how much energy is needed to do so?
The average human body is composed of 1x1028 atoms.
To be able to reconstruct it from a stored pattern, first this pattern must be stored, of course. But how would one go about doing that? The scanner would have to acquire the position and momentum of all atoms, without displacing them. It would need to determine the type of atom that you're scanning, too. It also would have to do it very quickly, taking into account that the character probably wouldn't be standing still. And here quantum mechanics shows to start spoiling the fun, with its pesky Heisenberg principle.
The Heisenberg principle states that, independent of the measure apparatus or future technologies, there are certain combinations of measures that are impossible to be made with arbitrary precision.
For example, it is possible to determine very precisely the position of a subatomic particle—like an electron—but not the momentum at the same time, and vice versa, or the state that the particle is, but not how long the particle will stay in that state.
So for our "scanner beam" to be able to selectively "lock" on a particular atom (which would be a feat on its own) and acquire its information, would disturb that same atom from its present state, somewhat irreversibly. It gets even worse, since, if we need to increase the precision of the beam to get a higher resolution, more energy would be needed, and the more that poor atom would be disturbed. And all that would be done within seconds!
To keep going, let's now assume that this scanner beam works. How much space would be needed to store all this information?
But where would we store all this?
We would need to store not only the position and velocity of each atom, but also its energetic state, whether it's making a bond with other atoms, the vibrational and rotational states, etc.
In physics, each of these pieces of information is called a degree of freedom, and a system is determined if all the degrees of freedom can be defined.
Let's say that we can store all the degrees of freedom of all the atoms. Let's take an educated guess and say that all the degrees of freedom of one atom can be described by 5kB. While we're at it, let's also take into account the weapons and stuff that you carry on that giant backpack, and say that we need to store 1x1029 atoms.
That would give us 5 x 1029 kilobytes, or 50000 yottabytes of information to be stored (and retrieved!) in a few seconds.
Given the world's current supply of hard drives, we couldn't get a single yottabyte. There are some recent calculations (using the Bekenstein limit) that estimate the information needed to describe a human being to be around 1x1044 bytes, considering the maximum amount of information given using a finite amount of energy in a finite region of space, which happens to be larger than our previous estimate.
You died! What happens now?
You died, fini, caput, so the New-U station needs to reconstruct you. We got a nice blueprint of 50000 yottabytes with all your information.
First problem: we need the atoms! It shouldn't be a big deal for the more common ones, like oxygen (65%, in mass), carbon (18% in mass) and hydrogen (10% in mass).
Things start to get a bit more problematic with the rare earth ones, even uranium and beryllium, so each New-U station would have to have an "atoms stock" to be able to reconstruct a character. And remember, there's also all the weapons… It seems that the weapons are recreated from scratch when the character is recreated, but dematerialized to "hard light" when the character is not using it.
But wait! It gets even more complicated…
So far, we only dealt with atomic level problems, considering that only saving the atoms themselves and not its constituents is necessary.
Each atom is composed by some number of nucleons (protons and neutrons) and electrons, and a lot of empty space. Really, a lot: more than 99% of the mass of the atom is at its center, where the nucleons are, but the size of the nucleous is 10000 smaller that the atom itself.
What prevents things falling through other things is the electric field, or the repulsion of the electric field by equal charges. Chemical bonds are formed to minimize the energy, but getting the atoms together can be a bit tricky, exactly because of that electric repulsion.
There are also reactions that need energy to start and keep going, and others liberate energy when the chemical bonds are formed from the free elements. How much energy? We will have to simplify greatly here: some chemical reactions liberate energy, while others absorb it, so it's not only a problem of putting everything together, but also putting or removing the right amount of energy in the right order.
After seeing the enormous amount of information that would need to be scanned and stored, the energy and materials that would be needed and with all the difficulties that physics presents us, it's not like we would see a New-U on the corner anytime soon (or ever), but the possibilities for understanding the science behind the possible processes is very interesting. There are some fundamental physical barriers and others that are more technological. But nonetheless, not breaking the fourth wall is awesome and talking physics about a game is always awesome.
And all this for only 7% of your funds!
