I praise them all the time!
I think one of the most important things, though, is that Battleborn just has such a sense of identity. I look at the mainstream today and what I see is that publishers are spending so much money that they have to cast the net wide to try and catch as large a consumer base as they can.
In doing so though they have to target the lowest quantities of imagination, diversity, intellect, cleverness, and personality. The end result is a lot of games which feel like they’re falling over themselves just to be like each other and to be a part of the latest trend. And you have marketing which is doing its best to tell people what they should think, what they should like.
And I’ve been heartfully disappointed with that state of affairs for the longest time. It’s hardly like this kind of game comes along often, is it? And the thing is? For me, it stands up there with Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and every other rcent title that’s been ballsy and brave enough to actually shirk the mainstream, instead allowing their creators to make passion projects.
Battleborn feels like a passion project, through and through. It’s just so obvious to me that they really loved these characters. I believe their lead writer has even enthused about how head-over-heels he is iwth ISIC. You don’t see that kind of enthusiasm often any more. It may be a bit weird, it may sound odd, but I miss it when developers were so excited about their video games they’d say the most ridiculous things to journalists.
I miss the era where John Romero wanted to make me his… well, you know. I actually do miss that. For all of Romero’s flaws, he had passion, personality, imagination, and vision. I’ll give him that. And honestly? Having played Daikatana again recently, aside from a slow and somewhat annoying introduction, I think that game was so unfairly panned.
I remember video games like Skies of Arcadia where you actually had a diverse cast of people, each of them with their own aspirations, wants, and dreams. It wasn’t just token this, and token that. No, these were characters you would end up caring about.
I recall how that imagination seemed to drain away over time, eventually crashing in something I tentatively call the '06 Crapfall. The year where it all finally came crashing down, where the Gamecube and PS2 were replaced by the Xbox 360 and the PS3. And Japan seemed to wither and die. Without Japan as an example of artistic integrity and what you could do with vision and heart, everything turned into this rush for the world’s best fidelity.
You have to be more grey! You have to be more gritty! Those men need more dirty on their faces! Those women need to have their boobs hanging out to appeal to the pervs to get more money! Everything should be like a bad movie! And even more cinametic! So much cinematic!
I preferred FMV over today’s cinematic, at least then you had game developers cheesing it up and trying so hard to act (badly). I remember that was one of the most endearing things about the Tex Murphy games. It was the best.
The thing is? Gearbox is acting like the Crapfall didn’t happen. They’re making these colourful gmaes with personality, and they’re someone’s passion project. And until things got ruined for Randy over that stupid Colonial Marines mess? Well, I loved that he was like the game developers of old. He wasn’t trying to sell you something like a sleazy PR person, he was genuinely excited for this cool stuff his teams were making.
I remember the early story of Borderlands where he felt they needed to go for fidelity to make a game that’ll sell, they were almost a part of the Crapfall. His creative people weren’t having any of that, though, and they pitched him a better version which had more in common with Dark Horse comic books. And that’s the Borderlands we have today, which somehow survives.
And even Borderlands is more mainstream than Battleborn is. I think it’s in the humour. I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s a lot of ‘LOL, so random’ in Borderlands, which I think is more an effort to appeal to the mainstream people who still have interest in their games than it is anything else.
The only game that really changed that was The Pre-Sequel. Instead of having the ‘LOL, so random’ humour, it was Crocodile Dundee in Space and that’s the best thing ever. I can’t put into words how much I actually enjoyed it. Let’s try! It was jubilant, it was a celebration of diversity, it was a recognition that there are nations in the world other than those regularly used in video games. It was casting off the mainstream raiment and running through the streets naked. It was glorious.
And this is why I love Gearbox. They’re so far immune to the Crapfall, and I hope they continue to be for a long, long time. Even if they have to use smaller development teams and work on smaller projects with smaller profits. Just so long as they can keep doing what they’re doing. I’ve always felt that if you model yourself after something like Insomniac in the PS2 era, who were making a game a year with a much smaller dev team than what we see today? And if you aim those games at underserved niches?
I think there’s a lot of money to be made from that without having to turn to the mainstream and give into the Crapfall. It’s just my opinion, but there you are. It’s something I feel quite strongly about. I don’t often get games like this. Both Battleborn and the Pre-Sequel are so wrong for today, so anachronistic and outside of time that they give me ASMR nostalgia. They genuinely feel like brilliant games from the early '00s that I never got to play.
It’s like when I recently discovered Rogue Galaxy for the PS2 and got to play that. Battleborn feels like that. It just has so much personality, identity, and heart. It was made by people who wanted to make a thing, other than simply people who wanted to make money.
I’m actually seeing traces of this resurging. I’m going to talk about DC for a bit as an example, so feel free to skip a few paragraphs.
