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Don’t expect a co-op increase in future Borderlands games

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Borderlands 2 is one of the few games where I actively use the co-op feature. A team of vault hunters travelling around Pandora is actually pretty damn fun, thanks to the dynamics that exist between a group of four different players. But that’s the team-based deadline right there, as you’ll never be able to expand your squad beyond that quatro limit. And there’s a reason for that.

Speaking to AusGamers at PAX Australia, Borderlands 2 creative director and lead designer Paul Hellquist said of the studio’s approach to co-op and why the limit for co-op was set at four players:

“I think that we were a little bit ahead of the curve, in terms of understanding what a fun and social experience co-op gaming can be, and I think we were one of the earlier ones that people really latched onto — in this console-cycle anyway,” Hellquist said.

It’s mostly for performance, to keep the network bandwidth down low enough that everyone can have a rich and fast-paced experience. Because Borderlands is a very fast-paced game. So if we went further than that, frame rates and all that kind of stuff would suffer.

Next-gen tech on the other hand, could help with this laggy hurdle. And according to Hellquist, it could be done. But the experience would be diluted then. “There’s obviously more power, so some of those performance things will diminish, but we are always filling up all of the performance we are given by the hardware manufacturers, so I’m sure we’ll have different challenges,” Hellquist said.

But there is also a thing we’ve talked a lot about internally with going more than four, where we think that if we go too much more than four, the experience will actually start to break down; that four is kind of a nice sweet spot, in terms of enough craziness, and of all of these different personalities and character classes and everything, but you can still kind of keep track of what’s happening.

We do have a little bit of a worry that if we go to eight or sixteen or something crazy, that everyone will spread out, and you’ll kind of actually lose that more intimate “We’re working together” kind of experience. So there’s an interesting balance there that we’ll need to investigate.

I actually agree with Hellquist on this. Four is the right number. It’s tight, focused and imagine trying to deal with Terramorphous the invincible when you’ve got a dozen Gunzerkers running around shouting obscenities about your mom’s genitalia.

Last Updated: August 13, 2013

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