Borderlands:The Loot Lottery

 By Shamus Feb 27, 2012 171 comments

splash_borderlands.jpg

One advantage of running blog is that – unlike a major gaming site – I can spend time talking about three year old games, or ten year old games, or whatever else strikes my fancy. I am not obliged to be forever chasing the horizon with regards to new releases. In a recent post, Leslee Beldotti asked this about Borderlands 2:

Nooooooooo! For the love of all that’s only sort of holy, why on earth would you want more guns???

A reasonable question. I mean, there were millions of possible guns in Borderlands. Why add more to Borderlands 2?

borderlands_loot2.jpg

Borderlands is a strange beast. On the surface it seems like your typical empowerment fantasy: You are a singular force of destruction, slaughtering your way through beasts and bandits that are so uncompromisingly evil that you can feel like your killing is a public service. See also: Serious Sam, Doom, Quake, Painkiller, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Homefront, Prey, Resistance, Killzone, etc etc etc. You can dominate like a badass and feel virtuous at the same time.

But underneath all the shooting is a game more like Diablo, which is a looting system that hooks into our hunter-gatherer instincts and drives players to search and hoard. You’re foraging for firearms, basically. It also hooks into typical gambling compulsions. (Which may actually be the same thing. I don’t know enough to argue about it. I’ll leave that to the behaviorists.)

borderlands_loot1.jpg

Now, I am not a gambler, but I “get” the feedback loop that leads to gambling. I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but I’ve played a few of those scratch-and-[not-]win deals that come free with fast food. I’ve never put money into a slot machine, but I’ve played them in videogames. There’s a very clear cycle of anticipation, reveal, resolution, and invitation to repeat.

With slots, there’s a build-up of sound, light, and tactile feedback that’s as carefully engineered as any Popcap game, to make the experience as stimulating as possible. The player pulls the lever and gets the welcoming sensory input as the game begins. Then the spinners are slowly revealed. Sure, the machine could just reveal all three at once. In fact, it could simply reveal the whole thing instantly as soon as you drop your coin in. But the slow reveal has the effect of building anticipation. Note that with both slots and scratch-off tickets, the player is never a complete loser until all of the pieces are revealed. Even if the first two are duds, the third can still lead to a desirable outcome, so there’s never a reason to walk away. After the resolution, the game might give some minor payout (even if it’s just a portion of what you paid to play) that can feel like a “win”. (If the game resolved as soon as you dropped your money in, then shoving in $2 and getting $1 in return would feel like a loss. But the game lets you mentally let go of the $2 before you get the $1 payout. You were down two dollars while the game was in play, so the final result is that you feel better off, not worse.)

If there is a huge space of outcomes, then the player can be left with the impression that they “nearly” won.

“Hey, I got two of a kind! Man, if only that last slot had matched, I’d be rich! I was so close!”

Of course, there are astronomically more configurations of matching-two than matching-three, but the feedback loop creates this sense of near misses, which invites the player to keep trying.

borderlands_loot4.jpg

As I said: I don’t gamble, but I feel all of these responses even when playing the risk-free videogame equivalents. I can understand the desire to gamble, even if I abstain. Some people talk about gambling in terms of “I don’t gamble because I’m not bad at math.” While it’s true that gambling is a terrible way to make money (second only to burning it) it is still a form of entertainment for some. To boil this down: Some people are “good at math”, but gamble anyway because the activity is incredibly stimulating to their particular mental makeup. They know they can’t win, but keep doing it because it tickles the risk / reward areas of the brain.

Other people are completely immune to this system of action & response. It doesn’t create tension. It doesn’t release endorphin into the bloodstream and it doesn’t entertain them. They may or may not understand the math behind the activity, but it doesn’t mater because the activity doesn’t compel them to play.

This risk / payoff loop is also present in Borderlands. When discussing loot, there are several classes of weapons with increasing levels of rarity:

  1. WHITE: Utter trash. Fill your inventory up with this junk and sell it off. You find this stuff constantly.
  2. GREEN: Common, unremarkable. You find this stuff on a regular basis.
  3. BLUE: A bit rare, and generally a cut above green weapons. You’ll find a blue every few minutes.
  4. PURPLE: Now we’re talking. Danged hard to find, but usually purple stuff has very impressive stats. You might find purples about once or twice an hour.
  5. ORANGE: Very rare, but designed to have exceptional stats. Depending on your level, you might play for a few game sessions without ever seeing a single orange.

Every firearm has a number of properties associated with it: Fire rate, damage output, accuracy, magazine capacity, reload speed, recoil. Then there are other properties that only apply in special situations: Elemental damage, bonus melee damage, extra critical damage, ammo regeneration, and scope zoom strength. These numbers are rolled randomly, but based on the level and color of the item.

borderlands_loot6.jpg

A slot machine could be engineered to deliver a simple, instantaneous win / loss response the moment you push the button. Even if it had the same probabilities of payouts, the game would be completely boring and flat. Likewise, Borderlands could make a bunch of same-y guns that all have a straightforward “damage per second” number. But by making all of these complex trade-offs, all weapons feel radically different to use, and most guns will have interesting properties that will make them seem like an “almost winner”. Oh man, the damage output on this gun is phenomenal, and the accuracy is really good. Too bad the magazine only holds 2 shots and it takes so long to reload.

This color-coding creates a pattern of highs and lows in the series of drops. If you recorded the colors of the drops, it might look something like this:

borderlands_loot5.jpg

(As an aside: Who came up with this color-coding scheme? White, green, blue, purple, orange? Why not have them in some sort of rainbow order? Or follow the red, yellow, green “thermometer” logic? MMOG’s like World of Warcraft do this same thing, although their specific colors vary. It seems like it would make more sense to have a system of colors where the user could intuit “good” from “better” without needing to consult a list.)

How does this extreme-damage, low accuracy weapon compare to this precision weapon with moderate damage? Does this corrosive damage bonus make up for the low fire rate on this gun? Does the high recoil on this gun negate the bonus of having so many extra rounds in the magazine? The answer (of course) is, “it depends”. If you find an interesting weapon, the best thing to do is to blast a few mooks with it and see how it goes.

Every guy you blast is like pulling the arm on a slot machine. (Will I get anything?) Every drop is like seeing that first slot wheel line up in a favorable position. (Did I win something good?) And checking out each drop is like seeing the game resolve itself. (Dang. I didn’t hit the jackpot. But I came close! The next one could REALLY be a winner!)

borderlands_loot3.jpg

Blam! Blam! Blam! What did I win?

So to answer the question of “Why would you need MORE guns?” is that it should make the looting mechanics deeper and more interesting. It’s like one of those lotteries that tout “There are so many ways to win!”

The key here is that these additional guns needs to look, feel, sound, and perform differently, which means adding more variety to the procedural gun generation. Borderlands doesn’t use the Diablo system of assigning random stats to the same-looking sword graphic. Weapons are generated from component parts, and each part controls some aspect of the weapons performance. From the Borderlands wiki:

The red pen is mine.  Think the misuse of the word "clip" is so universal that the new meaning will eventually supplant the old terminology. This isn't like saying, "ATM Machine", where most people are aware that they're being incorrect but the wrong way just feels right. "Clip" is used in movies, books, and (most of all) videogames to such a degree that very few people are even aware that the term "magazine" <em>exists</em> in this context. You can correct people as much as you like, but language is shaped by the masses.
The red pen is mine. Think the misuse of the word "clip" is so universal that the new meaning will eventually supplant the old terminology. This isn't like saying, "ATM Machine", where most people are aware that they're being incorrect but the wrong way just feels right. "Clip" is used in movies, books, and (most of all) videogames to such a degree that very few people are even aware that the term "magazine" exists in this context. You can correct people as much as you like, but language is shaped by the masses.

This was a smart move on the part of the developers. By varying shape, texture, coloring, and behavior, you can get a lot of meaningfully different guns out of the system. The regular turnover of weapons keeps the gunplay fresh (by the standards of a shooter) and means you’re “winning” new upgrades on a regular basis.

This is one of the reasons they refer to “bajillions” of weapons. I can’t find a source for this, but I seem to remember that before launch they were actually attempting to quantify how many guns were possible. This gets into all sort of messy questions like “What makes a gun unique?” If I have two weapons made of the same parts, at the same level, with the same bonuses, and the same coloring scheme, but one does 550 damage and the other does 549 damage, is it really honest to count them as different weapons? If Baskin-Robbins had this giant tub of ice cream that began as chocolate on one side and gradually faded to vanilla on the other, how many “flavors” do they have? One? Two? A hundred? Rather than haggling over if “10% faster loading speed” is perceptibly different from “12% faster loading speed”, it’s better to just make up some huge (but fictitious) number and call it a day.

(I’m a big fan of “OMGillions” myself.)

Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people play Borderlands for the gunplay. Or the co-op. Or for the setting and humor. But if you’re perplexed by the seemingly endless shower of random guns that interrupts your gameplay, this might help explain why.

borderlands_loot8.jpg

I have no idea what just happened, but I can’t wait to find out what I won.


A Hundred!20202011Many comments. 171, if you're a stickler


  1. One thing that didn’t make it into the video is that not only there are more guns, but this time they will handle differently depending on the manufacturer, and other elements.
    Because a big complaint about the first one is that all those guns are quite similar to one another.

    • Xakura says:

      They did handle differently in the first game too. I was always on the lookout for Dahl battle rifles, and would use a blue Dahl over a higher level purple pretty much anythin else. (Hyperion was good too, but typically single shot with low ammo capacity.)

      • Michael says:

        The weapons were distinct, but they didn’t actually play differently. There were basically three kinds of combat rifles, Full auto bullet hoses, three round burst rifles, and one shot stompers.

        While the manufacturers each had a distinct set of values, there wasn’t really a difference between say, an Atlas Combat Rifle and a Vladoff beyond stats. They’d play and operate basically the same. And usually in the bullet hose department Vladoff would come out on top because of their magazine capacities.

        The problem was, fundamentally, there are only about 20 different weapons in Borderlands, and most of those are only apparent to people who specialize in that weapon proficiency, not counting the odd mutant gun, where the stats were, well, weird, like the full auto sniper rifle I had kicking around for a while.

        In a game where you go through thousands of weapons, the variety gets a bit stale after a while.

        EDIT: For reference there were only about 400 actual distinct weapons in Borderlands, at least according to the strat guide, the rest were stat soup variants.

        EDIT 2: The page that diagram of the weapon pieces comes from claims the total final headcount was 15m, Shamus. In case you were actually still wondering.

        In another weirdness, it also actually gets the terminology right in the key for that diagram, calling it a magazine… but not in the diagram itself…

        • Dys says:

          The annoying part of all that is, in the original plans for Borderlands, before it turned into the cartoon parody of itself, the guns were customisable. Each of those parts in the diagram would be unique, and affect the gun in different ways, and you could take them apart and make something which was personal to you.

          Then at some point that turned into this fps diablo thing, which may well be more fun than the alternative, but was really not the bleak, personal game I was hoping for.

          Personally I ended up playing the soldier mostly, and the bullet hoses outperformed anything else I could find by far, particularly since talents buff their ammo capacity to the point where you almost never reload.

          • Kdansky says:

            Reloading was a huge issue though. Most guns had incredibly little ammo (when I played anything not soldier this became really glaring), rather fast fire rate and slow reload times. With shotguns, you’d literally spend more time reloading than shooting.

            And please, dear developers: DO NOT MOVE MY SCREEN during reload.

          • MintSkittle says:

            I was really disappointed that gun customization didn’t make it into Borderlands. That was one of the major reasons that convinced me to buy it.

            Also, anyone remember this trailer?

            http://www.gametrailers.com/video/vga-trailer-borderlands/28772

            I kinda wish we got that game.

            • Thom Mollinga says:

              That looks like a completely different game… What’s the story behind that trailer? It looks lovely, but more like any other cinematic in a game… I love the cartoony style of Borderlands :)

              • MintSkittle says:

                That was the first trailer for Borderlands. As I understand it, the story and gameplay were very similar to what it ended up as, just that it would have been much more realistic looking, and much more serious in tone.

                • Winter says:

                  I actually really like the way the game turned out, tone-wise. There are still some serious moments, but killing superserious ultramutants continuously would get boring.

                  I do wish they would have done something about the Vault, though. Like, cool it’s a “trick”. It’s not like i was not expecting a trick? But at the same time, they were building up the aliens and all this stuff and i really wanted to see what sort of completely alien “vault” environments they could come up with, because it sounded really cool. I didn’t care about the guns/etc… i just wanted to see the inside.

                  Maybe i’m not the target audience, though.

  2. Deadyawn says:

    I fit into the “I don’t get gambling” bit myself. A slot machine or a lottery ticket just seems like a really boring way for me to lose money. Cards are better because it’s actually kind of fun. It’s a game and there’s a (small) measure of skill involved. Still, I’m not really much of a gambler anyway.

    As far as borderlands is concerned, I didn’t really enjoy it very much. I still felt the haorder impulse, very similar to that in bethesda RPGs but there wasn’t the necessary context and or gameplay to back it up. I got bored of it very quickly.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “It’s a game and there’s a (small) measure of skill involved.”

      Depends on the game actually.With poker,there is quite a bit of skill involved.Especially if you arent playing in a place with a separate dealer.

      • swenson says:

        If it’s a “gambling game” such as poker or blackjack, I’d play that because I figure there’s at least some skill involved. Buying lottery tickets or playing slots, though, just don’t appeal to me at all. Perhaps because I’ve never played them, I dunno.

        This carries over into videogames, too. I’ll play endless rounds of Pazaak or whatever other variety of Space/Fantasy Poker Blackjack a game comes up with, but usually I’m bored after my first try at slots-type gambling games.

        • Dys says:

          I think some people simply don’t separate out the experience so much. I tend to analyze a pull on a slot machine across the whole experience, including the loss at the beginning. If I end up with less money than I had when I started, well that was a stupid thing to do.

    • blue_painted says:

      There’s quite a lot of skill involved in contract bridge :-)

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        To the point where among really skilled players, it rolls back to a game of luck, at the deal. Because almost never will anyone make a mistake, always play to the best odds, and within a trick or two after the bidding is done, everyone knows what everyone else has in their hands.

    • Deoxy says:

      A slot machine or a lottery ticket just seems like a really boring way for me to lose money.

      Over an infinite number of plays, yes. Scratchoffs and the like work this way, as any won money will eventually just go back into the game.

      Lottery tickets in theory also work this way, but in practice, most people simply lose money, but a very few get so much money at once that it completely changes their life. They no longer have any incentive to play, so the rules change.

      As such, the lottery ticket can be viewed as an odd kind of anti-insurance, where most people do indeed lose money, but you actually WANT to be in the “getting money” end instead of hoping to lose money (like any sane person would with any reasonable insurance policy).

      It’s a game and there’s a (small) measure of skill involved.

      For some games, it’s fairly small, but for many gambling cards games (especially before they started using multiple decks at once, etc), the level of skill involved was very influential on monetary outcome. Any one hand falls largely to chance, but there are (skilled) ways to minimize monetary damage from those.

      There’s a reason poker champions rise to the top in large tournaments every bloody time, and depending on chance is not one of them.

      • Sumanai says:

        I’ve heard, from two unrelated sources that still could’ve used the same data, that lottery winners start buying new tickets soon afterwards. Usually the money is too much to handle mentally for them, so they spend it all very quickly.

  3. Zaxares says:

    Ehh, I’ll pass. I was never a fan of Diablo’s randomised weaponry. I prefer my games to have pre-set items that I can meticulously record in my game journal/on the Wiki and make sure to nab it on all my subsequent playthroughs.

    • Eric says:

      Interestingly, Diablo the First actually had mostly preset items that were set to drop at fairly regular intervals. The loot itself wasn’t randomized so much as just the drop locations. It was only with Diablo II that Blizzard went to town with all the random modifiers on weapons and put the impetus for play on looting rather than actually finishing the game.

      Sadly this was also something most action-RPGs latched onto and to this day we really have not had good loot in most of them. I mean, really, when The Witcher is the best example I can think of loot-wise, you know something’s wrong.

      • The problem with randomized equipment is not the “random statistics” but the lack of in-game context. In some games you have a “human randomized” (or “designed”) set of equipment. It usually fits in with the story, the game world, and character histories, etc. But it still comes down to a designer making decisions about item names, stats, etc.
        The problem with “computer randomized” equipment sets is that, though the set is much larger, it usually it doesn’t have as much tie-in with the rest of the game world. I think the best would be a “randomizer” that took into account where the item was found, and invented a history for it. NPCs might recognize it had been previously owned by other NPCs, or comment on its unusual abilities. As it is, the weapons are generated entirely without context.

        Also, do borderlands Mooks actually use the weapons that they drop? That would be pretty sweet. I’m guessing not though.

        • Shamus says:

          Not all foes drop weapons (I suppose we can assume most mooks are carrying horrible weapons that aren’t worth looking at) but if they do drop a weapon, they do in fact use it. It’s actually kind of cool when someone starts pounding you with something nasty – you know you’re about to get a prize. :)

          • Alan says:

            I remember the first “boss” I ran into. I think he’s got a little evil base in a canyon just outside of the first town? I wandered into his base expecting someone on par with the mooks I’d been killing. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember, “Oh, there is he is. OH GOD THE PAIN RUN AWAY.” It was a brutal fight, but I got a sweet gun out of it.

            • Shrikezero says:

              That was Bonehead. The questline sends you after him almost always too early. Once I got high enough, I’d make a point of kicking his @ss everytime I was anywhere near Fyrestone.

              you can shoot at most of Boneheads mooks from the top of some crates stacked back in the intro area behind Fyrestone.

