Why the BL3 Story Has Villain Problems: An Entirely Too Long Tinfoil-Hat Theory by a Drunk Fan Who Cares too much about Story Dynamics

So I don’t really know the rules of fully going through any crazy overarching thoughts like this, so I’m going to play it safe by spoilering… literally everything in this insane crazy rant. And it’s going to be long. And Crazy.

Also feels like I should point out that I don’t have any more information than you do on any of this. No one from GBX has told me anything to confirm or deny this idea. What you’re about to read are literally the ramblings of one person who connected two ideas, and a lot of ■■■■ started to make sense. It’s entirely likely that any and all of this is completely untrue and not founded, but it explains a stupid amount of my problems with how the game is laid out, some story points I hear commonly contended against, and some otherwise just “weird ■■■■” that happened leading up to release, some of which may not even be Randy’s fault. But, as always, probably mostly Randy’s fault.

The end result demands that I give you a TLDR thesis statement before I go on this rant that boils down to-

“It’s my theory that the BL3 story is so disjointed because Troy and Tyreen were originally developed as separate faction leaders to an MMO that was eventually trimmed down to a classic ‘looter shooter’ because battleborn and destiny 2 went over like ■■■■ and the result is a game with elements from both ‘campaigns’ that had to be heavily re-edited to make a single/co-op player experience.”

Since I’m using the spoiler format and am too lazy to use the tags appropriately, enjoy this artists rendering as my “Author’s Back Page Portrait” for this, because this is how seriously this rant should be taken-

It also feels like worth pointing out that despite all my bitching here, I am firmly in the camp of “BL3’s story was… fine? Like have you thought about the rest of it for even a second? It’s not that bad by comparison.” But I’m going to be talking about a lot of it in relation to this insane theory so it seems like I have problems. I do not. This theory just popped into my head, and I can’t stop thinking about it and have nothing to do right now so…

You were warned.

So just today, I was engaging in one of my favorite hobbies - making myself mad and depressed by responding to people talking about the stories in video games that I like. In particular, I was responding to a particular comment that I’ve seen a whole bunch since BL3 came out. No, not the one about Ava- I promise I don’t care what you think about her character and you’re not cool or edgy for bringing it up - she’s not the point of this, don’t ■■■■■■■ at me.

No, this was the other point that I’ve seen a lot of people bring up, the commonly seen “fake out” of Troy fighting or absorbing Tyreen and him being the BBEG. It’s… probably the second most common story criticism I see, and one I’ve always kind of understood. The relationship of the two big bads is… is certainly complicated throughout the game. We see that Troy clearly has problems always being at the mercy of his sister. Their relationship is far from perfect with her clearly being the better in a lot of exchanges, and him being the “powerful, but not necessarily ambitious” subordinate.

Which has always been my biggest issue with the storyline. When Troy does kind of (not really) turn against Tyreen, it’s always felt really weird to me. They’ve had tension throughout the entire story, but his entire motivator in his main marquee fight is “I THINK I CAN TAKE THEM IF I JUST MAKE YOU SHUT UP AND MAKE YOU GIVE ME WHAT I NEED”, and there’s not really a deciding trigger or split that goes with it. More to the point, he’s somehow… able to do it despite only having the general half-siren power up that she allows him to have, and Maya’s powers… despite Tyreen apparently deciding how much power he has and still having Lilith’s powers.

So I started to go down the familiar rabbit hole of “what if they did X”, and I found myself typing out - “Boy, wouldn’t it be cool if at some point they actually wrote a big split between the two and for like… the space of a planet, you end up taking orders from Troy to help subvert Tyreen who finally crossed a line that made him weary of her greediness or power struggle and had him join the vault hunters”?

And then I realized um… that kind of happened but in the opposite way.

