Borderlands: The Gun Lottery

  By Shamus   Nov 18, 2009   58 comments

The four playable characters / classes of borderlands are:

borderlands_cast.jpg

Lilith is a crit-stacking character with some area-of-effect spells. Mordecai is the sniper. (He also has the pet bird which is either completely worthless or the single most powerful attack in the game, depending on how you spend your skill points.) Despite being the “soldier”, Roland is actually the team medic / re-supply engineer. Brick is Brick. Brick punches. Brick also use rockets.

I’ve clocked some serious hours on this game. I’ve taken two different characters (a Brick and a Lilith) into their 20’s as part of a group. I’ve taken a single-player character (another Brick) to level 40. (The initial play-through ends in the early 30’s.) I’ve also taken a Roland and a Mordecai into their 20’s solo. That, and I have a couple of characters in their teens. I haven’t done the math yet, but that’s a lot of play time.

One of the things that is greatly confusing the discussions about the game mechanics is the number of different versions of the game. I’ve been told there are pronounced differences between the PC and Xbox offerings, which is further complicated by the fact that the PC version was patched at some point and important changes were made. (And the “full patch notes” are not actually entirely full. For example, try driving the car pre-patch and you’ll notice how easily it was to get caught on the most trivial scenery. Yet changes to the car aren’t even mentioned in the notes. What other slight changes or fixes are in there?)

So when we’re arguing about what weapons “work” or are “unbalanced” we’re not the group of blind men describing different parts of an elephant. We’re blind people describing what could be entirely different creatures, which may not even be part of the same zoo.

borderlands_guns.jpg

Guns each have stats, some of which (like accuracy) are shown in the interface and some (like reload speed) which can only be determined through use.

In the patched version, the sniping mechanics are broken. I wondered why I was having so much trouble sniping in this game. I’ve done a lot of FPS sniping in my day, and I’m familiar with how this usually works. I had a lot of instances where I was pretty sure I should have hit someone but didn’t. But you normally can’t make an accusation like this on the internet, or the people who have lashed their self-esteem to their “skillz” will dogpile with accusations of sucking, newbishness, and whining. But the vanishing sniper bullet has happened often enough and reliably enough that I’m prepared to say the hit detection is, in fact, utter hogwash. Far too often I find myself thinking, “What IS this dude’s hit-box shaped like? Because it’s not shaped anything like his body.

I was giving the game the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the “accuracy” stat of the gun was throwing off my aim so that I’d miss even when I had the target all lined up. That’s plausible enough, although the misses and hits were often grouped suspiciously.

After spending many hours with the sniper rifle, I’m convinced it’s a simple hit-box problem and not some slight subtlety with the accuracy rating. In short: Sometimes you just can’t hit a dude, no matter what. He’s behind some knee-high cover and I’m shooting at him over the top of (say) a box or something. Yet round after round will magically pass through him. Did I miss? Did the gun miss? Did I blink? Then, I move into the open and he stops standing behind the knee-high wall and suddenly I can repeatedly ding him in the forehead without fail.

I satisfied my doubts on this last week when I found myself above some dudes. I aimed downward, put the dot right on the head of my target, pulled the trigger, and “missed”. Again. And again. Every time. He was standing still and he wasn’t that far away. And my aim wasn’t off. The bullet was passing through his skull and striking the ground behind him. I couldn’t see the bullet impact (which was obscured by his head) but I could see the dirt it kicked up, which from my vantage point formed a halo of dirt around his cheating, lame-ass skull. I aimed center-torso, and still hit nothing. Then the two of us changed position and I dropped him with a single shot. Hmmm.

I suspect there is also a maximum distance, after which the bullet abruptly vanishes rather than dropping and losing effectiveness, but I don’t know. It’s a bit hard to study when people are trying to kill you, and when people aren’t doing that there’s no way to study.

This is not to say that the sniper rifle is underpowered. Aside from frustrating hit-detection shenanigans the thing is perfectly serviceable, and sometimes a sniper rifle is the perfect tool for the job. But the dodgy hit mechanics really are a killjoy sometimes. It’s like playing sports with a bad referee.

borderlands_moon.jpg

Depending on how you look at it: Either the rocket launcher is lame or the shotgun is overpowered. A standard-issue shotgun is going to have roughly the same damage output as a launcher of the same quality and level. Except that rockets pass through standard guys, so you must aim at their feet to deal splash damage. This means anyone behind a waist-high barrier or at the top of a small rise will be immune to rockets. Launchers fire more slowly and have a smaller capacity than shotguns, and the rounds themselves are rarer and you can carry less of them. Worst of all, rockets can’t ever score critical hits, which are a huge part of the game. (And rockets also have the obvious disadvantage that you can hurt yourself with them.) Wall-based splash damage is kind of dodgy and suspect, and a few times I had rockets go through a mook and strike the wall a meter behind him without dealing any damage whatsoever. So rocket launchers deal the same damage as shotguns, aside from all of their various disadvantages that make them less reliable, efficient, and versatile.