              • Michael says:

                That’s because of a weird mixup in the game. As I recall the bounty Board gives you a level 8 and a level 10 quest. The level 10 is just a pointer to basic fedex mission that’s marked for 8, while the level 8 points you to Bonehead, and realistically a level 10 fight.

        • Knight of Fools says:

          They sure do. Chances are, if you’re getting torn up by some guy using an awesome gun, he’ll drop that gun.

        • Destrustor says:

          The random loot was what killed oblivion the most for me.

          Level 1: why is there nothing worth anything in the Imperial palace ???

          Level 37: well I just got done rummaging through this mountain cave full of rats and wolves, where no-one has lived or visited ever. let’s look at what I got: daedric armor, a glass sword, three thousand gold and five pristine, expertly cut diamonds. What. WHAT??

          • Sumanai says:

            It’s more accurate to call it “scaled loot” and it applies to quests as well. Which makes meta-gaming even more powerful. Hope you didn’t do that one quest on low levels, since you’ll only get an iron sword, since on high levels you get an Unobtanium Super Sword.

            Luckily there’s a mod for that.

        • Sumanai says:

          I think Dwarf Fortress does something like that if you play Adventure Mode. I seem to recall something about the generator making history and everything and on the side all unique items alongside with people who made them and what killed them.

          Anyway, I think the problem is that many don’t care about it enough, or are not allowed to dabble with it, to create an item generator that procedurally creates equipment that fit into the world better than just random stats. I don’t see how the “manufacturer” -attribute from Borderlands couldn’t be expanded upon. Make, or generate, people who worked in succession (masters, apprentices, apprentices’ apprentices etc.), shift the modifiers in-between them. Attach clients from history for logical locations where the items can be found.

          Don’t know if it would be enough. It could be that there would have to be a separate generator for “unique” items.

  4. Sir Broccoli says:

    “Why not have them in some sort of rainbow order? Or follow the red, yellow, green “thermometer” logic?”

    Using a rainbow or thermometer scheme here doesn’t seem like a very good move seeing as there are some colors that already have a certain meaning attached to them. Every gamer knows that a red item = health, a white item = boring and yellow/gold = money. Combine this with the fact that every item needs a unique color that’s easily distinguishable from all other item colors and you’re pretty much stuck with a system like this.

    • Vipermagi says:

      Not every gamer, per se. Diablo 2 uses White for trash items, gold, health, mana, gems, keys, scrolls, runes (runes were later recolored to purple iirc), Blue for more trash items, Gray for runeword potential, Yellow for rares, Gold for uniques and Green for sets. I think D3 is going to use the now-traditional colors though.

      It took me a while to get used to the ‘new’ color rarity in Borderlands when I first played it. I sooner learnt that the rarity doesn’t really mean much, though.

      • I’d be happy if there were a key on-screen, maybe with an easily modifiable gradient. “Space Pirates and Zombies” is really good about this, presenting encoded information (color codes, icons, etc) along with the key in nearly every screen. Designing the interface so that Shamus can display a rainbow scheme, and you can use the Wow scheme, and I can use a greyscale should be elementary as far as GUI design goes.
        I really don’t know why interface designers are so averse to helping users understand their interfaces. Any time color codes, glyphs, icons, or buttons are on-screen, there needs to be a quick way to discern what kind of information they are encoding, and what that information is. Mouse-over is the bare minimum.

        And don’t tell me that an interface key “clutters up the interface”! Every interface in those screenshots has extraneous blips and doodads that do nothing. Distracting cruft and dead space that is worse than useless to inform the user. You don’t even see it after a while as you learn to ignore the unimportant parts. Interface visuals are for the user’s information, not for graphic designers to play “fill the canvas” with.

  5. I think this mechanic is what killed Borderlands after the first playthrough for me. The incredibly unsatisfying gunplay combined with finishing the game meant there was no more appeal to me. The random guns felt less like a slot machine, more like I was slowly increasing RPG stats from like 10 to 500. The scaling nature of the game meant they never felt that much more powerful, and they were all just standard FPS guns (except the alien ones which sucked anyway). This meant I rarely felt excited by finding a new one – it’d just be the same gun I already had, only I’d spend slightly less time listening to unsatisfying clicking sounds while the same three axe-weilding maniacs tried to cut my face off. Enough that I’d want to swap it, but not enough that I’d form any real attachment to it.

    I’d prefer being able to mod the guns myself – either picking up loot or swapping out the parts for any upgrades the thing I picked up was using. It’d ruin the lottery feeling but I wasn’t enjoying that anyway, and at least the parts can still have stats.

    • psivamp says:

      You were expected to play through at least twice, effectively. The alien weapons were trash with only one or two shots and middling damage on a first run through, but on a max level second run, the alien weapons (at least the scatter gun) become much more viable. That scatter gun was actually one of my standby weapons.

      I ran into the same problem after getting good guns. Once you manage to get four statistically improbably good guns that you like, you can grind forever without replacing any of them. That’s why I eventually quit, although I still have the game on 360.

      • Dys says:

        Ammo capacity talents push them into a viable range, but they still never outperform the normal weapons. The only advantage is the lack of ammo.

      • Eric says:

        Borderlands is also a horrendously boring game single-player. It’s a grindy nightmare carried only by its sense of humour. If you’re going to play, you really need to do it co-op for the game to stay entertaining for more than a half-hour. The problems are structural, and no changes to loot would have fixed them.

        In fact, Borderlands is actually pretty poorly designed in a lot of ways – way, way too much padding, fetch quests (many of which are mandatory), and tons of time spent driving/teleporting/etc. It’s a game where, except for a few levels, you basically spend all your time running from A to B. The only thing that really makes that interesting is if you have three other psychopaths to play with. Funny how multiplayer can always seem to save even the most unremarkable games.

    • Lalaland says:

      This I managed one and a little bit playthroughs on split screen with my flatmate but the plot and scaling meant that I never felt any increase in power past that first playthrough. The plot wasn’t going to keep me playing so I never got any further.

      The Zombie Island of Dr Zed was a great add on but the ‘arena’ expansion and the later hidden vault one required either more players, a max level character or both so although I bought them they were essentially a waste of money. Particularly annoyed that none of the reviews for the third expansion pointed out that unless you were max level it was ‘one shot death’ city.

      Still looking forward to the sequel though, should be playing online with my mate this time so I might actually see some of that artwork now!

      • Michael says:

        As I recall you could pretty easily handle Knoxx in a Playthrough 1 on a level 40. Though, I grant you, on playthrough 2 it is a slog.

        Regardless it’s still some of the funniest content in the game. Moxxi was crap though, you’re on the money there.

        • Lalaland says:

          Yeah I was a lvl 30ish character for Knoxx and literally couldn’t even make it past the first corner of the DLC. I could have gone and grinded out some more XP but I stopped playing that earlier content because it had gone stale so why would I slog through it to play what I just paid for? It’s a shame as I’ve heard it was some of the best content the game had, why they didn’t just scale the content or turbo level the player to adjust I’ll never know.

          • Michael says:

            I think it was supposed to be, you’d finish the main game, then finish Zombie Island, then Knoxx, then to back and start a Playthrough 2 game. Though, honestly, I’d started a Playthrough 2 before they were released, so Zombie Island and Knoxx were ridiculously easy when I did get to them.

            But, there’s a reason why post game DLCs like this are the exception rather than the norm.

  6. psivamp says:

    One of the later Borderlands DLC packages added an even more rare tier of “pearlescent” weapons. I think I got one from the optional giant crab boss, but it was basically trash. The tiers weren’t a hard and fast indicator of quality. I got a could really good weapons fairly early in one of my characters lives and then would routinely reject “better” weapons of a higher tier because they weren’t better for my character.

    The other great thing about the loot lottery was that a gun could be trash for me, but work well for someone else based on play style and character build.

    • swenson says:

      On your last point, that is something I really like in games, that there’s not necessarily a “best” weapon, just different weapons for different playstyles.

      Specific example, I’m doing an Insanity runthrough of Mass Effect 2 as a vanguard. This is… challenging, so I’ve played around with all the shotguns until I found the one I liked the best. Personally, I use the Eviscerator. But you can find plenty of people who swear by the Claymore or Geth Plasma Shotgun, and they’re not necessarily wrong–they just have a different playstyle.

      If only that game had more of that sort of thing…

      • Michael says:

        “That game” meaning ME2 or Borderlands?

        On ME2 I agree absolutly. On Borderlands, eh… I honestly found it tried to enforce a consistent playstyle from the player a bit. And it was one of the things I really did dislike about BL. So it wasn’t so much that you were simply following a different playstyle, but you were actually locked in.

        EDIT: Wait… am I making sense or just crazy at this point?