Eeden-6, ladies and gents, EEDEN-SIX… is where our story begins. Many people who aren’t me have commented on how this is the place where “roughly half of the ■■■■■■■ game takes place and no one is really sure why”. Because… as I typed the above sentence it occured to me that… in basically that whole planet? Troy is the antagonist. Troy is the one pushing the story. Tyreen shows up in blurbs, but Troy shows up on foot to hunt down a gay gunsmith out of rage, which arguably gives him the better character bits over Tyreen just on the fact that… he exists for a little while outside of being her siren magic addict tiger hooker (topical, good job arsonist), and does… something. Not a lot of something, but something, and for a sizeable portion of the game.

A few things happened after I typed that.

First I thought, as I have a billion ■■■■■■■ times in the past, “WHY THE ■■■■ DOES EEDEN-6 MAKE UP HALF THIS 40 HOUR PLAYTHROUGH?”

FIrst I went “Hey, why isn’t there another section that focuses on Tyreen as much? Wouldn’t that be cool?”

Then I went “Oh, it’d be really cool if you could pick which twin you went with.”

Then I went “Oh, I just described an MMO and that’s why they didn’t - OH MY GOD THESE TWO WERE CREATED WITH AN MMO IN MIND” and then a lot of things started clicking.

I’ll start with something that seems innocuous, but is also kind of oddly damning considering how weird it ■■■■■■■ was. Anyone that was around these parts, or parts of the internet that were heavily covering BL3’s launch, remembers the “small” kerfluflle (compared to the FL4K thing that meant nothing) of the “enhanced” streaming functionality within BL3. I haven’t heard a lot about this since launch, probably because it affects the single player experience at all and… may or may not still exist? But at some point there was “integrated twitch tech” that based on the number of viewers would give the streamer new goals, more enemies, better loot, or other weird ■■■■.

It was lightly talked about, but… even in this day and age… it was a weird thing to bring up, right? I only kind of tangentially follow game news, but someone might call it “smart” from a marketing perspective since it puts more eyes on twitch streams for the game… but again seemed really weird for borderlands.

It gets weirder for borderlands 3, especially since the two big bads are effectively “entitled content creators” until you consider the possibility…

It was built in as a feature when the game was first pitched.

Think about that idea for a second.

Twitch streaming, built in as an almost “augmented reality” version of loot gaming. You earn… some kinds of points or bonus… for posting videos of you, doing something else to someone else’s base, or raiding a “rival faction”. Based on the simple, base level idea, that your missions were given to you by a one side of a big bad coin…

looking to ■■■■ on another “content creator”.

Now, I’m going to back off from this point for a moment to back to the ending of BL2. There are (hopefully? I miss you all) a lot of people reading this right now that were… actually around these boards and borderlands subreddits in late 2012 when we all hit the ending of BL2 and we all saw this GIANT, CRAZY MAP of all the worlds with vaults on them and maps to them. Results were mixed between the “OH GOD I CANT WAIT FOR BL3” and the, much more vocal “GEARBOX I SWEAR TO ■■■■ IF YOU TURN THIS GAME INTO AN MMO I WILL BURN YOU TO THE GROUND”.

It’s really hard to stress how much the latter sentiment came up, but it came up a lot, and for a lot of reasons. The loot community was still hot off the heels of Diablo 3 (a reason I converted from Blizz to GBX) and none of those parts of the community were really excited about “World of Borderlands”.

That being said, The CEO of this company is Randy ■■■■■■■ Pitchford, so it’s hard for me to really say that he wouldn’t just say “■■■■ you, pay for this” in a third franchise hit.

However… a lot of ■■■■ happened since BL2’s release and the first screens we got of BL3. Here are some important highlights -

  • GBX tries to launch a games-as-service game, Battleborn (better than anyone gives it credit for, I would log on with any of you today, Toby is my main, and I love him), and fails horribly

  • Diablo 3 completely revamps its loot system to something unrecognizable to loot fans before the launch, kind of succeeds?

