299: The Bolshevik in the Borderlands

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Gothic II and Two Worlds are mainstream? Well knock me over with a feather!

Dastardly:

Jonas Kyratzes:
The Bolshevik in the Borderlands

"Mainstream" games can be popular, profitable - and pretty damn brilliant. Maybe it's time you let yourself enjoy them.

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Ah, yes, the old "if people like it, it can't be good," chestnut. I appreciate hearing an indie developer speak up against it.

It's the same old thing that's been happening in the music scene since forever: a no-name band is loved by local fans, makes it big, and the fans abandon them as "sell-outs." The elitist fan that punishes the success of the band.

A game like Borderlands actually does a better job of conveying its art than many "artsy" games, as is the case with many movies. It puts the art there and allows you to find it, if you're looking... but it doesn't beat you in the face with it. There's an age-old idea that those who truly have power don't have to prove it. I think the same is true for artistic merit.

*clap* you said it all for me :) *bow*

I wish more people could just think like that and enjoy a good game, even if it`s "casual".

I loved Borderlands - played through multiple times with multiple characters.

The fact that I was willing to spend so much time in the game world is a good indication that I found some depth and satisfaction in being there...

Great article, totally agree.
I'm trying to stem my fanatical vices, such as those displayed by LiftYourSkinnyFists:

LiftYourSkinnyFists:
Four pages of pure pretentiousness, I'd say I admire you but there was just too much of it to find it funny.

I loved Dark Messiah of Might and Magic!
Just read that "Dark Messiah had awesome combat and the people who made Dark Messiah are DIRECTLY involved in the development of TES V"
Zenimax acquires DMoMM developers Arkane:
http://arkane-studios.com/uk/home.php
Excellent :)

I actually spent a lot of time poking around the little corners and cubbyholes of Pandora, wanting to find more about the planet's history and why all these corporations had set up shop and then up and left, abandoning loads of people to try to make do on a barren rock going through a twenty-year megasummer. The graffiti I found the most telling- phrases like "Death's the only way home" and "In Gun We Trust" showed off the fatalistic desperation that afflicted 99% of Pandora's population. Tannis showed how the place could turn a brilliant-if-egocentric scientist into a schizophrenic who'll hand over her underwear to a guy who lives in a scrap yard; the only people not ground down to a depressed pulp- T.K., Marcus and Scooter- went overboard in the other direction, heading down the "Laughing Mad" highway pell-mell and not looking back.

And like someone else said, it's not like any of the protagonists are paragons of sanity and virtue either. Even Roland struck me as being sort of "off" sometimes, let alone Mordecai's disturbing giggles when he scores headshots.

Seriously, guy gave me the creeps and I was PLAYING him.

Colleen Clinkenbeard's performance as Tannis made Borderlands awesome for me.

This is getting quite odd, but did the Escapist just hire a troll?

I've been (and still am) sick recently, so I've had time to play some games I never really got into. Borderlands is one of them. I bought the full edition with all DLC and it - as you say ROCKS! I'm level 19 or 20 and doing Zombie Island of Dr Ned. It's so much fun, and on the main storyline I'm half way through the game. I adore it.

Levethian:
Great article, totally agree.
I'm trying to stem my fanatical vices, such as those displayed by LiftYourSkinnyFists:

LiftYourSkinnyFists:
Four pages of pure pretentiousness, I'd say I admire you but there was just too much of it to find it funny.

I loved Dark Messiah of Might and Magic!
Just read that "Dark Messiah had awesome combat and the people who made Dark Messiah are DIRECTLY involved in the development of TES V"
Zenimax acquires DMoMM developers Arkane:
http://arkane-studios.com/uk/home.php
Excellent :)

You, sir, seriously just made my day. Thank you :D

Siege_TF:
I wondered why I enjoyed playing Borderlands, then I realized it was like FFXI, except Borderlands is less tedious because it doesn't fluff itself out with unreasonable travel time.

Chocobo Mazurka FTW =p

I enjoyed Borderlands and need to get back into it, it's just that I picked up the GOTY and all my friends played at launch and have characters around 55 so I've been playing solo.

I'm pretty sure it would be a blast to play with friends though. I loved planning out my character and he's totally built for Coop strangely enough.

SextusMaximus:
I've been (and still am) sick recently, so I've had time to play some games I never really got into. Borderlands is one of them. I bought the full edition with all DLC and it - as you say ROCKS! I'm level 19 or 20 and doing Zombie Island of Dr Ned. It's so much fun, and on the main storyline I'm half way through the game. I adore it.

Ahh.. I also got the GOTY but wasn't sure at what levels I could hop into the DLC at so i've only been focusing on the main storyline. I've been doing at the quests available so it's taking me time to get anywhere, around level 28 I believe at the moment.

Is this an article about one of your articles? Slow news day or something?