I stacked all of my skill points into the rocket-launcher focused branch of Brick’s skill tree, and it was never a contest: The shotgun outperformed it every time, going all the way from level 20 to level 40, through several generations of weapons. There was never a time when a launcher was my weapon of choice, because I always had a shotgun that outperformed it.

Another thing confusing the discussion on weapon mechanics is the extreme randomness of the weapon stats. The more you use a type of weapon, the more you’ll gain skill-ups in that weapon class and thus the better you’ll be at it. But when it comes to choosing a good weapon, you’re really at the mercy of the random number generator. As you level, you’re going to find truckloads of ordinary weapons, and a very small number of godlike foe-blasting treasures. It’s possible you’ll want to focus on sniping, but find yourself with an SMG so exceptional that it’s just not worth getting out your good-but-not-remarkable rifle. This is particularly true in the early game, when you’ll outgrow weapons rapidly and your arsenal will see a lot of turnover.

Example: Mordecai was my first character. He was fun, but the game felt a little hard and even when the hit mechanics worked my rifles just didn’t have the oomph that would make them fun to use. I found myself using a shotgun most of the time, even though I had all of these points in skills to boost my sniper rifle. Then I started a new game as Lilith, and the first sniper rifle she encountered (at level 7 or so) had a damage output of 250, which was about the same damage that my Mordecai had on his rifle at level 20-ish.

250 damage at level 7 is huge, and I wish I’d screenshotted it. It was a one-shot killing machine for several levels after that, and Lilith used that sniper rifle for over ten levels. She also had a really good shotgun and never found an exceptional SMG, despite the fact that her powers are built around crit-stacking the SMG and adding elemental effects to rapid-fire shots.

In Diablo 2, you usually stuck to your class weapon. It doesn’t matter if you just found a super-extra-double rare two-handed sword, your sorceress probably wasn’t going to use it. In Borderlands we have the same looting & leveling pace, but the stats of the stuff you find will often overshadow your core skills and abilities. It doesn’t matter that you’re a Mordecai focused on sniper rifles, because that combat rifle you just found is so good it will outperform your sniper rifle anyway.

Thankfully, re-arranging your skill points is very cheap, so you can experiment and move points around to match your weapon loadout. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, it just feels… strange. In Borderlands, you are your guns, and everything else is secondary.

So when I see lots of comments from people saying “the rocket launcher is AWESOME” and others saying “the rocket launcher is balls”, it’s obvious that at least one of these two people had their opinion shaped by an exceptional weapon, or lack thereof.

borderlands_bus.jpg

Now, all of this sounds really bad, but the truth is the game is a blast anyway.

There. I spent one sentence telling you the game is awesome and 1,400 words telling you how broken it is. Which of those is going to leave a bigger impression in your thoughts? Because the one-sentence thing is probably the most important, but I couldn’t offer that without giving you the other stuff.

Who cares if the weapons aren’t balanced? Once in a while you’ll find the Holy Grail of Rocket Launchers and you’ll be blasting people to bits with it. Other times you’ll find that one shotgun that seems to be the Solution to All Problems, and you’ll use that. The latter is far, far more likely, but they’re all fun to use.


20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. The one sentence is why we’re all playing the game in between working through Torchlight and Dragon Age and whatnot …

    … but the 1400 words are why a year from now we’ll not have touched the game in 11 months and will be hard pressed to ever bother loading it up again.

  2. BuschnicK says:

    Since your gaming preferences usually seem to be quite compatible to mine your one sentence endorsement combined with the fact that you seem to have logged a gazillion hours of playtime with the game I’ll take this post as a recommendation ;-)

  3. Benjamin Orchard says:

    @Michael Anderson.

    Unless of course those problems get fixed in a patch some time soon. Because of all the things that are described there’s absolutely NOTHING that can’t be fixed with a patch.

    Dodgy hit-boxes? Fixable.
    Dodgy launcher vs. shotgun stuff? Fixable (and probably easily so).
    Dodgy item gain–as long as trading is available, this isn’t that big of a deal. IF the people you play will trade.
    All that said, I have a friend who picked up Borderlands & Dragon Age at the same time and he’s been playing Borderlands non-stop. He even said it needs a patch, but it’s just too darn fun to put down.

