Borderlands has always been a game about loot. Players collect this loot in the form of equipment; mostly randomly generated guns. Then they use these guns to advance through a mostly linear world, get more level appropriated guns along the way until the final boss fight. Once that’s over, however, what’s the point?
The game encourages farming for better equipment with the sheer amount of possible guns that can exist within the game. But apart from telling a story, Borderlands 2 lacked purpose. Players were collecting guns for the sake of collecting guns. The question of “Why do I want better equipment” remained unanswered.
But that’s only one of the areas that can use improvement. With E3 2017 upon us, and a bunch of hints of an impending Borderlands 3 reveal around the internet, I’d like to share some criticisms, suggestions, and ideas that I think can make a good game a great game.
Let’s get this out of the way. I wrote a piece a while ago discussing why almost any game can benefit from customizable difficulty options. I mentioned Borderlands as a prime example. Perhaps on a first playthrough, the difficulty should remain on default settings, in order for the player to progress through the story as the developer intended. But there is no reason an experienced player shouldn’t be able to tailor the game’s difficulty, and be rewarded with better loot equal to how difficult the game is made.
Borderlands lacks any kind of real risk. Dying only means respawning with less money. But, money in Borderlands is almost completely meaningless. Players can use it to buy new guns, equipment and ammo. But ammo isn’t scarce, the best equipment you receive as drops or in chests, and money itself is so easily acquired that you hardly ever think about it. A Borderlands game also tends to feature several optional ‘dungeons’ and bosses, with the perceived award for success to be rare loot. But, this is not always the case and you end up with useless garbage.
How about this idea? There are optional dungeons where you’re guaranteed at least one super rare pearlescent item. But both the boss fight and the enemies you encounter along the way are extremely tough. There are no checkpoints along the way; if you die you get sent back to the very beginning, all enemies respawn, but you don’t lose any money. At the entrance of the dungeon there’s the vending machines, and access to your bank storage. You’ll need this because if you die you lose all the equipment you had on you. Or Gearbox can save all this and only use it on…
At first I thought about Gearbox adding new instances like destiny, and they can still do that. They can also make certain dungeons on the map change every time you visit them. But what might be even more beneficial is giving the players the power to continuously amuse themselves with new content. Pick an area type, enemy type to encounter, configure the difficulty options for better loot probability the harder you make it, and put those algorithms to work. Better to always have something new to tackle with your friends besides more of the same. Which is also why it’d be a good idea to have…
A regular ol’ deathmatch mode has been done before in the first Borderlands. But it was done irresponsibly. There was no accounting for players’ level or equipment. Borderlands isn’t a game that suits a mode like deathmatch. It could work, but with limitations. Every player would have to be the same level, and the weapons would have to be randomized pick ups. A better idea I thought would be to do something Borderlands is quite good at. Parody.
An entire DLC worth parody was released in the form of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. I think that Borderlands can work out quite well as an FPS MOBA. On its surface of course it should be presented as making fun of the ever growing MOBA scene. But as far as I can tell, Borderlands contains most of the necessary ingredients. An extensive list of characters to choose from, all with unique skills to choose from as players level up from level one each game, creeps in the form of bandits and other creatures, it could even find a way to incorporate the vehicles. I think this can work and it can draw in a much larger crowd for Borderlands. However, I don’t play MOBAs myself, So I’d very much like to discuss this with someone who does. That’s what the comments section is for.
Such a multiplayer mode won’t allow you to show off any guns or equipment you managed to find during your play. But there is one area that can satisfy a player’s need to be noticed, if fleshed out a bit…
Borderlands 2 gave players more and more items to customize their characters with. But only for different colors and heads. It’s okay to limit the customization to these 2 categories. What I’m advocating for is to not make all the options as easy to find as money. You barely have to think about it and you end up with the majority of the options. If you can’t show off a gun to a random stranger online, then at least you can go the Team Fortress 2 route and show off with a nice hat.
But for the love of god almighty, no microtransactions. If you want to charge players a buck fifty for a head of a chicken wearing a party hat, fine, I can live with that. But the truly valuable skins and heads should be placed, not behind pay walls, but behind play walls. (I’ve been waiting to use that for so long, you have no idea…). “You managed to defeat Crawmerax the invincible’s long lost uncle’s third cousin twice removed, using only hyperion made SMGs, on shields only mode. You are awarded this exclusive nightcap made from the monster’s scrotum and left testicle as proof of this victory.”
Players can also be given exclusive and limited items for attending events. But for that, Gearbox would actually need to have more…
Back in my runescape days, even when I wasn’t playing as much anymore, I would still show up for any events that were held. It usually involved a holiday of some kind, like christmas. But the point was to collect certain decorative items that were only given away during this time. It made me keep coming back.
Community events can go a long way in maintaining a large player base. Even if it’s simple daily or weekly challenges, if you make the pay-off worth it, people will come. That’s what you want isn’t it, Gearbox? Nobody wants another Battleborn situation on their hands.
But what do you want, humble reader? Do I have the right ideas or am I an ignorant fool?