Editor's note: Our guy at Thwacke, a Canadian outfit that advises game developers in all things science, writes to us and says he's got an expert who can explain how the Zerg in StarCraft have a whole lot in common with real insects. More »
Beware: spoilers for hidden secrets in Borderlands 2's latest DLC—Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt—follow. Also STDs might follow, so, you know, beware that, too.
Now that we got that out of the way, prepare yourself for The Clap, as presented to you by GameFront, the finders of all things hidden.
I need one of these Claptraps guarding the outside of my future mansion. Someone see to this.
Due to be released soon on Gearbox's store, there are designs for shirts and hoodies, as well as some tantalising ideas for masks, something the artist has done before with his personal collections. I'm not sure how many will actually be made commercially available, but it'll at least be some of them.
Man, I don't even like Borderlands 2 that much and I want some of these bad.
MAC56 X BL2 [machine56]
Reader Parrish E. admitted to tooting his own horn by sending this tip to us, but we'll allow it, because his life-size construction of Claptrap—with a functioning headlamp, mind you—is straight up awesome, and the best part, it's a gift for a friend.
Parrish and his wife were introduced to Borderlands by a friend shortly before Borderlands 2 released in September. And then, of course, they played the sequel. "Our friend expressed an interest in building the super intricate paper craft model that came out a while ago," he says on the Gearbox forums. "She's pretty busy with school and work and the like, so I figured I'd build it in my spare time (currently unemployed, and job hunting only occupies so many hours in the day) as kind of a thank you for introducing us to the series.
"And then I realized I don't have anywhere near the patience for that many little pieces and gluing everything together, and even if I did manage to build it, it's pretty fragile," he said. "I know my way around a table saw, however, so I decided to build a large, almost full scale model. I could never really nail down his exact dimensions, so I went off the 4" figurine, and scaled that up to what pre-made wheel sizes were available to me."
Voila, you now have a full-size Claptrap. Brandishing what appears to be the figurine Parrish referenced. It took about a month to assemble, and he just uploaded the finished pictures yesterday. The rest of the forum thread shows Claptrap throughout the stages of his construction, with the requisite slow-claps and compliments from the Borderlands community.
I'm Building a Claptrap [Gearbox Forums]
"Like 2D Minecraft," you say, "But that kind of sounds like Terraria!" About that. At least one of the devs on Chucklefish, the studio behind Starbound, hails from Terraria. This would explain some of the overt gameplay/aesthetic similarities between the two games.
The premise here is that you're fleeing your destroyed homeworld in a shuttle, but you don't know where you're going. This is where the random-generation comes in, see. There is a ton of random-generation in this game, but more on that in a sec.
You can explore, build, craft, and play with your friends. In space. With a space station. From the game's website:
The space station in Starbound is sprawling and full of potential. Throughout your travels you'll find ways to upgrade and repair it, restoring it to its former glory. You'll need to find a crew, conduct research, catch rare creatures, and unlock its multitude of facilities. From a factory capable of producing mechs to labs where captured enemies can be studied and trained, the space station contains everything you need to explore the universe.
So you'll be going around visiting a buttload of different planets that have everything from the flora, the fauna, the difficulty level, the weather and just everything in-between be randomly generated. Even the guns in the game will be randomly generated.
Apparently there are 'literally millions' of combinations. Included are rocket launchers, pistols, assault rifles and so on which have a bunch of different stats and attributes (clip size, reload time, DMG, spread, etc) along with, as you might have guessed, rarity values.
And of course, there will be terraforming. Once you make a planet your homeworld, you can interact or examine just about everything.
Everything that makes a planet unique is at your command. Feel like changing the weather? Build a weather centre! Don't like the terrain? Terraform it! Every aspect of the planet is under your control. Once you're happy with it, start populating it with characters you've met in your travels and take care of them! They'll have needs and desires and won't hesitate to ask for your help if they require assistance.
Sounds super ambitious. Starbound is possibly releasing at the start of 2013, but there's no clear release date.
Via Matthew Hall
IGN today reported that Borderlands 2's level cap, currently at 50, will rise sometime in the first three months of next year.
It's not going to come with Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, announced and previewed today. 2K Games told IGN that Gearbox Software still is considering whether to do it as part of a DLC extension or as a separate download.
The studio did both in the original Borderlands in 2010, raising the cap from 50 to 61 with The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and then raising it to 69 with a free update.
