previewed on PC
That's a lot of zeroes
It is said that you can't attach a price tag to happiness, but plenty are more than willing to quantify it. Gearbox Software certainly subscribes to that particular school of thought as evidenced by their upcoming title, Borderlands. Classified as a Sci-Fi FPS with RPG elements thrown into the mix to stir things up, Borderlands tries to set itself apart from its contemporaries using a Mad Max inspired setting injected with a bit of Firefly flair. Yet its crowning glory is something seemingly inspired by utter lunacy. Borderlands boasts an unfathomable quantity of weapons for players to decimate their foes with. How many? Well, a rough estimate would find itself somewhere in the vicinity, and likely in excess of, 500,000 unique instruments of death and destruction.
If that sounds excessive, try doubling that number in order to reach the sum total of items available in the game after armor and other various devices are added into the equation. While that may sound impressive, what does it actually translate into for the player?
A collectionist's worst nightmare
Obviously, one of the biggest draws of this game is the staggering number of weapons available for the player's use. Before continuing on how exactly these weapons are being implemented, it is important to put Borderland's arsenal into perspective for the obsessive collectors out there. If every weapon in this game were to be lined up, spaced a scant two seconds apart from each other, and obtaining a weapon were as simple as simply walking over it, it would take approximately eleven and a half days non-stop to collect each weapon present in Borderlands.
Which leads into why one would want to have such an imposing array of weapons to choose from in the first place. Surely each item would be shallow variants of one another, simply offering a base adjustment in terms of such statistics as damage output, rate of fire, and accuracy. Luckily, Borderlands takes matters much further than that, utilizing a robust procedural weapon sequencer. Not only will it modify such attributes as weapon name and basic statistical properties, it will also adjust what can be thought of as the item's genetic makeup.
The sequencer is so powerful that it can lead to some very odd results. One such result surprised even the developers: a revolver pistol that fired shotgun shells. What is special about this is that the sequencer takes into account various parametric values for the weapons appearance, adjusting the physical makeup of the weapon to account for the irregularity. Borderlands Project director Matthew Armstrong also noted a rifle that could track entities and lock on to them. When the weapon was fired and the shell hit its target, it had a three-second delay after which the target would suddenly explode.
Obviously the potential inherent to this system is quite expansive and could easily lead to some overpowering weapons falling into the player's hands. Keeping with the spirit of their sequencer however, Gearbox is refraining from implementing some ham-handed balancing procedure in order to prevent the existence of such theoretical weapons of overpowering destruction. Considering how overzealous balancing can oftentimes cut out the heart and soul of what makes a game fun and exciting, this attitude is refreshing indeed. With all of that in mind, their boasts that players are unlikely to ever see the same weapon twice are far from unlikely.