      • While this may be true, I’ll bet you find the key stats that work for you and then do math in your head to figure out which gun is best. This should be a feature. Have an inventory screen with a simple sort criteria formula editor. Bang! The guns you like go to the top, and you can sell all but the top couple. In fact, there should be a “sell all except the top two” button right there. Why do game designers think that players enjoy playing “emulate the spreadsheet”?

        • Atarlost says:

          Because a lot of us do. Just go on a pen and paper forum and see how many people meticulously plan out builds they don’t intend to actually use in a game. That includes the people putting up builds to help others. Some of them get their kicks out of being helpful, but most of them get their kicks out of character design optimization.

          • Sumanai says:

            It’s just a pity that so few games support both meticulous planners and people who don’t want to meta-play at all. Just a setting to highlight the two or three stats you care about and comparing those the current one, probably greying out the name of the item if it’s lower than your current one so you know it’s vendor trash for you. And in those cases highlight what items have a higher value for weight than some of the crap you’re carrying (and highlighting those in the inventory so you know to drop them).

        • Sumanai says:

          Still needs a “highlight what I don’t need, but is needed by friends according to their inputs” or something like that.

  7. Airsoft says:

    Love this game, and everything you said about the guns is so true. As a Siren the extreme variety within the smg class kept me occupied for hours, need to have one long range slow firing gun (it was basically a fast sniper with a big magazine but no scope) one close range killer (double anarchy meant the highest dps of any class in the game) one elemental (for obvious reasons) and a wildcard (got a pearlescent smg from crawmarex, took us about 10 goes, the most difficult videogaming experiance of my life)

    If you want to play co-op but don’t fancy using gamespy i would suggest using Tunngle, it replicates a lan game, you basically enter a games lobby on tunngle to play, we tend to use the bejing olympics 2008 lobby if we want to play borderlands (people actually play the lan on that game, it’s mental)

    • psivamp says:

      Tunngle, huh? That reminds me of the old MSN gaming zone that used VPN… good old days. Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, no accelerator card, a “33.6″ modem, having massive ping and learning it precisely to be able to cut a man down in a single pass in our extremely cheesy lightsaber duels.

    • Rosseloh says:

      I never actually got Tunngle to work. Like, nobody in our group could ever even find each other in the program. Hamachi, on the other hand, works perfectly for that purpose.

      • Sumanai says:

        And doesn’t offer any way to shut it down outside of Task Manager. Also force starts with Windows. If you use msconfig to make it stop starting, it’ll add another version of itself into the startup list.

        Just as a heads up for anyone thinking of giving Hamachi a shot.

        • Zagzag says:

          It only seems to add itself to the startup list about once a month, which is managable. The really annoying thing is the way it adds a second network to your connections list that you sometimes have to manually disable to get the regular internet to work (in my experience anyway) and then have to completely reboot the machine to restore, if you actually want to use Hamachi.

          • Sumanai says:

            Getting a whole new entry on the startup list (msconfig doesn’t delete them, it just unchecks) is pretty annoying.

            Once a month is once a month too many. It’s the principle of the thing, not how much extra work it generates. Well, it’s about the fact that it generates extra work for no good reason, it doesn’t really matter if it’s manageable or not.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “(I’m a big fan of “OMGillions” myself.)”

    What about brazillion?

    Personally,I like the way amalur did this:You can turn all the weapons you find into scrap,and then use that scrap to make some really epic stuff,which you can even name into your own set.Its great.The only problem with this is that the unique/set items you find feel really boring and useless.And really,with all these games unique/set items just dont seem to cut it(well,diablo had it about right).They should include some things that only these unique items have,and nothing else.Instead of your uber axe of slaying be just like any other axe,only with 5x the damage,give it a unique stat,like 1% chance to kill instantly.

    About the magazine/clip thing,at least its correct sometimes,when you use weapons that do use clips.Unlike with sapient/sentient confusion,that is my pet peeve.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I have to agree with all your points – I really liked the game and the crafting was nice, although I wish the salvaging would be more reliable at high level blacksmithing skill (getting some of the good stuff required quite a bit of save-scumming at times). Course, I also cheesed it to such a large degree that I became almost literally invincible 2/3 of the way through the game, criting 40-50% of the time with a ridiculously powerful prismere greatsword. Didn’t take the fun out of combat though :)

      BL would need you to have a much larger inventory for something like this though. In fact, that’s arguably what I wanted the most considering how much crap I had to drop later on (and not having any storage).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or,just make it so that components dont take any space.That way you can always break down the trash and assemble it later if you want to sell it or want to make something good.

  9. Mayhem says:

    I would say also that they are copying the colour scheme from WoW rather than reinventing the wheel. A reasonable percentage of their customers have probably run across the colour scheme before which means they get instant recognition and only have to teach the remainder.

    I actually had a rather interesting evening a few months back when my flatmate started playing Uncharted. He had basically never played computer games before, and it is amazing just how many subtle clues an experienced gamer picks up on that he literally did not see.

    Things as simple as the different textures used to denote the edges of things he could climb versus the background, or the fact that lots of ammo in an area means there will be lots of bad guys fairly shortly.
    He would regularly run into the walls trying to run down the painted on paths that the bad guys spawn from, or try and climb up and down the painted trees. It took forever for him to get the hang of what was real (in terms of manipulatable or stuff you could hide behind) and what was simply decoration.

  10. Hal says:

    Actually, WoW doesn’t use a color scheme “like” that. That is exactly the same color scheme used in WoW for rarity/quality. Either there is a precedent for that scheme going back further, or the developers need to get out more.

    • Rosseloh says:

      It’s probably because they expect half of their players to already be familiar with it, and the other half to pick it up quickly.

      I wasn’t a WoW player, but LotRO, and the color scheme is SIMILAR. At first I thought purples were worse than blues because of my experiences in LotRO, but that assumption was fixed when I started comparing numbers.

      • Thom Mollinga says:

        Except that LotRo uses yellow instead of green for the “slightly better” items between white (grey actually) and purple :)
        I think there’s actually another reason for using this instead of a rainbow-like scale. What do you do once you’ve reached the last color in your scale, but still want to add another “tier”? Since MMORPGS seem to evolve and expand, you need a bit of space to be able to add another color anytime. Since it’s not logical anyway, you could pick any color and still pull it off to be the new best tier of items.

        • Sumanai says:

          You could do what most developers don’t seem to do and tone it down the first time around. Don’t make the scale to be from red to purple. just go from red to green. Every designer should know that they’ll need a new tier sooner or later, why not prepare for it?

          Right now I think most will just use WoW colours, because most are familiar with them.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Actually,the colour coding does make sense and it is rainbow styled.You have white,which is just your ordinary bland white text.Then you have one end of the spectrum for enemies,going from yellow to orange to red,to show you how something is increasingly bad for you.And the other end of the spectrum goes from green to blue to purple to show things that are increasingly good for you.

    • swenson says:

      And then “orange” means very unusual and stands out. I’d agree with that interpretation of the colors. I think I’ve seen it in other games as well, anyway. (although conveniently none come to mind at the moment!)

  12. brainbosh says:

    I’m hoping that they make the weapons a bit more distinctive in Borderlands 2. I remember in the first one I had the hardest time finding an upgrade to the actual weapon I liked to use.

    Playing as Roland, I used the machine gun, but they had several varieties that you couldn’t tell apart without firing, such as a 3 round burst or a full auto. I found that I would find a weapon that I liked, and not find one better for 10 to 15 levels of play. Almost every other weapon type I could find, but the one I wanted.

    Thinking about it now, that probably was meant to encourage multiplayer and trading, but I never liked playing with strangers in a griefable game. I had a lot of fun playing single-player for the most part, and I hope that Borderlands 2 is at least as single-player friendly.

    • Michael says:

      In a probably non: sequitor… the way to tell on the combat rifle was kinda simple.

      If the magazine was 12 rounds (default), it would be a three round burst. A 6 rounds (default) would be a semi-automatic, and anything larger than 12 would (almost) always be full auto.

      Rolland is still my favorite class though, just for the support gunner upgrade. It changed the whole tone of the game, for me, into a hilarious classic hose them down with bullets flavor. At one point I was even using a rapid fire sniper rifle as my main go to weapon.

      • Shamus says:

        I’m playing with Randy, Josh, and Glitch these days, and my favorite thing is the medic tree. It’s hilarious to run around and heat my companions by blasting them with gunfire. Stupid and fun.

        • Vipermagi says:

          I liked combining Cauterize with the Boom Stick unique shotgun you get from the Baron on his mass-excavator. Six-round burst rocket launcher, heck yes. Additionally, you don’t really have to aim much; you’ll always hit something! :D

          On my last solo playthrough, I simply ended up with a Glorious Havoc and a Heavy Gunner class mod; triggering Metal Storm upped my fire rate to around 27. So many bullets.