    • Austin says:

      i’ve got this game 2 days ago, hit level 23 and still want to keep going with roland because i found a combat rifle that 2 shot the mothrakk at level 17.

  4. Pickly says:

    @Michael: That phenomenon is quite familiar to me as well. (though mostly these days I try to avoid games that i don’t expect to last a long time.)

    As for the items themselves, I do wonder if the rediculous differences in items might screw up the game further at some point (With some people getting unlucky and not being able to mow things down nearly as well as others who happened to get the good items. though of course I am not actually playing, so maybe this won’t occur or isn’t an issue.)

  5. Lex Icon says:

    Probably the best thing about Borderlands guns is their immediacy. In most games, if I hate the rocket launcher and think it sucks, then that’s that. Never will I give the launcher a chance.

    But here, I can go out and get a new one on the spot. Need a flame version? Bam, here’s one. Static launcher? One order coming up. Any gun can potentially serve any function, and nothing has to suck for long.

    There is a key to getting better stuff though. It’s been confirmed by one of the devs that buying the SDU upgrades for a certain type of ammo will affect the frequency of that kind of weapon dropping as well as that type of ammo.

    I’d link the article, but I failed to bookmark it when I found it. Anyway, if you keep on top of your upgrades it should help with the “my launcher sux” problem.

  6. scarbunny says:

    I had a similar issue as Mordecai I started with a few decent rifles but for the majority of the first half of the game I had an epic lighting shotgun that killed most with one shot, by the time that was starting to become less useful I had an epic SMG, although I only realised it was epic after I ran out of shotty ammo, which killed the Hive in one and a bit clips, and the end boss in about 3.

    I did try and roleplay it for a while only using rifles and revolvers but with the hit boxes being so off it wasn’t working for me.

  7. Russ says:

    Being flexible with your gun choices really makes all the difference throughout most of the first playthough. It isn’t until level 25+ where skill points can take a moderate gun and make it beat a super gun.

    I’ve gotten to the point with my siren that if the gun doesn’t start someone on fire, electrocute them, or poison them it isn’t worth using no matter how much straight damage it does. I can just do so much more with the elemental damage. Of course a siren that didn’t go down the elemental tree probably has a different outlook.

    Honestly, the gun lottery is one of the things I like about the game and probably keeps me playing more than gaining that next level or completing the next quest.

    Of course, that speaks to one of my dislikes… ninja looters. For the most part, I haven’t had a problem with the random people I’ve played with. However, last night I ran into a guy that would bee line to the chest in the middle of the fight and grab everything. Before that, everyone was looking at the contents of the chest and only grabbing what appealed to them. Of course this is probably more of a problem on the PS3 thanks to lack of people using microphones.

    I’m a bit busy lately, but if there are PS3 players out there that are looking for some coop play send a message to Digital_Ronin.

    Full disclosure: Level 39 Siren, Level 5 Mordecai, PS3

  8. BarGamer says:

    Well, that explains a lot, actually. No wonder I can only seem to snipe people while on the run. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, though.

  9. Nick says:

    Yeah, I’ve been playing as Roland since I got the game and I haven’t really found a good shotgun yet, but I’ve picked up some rather awesome SMGs (one that I had picked up at level 14 and used all the way until I was around level 30, when I found another similar one but with better damage). I find myself bouncing between the light machinegun rifles (fully auto; holding down the button with empty the mags) or the burst fire rifles (holding down the button will only fire in 3 round bursts. Heck, just clicking the button with fire 3-round bursts per click).

    One thing I did discover that felt strange; for a shotgun with a scope, using the scope will visibly tighten the spread of the shot. I think it’s the same with shotguns without scopes too, but I haven’t actually had a chance to test this yet. I’d retcon this to some kind of active choke system, but the reality is I think that it’s just a side effect of how the engine works with looking through sights or scope.

    Though this testing with shotgun scopes, I did notice that the scopes have a dot-with-circle reticle design for a reason more than just aesthetics; that circle is where the potential shot will land on a given weapon. Sometimes, say when using a sniper weapon, I find that I’ve been missing headshots, it’s really that the circle is actually bigger than the target’s head. Hence many of those shots were actually missing due to the “inherent” spread of the rifle. I haven’t found any similar indications for those weapons without scopes, though using the sights will still reduce the spread of shots.

    Really, this took many shots at walls and observing the patterns, but I’ve yet to see these mentioned anywhere.