Additionally, 2K is said to be thrilled with Borderlands 2's sales performance, and is envisioning a second "season" of DLC after this one concludes. Big Game Hunt will be the third of four promised extensions.
[Editor's note: Below follows our impressions of Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, which releases today. I played the add-on content roughly a month ago, finishing all the main quests and a handful of side quests. This article has also been updated with the new launch trailer.]
We're up to our third campaign add-on for September's wonderfully colorful and gun-filled Borderlands 2. Like the previous two DLCs that focused on one personality—Captain Scarlett followed by Mr. Torgue—Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt leads you into various dangers thanks to one well-articulated individual: Sir Hammerlock.
What was meant to be your weekend shootout expedition with Hammerlock gets sidetracked by Hyperion's Professor Nakayama. See, he was a huge Handsome Jack supporter, and not too keen on the vault hunter(s) who defeated him. So before you can go hunt this new continent's biggest game, you'll have to stop the latest psycho Borderlands has introduced you to.
I've played a good chunk of Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, so I thought I'd share a few details before the newest content releases to the public. Here are some noteworthy highlights.
1. It's Actually Challenging
If you've already completed Borderlands 2's main game, the last two campaign DLCs might have felt like a breeze. They certainly did for me. But Gearbox took notice, and made Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt a hell of a lot tougher. It'll be an actual challenge to fight through mobs of enemies. In fact, you'll have to be at least level 30 just to tackle the thing.
2. New Enemies. More Importantly: A New Enemy Behavior
The more appropriate difficulty scale is partly to do with new enemies, specifically one new enemy type. In Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, you'll be exploring a new continent—called Aegrus—full of mountains and swamps. But Aegrus doesn't just bring a new aesthetic appeal; it's riddled with new enemies, too.
The swampy greens and mountainous browns are overrun by savages. Savages are basically like bandits. They look like headdressed, tattooed, spear-and-shield-equipped bandits. They even evolve like bandits do when you don't kill them fast enough. Midgets still jump up behind you while squealing in that adorably terrifying way. You know the one.
But these tribes of savages doesn't behave exactly like bandits do. Because they've got a chief. Chiefs can heal their friends, themselves, and send out powerful attacks (fire or slag, for instance) to slash at your health bar.
Giving one enemy type this much power means one important difference for you: you'll have to focus all of your gunfire on this target first, unless you want to unload your clip into a bandit-style savage only to see his health bar reset thanks to these pesky witchdoctor-types. They'll buff their friends while debuffing you, which results in nasty effects like slowing you down.
Then there are big, flying things called Spores. They hover above you, dropping mini, kamikaze versions of themselves onto your head. Scaylions are Varkid-like, bug creatures. Together these new enemies make up what feels like a fresh Borderlands experience.
3. New Vehicle That You Can Paint With Lots Of Pretty Colors
I really wish I could tell you the new vehicle is the two-seater motorbike we saw in Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage. And I really wish I didn't have to tell you that the actual new vehicle is a fanboat. The fanboat is all too similar to the sand skiff we saw in Captain Scarlett and Pirate's Booty. Sure, it maneuvers seamlessly between all possible directions within the 360 degree span quite a bit smoother than the sand skiff. And sure, its got a flamethrower and a corrosive acid launcher. But it still controls quite a bit like the sand skiff.
Oh, and there are lots of customization skins for the fanboat that enemies will drop.
4. New Raid Boss. Plus, Bonus!: New...Rare Creatures?
Voracidous is the name of the seraph guardian raid boss that will be the cause of your furrowed eyebrows when you get your hands on Big Game Hunt next month. He's a Stalker, but, fitting with the theme, you'll have to fend off against the Chief that controls him, too. Which, as you can imagine, means there will be other groups of enemies you'll have to deal with.
Then there's Dexidous who will be the cause of one very long, sleepless night fighting through wave after wave of enemies. This "rare" creature will only be summoned after you supply various totems across Aegrus with a hefty ton of precious Eridium. Kill this Drifter and you can pick up Hammerlock-themed (aka hunting-themed) weapons.