I thought Borderlands was atrocious, myself. I got sick of shooting Jason Vorhees a hundred paces back. The game felt so hollow. Bland deserts, bland enemies, and no characters. The crazy chick, while trying to inject a minor resemblance of personality into the world, only served to be irritating and i had real trouble taking her seriously. It felt like an NPC that had schizophrenia due to lazy and extraneous writing, not from the result of any direct effort. The only character with any virtue of place were the Claptraps who were delightfully amusing, if somewhat too cheerful, robots. They carried the lion's share of the game's craft for me; if it weren't for them i'd have found nothing to like about Borderlands. I felt i had little sense of direction, no real motivation to advance the story. No information about the world, no real NPCs to interact with. A hollow shooting experience with RPG elements. But hey, that's just me. It feels like a bit of a hard sell to compare this "indie games are art" with "mainstream games are also art" divide to Bolshevism. Mainstream games can of course be art. What about Bioshock? People made no bones about declaring that to be an almighty work of art celebrating and ultimately criticising Ayn Rand's ideas.

Dear Jonas,

you say it's wrong to be fanatical about indie games and to point a finger at the industry, but then again you point your own finger at people who do so, and seem to be quite fanatical about that yourself.

There's always people out there who like to shoot their guns just because - and that just go with the flow (or trend) on who should be bashed next. But those are fellow-runners, and not the people who started it in the first place.

Indie gaming always has existed, next to the industry. Hobby projects, shareware, modding, etc. - all that stuff did already exist, long before the term "indie developer" has been coined. There always have been people making games who did not want to make it their full time job, or that did want to, but weren't able to get the job they wanted. (The latter probably being those who really started that verbal bashing habit, out of being disappointed...)

The big question is, why - all of a sudden - indie gaming does get that much attention, and why suddenly the fellow-runners (who just like to shoot their guns) decided (following a common notion) to take on the gaming industry. Indie gaming does exist even longer as there is an industry to speak of, and it always harbored people disappointed by the industry (and verbal about it). Why did it become viral just exactly now?

It's all connected to the sudden growth of the market. Computer gaming is going through it's transformation from being a niche market, to becoming common amongst all ages, classes and genders - and finally being officially proclaimed a part of our culture, just like TV/Movies and Books are too.

The market has grown a lot, and so has the amount of money that resides in that market. But the risks (for investors/publishers) have grown too. Game budgets have become ridiculously expensive, and there are more games failing to amortize that investment, than there are games actually becoming profitable. And like all other big industries, the gaming industry has become totally centered on shareholder profits. Losing/firing your star game designer can have a devastating impact on the stock quotation. To be on the save side, publisher may not allow to become any of their designers a star. Developers a bought up, held under tight control, and anyone on the team is kept replaceable - so that even in the worst case, you are always able to continue a lucrative franchise.

The side-effect of that is, that creativity gets chocked, any eagerness to experiment is suppressed. The games produced become just as exchangeable and replaceable as the developers that make them. The industry has turned to mostly mass-producing sequels and prequels of ideas made by development studios that once where creative before they got bought up and where made replaceable. And as the number of developer studios that potentially could be bought up dwindled rapidly, so did the creative drive of the industry.

Stale shovelware has become the norm, the jewels in-between have become very rare. People have attuned to that. As the scale for innovation became smaller and smaller, people learned to spot and enjoy much more diminutive amounts of it. People started to claim that games already where so evolved and developed, that it was utterly impossible to have as much experimentation and innovation as in the early days. Everything has become much more fine-grained, which is only a sign of how much games have grown up. Just think about how different the first types of cars where from each other, and how much similar they all have become - in terms of technology they are using inside.

Well and then suddenly some - more cheaply produced - games came along that totally proved that theory was wrong, by showing just how much new ideas and innovation still was possible, even today.

And that is when - and why - people started to turn on the industry. Not because of fanaticism or because they didn't play/buy any AAA titles any more. Not because they really thought indie games where better in all regards or should overtake the industry completely. But because they wanted the industry to see and realize what it was lacking! They wanted their industry, their big budget AAA titles, to occasionally deliver that kind of game, that has the power to become an instant cult classic. That unprecedented one-of-a-kind jewel that has a lasting impact, and is not exchangeable/replaceable. Because no matter how shiny the jewels of the indie developers may be - they are diamonds in the rough - and mostly lack the polish that many people have come to expect from a game.

So what will happen in the future? Indies will sprout and some of them will become successful and turn into full-fledged commercial developer studios. Those will then getting bought up by the industry giants again, enabling them to get their hands onto innovative ideas again. (And on new cult franchises they can then churn out sequels for). And then everyone will be happy again, and the fellow-runners will find someone else to point their guns at.

one of the best articles i have read on a game.
Loved it!

Hyper-space:

But anarcho-communist? in what universe would this ever work? thats like saying you are a pipe-dreamer.

It'd work great if you had a nanoreplicator and all material goods became post-scarcity! Until then, anarcho-capitalism is the way to go!

Great game? Get your head out...

It was a fun game, yeah. But certainly not "GREAT!!!!111".

My problem with the game and it's developer was that they made a 4 player co-op game that had ZERO chat support, piss poor voice comms and terrible lag. Additionally, it had an appalling match-maker system and a horrible and broken lobby/search for co-op game system.