    I usually play coop with my girlfriend, who plays Lilith. Her favorite guns are the sniper rifle and a revolver (at the moment, her entire weapons lineup causes caustic damage, too). She tends to take very careful shots, my setup is to throw as much lead at the enemy as possible.

    Yeah, it’s a hella fun game…

    BTW, I have noticed the hit-box issues with the guns and splash damage issues with the rockets too.

  10. bbot says:

    Speaking of phat loot, I got a Fearsome Orion sniper rifle off a burning lance boss near the end of my first playthrough, as Roland, approx level 25. 20 round magazine, 410 damage, x4 shock damage.

    With the frankly irresponsible soldier magazine size increases and firing rate buff, the thing is pure death. I have yet to find anything that can match it, twenty levels later.

    @Russ

    The group I play with is so polite that we’ll stand around a purple and passive-aggressively argue about who should take it, because that person will then feel indebted to the group, and will shortly thereafter die of shame.

    Unless it’s an orange, in which case, all bets are off.

    Entirely unrelated: Game set watch publishes post linking to an incredibly NSFW youtube video, (tenuous justification: it was pixel art) predictable reader outcry, GSW takes it off the front page and disables comments, but doesn’t delete the article itself. (webcite mirror)

    It is really, really, not safe for work. I am talking /b/ level NSFW, here. Now, GSW is unmoderated, but you really have to wonder what Eric Caoili was thinking.

    Edit: Turns out he’s one of the editors!

  11. SolkaTruesilver says:

    You do realise, Shamus, that you actually INCREASED the likelihood that someone will like that game?

    You tell them all the bad parts. What to expect that will be unpleasant. And then, you say: “But I still had lots of fun”.

    Anyone reading your review will expect the bad parts, and know what they are paying for. Thus, they won’t hold these bad elements against the game on the long run.

    Like in Dwarf Fortress. We all say “The game has a difficulty Great Wall of China”. Well, that’s because we want you to know that you will struggle at the end, but it’s still worthwhile and fun at the end.

  12. bbot says:

    As for the hitbox bug: After observing it in the wild, I’ve concluded that the AI is coded such that when the enemy is under cover, collision is disabled entirely, unless the player flanks them. This is probably to avoid players from killing enemies behind cover with area-of-effect elemental rifles.*

    On the one hand, this is a horrible hack. On the other hand, it forces more interesting player behavior than Gears Of War-style plinking from behind cover.

    Actually, Borderlands and Gears Of War both use the same engine. Hmm.

  13. OddlucK says:

    I was trampled by an elephant, once.

    I got better.

  14. kikito says:

    This is not the first time I see this design decision on a videogame.

    In the POWDER roguelike (the best roguelike available for portable devices, by the way) you character starts with certain weapons and habilities. They are more or less randomised at the start, so every time you play you have to adapt.

    It is actually more difficult in POWDER since you learn new habilities by reading books – that you have to find, too. You might start with a “book of blades” … and a hammer. But it is also part of the interest!

  15. Decius says:

    Is the sniper hit detection dodgy in multiplayer as well? Seems to me that with a willing assistant, you could create a “This is broken” video quite easily.

  16. John says:

    Good review, and a very accurate assessement of the game’s oddities.

    As Lilith I was fortunate to find (sometimes buy) a few shotguns and smg’s that were “godlike foe-blasting treasures” as you put it. Those two weapon suit her playstyle well, as her active ability is meant to be used up close. My favorite was an smg with a x2 explosion and a high elemental chance. And good clip size, accuracy and damage. Plus I had a class mod that gave me +30% elemental chance with SMG’s & 50% SMG damage. (Mercenary class mods.) It was brutal, and tore through anyone in moments for several levels. Very fun.

    Highest damage weapons I’ve found over the course of the game are shotguns. Some very nasty one’s indeed. Even with most enemies on my 2nd playthrough around levels 35-40, my shotgun can kill most anything in 2-3 shots. (discounting bosses, and “BadMutha” enemy types” With a quick fire rate that works out well. Shotguns may be overpowered, but in a way I think that might be expected, so I’m glad they are. As someone mentioned above, the shotguns gain accuracy when looking down the sight/scope. With a shotgun accuracy of 70-80 you can hit guys from quite far away with this method. Of course all the weapons gain accuracy doing this.

    At level 40 I have 20 proficiency with shotguns, 15 with smg, 12 with pistols, and 8 with sniper. I never used launchers or rifles except to get a few achievements so it never got up in level. I actually thought the combat rifles were terrible. I never found a good one, and I tried them out from time to time. Mainly the clipsize was really limiting.