          • Dys says:

            Yes, this. The glorious havoc and its kin were the only weapons I ever noticed, past a certain point. Massive ammo capacity and absurd fire rate. The best ones had scopes :)

          • Abnaxis says:

            Or dear god the rocket launchers that burst-fired. If my companions ever got surrounded by skags and they were too far off to hit without taking a few seconds to aim, they got a full five-rocket salvo from my magical healing boomstick. Glorious, Glorious chaos…

        • Rosseloh says:

          The guy who plays medic in our group found a ridiculous revolver, and tends to use that for most healing nowadays. I don’t know how it works exactly but apparently the damage it can do plus the rate of fire makes it the most amazing healing weapon we found in that playthrough.

          I don’t really pay attention so I’m not sure, though, since I’m busy popping guys in the distance. I run a Siren with a volcanic sniper rifle (lots of fire damage).

    • Rick says:

      The two bits of info that you couldn’t tell from the info card but were the most useful… Scope type/level and fire type (burst, auto, semi-auto).

      It’s all fine to try them out after the battle, but that’s kinda hard when your co-op partner grabbed all the loot while you were fighting and is now heading back to the store to sell it all.

      • Michael says:

        Scope was on the card, just not which visual you’d get. It was under the modifiers though. I think the visual was by manufacturer, but I’m not certain.

        I think the burst type was, if it wasn’t a combat rifle. It would be “burst size +X” or something. Though, I’m not completely sure that was the case with launchers.

  13. Piflik says:

    Anyone else saw that distribution graphic and immediately thought ‘someone needs to defrag his HDD’?

  14. Nick says:

    I get more frustrated trying to work out whether a gun is better or worse than another one than anything else. I also fall into the not-gambler camp, so may I just don’t get it. I played Diablo for the story, not the looting mechanics

  15. Rick says:

    The sequel is reported to have much more visual variation, especially between gun manufacturers (which dictate their strongest stat).

    The Bandit branded guns are homemade from trash. Eg a beer bottle for a scope.

  16. rrgg says:

    I wonder how many different distinct-feeling guns there are in real life?

    • KremlinLaptop says:

      As a gun enthusiast and fairly avid hunter I can say there are LOADS.

      First off we have different categories of weapons; rifles, shotguns, drillings, pistols, revolvers, etc. Then we get into the matter of the action of the weapon whether or not it’s fully automatic, semi-automatic, bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, single-shot or in the case of revolvers single-action, double-action or (and this is rare) semi-automatic. Already you have quite a variety and it varies even more when you start looking at specific details, sights, scopes, how it’s loaded and…

      Calibres. Which depend so much on what you want to do with the gun and then when you’ve decided that you still have variations in types of ammunition and when you’re really far gone you’ll be spending countless nights loading your of ammunition and keeping track of the characteristics of the ballistics of each batch.

      Also the physical characteristics of weapons are vastly different, even something as seemingly minuscule as an inch too much or too little length on the stock of a shotgun can have a drastic effect on your aim.

      Though in fairness I’ve gotten into debates over whether or not coca-cola tastes quite different out of a can than it does from a bottle (IT SO DOES) and how it tastes vastly different depending on where you are in the world. So I might be a bit too particular.

      Perhaps guns are just things that go bang and hurl bits of metal away from the user.

      • GiantRaven says:

        ‘I’ve gotten into debates over whether or not coca-cola tastes quite different out of a can than it does from a bottle (IT SO DOES) and how it tastes vastly different depending on where you are in the world.’

        Wait…you mean there are people that don’t believe this?! Complete madness.

        • Shamus says:

          So… if you put canned soda into a glass bottle, would it taste the same as soda that was sold in bottles?

          I do enjoy bottled more than canned, but I can’t figure out if the metal taste is really permeating the drink, or if I’m just tasting / feeling / smelling the aluminum when I hold it up to my mouth.

          • KremlinLaptop says:

            They say that some foods taste different when eaten with wooden utensils versus metal ones due to the metal reacting with the ingredients of the food. I don’t know if there is anything in coca-cola that would react with aluminium and change the way it tastes.

            …But it just does taste better out of a bottle.

            • Rick Hambrook says:

              Aluminium cans actually have a plastic liner. I’ve seen one dissolved in a “metal-only” acid and it looks like a balloon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE2UKln8_nw

              I agree they taste different though. But they have their perks. Cans are cheaper, glass bottles keep it cooler and plastic is err.. a third option.

              • Knight of Fools says:

                Some of the best Coca Cola I’ve ever had was in Central America. It was out of a plastic bottle, but there was more Cola taste than US Cola – It was fizzier, hardier, and just better. I don’t know why.

                • I believe it’s because they use Cane Sugar (sucrose) instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Most non-US sweetened beverages do (afaik), and a lot of people like it a lot better.
                  It’s a result of corn subsidies, sugar tariffs, etc in the US. Thanks for the nasty drinks government!

                  • Tizzy says:

                    I’m glad that someone else beat me to this one, but allow me to confirm: HFCS is not only bad for you, it’s plain nasty tasting. In the US, you will occasionally find Coke or Pepsi made with cane sugar. The difference is undeniable; I have yet to find someone who preferred the HFCS version.

                    • Unbeliever says:

                      Just to ditto your ditto:

                      YES!

                      Go to Costco (or a local Mexican import grocery store), and find yourself some real, honest-to-god cane sugar Coke (usually found in glass bottles).

                      Bring it home, get it nice and cold, and then compare to the local corn syrup “Coke”.

                      Seriously, you will curse the day corn syrup was invented, forevermore…

                    • Michael says:

                      Pepsi’s started marketing an actual sugar version the past few years. Pepsi Throwback. Though I’m not sure how widely available that is.

                    • ps238principal says:

                      Pepsi is weird, container-wise. I’m not picky as to flavor (both Coke and Pepsi have their charms), but I generally prefer Coke products because it takes a week for them to go flat. Pepsi products used to go flat nearly instantly, but now… it’s weird.

                      Canned Pepsi of all kinds still flattens really quickly, becoming detectably flat in under an hour, and nearly flat in three hours or so. However, the Pepsi products in plastic bottles now stays fizzy for about as long as Coke does. I have no clue why, unless they’re changing the formula for what beverage goes in what container, or if the can liners do something to their drinks.

                      And Pepsi (probably Coke as well, eventually) is switching to some kind of bio-degradable bottles that use plants as their basic materials. I think they called it “bio-plastic” or something.

            • Jakale says:

              There’s also the mental factor. Take canned soda, stick it in a bottle, and give it to someone who assumes it was always in the bottle. Will what they taste differ depending on what they expect?

          • Adam P says:

            I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about stupid stuff like this. If you can taste the aluminum by licking it then there should be a certain amount of it dissolved into the beverage. (A certain amount of it has to be soluble in order for you to taste it, similarly with smell.) But the reason for people being so particular about their beverages is likely due to how dangerous the water could potentially have been in centuries past. I find it interesting that when moving to a new place I always hate the tap water. After a few days of drinking it I become totally accustomed. If I go back and drink the old water it tastes bad again. I imagine before tap this would have been very useful. If you tried to drink out of a new water source, it would taste bad and you would likely drink less. If you got sick the water would taste terrible on the following try. If you didn’t, it would taste fine after a few more days.
            I also think a good deal of it is purely psychological. In Oklahoma there are 2 major milk manufacturers, Borden and Hiland. All fresh milk is one or the other, of course varying fat and such. But there is a lot of rebranding. You can get milk with a Wal-mart sticker, a Homeland sticker, a Buy-For-Less sticker, etc. People swear up and down that they like the Hiland and not the Homeland or the Borden and not the Walmart when they each come out of the same vat.

            • Rosseloh says:

              It’s the same with milk up here in South Dakota. At the grocery across the street (Hy-Vee), they have two major brands: Blue Bunny, and the store brand. Both come from the Blue Bunny plant in Iowa. They even have it on the label. But people will still swear by the more expensive stuff.

              • Sumanai says:

                The weird thing I’ve run into, is that I’ve bought sour milk that had the store’s marking and on that is brand marked. They’re both from the same source, but for some reason the cheaper store marked one tastes better in my opinion. And I could swear there’s a recognisable difference.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          I believe it.In my experience the one from the can tastes like shit,while the one from the bottle tastes like crap.

          Yeah,Im not a fan of fizzy drinks,how did you guess?

        • rrgg says:

          Coke is best poured into a glass, end of discussion.

          • KremlinLaptop says:

            Imagine if you will a bottle of coke, a classic glass bottle, being set on a vintage counter of fantastic cyan blue you’d get in a ’50s diner. It’s a damn hot day that causes the beads of cool condensation form across the bottle instantly, and as the cap of the bottle is popped thin wisps of cold fog rise out of the mouth of the bottle. You can hear the frizzle of the carbonation echoing out of the glass chamber.

            …I’m not sure what I set out to prove, but now I’m really thirsty. God damn.

            • Sumanai says:

              But then you realise that you haven’t drunk Coke, Pepsi or any other cola-flavoured soda for two years so your taste buds have adjusted and now all of them taste bitter and, frankly, crap.