  • GBX sides out production of TPS to 2K Australia, which does a fairly good job with it despite just using BL2 tools and an old loot system, but to little or no big praise

So in early march of 2017, GBX lets loose their first salvo of “tech demos” from BL3, and they’re almost intentionally vague. Anyone around this time will remember seeing the shots of Moze and all the “IS THAT ADULT TINY TINA” ■■■■, and almost no real gameplay was shown, whatever.

We didn’t hear anything out of them for awhile, which was probably intentional because… well another thing happened after those came out.

Destiny 2 came out in Sept of that year… and… had some really nice reviews for awhile, until people hit the endgame and wanted to ■■■■■■■ burn bungie to the ground.

It feels honest to god hard to remember at this point because of everything else, but Destiny 2 came out to rave reviews that soured immediately when hitting endgame. It was the joke of the “looter shooter” world because of the games stingy mechanics and planet hopping. It was crazytown, because the gameplay was all there, but the mmo stuff they put in because they were making an mmo took away from the gameplay people wanted from it as a pvp/pve style looter shooter, which is one of the reasons the first entry in that series took away from the BL crowd - it was the “somber, serious” version, that had end level content. That’s what people wanted, right?

Games as services?

dodges thrown apples

Now it’s important to note here that BL3 didn’t come out for two years after it’s “tech demo”. Which gives a lot of time for that to change.

It’s also important to note that BL3’S first notes came out roughly 9 months before the destiny backlash kicked into high gear.

Which would have given GBX time to build certain MMO/Twitch elements into the game, along with build some of the campaign… only to find that the gaming community wanted literally none of those things and everyone still loved BL2 enough that they just wanted “bigger, better” that.

Here’s the problem - they have developed two twin villain characters specifically for that goddanmed purpose of making an mmo style game. They knew that setting people as 2 (and exactly 2, no more than 2) factions against each other was how things went. They didn’t want to set it up against one corporation in their in game, because that would have the eventual want for a “Hyperion” faction of jack-attackers, and also that they’d have to do better character sthan they had for those corps before then. So instead, they made two rival bandits (which the series was already familiar with). They had already set this up in the last main game doing that as its end sequence. They have dedicated storylines to both these characters because that’s the angle they want to take, and have started to develop levels and splitting plots based on those decisions. They have set up a twitch service to make the in game stuff seem “more real”, and make twitch viewership an in game mechanic. They’ve even gone out of their way to make an in game polling system to be used with all these mechanics. Even worse, they’ve dedicated heavy resources into building the worlds made by split domains.

Now (again) all this is crazy conjecture. I mentioned it at the start, and I’m not going to say it’s not true - I DON’T KNOW MORE THAN YOU. THESE THINGS JUST KIND OF OCCURRED TO ME. But still, I’m going to list a couple of things that sway me this way.

  • EEDEN-■■■■■■■-6. Is almost troycentric to the point of insanity. Tyreen shows up in a few echo communications (which are already easier to control). It’s also absurdly long in the actual game’s runtime. You don’t spend more time on any planet other than E-6. Period. My theory here is that they’d finished a lot of the storyline in the “tyreen campaign” where you were fighting against troy, hence the point of this article.

  • The aformentioned “twitch” system, which really fits both villains well, but doesn’t add any game functionality to the individual player dicking along.

  • Anyone remember the Tweet when Randy Pitchford posted the exact percentage of people that voted for or against Rhys’ mustache? Anyone ever wonder why that was a game function at ■■■■■■■ launch? There were no game altering polls or anything else in the game that reported the numbers directly back to GBX. Yet… that was a thing they had taken the time to code in… almost like they were expecting it to be a big option in their giant MMO…

There’s also a weird number of things in the game that were either over or underutilized. Let’s take for instance… Pandora.

The planet has probably less than 9-10 actual hours of gameplay on it. Yet it has like… what? 7-9 maps? I’m not about to log in and check, but it’s a stupid amount of maps, for a planet we don’t really spend a lot of time on… except at the beginning of the game…

(The beginning of the game here encompasses the starting tutorial of base mechanics that you tend to get in any MMO, quickly escalating you into another situation)

and the end of the game…

(The end of the game in an MMO is frequently where two or more split factions reuinte for the “end game content”, usually raids, but otherwise, just… y’know. End game stuff)

There’s a reason why MMO’s put these places together - because they plan for a “capital city” where starting players can attain to get to and end players have a launching point to get to the high tier content they’re into.