    I’ve found when co-op’ing with my friend I can outperform him every time even though we are equal level. He plays as Mordecai, and only uses snipers and revolvers. He’s an excellent shot, but smg/repeaters/shotgun can simply kill guys faster. (As can Liliths action skill.)

    Ok, rambling now. Glad to finally read your overall take on Borderlands!

  17. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Conversly, I can’t kill anything with repeaters but slaughter with revolvers.

    And I too do the “I should really be playing Dragon Age” thing with Borderlands.

  18. Nick says:

    It’s sad how the guns determine what you play with, rather than the class/skills.

    Your skills can potentially influence what guns you use (With all guns being equal, using a combat rifle is best for Roland), but you rarely get a kick-ass gun for your particular class.

  19. Robyrt says:

    The rocket launcher thing is especially apparent when you’re using a Helix rocket launcher, which shoots 3 rockets at once in a spiraling pattern. When NONE of them connect with an enemy, your hitbox detection becomes a little suspect…

  20. krellen says:

    In speaking with a friend of mine who has the game, she agreed that the basic summation of Borderlands was “A whole bunch of suck that somehow equals awesome.”

  21. Sauron says:

    I play as Mordecai on my main. I used snipes of various sorts for about the first half of the game or so, and, on the whole, there seemed to be some issues with hit-boxing, but nothing terrible enough that I stopped using snipes.

    No, I stopped using snipes when I realized that I could be much more effective on a melee build. Yeah, my sniper class is a melee beast. And I snipe guardians with shotguns. I think I missed a memo somewhere, but it works.

  22. Groundhog says:

    The rocket launcher really isn’t worth the effort.
    Here’s why:(in my opinion)
    At decent levels you can find a shotgun which fires missiles of it’s own, uses shotgun ammo, fires pretty fast, and holds six or more shells.
    It won’t do quite as much damage per shot as an equal level launcher, but it’s far quicker and thus, more damaging over time.
    It does, however, suffer from the same shitty hit detection as the launcher.

    Edit: Also, a shotgun firing missiles is far more awesome than a missile launcher firing missiles. So the ‘terrible carnage’ is cooler, as well.

  23. Sho says:

    Actually, this game sounds like it could work for me (if I could get past the dodgyness of online play/contented myself with solo). Neither the rocket launcher or the sniper rifle are my kind of guns, but I do rather like things like SMGs and I hear no complaints here about those. I presume most of the other guns work?

  24. MintSkittle says:

    The worst offense that I’ve come across was me trying to long range snipe some psychos, missing head shot after head shot, while they throw axes at me from extreme range, and hit me several times in a row. I get tired of this, throw a longbow grenade, and it bounces off the chest high invisible barrier right above the waist high visible wall. After much cursing at the computer for being a cheating bastard, I move to moderate range and proceed to clean house with my combat rifle. The only time I have had a good run at sniping is in a wide open area with no barriers to hide behind.

  25. Debaser says:

    @Groundhog
    Oh my god, Terrible Carnage sounds a hell of a lot better than it is. Imagine a gun with all the inaccuracy of a shotgun, with the added inaccuracy of the rocket-launcher, and the zero-range splash damage of rockets themselves.
    The quest specific version of it is somewhat better, but it has literally 0 accuracy.

  26. Mario says:

    I have the xbox version of this game, my main character is Mordecai, and for what I have seen the big problem with sniper rifles is that under 98 of accurancy the spread of the bullet make the shot useless 99% of the times.
    Over 98, by the way, almost every shot is an hit, even from very far away (I could barely see the enemy, even with the scope) and also behind covers.
    And the only problem with hit boxes I had is with the small maniacs (don’t know what’s the exactly name of them in english). I have to shot to their chest to score a headshot.

    But the real big problem with this game I think is the story (and yes the ending).
    I tried to read all the descriptions, but I got bored after a while. Yes, they’re fun, but there’s really no need to read them, or to understand what everyone say.
    All you have to do is to activate a mission kill everything and come back for the reward.
    And it’s a shame, because the text (for what I have seen) is hilarious too, but you don’t feel compelled to read it, instead you feel compelled to skip it and keep killing things for better weapons.
    And there’s no way to fix this (and yes, the ending).

    But as Shamus said, the games is fun, that is something many other games aren’t this days.

  27. John says:

    Can’t say I ever noticed the hit box problem most are mentioning with sniper rifles. However its glaring with the rocket launcers for sure.

    If you do try to shoot from too far away you won’t hit anything though. I know that much. But you can still tag guys from quite a ways away. You’ll just have to experiment to see I guess.

