Shack Asks recap - The Battleborn Closed Technical Test, inspirations, balance, community, and more

Members of Battleborn's development team stopped by Shacknews on Saturday morning to talk about their upcoming FPS/MOBA hybrid. For those that missed the Q&A with the Chatty community yesterday, here's a recap.


For those that missed all the went down early Saturday morning, the developers for 2K Games and Gearbox Software's upcoming Battleborn dropped by Shacknews to take questions live from the Chatty community, as well as from various members of the editorial staff. The developers were kind enough to stick around for 90 minutes of Q&A before resuming their packed PAX Prime schedule. Those devs included Battleborn creative director Randy Varnell, art director Scott Kester, concept artist Amanda Christensen, community manager Chris Faylor, and lead writer Aaron Linde.

For those that missed it, here were the main highlights:

  • First and foremost, the Battleborn Closed Technical Test has been announced. Sign-ups are now open on the Battleborn website.
  • While Gearbox hasn't completely moved on to Unreal Engine 4, Battleborn represents Unreal 3 in the most technical of senses. Much of the engine has been completely modified with a few elements brought in from sister series Borderlands.
  • The characters are all love letters to classic characters in some fashion. Christensen describes Battleborn's characters as "Pixar meets anime," while Kester points to childhood inspiration leading to fusion of 2D and 3D animation.
  • The Helix system has been greatly simplified since its original inception. Playtesting and iteration has helped the team realize that match-based FPS games are not the best for complex RPG decision-making, which has even helped the number of skills go down to 10 from the original 20.
  • Varnell later addressed game length. "30 is our typical magic number. Especially in competitive, we find for a FPS if we go beyond that we start to wear down. Of the three Versus modes we have, though, they vary in range from about 10 minutes to a good 25-30 minute average. For Story Missions, they typically run 30-45 minutes, but that time depends a lot on your skill with the game."
  • Modding and map creation is not in the cards just yet, but Varnell has not ruled this out for the future.
  • A lot of love is going into character voices and banter. Linde stated that each character will include roughly 600-700 lines of chatter, which includes character-specific dialogue callouts in both PvP and PvE. Personality will shine through, with Christensen pointing out that Montana and Oscar Mike are super bros, that Reyna hates Phoebe, and that Benedict is in love with himself, as examples. The game will also include a "metric assload of lore," with the team feeling that each of the characters are deep enough to carry a game on their own.
  • Balance isn't easy, but the team is approaching this through level design, well-sight lines, units to objectives, and other perspectives. Among the toughest ideas to address? "How does a melee guy fight a sniper?"
  • Free-to-play was never really on the table, with Varnell noting that the full package feels "chunky" and well worth the asking price. On that note, the team loves what free-to-play can do for a game like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm, but "despise paywalls."
  • A toxic community is a concern to the team, with Varnell citing League of Legends from three to four years ago as an example of a major issue that needed to be addressed. While he points to single-player Story Missions as a big outlet for players, Gearbox is also looking towards actively cultivating its community through the Battleborn forums. The options to mute voice chat is also available.

The full bevy of responses can be found in the Shack Asks Chatty thread. Thanks again to 2K Games and Gearbox for stopping by. Battleborn is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on February 9.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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