              I’ve only run into one cola drink that I found good after The Pause and that was caffeine free and claimed to have been made according to an old formula.

              (Not a hipster.)

        • Also says:

          it is my understanding that coke in a glass bottle is produced in a facility that uses cane sugar, while the canned stuff uses HFCS.
          ‘course, even if that’s true you still get the whole debate of whether there is any difference between them.

          • Adam P says:

            Typically in your particular area all of the coke will come from a single bottling plant that is licensed for your area. Though occasionally they won’t bottle into actual bottles and if stores carry any it will be bottled at a neighboring supplier. The various companies go through promotional phases where they bottle with cane sugar. I don’t think on a worldwide scale there is any congruence with bottle vs cans being cane or corn sugar. But it’s sure possible in your particular area. But as you alluded to, after the coke sits in the warehouse for a bit most of that sucrose converts into fructose, not that it matters. Personally, due to political unrest in equatorial countries, I find it more practical to use HFCS.

          • KremlinLaptop says:

            To my understanding since I’m in Europe practically nothing is made with HFCS.

            On which note calling it by the abbreviation of HFCS makes it sound like the most malicious substance on the planet. You could say, “HFCS is a vital component in the production of V-X nerve gas,” and it’d sound totally legit.

          • rrgg says:

            I’m not talking about just glass bottles. Take a can of Coke, pour it into a drinking glass and it becomes much better.

      • modus0 says:

        I can attest from personal experience that Coke in cans from the Middle East/Southeast Asia area tastes significantly different than Coke from the States.

        • Trix2000 says:

          As far as I know, they change the flavor for different places internationally. I recall trying a bunch of different types way back in the day, but I don’t remember much detail (or how different they were).

      • Deoxy says:

        Though in fairness I’ve gotten into debates over whether or not coca-cola tastes quite different out of a can than it does from a bottle (IT SO DOES) and how it tastes vastly different depending on where you are in the world.

        A few definite points of data in this crazy debate:

        -different people TASTE THINGS differently. To oversimplify a bit, some people are far more sensitive to texture of the food and/or texture of the utensil or vessel than others. Example: for some people, the exact same beverage tastes different if they drink from a glass bottle, a plastic bottle, or a metal can.

        -Coke is bottled in different places using different water sources. Machines that mix the syrup and the carbonated water increase this by a VERY large factor (as the carbonated water can also come from a different place). So yes, if you can taste the difference in water, then beverages of the same name will taste differently in different parts of the world, even with the exact same recipe.

        -sugar/corn syrup. This largely goes back to the first item (above); the feel in the mouth is different, even if the flavor is identical (debatable), so some people will “taste” them as different. Define “taste” before you ask if things taste the same!

      • rrgg says:

        Anyhoo, I was responding to those complaining that Borderlands only has about “20 different weapons.” Having thousands of weapons with only minute differences between them is something that would be fairly realistic. It’s the same thing with swords where you have a whole spectrum of slightly different weapons between say, a longsword and a scimitar.

        • KremlinLaptop says:

          For a moment I was completely confused by your non-cola related response to my response.

          That’s true about it being realistic, but I don’t expect people are looking for that sort of realism when they pick up Borderlands. Personally the biggest problem I have with the generated weapons in Borderlands is that I feel more thought should go into them. I’d rather have less weapons but ones that are designed by someone for a purpose.

          Real firearms aren’t generated from a pool of pre-made blocks. Well, unless it’s an AR-15…

          (I’m hoping I can get away with making fun of AR-15s here without someone getting mad. Someone’s gonna get mad, aren’t they?)

  17. Rack says:

    I don’t tend to say it because I’m not that kind of asshole, but I always think I don’t like gambling because I’m good at maths down to the fact that cherry, cherry, mule feels an ocean away from a win rather than halfway/two thirds way that most people seem to think of it.

    Also the “near wins” in England anyway came about because a slot machine has to have at least a 70% payout rate. However if you win your money back you’re just going to spin it right back in. In this way they always make 80-90% profit rather than just 30%

    • rrgg says:

      I never do it in real life, but there are two things that keep video game gambling interesting for me.

      A. As long as the bell curve has a high enough standard deviation rate then the randomness helps keep the game interesting. If I get something really good then I’m happy. If I get something bad then the next fight is going to be more of a challenge.

      B. The trade out is often something different than “money for money.” A simple unchanging ratio of money in to money out is extremely boring, But if you are getting weapons or supplies out of it then the relative worth of your potential haul to what you are spending is always in flux. For instance, if gambling has a chance of netting you something much better than what’s avalible the shops then eventually hoarding money to buy the new thing becomes a less sound investment than betting on a far superior thing. Essentially it becomes a fun exercise to pin down the real value of what you need.

      And if you make the cost labor-related (crawl this dungeon and maybe possibly get something good) then I’ve cleared every single dungeon in skyrim and checked every chest.

      • Ian says:

        In real life gambling you end up with a handful of different profiles. You get the international casino slot style where you can quite often win back a portion of your stake on a majority of spins. This money goes right back in to another spin.

        You also get the Bar-X style which will sit there taking your money then all of a sudden drop a big win on you then go back to giving you nothing.

        Then you have everything in between. A game lives or dies by it’s perception from the players that it is both fun to play as well as financially viable.

      • Sumanai says:

        But if gambling has a change of dropping something much better than can be found in shops, it means that buying anything but the very basic equipment right in the beginning (or if you’ve had a miserable luck with drops) is pointless.

        In fact, if you have a really bad luck you’ll end up using whatever the stores are selling, but the game has been balanced for drops and gambling items, you’ll end up having a much harder time with the game than you’d otherwise have.

        I don’t think that fully controlling what the players can get à la Halo is the answer, but the bigger the difference between store bought and gambling gained equipment, the bigger difference in the gaming difficulty in comparison to when you’re lucky and when you’re unlucky.

        I guess I wouldn’t feel so strongly about this if I weren’t nearly always in the unlucky group, who found their last good weapons ten levels past and has been desperately tanking with store bought “rusty armor of the loser” for the past two hours.

        • Gilf says:

          Dragon Quest VIII (haven’t played many of the others) actually had a pretty good take on this; there were only two places with casinos in them, but the equipment available there was either miles ahead of what you currently had (the first casino) or literally one step below endgame equipment (the second one). Either one required either a lot of save-scumming or revisiting the place much later with plenty of scratch on you and only a little save-scumming.

          Of course, the neat thing was that even on the playthroughs (of which I have done many; I absolutely love this game) where I took the time to load up on casino equipment, it made things noticeably more convenient but not really that much less challenging, since a lot of success in battle came from strategic application of skills and abilities.

          So what I’m getting at here is that having a vast difference in the utility of store-bought items and ‘lottery-based’ ones can work, so long as the game is set for balance with either one.

  18. Jonathan says:

    Good post. I hadn’t thought about gambling that way before.

  19. Chris says:

    I don’t gamble and I don’t like it. The mechanics have never worked for me, even long before I knew the math behind it.

    In games, it depends on the system. In Borderlands, the chances of getting decent gear were pretty good, even without farming. For the longest time I just played the mostly hilarious story, and from that I got pretty good gear. I started farming after I was through with the story and all addons and wanted to solo the giant crab-like thing at least once. That said, I spent most of my farming time in Borderlands just glitching into the Armory. For me, it’s just gambling the system the easy way. An easy bossfight followed by rooms full of loot to look through with no time limit outperforms spending hours on farming items in highlevel areas.

    I actually feel cheated in games where gambling can yield negative outcomes as it is often the case with random upgrade mechanics. In this case I have no regrets whatsoever if I use exploits. Two examples of this mechanic:
    Torchlight with the weapon enchanting system, where I used a mod (modding is encouraged in Torchlight) so that the chance of disenchantment was zero.
    Terraria with the expensive weapon reforging and no “real” safe function, the game safes when you logout. There I backed up my saves and restored them if I didn’t get a desirable result after gambling most of my resources. That said, I wouldn’t use straigthforward cheating methods such as an inventory editor, even if the outcome is the same.

  20. Kreek says:

    i have a feeling that i would have enjoyed borderlands more if i could, instead of just selling the endless flow of crap, i could salvage guns, take them apart, and mix and match the parts i get on my own, infact, perhaps instead of always getting working guns, the game should give you broken, damaged, or otherwise comprimised guns, and also parts, and then you could take apart the broken guns, and use these mix and match parts to make your own guns, suddenly, your never stuck getting weapons you dont use because because they could all be made to suit your playstyle, natrually, guns might take damage over time and need to have parts replaced frequently, often you would do this with better parts that would lead to rebuilding more powerful guns from your weak and broken guns

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats basically how smithing works in kingdoms of amalur.And,if you want to change your weapon later,you can salvage that one too.Though you probably wont get all your components back.Plus,the game also lets you change classes completely whenever you want.More RPGs need to do these things.

