This time, Digital Spy caught up with chief creative officer Brian Martel to discuss how the developer approached making the sequel, possible DLC and the new classes.
Did you anticipate the success of the first Borderlands and how well it was received?
"No - I mean, it was a bit of a gamble for us obviously, from the art style to the style of game mixing a shooter with a RPG-type of thing. We kind of created a whole new genre - the RPS, role-playing shooter - and that was kind of scary and odd. We could not have predicted that.
"We've been more than blown away by its success. I think we're up to five million units or so sold and probably ten million have played it. It's amazing. So we're really, really excited."
What were you happy and unhappy with in the original game, and how did that influence when you were making the sequel?
"The way we went about the process was, we went through every review that we could find of the game and we treated it like constructive criticism. We found the commonalities between all of this. We took a question or some comment that was made, and then we would put it in an Excel spreadsheet to see what the similarities were.
"We also did a post-mortem of the game internally with our own team and ask, 'Hey, what did you like, how could we have improved production or the game?' We had this nice foundation - a list of all of the things that we wanted to improve, so that made us think as we went into the next game how we could make every single feature '2.0' - how we could improve this from the first one.
"For environments, obviously we wanted to have more diversity and colour. For creatures, we wanted to have more crazy creatures. For NPCs, we wanted to make them feel more alive, which would let us make sure the whole game felt more alive and ensure a better single-player experience.
"And obviously, we knew the co-operative play was great in the first game, and we worked to make it even better. That was kind of the approach."
There appears to be more narrative in the second one, with a prominent antagonist and way more dialogue than before. What inspired you to go towards that direction?
"If you look back to some of the DLCs that we did - like ['The Secret Armory of General Knoxx'] - then you can see where we were going. We wanted to start exploring story more. It's just one of those things where we knew we wanted to tell a better and more engaging story.
"We've put a lot of effort in the mission system so that you would feel like missions were continuing and more than just going out there and coming back. And from there, we knew it was a great place to play around with the story and also to inform the player of what's going on.
"We did that mostly because we wanted to entertain better. We had an idea that we wanted to do in the first game, but either because we ran out of time or because we focused on other things, we weren't able to do all of those things. Now we can refine these areas - whether it be story or mission delivery."
You've taken a couple of years to produce the sequel. Was there anything that you wanted to do but couldn't quite because of time restrictions?
"There are always little things here and there. Nothing from the top of my head really stands out. There were instances where we had a certain creature type that we thought would have been good, but we ended up not doing because we either didn't have the resources for it or, in some respects, didn't have room for them.
"The team who works on the creatures make really amazing stuff. They were really able to flesh all of these. Typically, one creature maybe has 12 variations or more - small ones, big ones, fire ones and so on. And it got to the point where we asked the head of level design, 'Here are these other ones. Do you want us to go ahead and do these?' We just didn't have room for them. There's only so much space that you can have all of this stuff.
"I think we've got a really wonderful diversity, but that was one of the areas where we thought we didn't need these extra creatures. Maybe they'll make an appearance someday in a future DLC or future sequel."
Speaking of DLC, the first Borderlands had four great, involved add-ons, adding to the world in different ways. What are you planning post-launch with Borderlands 2?
"We're definitely going to have more DLCs. We're just now finishing getting cert and finishing the game off at this point. We're going to start really diving into what these could be.
"We are going to have these awesome DLCs - so there'll be story-driven add-ons. I'm not sure if we'll do something crazy like what we did with ['Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot'], which was very gameplay-focused, but we'll probably do something along those lines.
"But we announced the Mechromancer class at Penny Arcade, so now's the time we can really flesh her out, build her, get her skills going - that kind of stuff. And I think that she's going to be this nice benefit to a lot of people.
"We're going to see these new types of DLCs that we've not seen in the past with Borderlands, so she'll come along and have all of these different heads and skins and all of the things that you see out of the main characters. And hopefully, there will be other characters that come after that.
"You're talking about a game that is so big that it'll probably be 80 to 100 hours before you max out a particular character. So, I imagine that every time we release a character it'll be another 40 to 60 hours of gameplay. It's pretty impressive. I'm really excited to let people have this - we're treating it kind of like a hobby. We want people to have some fun with it."
Can you tease what other new classes you're developing?
"We have a bunch that we've been thinking, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we did this?' or 'Wouldn't it be cool if we did that?' We haven't settled what those classes are yet, but people are pitching ideas. We'll see. There are some really neat ideas that I think are floating around that are very Borderlands.
"When the game gets out there and people react to it, we can listen to our customers and see what they're missing or what they thought the game was missing. Right now, it's a vacuum. We're all close to it and we're getting some journalist feedback. But what we haven't done is get a good sense of customer segregations, so what's going to end up happening is people will be saying, 'Can you please do this one? And this one? Or this kind of class?'
"That's what I'm hoping for before we commit to anything."
Borderlands 2 features reward decisions, but are there any that potentially change the scope of the world?
"We don't do a lot of that 'twist the story' type of thing. You're not getting dialogue trees that change the world. It won't be like that. The story is one overarching 'this is our goal' narrative. That's okay, and that fits Borderlands and fits multiple playthroughs.
"But you do have choices on some individual missions. Those sometimes twist a bit, and that's where you have it. You might get a little off the track, but then you might come back to the main path. So that's why we wanted to do that. I think people will find that very exciting.
"The very first one that you do in the game is really awesome, and I'm looking forward to people's reactions to the first choices they're presented with - especially those that have played before, seeing how much the missions have changed. Up until that point, the missions work the way you expect them. Then all of a sudden, you go, 'Oh, I can turn into a different person, and then there's this different reward, and that affects this different character and they start looking different'. I love that."
With the first game, did you find that players were leaning towards certain classes?
"One of the things we didn't have in the first game, which we've done a lot of work on since, is getting data from the customer like telemetry data. What classes are they picking? Where are they dying? What weapons are they using? All of that kind of stuff.
"We had to do some tricks to get that stuff, like what achievements they got on the Xbox 360. It was a real hacky way to do it, because we just couldn't invest in that stuff the first time but we knew we wanted the information.
"What we ended up finding by looking at the achievements was that it was almost even. The most-played character without a doubt was Roland, but that makes sense. It was kind of what we designed him for. He's supposed to be the everyman. If you like shooter games, you pick the soldier, right? The same's true for Axton. He's the commando and he's the upgraded version of that.
"We also found that Lilith was pretty high up there. Brick was probably the least played."
Did that influence you when coming up with these new characters?
"Yeah, that had an impact. As we went into them, we definitely wanted to sex them up. We knew that we didn't do such a great job in the intro the first time in really showing you what their action abilities were. We sold them as personalities but we didn't give you a good idea how they played. I'm looking forward to people seeing the new intro. It's really incredible and what the guys do will really sell you on a particular class.
"This time, I will be absolutely surprised if Zer0 is not the number-one-played character. He does this cool, crazy, over-the-top move in the trailer - well, the intro has him doing something else even more spectacular. He's so badass that he's already the fan favourite. But we'll see what happens."
> Read our hands-on preview with 'Borderlands 2'
Borderlands 2 will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on September 18 in North America and on September 21 across Europe.