DC Rebirth is a brilliant tear down of how comics (especially DC itself) have been ever since they became much more dark, dramatic, and tortured around the time of the Watchmen. And Rebirth is actually a critique of not just that but of DC as well. I remember, like, Didio (DC head honcho guy) said something along the lines of how superheroes aren’t allowed to be colourful any more, how they aren’t allowed to have happy endings since they’re supposed to be sad??
And that kind of thinking is endemic of the Crapfall. So the New 52 was just this big, sad, depressing thing that I had no interest in. Now though it seems like they’re taking that back, letting comics be happy again instead of everything needing to be the darkest of dark knights (Batman et al).
Even Wally West is back.
Okay, segue time! There actually has been a way of thinking lately that suggests that red haired people are their own ethnicity. Living in Britain and having seen a lot of them I can actually agree with that, I can see the markers that would actually define one. On top of that, they’ve actually experienced a lot of prejudice and bigotry over the years. I’ve heard so many people say that redheads are ugly, and there’s that whole ‘red-headed stepchild’ saying.
So redheads really do need their heroes, so I’m glad the original Wally West is back. I think any group of people who’ve been met with discrimination and prejudice deserve their own heroes.
Note: Apologies if redhead is offensive, I’ve been told by a friend that ‘ginger’ is a hurtful term and I confirmed that on quora. So I’m going by that.
The '06 Crapfall seemed to rob a lot of things of their identity, personality, and imagination. There was so much money being spent on games by publishers that they had to be safe to ensure that their games would sell. Glorious, experimental affairs like Spore, Creatures, or even Little Computer People just didn’t happen any more. And soon, even just appealing to a niche group and having a character with an unusual personality or abnormal tastes was something banned in the design books.
Even animal people disappeared just because they became the target of sexual fetishes. But I’ll tell you this: A human being can make a fetish out of anything, there are fetishes for absolutely everything and it shouldn’t ruin the subject matter. Rule 34 exists for a reason. Humans are naturally sexually enabled creatures, after all, so that’s just something that’s going to happen no matter how anyone feels about it. You can’t halt that without changing human nature.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to cut that thing out entirely just because someone has a fetish. If we did that, we’d have to stop liking and doing everything. We’d have to stop breathing, as there are people who have a thing for that, too. Oh, wait, there are also people who have a thing for not breathing. Oops.
So it was just a silly time of limiting creativity and stopping imagineers from doing anything interesting. I think though that that’s going to wear people down and you can only have people make so many dull, high fidelity games before they snap. I think the fatigue of dullness has taken its toll on creative people and at this point they need to make fun things again, they need passion projects.
Look at everything from Yooka-Laylee to the new Kojima Productions. And how Kojima Productions is actually modelling itself after the kind of team size I’ve always felt is ideal (they want to keep it less than a hundred people).
I feel that Kickstarter itself is a sign of the times.
The thing is, though? The transition isn’t ready, yet. It’s not time. We can’t go back to how things were in the '90s and ‘00s where creativity and imagination dominated everything. We can’t just have Little Big Adventures, Outcasts, Vangers’ just coming out left and right yet, as things need to change about how people actually look at video games first.
Battleborn is a chance, though. It’s an experiment to see if it can exist yet, to see just how many people are ready for something that’s creator-driven. I’m glad it’s here, I’ll tell you that. While I worry it came out a bit too early, I’m glad I have it. My partner and I are separated by an ocean at the moment, which is quite depressing for both of us, so we need things to keep us occupied. Battleborn has been one of those things. It’s given us laughs and happiness in a bad time for both of us. Couldn’t ask for more.
And decades from now, when I look back at all the great games I’ve played. I’m going to put Battleborn up there with the best of games from a different era. It’ll stand alongside Ultima VII, Myst, Shining Force, Metroid Prime, and so many other weird eccentricities that happened because the priority was wanting to make something really cool, over wanting to make money. And that’s why I play it.
It feels like a modern Spyro the Dragon. It’s a bit of an event. I don’t often get to feel this way about video games any more. I was worried it was because I was getting old and thus bored of video games, that I’d ‘grown out of them,’ and here’s Gearbox to show me that that’s not true at all. Thanks Gearbox!
How’s THAT for praise? And I mean every darn word of it.
Edit: Popped in a paragraph I missed at the end. I was so energised and excited writing this that I … actually forgot my closing paragraph which wraps everything up.
Edit 2: I just thought of a really great way to TL;DR this!
Compare and contrast Beyond Good & Evil, and what Ubisoft was going to do with Beyond Good & Evil 2. Then look at Battleborn versus those and see which it’s closest to. That’s pretty much what I mean. It’s stylised in a way that’s just so early '00s, I love it.