Thus, one could argue the entire POINT of the game was deemed almost null and void at zero day.

Get a grip, lol. This game had one play through from me on single player mode, then uninstall after I found out co-op was next to useless.

The ending of Borderlands is absolutely terrible any way you slice it - it's disappointing to the average gamer because it's anti-climactic. It's disappointing to the narratively-aware gamer because it makes the villain the game has been developing the WHOLE TIME irrelevant in favor of a random space worm.

When the story spends time familiarizing us with a villain, they are making a promise to the player that at some point they are going to need to know who he is and kill him. When something else kills him, it shatters the promise.

It hardly ruins the game, but it's a stunningly bad decision. Borderlands really is fantastic. Gearbox just needs to not let code monkeys get in on the story-boarding.

I mean, honestly, no writer comes up with 'space worm eats major villain. fight space worm' as an ending. It goes against every instinct a storyteller should have. Programmers do not have the storyteller's instinct...

Namewithheld:

Hyper-space:

But anarcho-communist? in what universe would this ever work? thats like saying you are a pipe-dreamer.

It'd work great if you had a nanoreplicator and all material goods became post-scarcity! Until then, anarcho-capitalism is the way to go!

Dunno if sarcasm, but anarcho-capitalism wouldn't work either. As seriously, most of our problems stem from the fact that corporations are dicks and lack of regulation, this would only exacerbate ALL of our problems by removing the only entity that (at least, partially) defends us from said dicks.

Hyper-space:

Namewithheld:

Hyper-space:

But anarcho-communist? in what universe would this ever work? thats like saying you are a pipe-dreamer.

It'd work great if you had a nanoreplicator and all material goods became post-scarcity! Until then, anarcho-capitalism is the way to go!

Dunno if sarcasm, but anarcho-capitalism wouldn't work either. As seriously, most of our problems stem from the fact that corporations are dicks and lack of regulation, this would only exacerbate ALL of our problems by removing the only entity that (at least, partially) defends us from said dicks.

Ah, but the question is: Would corporations EXIST at all without governmental intervention. One of the first corporations ever, the East India Company, was created via royal charter.

But, ya know, the government will keep telling us it'll protect us from monsters it made by giving them tax breaks and payoffs while they pay them off to pass laws to make their lives easier...

I loved the idea behind Brick.

He traveled to Pandora in search of his sister, and frankly I find that adorable as hell.
Proud of the guy for doing that too.

I keep people referring it as "Diablo with Gun" as if it is a bad thing.
Personally, I love the game and have all the DLC installed and played.

Brainst0rm:

I mean, honestly, no writer comes up with 'space worm eats major villain. fight space worm' as an ending. It goes against every instinct a storyteller should have. Programmers do not have the storyteller's instinct...

LMAO dude! im a full on borderlands fan but this is really funny and well stated

Namewithheld:
Ah, but the question is: Would corporations EXIST at all without governmental intervention. One of the first corporations ever, the East India Company, was created via royal charter.

Without monopoly laws, then yes, corporations would probably still exists.

But, ya know, the government will keep telling us it'll protect us from monsters it made by giving them tax breaks and payoffs while they pay them off to pass laws to make their lives easier...

"Hey, lets throw the baby out with the bathwater!"

To abolish any and all government would only exacerbate the problem, sure the current form of government is not perfect in its defense of common man, but to give corporations COMPLETE control over whether or not they are going to dump their waste into our drinking water or use child labor (to name a few examples) is stupid.

The problem with government is that there is not enough prevention of private-interest, hell look at the US, the supreme court has ruled that corporations (those people with billions of dollars and a profit motive) can now spend UNLIMITED amount of money on campaigns, without having to give full disclosure.

I really liked this article. It says something that a lot of people know subconsciously, but can't quite come up with: Art doesn't have to be in your face. Little touches, here and there, make a big difference.

I love Borderlands to death. I think it's my favourite game of all time. I got literally hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of it.
That said, this article made exactly one point point that hasn't either been made multiple times or is blindingly obvious: The landscape tells a story.

So uh, good job, I guess?

Love how you framed your ideas. Great text!

Fiz_The_Toaster:
I love Borderlands and the characters made it even more enjoyable. Tannis is hilarious with all her insane ramblings and Scooter was actually pretty funny too at times.

I try and tell people how awesome this game is, unfortunately the people I know are not that much of a fan for this type of game, yeah I know you have to search for the good stuff, but it's totally worth it.

I know what you mean, once you start finding decent weapons, it gets really addictive - but not in a typical loot grabbing way. I find myself only taking guns that are worth a lot of money, or are good enough to replace one of mine. I do prefer to play split screen 2 player mode, because that way you can put dibs on a decent weapon - like keep an eye on the other player, to see what loot they're getting. We played it using a projector, so the half-screen wouldn't be a problem, it looks bloomin awesome through it thanks to the chunky and defined graphics.

I can't wait til September for Borderlands2, in fact I've started playing Borderlands again, to tide me over - it's funny how easy it is to forget how great it is.

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