Borderlands games are notoriously large, and all the hilarious, gripping story stems from the writers’ armoury.
Randy Varnell, head of world development at Gearbox Software spoke at the Devcom 2019 conference this week (via GamesIndustry.biz) about how Gearbox typically approaches its writing process. The studio tends to favour hiring a single dedicated writer on the team: Borderlands had Mikey Neumann, Borderlands 2 had Anthony Burch, and Battleborn had Aaron Linde.
“If you’ve played any Borderlands, you know that the games are not small, […] and when we came to Borderlands 3, we knew we were gonna make the game even bigger,” Varnell said.
Therefore, the studio decided to create an entire writing team to undertake this monumental task.
Unlike in previous games, the narrative department now houses a resident voice-over artist, a pre-visualisation team and, crucially, a team of four dedicated writers.
“Before, it was just a lot for one writer to tackle, at the end of a project, writing so many lines, and having to work so heavily on iteration, on polish, on working individually with mission designers and level designers, there just wasn’t a lot of writer to go around. We knew we didn’t want to kill off any more writers. We wanted a department to share the workload a little bit.”
Expanding the writing team has allowed its members to collaborate more closely with every department, firmly grasping each aspect of Borderlands 3. It also developed a creative dynamic amongst the team that did not exist on previous Borderlands games.
Varnell expressed his love for the writers’ room by saying, “humour is really, really hard to get right. […] When you have a writer’s room, when you have a group of people practising your craft with you, people you can constantly bounce ideas off of… It really means that there’s a greater chance that our jokes, that our humour, will be more appealing to a broader group of people.
“Half the time I can’t even find my writers, because they’ve run off and gone to a room and they’re punching up some particular mission or dialogue. They do a great job, and you’re going to see that and feel that in Borderlands 3.”
During the Q&A session after his talk, Varnell highlighted the magnitude of the narrative in Borderlands 3. He revealed the upcoming game contains between 30,000 to 40,000 lines of dialogue, easily surpassing that of previous entries.
Borderlands 3 is set for release on September 13, 2019 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.