Here’s the other fun part - the game progresses directly from pandora, to Promethea… and I’ll go ahead and tell you, anyone who’s vaguely been paying attention to the BL series knows how it randomly likes to get off on it’s random Greek and Roman references. Hyperion, Atlas, sirens, blah blah blah, it’s a giant storyboarder’s dream to give you the jerk-off motion while pretending to be literary. Here’s why promethea is important and its naming is…

It’s the planet where you would have been initially called to pick between Troy and Tyreen’s tribe. It’s also why the planet is absolutely gaga about a) sending you to go get Maya for help and b) trying to make you think you’re about to fight Zer0.

Those would have been the “big players” to move to either Troy or Tyreen’s “cause” in this insane round of weirdo Civil war.

And they coded a lot of it and didn’t want it to go away.

Here’s the problem - Athenas? Which makes a lot of sense if you’re doing the “Troy campaign” would have been a great way to shoehorn in a big thing about Tyreen trying to take over the siren cult planet - but her ■■■■ is what got cut… so that “planet” ended up as one ■■■■■■■ map, and Maya became the “death guilt bait” of the series, trying to not really fill out roland’s shoes.

So all this had to be kind of “warped together” into a single functional Borderlands 3 unit… rather than, do what any of these assets were originally designed to do.

The final problem they had was designing “campaign end” fights for both of the big antagonists, since they never really got around to making a good excuse for them to go head to head.

It’s clear that Troy’s campaign for whatever reason got precedence. His whole fight is about subjugating and turning on Tyreen to get power to fight the player - which would have huge emotional stakes if you’ve been following Tyreen this entire time and he just kind of grapples her after they’ve been going head to head for 40-50 hours.

Less so if they’ve been “slightly pissed” at each other for 20 hours.

Still, that’s what Troy’s whole fight is about, and most of that was already coded so… it stays in.

Alternatively, Tyreen’s fight has you siding with Troy who’s worried about her getting too big for her britches, powerful, and greedy, so it culminates in you getting support from other vault hunters and going to hunt her down, then she goes all third act Akira.

I’m convinced one of the big vault guardians was going to be the end boss for either side at the end… but one of them got demoted to EED-6 or Promethea because of the story constraints already there. Both bosses are adequately adquete for an end game boss fight but are… randomly jammed into other points because they don’t make the forced narrative of the game.

The last big thing for me that convinced the game was originally an MMO has to do with the leveling cycle, which is wildly different from other borderlands games. Almost all the others… and this is if you stretch, do all the side quests, all that, leave you at between 28-32. The reason for this is ■■■■■■■ deliberate : You still have at least one more playthrough to get through before you hit max level. Even if you streeeeeeetch hard with BL2, I honestly think that 33 is a safe ballpark of what you might hit before killing the warrior.

In BL3, if you do some of the sidequests? Hitting 45-48 is easy before ending the game because…

That’s a staple of MMO games. You finish a main arc slightly before max level, forcing you to pvp, grind, or do something else to hit max until they release more content. But you aren’t expected to do the whole thing again, because it defeats the purpose of “all the development” you did as a character.

The problem here is… that never happened. And it never will. So instead of really starting with the story first and building a better game experience to match… they built… BL3.

Which is a great borderlands game with a lot of unique guns and mechanics.

And a lot of subclasses (which now that I think on it, could be considered seperately in an mmo standpoint from where they were at launch).

That don’t really matter…

Because it’s a looter shooter.

Not an mmo.

And that’s my thesis again.

Feel free to hate post and contradict - none of this is word of god at all, just a casual theory by someone who’s watched…a lot of weird ■■■■ go on.