  21. webrunner says:

    This whole thing is why in Borderlands they made the weapons chests (the “good” chests) open so damn slowly.

  22. PhoenixUltima says:

    It should be noted that the Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC adds in a new tier of rarity (only available in that DLC’s areas); Cyan, or “pearlescent”. They’re ungodly rare. Like “you can farm specifically for these items for days and never see one” rare. Funnily enough, at least half the pearlescent weapons aren’t that good, but the shields (there are 3) are all excellent. Go fig.

  23. Dys says:

    On the subject of the colour coding, it turns up almost everywhere these days, particularly in the realm of the mmo. I always believed that WoW instigated it. Prior to that, Diablo had similar distinctions, but used blue for magic, yellow for artifact and green for set items.

    I’d not thought much about it before, but the green-blue-purple progression is indeed increasing wavelengths. I suspect the reason it doesn’t include red is that red is always a bad colour, and no game wants you to pick up ‘bad’ loot. It starts with mediocre and increases to fabulous, but at no point is a loot drop ever a negative thing.

    The orange / yellow of the highest tier is probably a limited palette translation of gold.

  24. The_Unforgiven says:

    I’d like to say that ‘clip’ can be correct if you’re referring to the ‘zipper clips’ that the Lee Enfield used in World War II. However, since that was an ‘assualt rifle’, it wasn’t correct in that case.

  25. Every game of this sort that I’ve ever played used a different coloring scheme. In Hellgate: London, it’s gray/green/blue/orange/yellowish. In Titan Quest it’s gray/white/green/blue/purple. Diablo II is gray/white/blue/yellow/gold.

    I suspect they leave out red because red text is hard to read against a dark background. Warm colors (orange/yellow/gold/purple to an extent) are viewed subconsciously as more “exciting” than cool colors (green/blue) so they usually get top billing.

  26. LintMan says:

    The random loot reward thing is fun for a little while but I really dislike that so many games fetish-ize it into a lifestyle:
    Play harder levels to get better gear so you can play harder levels to get more better gear.

    I just want to play a game through, collect the whiz-bang awesomest stuff along the way, and then finish the story. I resent the possibility that I can get the the end of a game but be stuck with all lame gear because of bad luck on the drops, which has happened to me a couple of times. (Diablo and Dungeon Seige to name two of them)

    Fortunately with Borderlands they didn’t lock the game files, so people came up with editors and you could design your own guns from the available parts. That was really great. I’m betting that Borderlands 2 is locked, though, unfortunately.

  27. Thank you for the analysis, Shamus. This would explain why I was so stymied by all of the data overload in Borderlands: I HATE gambling!

    I’m very glad that when I was in the Army (Desert Storm) I wasn’t given an entire warehouse of weapons and required to do a stat comparison on each one every day. Geesh. I never would have made it out the door!

    Leslee

  28. Abnaxis says:

    My main problem with Borderlands is I had no idea what half the stats mean.

    For example, in the screenshot in the article the gun says “One Bad Dog.” That’s actually a freaking stat of the weapon. According to the wiki, it means the magazine is bigger and reload time is faster.

    Or take elemental stats, given as x1 to x4. x4 what? Damage? Proc chance? I have a x4 gun that says “usually” sets enemies on fire in the description, and another one that says “sometimes” sets enemies on fire. Is there a difference?

    Turns out there’s a chart on the wiki that tells you. Which I wouldn’t need if it just freaking SAID “does 5 fire damage per second with 10% chance per bullet”.

    Flavor text is all well and good, but it shouldn’t take the place of transparent weapon stats. And the weapon stats the we can see need to make sense. Is it really that hard to just say what the damn weapons do?

    • Adam P says:

      You know I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I have the same desire to know the numbers to be able to equate value/strength. But how and when is this applied? Obviously most people like graphical games over text based games, people would rather SEE blonde hair than READ blonde hair. I mean you will always have the oddball that just wants matrix style zeroes and ones scrolling down the screen and “just sees a lady in a red dress”.
      But, most people like to see 10 strength over “really strong” because when they later see “very strong” they don’t know if they have gotten stronger or weaker. But I believe the best way of handling this is to come up with a way to allow the user to intuit how strong they are. The color coding is probably an early step towards that scheme. You can quickly sort through weapons just by the color of the text. When playing borderlands early in the game I quit even checking the stats of white weapons, later I quit picking them up altogether, and so on up the ladder. I bet as time goes on we’ll see games with less and less raw information.

      As a side note my main problem with borderlands is the presence of a level based damage/armor modifier. It’s like WOW’s modifier on steroids. At just a few levels under an enemy your supersonic metal barrage won’t even make the guy bleed but after you shoot a few more skags a single bullet will turn him into a waterfall of blood. This sucked out almost any importance of skill and made the game unnecessarily linear.

      • Joe says:

        I’d think it would be fairly obvious: Show Aesthetics, Describe Mechanics. (Or at least, explain them explicitly somehow, via known and universal icons or symbols, or what-have-you).

        A protagonist with blond hair is better to show, because it’s a wholly aesthetic distinction. The protagonist could have black hair, brown hair, or whatever, and not affect gameplay whatsoever. Health, on the other hand, should be shown. If I’ve got a flashing red indicator saying “damaged,” that’s not conveying usable game information. Is the next step “very damaged” or “Mission failed?” I feel like it shouldn’t be that hard to think “This information could be important in our player’s decision-making process.” And choosing to not present that information should be a carefully sought decision.

        It’s a similar problem that the Mass Effect-style conversation wheel has. It’s not immediately obvious that “I think I deserve more money” translates to “Shove a gun in this reporter’s face!” That’s a major distinction in how your character behaves, and can really destroy the experience when you’re not expecting it. Inadequate presentation of mechanical information.

    • Vipermagi says:

      I also experienced this, but it was never an issue for me per se. Probably because I ultimately don’t judge by stats.
      Anyhow.
      Another related issue is that the item description box is limited. Especially on weapons with two lines of flavor text, it tends to cut lines because they don’t fit. There’s no reason to display fewer stats than are present on a given item, Gearbox. There’s plenty of room on the screen.

      • MintSkittle says:

        I remember reading a forum thread dedicated to fixing this. The end result being to modify the file that governed the statbox to reduce the font size so you could get 6 lines instead of 4. To my knowledge, Gearbox has done nothing to rectify this.

    • I totally agree. Transparent stats are better than obfuscated stats. If you’re going to give the player a bunch of information right off the bat, there’s no excuse for having it be some secret code. This is a description! Make it descriptive!

      However, I’d say that hidden stats are even better still. You got a gun. How good is it? Well, unless you’re a gunsmith or an expert, there’s just no way to tell… Except to shoot some stuff with it! There could be a text box where you can write your own description (so you don’t forget). Want to know exactly what it does? Take it to a shooting range or a lab and have it characterized. Then the lab could write their description down and give it back. Of course, the lab could be mistaken, or lying to you, or maybe they stole your gun and replaced it with a lookalike. Those bastards!

  29. I was an infantryman and the whole clip/magazine thing irritates me like crazy (also calling rifles “guns”), but I’m sure I will eventually come to accept it, as I have accepted that “irregardless” is in fact a word, by every definition.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m pretty guilty of the guns one, myself.

      I suppose it doesn’t help that “firearm” and “magazine” are both a lot longer than “gun” and “clip”.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You can always say mag instead of magazine though.Its shorter than clip as well.

        But why is guns the problem though?Isnt gun an all encompassing term for all the firearms?Im not an expert though,Im just going by the dictionary here.

        • Shamus says:

          Not a military guy myself, but military people have explained that “gun” means “big gun”: deck guns and the like. Firearms are usually called pistols, sidearms, rifles, etc.

          Of course, I’m just going by what I’m told.

          • That’s more or less the correct military usage. “Guns” tend to be artillery, or vehicle mounted weapons, whereas small arms are generically “weapons”.

            • rrgg says:

              Are you sure you didn’t mean to say “Engyns” or “Bombards”?

              In seriousness though, arguing weapon terminology tends to always be problematic. They are generally the sort of things that get made first and aren’t classified until much later.

              You end up with problems such as how “pistols” aren’t considered “rifles” even if they have rifling.

              • Michael says:

                Even weirder when you realize pistol refers to semi-automatic handguns only, and not simply any handgun (though that may just be for the British). Even though the only smooth bore weapon you’re likely to find these days is a shotgun (or something exotic like a reproduction musket).

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            EDIT:Never mind,James Pony cleared all the confusion.

        • James Pony says:

          Well, it is and it isn’t. Depends very much on the context.

          Wiki says “A “gun” may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol, but there are exceptions, such as the U.S. Air Force’s GUU5/P. At one time, land-based artillery tubes were called cannon and sea-based naval cannon were called guns. The term “gun” evolved into a generic term for any tube-launched projectile-firing weapon used by sailors, including boarding parties and marines.”
          If you’re a civilian and talking about firearms in general, “gun” is fine, but you’ll easily lose credibility if using incorrect terminology while talking specifics. For example, I, having served in Heavy Artillery, testify that a howitzer and a cannon have a pipe, not a barrel, and wheels, not tires.