5. Loot, Loot, Loot!
Hammerlock/hunting-themed weaponry aside, I found a ton of new weapons to replace my previous favorites. I get attached to my guns, even in a game like Borderlands that encourages you to constantly swap them out for new, shiny ones. But it's hard to argue with the insanely powerful pistols and assault rifles this new DLC throws at you. Did I mention these insanely powerful weapons are also insanely plentiful? By the end of Big Game Hunt, you'll have opened many, many loot chests. More than your feeble little backpack can handle.
Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt releases on January 15. It's covered in the Season Pass, or will be available individually for $9.99.
Borderlands 2 is funny, smart, and gorgeous. The controls are tight, hooking up with other players is a dream, and the PC port is one of the best I've ever seen. The Torgue campaign is hilarious and memorable, just like previous campaigns. It seems like the game's hitting all the right buttons.
My cursor hovers over the Borderlands 2 launcher, the word "Play" enticing me, but, for some reason, I glance at my desktop computer, wishing the hard drive hadn't started death-clicking on me. My Xbox 360, sitting on the shelf above, stares at me forlornly, begging me to return to Assassin's Creed's Constantinople.
I've got to play this, right? Most of my games are sitting on a hard drive I can't afford to replace, and I'm always in the mood for a shooter, so what's stopping me? Why do I feel like I'm obligated to play Gearbox's latest endeavor when I should be looking forward to the experience?
I've been struggling with Borderlands 2 for weeks.
At first, I thought that I might be in some sort of gaming funk. The past few weeks have been extraordinarily stressful for numerous reasons, and I haven't been able to take a break to deal with outstanding health concerns, which is generally the recipe for this kind of malaise. However, if that were true, and this was a funk, I wouldn't have spent two hours the other day playing Assassin's Creed Revelations, nor a few hours earlier in the week playing FTL. I'm enjoying games just fine—it's Borderlands 2 that seems to be the issue.
Humor isn't doing it for me today, and it hasn't been for a few weeks now, though the jokes themselves are often hilarious. Even a month ago, when I was nearing the end of Borderlands 2's Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty DLC, the humor wasn't doing it for me. I'd sigh at yet another hilarious quest prompt, roll my eyes at the latest joke, no matter how funny, and dutifully head off to shoot more pirates.
Actually, I think that might be where the problem lies.
Ask anyone what a Borderlands game is about, and they'll tell you "guns." They'd be wrong. A Borderlands game is no more about the weapons it uses than any other game in its genre. See, while the two main games in the series are played in a first-person perspective, they borrow as much, if not more, from games like Diablo and Torchlight.
Borderlands isn't about guns, it's about loot. And that's a big problem. As I expressed earlier, in Stephen Totilo's wonderful piece on why we like to shoot, the first person perspective can be an incredible one if the game uses it to its strengths. If a shooter treats the game space like as if it's real, players are in for a diverse, intelligent experience.
Borderlands doesn't really do that.
Borderlands isn't about guns, it's about loot. And that's a big problem.
If anything, the game's quite simplistic. The enemy will see you, enter a combat state, and shoot or melee the user. Sometimes, they will take cover, but that's about as far as their intelligence goes. With Borderlands, you don't do much more than point at guys and make the red bars get smaller, which means, to paraphrase the classic GamePro advice, shooting them until they die. Most good shooters go beyond that. In FEAR, they call in reinforcements, flip over tables to create cover, distract you to allow their friends to flank, and it all feels right. In Halo, an Elite will make use of his grunts, turning them into meat shields when his shields pop. In Far Cry 2, putting a sniper round through a mercenary's kneecap will inevitably result in his allies coming to check on him.
These games treat their world as real and their inhabitants more so. They make use of the first-person perspective, of that idea of immersing the player within a world, and they take it as far as they can. Borderlands 2, on the other hand, treats its enemies in distinctly different terms. Its enemies are mobs to be aggroed while you blast them with AOE attacks and whatnot. They're not treated like people inhabiting a space; they're treated like concepts with legs, bipedal ideas given malicious form.
Shoot shoot, bang bang, visual effects. On to the next guy.
A good shooter should feel like a stew of sensory data, feedback, use of space, and artificial intelligence. Everything should fit together in a way that feels right—in a way that somewhat emulates actually being in a space, because that's really what first-person games are all about. It's not just a camera perspective, it's a way of creating a mindset. When a game's too gamified to matter, players feel a disconnect between purpose and place.