  28. Groundhog says:

    @Debaser:
    You didn’t try to use it at long range, did you? Because in that case you’re quite correct. At range it is utterly useless. The way I used it, though, was to clear out swarms of weaker creatures. The smaller spiderants, for example. I’d let them cluster up around me, and then let off one or two shots. No more spiderants.
    Plus, it’s a bloody shotgun that shoots missiles! It’s awesome by default, no matter how finicky it might be.

  29. Zerotime says:

    First and second playthroughs, I ended up with a sniper-specced Mordecai that used a Pestilent Defiler revolver, a Hellfire SMG, and liberal doses of melee to kill. That “ignore enemy shields” thing was just ridiculous in the endgame, with the Guardians falling in one shot.

    Third and fourth playthroughs, Roland with mostly turret-based skills. He uses a (wait for it!) Hellfire SMG and a Pestilent Defiler revolver, and shields aren’t a problem because (for some weird reason) nobody seems to have them.

  30. ifriit says:

    I’ve gotten one Mordecai through a first playthrough, and in all honesty, I’ve never had a sniper rifle “failure.” It did surprise me that they (and no other gun I’ve found in the game) are not hitscan weapons, though.

  31. Nick says:

    Am I the only one that thinks that this game sounds like it’s still in beta?

  32. Martin Annadale says:

    It really helps in the long run (playthrough2) if you concentrated on one weapon type only throughout the game. The proficiencies really help later on.

    Thats why I’m using pistols with my Siren. There seems (to me) be a much larger chance of picking up repeaters or revolvers with elemental damage. The repeaters gives the siren the fire-rate that she wants. The hight damage on revolvers really work out well when combined with the elemental multiplier. AND they use different ammo types. So while you’re leveling up the proficiency of one weapon type you have access to two ammo types which helps you to not run out of ammo in the early stages when you haven’t got gold SDU’s yet.

  33. Viper says:

    It’s a bummer Lilith has 2 broken skills on the PC: Silent Resolve and Phase Strike. 2 skills I wanted to build my character around, along with the shock damage whilst Phasewalking and Phoenix. It’s fixed on the consoles, though. *sigh*

    If there’s one thing I dislike about SMGs, it’s the Patrol SMGs. The spiraling bullets have awful hit detection, and it only becomes worse if you take the bullet velocity skill in my experience. You can hit a lot close range, but then you might as well just use a shotgun.

  34. ifriit says:

    @Viper: The PC patch was released on the 16th. A warning, however: some people are reporting some pretty awful graphical glitches post-patch. The common element appears to be Win XP or possibly DX9.

  35. Viper says:

    I’ll look for it (again). Cheers.
    Does Borderlands run on anything else than Dx9, by the way?

  36. ifriit says:

    I can’t help but wonder: are people complaining about bounding box issues simply not used to having to lead a moving target? One of the unusual features of Borderlands in my experience is that it models the bullets as objects instead of just infinite vectors, and you do have to take travel time into account for all weapons. Even the bastards doing the minor moving around they do while “holding still”–ducking down to reload, shifting about–could result in a miss such as Shamus described, where the bullet clearly struck directly behind where the target’s head is “now.”

  37. ifriit says:

    @Viper: You know, now that I think about it, unless the patch changed it, by default it’s DX9-only. There’s a flag in the config files you can enable to run under DX10, though. It’s entirely possible there’s some difference in the DX10 implementation of DX9 functionality, depending on how MS builds those libraries, so it’s still possible being capable of DX10 could affect performance.

    • Shamus says:

      ifriit: The problem is most noticable on stationary targets, so I doubt that’s the case.

      Which makes me wonder why they went to all the trouble of simulating bullet physics when simple hit detection eluded them.

  38. Erik says:

    I really enjoyed the game, since it has co-op, and i pretty much love anything with co-op in it. I played it with 1 friend, so we pretty much duo’ed the entire game. However, at some point, my friend found a legendary sniper rifle, and i was playing as brick.

    his gun did so much frigging damage that by the time i got around to actually trying to kill a person, the room would be filled with corpses from his oh-so-awesome sniperrifle.
    Kinda made me feel like the BMX bandit there.

    However, in the end i found a rocket launcher that set people on fire, so it was all good.

  39. Mephane says:

    In Borderlands, you are your guns, and everything else is secondary.

    Well, then this is definitely not the game for me. I have no problem with games (for example FPS) where the your character and playstyle is determined by the weapons your character has, but when there is a skill system to specialize into, that which you are specialized should be the no. 1 choice of weapon for you, even if you find something totally different with exceptionally good stats.