          And of course, there’s always the problem with anti-gun people. Regardless of what the Brady bunch says, there’s no such thing as an “assault clip”. They just twist and brutalize the terminology to make everything sound scary and most of their ideas and propositions serve exclusively to limit the violence law-abiding hobbyists enact on paper targets – not assault/murder/etc. As far as I’ve followed the discussion in the US, Canada, various European states (including here in Finland), the anti-gun people have only managed to bully law-abiding hobbyists while having no effect on crime. And as I have some basic knowledge of firearms, I can instantly tell they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
          Sometimes I wonder if they’re deliberately abusing the terminology in an attempt at something that resembles the Newspeak in 1984 in its desired effect.

          • KremlinLaptop says:

            Are you Finnish or just living in Finland? Because yeah, the anti-gun people here have a fantastic habit of managing to misuse terminology related to firearms for the best possible effect in scaring the living piss out of little old ladies.

            After which our lumbering legislation reacts by placing a completely arbitrary step to the process of acquiring a firearm permit just so they can appear to be doing something. The most ridiculous thing at the moment is that it’s actually easier to get a permit for a .357 revolver than a .22 pistol where I live because the .22 is viewed as ‘easier to conceal’. Not that either is particularly easy to get.

            Assault clip? That’s not even half as scary as ‘jungle style magazine’, that’s… legit terminology though. Just sayin’ it out loud makes me feel like I’m doing something I’m not supposed to.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            Plus we get into the whole complication that artillery (naval and otherwise) are rifled and have been for pretty much as long as we’ve had rifling and the whole argument ends up looking stupid and just one more case for one jackass that knows a little something to feel superior to some other jackass, even if its wrong.

      • rrgg says:

        Ooh, I have one.

        I am reading all these posts by looking at my Computer.

    • rrgg says:

      I’ve never heard of the guns vs rifles one. What’s that?

    • Irridium says:

      I will never accept “irregardless” as a word.

      Never!

    • KremlinLaptop says:

      Ha! When I was still in the FDF there was a meet-n-greet with foreign service members and I was perplexed why the American servicemen I was talking to about the 8.6 TKIV 2000 just kept smiling more and more every time I called it a ‘gun’.

      Later they explained and I felt a bit silly. I guess it’s a military thing; we tend to be very particular about the terminology in our field and the correct usage of it.

    • Blake says:

      Irregardless will never be a word, I’m happy for languages to evolve over time, but only to simpler, more obvious forms.
      Allowing a word that means the exact opposite of what it should mean is heresy.

      And being from Australia where I’ve seen a grand total of 2 firearms in my life, I’d never known some people don’t call them guns.

      Also ‘clip’ is a word I only know from games and movies (so is magazine I guess), is ‘clip’ a valid word for any part of a weapon or just something made up?

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Irregardless will never be a word, I’m happy for languages to evolve over time, but only to simpler, more obvious forms.
        Allowing a word that means the exact opposite of what it should mean is heresy.”

        I literally agree with you*wink*.

        “is ‘clip’ a valid word for any part of a weapon or just something made up?”

        Clip is a valid word,and is used for these things.

        • Blake says:

          That image didn’t actually help much, but my googling tells me that basically clips are a bunch of ammo held together like that, a magazine is an enclosed thingy those rounds or clips go in that then pushes the rounds up into the actual weapon.
          So like, you get a clip which is a bunch of rounds, you remove the magazine, put the clip into the magazine, then reattach the magazine to the firearm.

          Sound about correct?

  30. The Rocketeer says:

    One issue that I had with Borderlands was that you could get a bit too lucky, and get a piece of equipment (or two, or three) that you never had reason to part with, or at least not for a very, very long time.

    In a game based on tantalizing the player with the possibility of better stuff just over the horizon, giving the player a peerless bit of equipment essentially takes that bit of fun away and narrows the focus a bit further to just shooting a lot of face.

    The gunplay is pretty fun in itself, but any canny adventurer knows that in the eternal quest to become overpowered, it really is the journey that matters, not the destination. Arriving there too early (or ever!) is poison.

    • brainbosh says:

      I agree, and I remember that when I played through it I was disappointed by how few things you could get.

      You could get 4(?) weapons max, a shield, a skill accessory(forgot what its called), and a grenade type. I would normally only use 2 of the weapons, and I remember having long periods of time after getting good stuff when I never upgraded.

      Compared to Diablo 2, which had weapons, armor, helmet, belt, boots, necklace, and rings. There was plenty of stuff there to get a good, constant rotation of upgrades.
      Not that I need that much stuff, I just wish there had been something else to look for, something to keep that feeling of progress.

  31. Tvtim says:

    I loved the weapons of Borderlands. My all-time favorite was a sniper rifle which, when you were aiming down the scope, had an insanely fast full-auto fire-rate. It always stuck with me for the fact that it was the only way I’d ever really run out of ammo with any of my weapons; my ammo regen was good enough that I never ran out and my mag size was almost doubled due to talents and my mod.

    As to the variety: except for duping guns, I never saw two of the same gun in the game with any sort of reliability (except for crappy white guns and the occasional green weapon). So, I for one, believe it when they say there is so many different types; be it a gun that explodes into lightning when fired, my full-auto sniper, or the odd pistol that would empty it’s mag on auto-fire when you zoomed in (odd little thing, if you kept it scoped, it’d fire ’til it ran dry in the magazine).

  32. george says:

    Man, I farmed the Crawmeraton(?) for about 2 hours with these 2 guys helping me and my brother until we got bored.

    Out of it I got an SMG that shoots insanle fast (like 20 shots a second) and reloads within .5 seconds, that thing chewed threw max ammo exceedingly quickly, but was my 2nd best gun.

    My best gun only fired about 10-15 shots a second but each did 550 dmg so it was okay, and it had a scope, but the range was very good.

    Also, I usually found the triple burst guns (even whites) very good too, I used a white gun for about 20 levels this way.

    Shame I never finished mad moxxi’s, and I was going to finish up the achievements on the rest until I got over the compulsion.

    • Tvtim says:

      I hated Moxxi’s arena, took FOREVER. A friend and I spent about four hours to do just one of the bigger battles; the only good thing out of it was that due to the bonuses you get as you go along, we were able to get out of the arena and screw around by shooting enemies with sniper rifles from above the normal arena.

  33. Neko says:

    I really liked Borderlands, single player and multiplayer, and there’s really only one or two things I’d insist on them changing from the original: A decent (and adjustable) FOV, and a usable UI.

  34. Sumanai says:

    It’s interesting that Borderlands get compared, usually unfavourably, to Diablo 2 since neither has really grabbed me. I managed to play D2 and its expansion pack through because I was playing with friends, but I refused to start playing it on a higher difficulty.

    I think part of it is the loot lottery. I like random drops in general, but when you put too many stats on equipment in the beginning I’ll feel confused and once I’ve gotten into the habit of staring at two or three of the numbers I’ll end up feeling that game is trying to intentionally waste my time by being unnecessarily obtuse. Or that the game is trying to cheat me into using useless items, as there’s often one stat that is irrelevant.

    Or how many people put actual effort into getting high Attack Rating equipment? Because, unless they fixed it after I had stopped playing, it did nothing. Not a thing.

    Incidentally, the last topic on Borderlands led me to think that maybe weapons should only have two stats: damage (or damage per second) and speed. Then I played Spiral Knights and found out that in it there were two basic stats for weapons: Power and Speed. Made me happy.

    Well, “happy” is a strong word. “Feeling that sometimes someone somewhere might end up doing something that isn’t horrible.” Yeah, I’ve got an optimistic streak.

  35. [...] blogger, Shamus, talked about the sneaky gambling mechanics snuck into Borderlands recently over here. The gist of it is that you never know when the next loot you find will be a super fancy big gun so [...]

  36. [...] how they can include lots of guns without programming them one by one–is because of the loot lottery. Weapons are generated from component parts, and each part controls some aspect of the weapon [...]

  37. anaphysik says:

    Heh, I’m just getting around to playing Borderlands now. (As Lilith.)

    Got a scoped shotgun at level 10 that deals 72×12 damage. In my 30s now and still using it as my main :D Every other gun has come and gone and been replaced, but not that one. I should name it.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Pokemon gambling addictions « on March 5, 2012 at 2:09 am

    [...] blogger, Shamus, talked about the sneaky gambling mechanics snuck into Borderlands recently over here. The gist of it is that you never know when the next loot you find will be a super fancy big gun so [...]

  2. [...] how they can include lots of guns without programming them one by one–is because of the loot lottery. Weapons are generated from component parts, and each part controls some aspect of the weapon [...]

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