Interesting… have never played an MMO so do not have those tropes/standards available for calibrating my pattern recognizer, but I’ll take your word for it.

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It’s not specific to those trends, but alot of those trends dried up in that timeline, which could explain a lot of ■■■■.

Again, im not saying all this is right but… given the timeline?

Makes a stupid amount of sense.


It did to me so I discussed it with the kid in the house whose life is spent online and has a surprisingly vast knowledge of the BL universe, even though he doesn’t play it. He agreed it’s a good theory.


Honestly it’s the best I could hope for at this point? So thanks.

A lot of this comes from reverse engineering knowledge from the ‘Death of a Game’ series by nerd slayer, but the timelines weirdly line up with a lot of problems he describes, and fit a lot of the dead game tropes.

Edit: It’s the weird features that are in the game that were never referenced again that sells it to me - the streaming and poll stuff.

Those… take a lot to code.

Unless you give a damn about them.


Holy crap @Arsonist, I am not sure what is worse - you writing 100% of that or me reading 90% of it! :rofl:

I think you are on the right track except for the MMO part. I think the story originally WAS going to pit Troy and Tyreen against one another. You get this whole taste of Troy being a jackass, sleeping with Aurelia (that little tidbit was just perfect, by the way), attacking Winnie - all that stuff. This was my personal favorite part of the Troy and Tyreen thing and really got me interested in that sibling rivalry.

I think where they got sidetracked is the whole Typhon Deleon thing. Once they introduced Typhon, they realized that they could not also have the VH adjudicate a war between Troy and Tyreen (I don’t know if you are a parent, but I am, and that story really does not work for me).

Frankly, I think keeping Troy and Tyreen, doing the whole war thing, and then meeting Typhon in BL4 or a DLC where you have to work with him and explain how you killed one of his kids - would have been a much more satisfying story.

But I do think you are onto something story-wise here. I just don’t think that GBX would have been ignorant enough to disappoint its core base that way.

As far as all the data coded into the game, I believe GBX probably is more data-driven than we give them credit for. I think they try really, really hard to take a buttload of SHIFT data and figure out what it all means. I think they only partially succeed at making sense of it and understanding the player base a little better and what it is doing. I think that is why this kind of thing is coded into the game though.

Good points and interesting post.


Jesus christ you have no idea.

Accurate, one of the few endearing things there - I think they added it after the fact when they figured the situation wouldn’t work and it was easily doable by dialog.

This is by design - it’s one of the only times we see actual dissent in the ranks. It’s also something that’s already there in my original standpoint.

I’ve thought about this, and I think Typhon in the original MMO dies a lot earlier*than anticipated. His whole storyline comes out easier, cause its likely the dividing line between the two camps - Troy is into his dad’s beliefs, Tyreen wants to be a weirdo.

You’re not wrong.

I don’t think any of these were light decisions- at all.

None of them in the big gaming industry is. These aren’t easy choices… but they are choices made in the gaming industry.

Thank you for reading my nonsense, cause I have nothing to prove it lol.


THIS would have been fan-friggin-tastic from a story perspective. Are you sure you’re not a writer?


Nope, I just assume that I’m not under a billion different deadlines and different technical difficulties that make up the video game story industry.


I mean, just about literally everyone has a job. Even the hard jobs are still jobs that people do. And in the grand scheme, as far as I can tell, “video game story writer” earns you just about enough for a cup of coffee compared to most of the other important jobs in the world. So I would say the difficulty of the job of “video game story writers” seems quite a bit overinflated.

This is based upon nothing more than consuming 35 years of video games with about 4 good stories.


In response?

I’d buy you a drink if we were near lol.


You crack me up!

EDIT: Since I am here, I will rank my 4 good video game stories in the time I have played video games, which is since the late 70’s or early 80’s.

