E3 09: How the Borderlands art style was an act of madness

We were very fortunate to be able to get a first look at Gearbox’s Borderlands, the ambitious FPS/RPG that dramatically caught people’s attention with an unexpected artistic change. Going from a gritty and quasi-realistic graphical style to a hand-drawn, almost cartoony one was quite the shift. A shift that Gearbox chief Randy Pitchford thought was insane.

“After Leipzig [2008] we had time to invest the game’s design,” he explains. “We wanted to make a game that looked like its concept art, so our design team went away for a week to make a prototype. When I saw it I was like, ‘I gotta shut this down. We can’t do that this late in development.’ I couldn’t believe it … I was stunned.”

However, Randy was eventually won over by how the team took an “Ugly, terrible world and they brought a beauty to it. Now we just had to relay it to the publisher.

“We wouldn’t have been able to go for it without a publisher like 2K, who can take risks with things like BioShock and its art deco style. We showed it to them and they loved it.”

Thank the lord for risk takers. Do keep reading Destructoid, as our very own Conrad Zimmerman will have his impressions of the game soon.

Jim Sterling