  40. Alan De Smet says:

    @ifriit: Because perfectly aimed shots sometimes miss anyway because of the accuracy chance, the effect is subtle. I’d have massive elevation on a non-moving target behind some cover, but have a clear shot on their head. I’d wait for the scope to stabilize. Bang! Miss! Hmm, must be bad luck. Fortunately the target didn’t notice, or decided to stay still a bit longer. Bang! Miss! Bang! Miss! Bang! Miss! Hrm, I’ll aim at the body, which is slightly obscured by the cover. Bang! Hit the cover! Elemental effect drives the target out from cover. As he runs around, I aim on his moving head, and Bang! Critical! Dead!

    The first few times this happened, I assumed it was a weird fluke, bad luck with the accuracy simulator, or maybe I was somehow just a bad shot despite making similar shots against moving targets with relative ease. After the dozenth or so time, I started wonder if there was something more serious. As I’m playing Mordecai, this is frustrating, because every once in a while I’ll have one of those beautiful “You guessed wrong where to hide” moments, only to be denied my critical, forcing me to flush them out and usually complicating the situation.

  41. ifriit says:

    This is all very strange–perhaps I haven’t played enough, but I never really noticed it. Perhaps I did just attribute it to the inaccuracy spread and recoil modifiers if/when it happened, or possibly there’s something more subtle going on. The forum “glitch list” indicates weapon recoil increases noticably when playing as a multiplayer client as opposed to either single player or multiplayer host with the same gun, for example. Could other factors actually be mucking with it? Not that this is much better, mind you, just a different, more painful to resolve kind of bug.

  42. MuonDecay says:

    You know what really sold me on how overpowered weapons can get in this game?
    http://i50.tinypic.com/vwz58i.png

    That revolver selects from all of the elements at random every shot and discharges an x4 bullet of the type selected, every shot. It’s a level 28 weapon, but my soldier is now level 37 and it is still sometimes a 1-hit kill weapon for common enemies. That is astonishingly powerful.

    I first picked it up when fighting high level 20 foes and for about a third of the game I was the hand of god laying down death without breaking a sweat.

    It was absolutely ludicrously easy, but it was also exhiliratingly fun, because I had found that gun for sale in a vending machine when helping someone catch up to my storyline progress, and so it was thrilling to have such exhilirating luck and get to enjoy the benefits so very much.

    It was like winning a jackpot in a casino and being cast in the next Dirty Harry movie all at once.

  43. Sheer_FALACY says:

    I’d think the random element thing would be a pain. I mean, lightning vs a shieldless enemy is just a joke. And does it do that in addition to explosive? If so, that seems pretty nice, though explosive seems pretty bad.

  44. Greg says:

    This post nearly convinced me to buy Borderlands – but then the publishers persuaded me otherwise. You see, I live in Australia. Lately, due to the strong Aussie dollar, I’ve tended to get games directly from Steam, because they’re cheaper that way instead of the usual retail option. At release, Australians could buy Borderlands for the same price in US dollars than anybody else could, but after a couple of weeks the store instead came up with a message “This game is not available in your region”. There was much speculation about whether this was a censorship issue, but that turned out not to be the case.
    Today, when searching for information about why it wasn’t available for purchase, I found the following quote from a 2K representative in an article on Kotaku
    “Unfortunately due to an internal error, Borderlands was briefly available for download on Steam for Australian users at an incorrect price. We have since reposted the game for the discounted price of AU$79.95 and apologise for the inconvenience.”

    Yeah, the discounted price is half again what the original price was. And that means the publisher is getting half again as many US dollars from Australian sales as they do from domestic sales, for a digitally delivered product that has no shipping costs. They’ve certainly persuaded me not to buy this game, at least not until it’s on sale for under $20.

  45. MuonDecay says:

    The Chimera only does one element at a time, but the RNG is a bit trend-prone so you usually get a few shots of something useful in a row. Even electrical damage is pretty good against raiders, too, since at x4 it regularly does a fair amount of damage-over-time after a hit, and it’s often an AOE effect so you don’t need to hit directly.

    My skills give it an extra shot and less recoil, too, which makes it handier.

    At level 41 now, and the gun is still useful, which boggles my mind.

  46. Spluckor says:

    So I’ve been playing Roland on my second playthrough right now. I noticed something, since I started using him I’ve been using Combat Rifles cause thats what it said he would be best with, but looking around his skill tree I notice he only has one skill that affects combat rifles only.

    I could have honestly used any weapon with roland and have been ok. Hell he has a skill that effects shotguns so I could have went that route just fine. At this point in my playthrough though, I have 29 skill in Combat Rifles, 4 in Shotguns and 1 in SMGs, so it’s really pointless for me to use anything but Combat Rifles.