  1. The Last of Us
  2. Mass Effect 3, except just the part where Thane dies on the hospital bed
  3. Bastion
  4. Journey

There you go. I can’t wait to see the results of my opinion LOL


On the streamer tech thing: just so you know, that’s what the echo-cast extension (last tab in your echo) is all about. The last update raised the bar on that quite a bit, and it was discussed in Borderlands Show 6 I believe (the one introducing Cartels?)

Basically, GBX is out ahead of the pack on this one, making it possible for an audience to interact with a streamer and affect what’s happening in the streamer’s game. IIUC there’s also some tie in with actual $?? Sorry, that’s a bit hazy.

Anyway, Troy and Tyreen: I hear you. Between the Aurelia echoes, the impact of discovering (a) he could leech for himself and (b) getting Maya’s powers really changed his trajectory there. Then during the gunsmith/Reliance quest there’s definitely some tension coming through: “And… she walks off” Then you have the rival Troy/Tyreen CoV factions that you annihilate - honestly, I was expecting more out of that.

There’s one echo on Nekrotafayo (just past the grave) that gives a bit more backing to that: it definitely comes across to me that Tyreen is very much the instigator and Troy bit more the reluctant to upset Dad.


I haven’t heard this mentioned yet, on Eden6 when a CoV enemy is about to die I’ve heard lines from them stating they like Troy more. I’m not sure of the exact words but it helps your point.


Great post. I especially love the idea of putting BL3 in the context of other games being released and market reaction to new features.

And yes, folks have been picking on the underdeveloped Tyreen/Troy dynamics since launch.

Plus, thanks for finally (ok, potentially) explaining to me why Eden-6 is so big in this game.



It’s a great idea, bringing together a lot of disparate parts and coming up with a solution.
The Troy VS Tyreen thing has been a massive discussion point, and the feeling that it’s wrong or badly done.
I’d add in that during the fight against Troy, he has Tyreen phaselocked and is draining her remotely and she says that it hurts and wants to stop, but she CAN TELEPORT, meaning if she wanted to stop, she could at any time. The end of the fight has him die and her so badly drained that we think she’s dead. Why would he drain her to death if his plan was still to open the vault and let her leech the destroyer? ( EDIT: and why not release her to join the fight against you? ) It fits much better that he was planning to kill her at that point and drain the destroyer himself. Which makes more sense is they’re at war, rather than just bickering slightly.
I think the plan was always that we’d side with one or the other and end up fighting the destroyer mixed with one of them, but our choice would affect who we’d fight at the end. Maybe as an MMO, or maybe as a looter shooter with MMO aspects, either way it makes sense.


I don’t think there’s been a branching story-line anywhere in any of the games except for the siege moustache - which was a throwback to TftB anyway. It would be kind of cool to at least have a branching storyline, even if the ending was ultimately the same.


I dont think it was mentioned, but this theory fits in many design choices like why they wanted to give the VHs multiple Action Skills.


I think they did the multiple action skill thing in an attempt to avoid DLC characters. I still am not sure they will be successful with that, but at this point it looks like GBX intends to stay that course. I think DLC characters probably are a lot of work to design and test, so they figured this was the way they sidestep that issue entirely. EDIT: Business people be makin’ business decisions, after all.


Man, that’s a lot of detailed text (respect man) and how much caffein did ya had in your blood when you were writing this? :laughing:
(In case it were drugs- what kind and where can I get some? :partying_face:)

Your not wrong regarding the MMO aspects. Since the early 2010 the entire AAA industry has been pushing this line “single player games are dead” and shoving so caled “Live-Service gaming” down our throats (always online, subscribtion for every minor thing and microtransactions a.k.a the unholly trinity). So far Borderlands managed to dodge the industry norm but I’m not holding hope it will remain so in the future. As long as it makes money- they conform, even the heavy weights (For f**k’s sake even Rockstar gave up on pretending and shoved a literal casino in GTA: Online).

And given what sick s**t goes on behind the scenes of AAA games, it’s no wonder. They will keep doing this until something stops the gravy train they’re riding on.
I’ve been warning my friends about these practices for years, but do they listen? Of course not! They’re idiots!