Of course, Gearbox could improve the AI, feedback, and level design, but that might not fix everything. The guns, for instance, are random. With any melee game, particularly an isometric title, like Diablo III, varying stats don't really matter all that much. They tend to determine how many numbers pop up when you click on a guy, and little more. With shooters, things are a bit more complex.
The best shooters not only treat space like it's real, but encourage players to explore that game space, thinking about where cover is, where enemies are, where gunfire is going, where their gunfire is going, how to game enemies into different space, and so on and so forth. Any first-person game is at its best when its focusing on movement just as much, if not more so, than combat. That games like Halo, Dishonored, and Mirror's Edge have an appeal is ample evidence of the importance of motion.
In a shooter, one of the best ways to facilitate and vary player movement is to arm the player in different ways. A combination of Halo's Needler and Shotgun will facilitate a distinctly different kind of movement through the game space than a loadout with the DMR and plasma rifle. With a Needler, players can utilize the age-old tactic of "spray and pray," focusing more on movement rather than accuracy, allowing the player to dodge enemy fire and get up close, finishing off stragglers with the shotgun. A player carrying a DMR and plasma rifle might use the latter to pop an Elite's shields, then swap to the DMR and finish it off with a headshot. Other factors, like AI, use of grenades, and line of sight will affect motion as well, but the guns, above everything else, affects the way the player navigates the game's space.
Generally, there's very little intelligence required of the player.
Borderlands doesn't really pay much attention to its guns, because of its devotion to a Diablo-esque combat system. It's too busy thinking about crits and elemental damage to focus on gunplay, so generally, there's very little intelligence required of the player. Just pick the right "build" of weapons (use acid weapons on just about everything), get into cover when your health bar is low, and just point at guys and click on them.
Nothing to it.
And that, I think, is the problem.
I want more out of a shooter, whether it's to toy with the AI and maps, as in Dishonored or Crysis, or to focus on the right weapon combinations and moment-to-moment movements, like Halo or FEAR. I want to have fun playing a shooter, and honestly, I think Borderlands is missing all the core details that make shooters good. The game's at its best when I'm playing with my friends, and given how hectic my schedule has been the past few weeks, that's been next to impossible.
So, here I am, sitting at my computer, finger ready, yet somehow restrained. Borderlands 2, as gorgeous, outrageously funny, and beautifully made as it is, just isn't doing it for me. I sigh, again, ready to click... when I realize I don't have to play it if I don't really want to. I'm not entirely out of love with Borderlands 2. It's pretty much the perfect online co-op game, after all. But for now, I think I'm done riding solo. So, instead, I grin, clicking FTL: Faster Than Light, and prepare to get killed by space pirates.
Rick Burford's childhood discovery that he could modify Microsoft Flight Simulator to allow behaviors the programmers hadn't intended spawned a life-long fascination with video games and their development. Now, he writes about video games and occasionally dabbles with making his own. His Twitter handle is @ForgetAmnesia.
The folks at Gearbox are rarely slackers when it comes to downloadable content, and so far Borderlands 2 has mostly borne that out. We've known for a little bit that the next batch of DLC will be called "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" but beyond that, details have been scarce.
Reddit user MikeTheInfidel has dug deep into the latest update to Borderlands 2 to uncover what looks like a list of features from the "Hammerlock" DLC, including a whole new continent, new vehicle, and of course, new loot.
From the DLC description he uncovered:
Danger! Excitement! Mustaches! It's time for another episode of Vault Hunter Adventures, featuring Sir Hammerlock! In this week's tale, our hard-boiled heroes travel to the savage continent of Aegrus! Their goal? To uncover the most exotic creatures Pandora has to offer, and give 'em the old one-two!
That's a lot! Of exclamation! Marks!
MikeTheInfidel describes Aegrus as a "swamp/jungle continent," which sounds cool (I did enjoy the more tropical feel of some of the areas in the Captain Scarlett DLC), and says it will consist of 5 main story missions and 12 side missions, many of which doled out by Hammerlock himself.
Sounds good. I haven't had a chance to play any Borderlands 2 for a good while now, but it just might be time to head back in. For more info, check out MikeTheInfidel's full Reddit post.