    I guess it helps that I also love Combat rifles…

  47. Wyvaud says:

    Re: the Australian thing.

    I also live in Oz. We’re expected to pony up $79.99 US for a game that sells in the US for $49.99, if we want to buy it through steam.

    cdwow.com.au still has the game at $40.95 AU though, so if you still want it but don’t want to buy into the steam price jack (2ks fault I think) then go there.

  48. Nick says:

    “Unfortunately due to an internal error, Borderlands was briefly available for download on Steam for Australian users at an incorrect price. We have since reposted the game for the discounted price of AU$79.95 and apologise for the inconvenience.”

    Yeah, the discounted price is half again what the original price was.

    The game was AU$160?? It seems that publishers have digital distribution down to a fine art. I can’t believe that people actually bought it at that price.

  49. Greg says:

    No, the game was $US50, which translated to $AU53. My displeasure is because it’s been “discounted” to about 1 and a half times what it cost before.

  50. llamadal says:

    cant say I agree with the sniper problems, I have a lvl 46 sniper and a lvl 45 soldier and my sniper does a very good amount of damage, sure some shots miss but on the whole if i go for 10 headshots, i will get 7 of them. ive played it patched and unpatched on the pc

  51. Zerotime says:

    MuonDecay: (on the off-chance that this ever gets read) I managed to snag a pretty neat level 13 two-shot electric revolver on my first playthrough with Mordecai, and I was still using it well into Playthrough 2, at like level 38 or something.

  52. boom headshot says:

    awesome game

  53. RubicantX says:

    When I bought the game one or two months ago I didn’t have any of the “no reg” issues with snipers or rockets. I bought it months after you did and downloaded whatever was the latest patch at the time.

    For me sniper rifle rounds always seemed to go “where they should” taking that (me sucking at FPS’s) into consideration, plus adding the gun sway even when the mouse was still, then adding in enemy movement (they still bob their heads around a bit even when their feet are still) and then add, on top of all that, the guns (in)accuracy and you have Murphy’s Law waiting to happen. (<-Spelling?)
    "Anything bad that CAN happen WILL happen"

    My first character in any game that has any classes or dialogue options is always "me" in a differently reality so I, of course, chose the Hunter. The Hunter naturally has abilities that make the guns I would be using anyway more awesome.
    My play-style is to sit back very very far from my prey and pop off rounds into their skull and chest before any of them can get into their weapon range or, shudder, get into melee range. I am very cautious in every game.

    I state my play-style because I'm about to say something I feel needs a set-up which is this:
    Considering the game makes the type of gun you use the most better as it levels up, plus the class abilities to make them even better, I must speculate whether it was not the inherent flaw of the gun type but your own favored FPS play-style rearing its' ugly head and snarling at your logic based (which often gives way to what feels better when it comes to gameplay) decision to use those gun types.

    So I guess my real statement/ question is this:
    Even though you picked the Hunter class who uses sniper rifles and has those abilities with your logic based "I'm going to play my first time this way"… Was it actually your love of "in-your-face" shotgun play-style that lead to you using them more?

    My one seen critical flaw: Getting hit makes your aim go totally off target. I would have made the mechanics that if you still have shields left it would not do this, especially considering how dependent snipers are on minute movements of the mouse. Being able to withstand even one or two hits before the aim became all jacked up would have made it much less frustrating to be a sniper.
    But I totally owned all the pre-boss guardians and the end-game boss as well with the shield bypass skill.

  54. noshi says:

    The hitboxes are not “wonky”. The bullet velocity engine is owning you. Guns don’t hit like CS:S. They hit more like Battlefield 2. You have to lead (due to bullet velocity) and even then the AI erratic movement will screw you over.

    Sniping to HS is a gamble because no gun short of one specific one hits PRECISELY the center of the crosshair. You are far better off with a semiautomatic sniper rifle than one of those Jakobs abominations and doing multiple body shots. They also double as overpowered short-range “shotguns” especially with ROF enhancers.

    Mordecai is the sniper specialist but he is best as a glass cannon. Get a really good 3-burst Combat Rifle and you will quickly notice his advantage if you can kill enemies quickly to enable his “on-kill” skills. You want to snipe? Use 3-burst Combat Rifle weapons. Snipers can kill very quick at point blank.

  55. Just an update, apparently it has sold over five million copies.

    Now they are auditioning models to do real life characters:

    http://dfw.cbslocal.com/video/6528619-dfw-women-audition-to-star-in-video-game/

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