Finding an epic handgun meant you might be dismissing hundreds of loot drops for, possibly, your character's entire career. This was a shameful situation, he acknowledged.
We should be getting excited by the loot drops, and not just overlooking them because of our holstered god cannon. Something needed to be done for the good of all Vault Hunters.
"…way back in 2010 when we started working on Borderlands 2 I started doing an analysis of the loot system to see where we could improve on it. I scoured the forums and our mailbox and asked around the studio for opinions. There were 2 things that were the most common criticisms that I heard," Paul Hellquist.
Those two points: Mega loot guns early in the game making all others crap, and bosses dropping rubbish.
"In a loot game it is important that you find loot that excites you. It is also important that you continue to find loot that excites you throughout the entire game," he continued. This point has been echoed recently by Blizzard as they realised their error in introducing an auction house to Diablo III, and have since closed it down.
"Many players would find a high end gun in the mid game around level 15-20 and use that weapon for the rest of the game through both playthroughs, or at least use it for many, many levels before finding something they felt was an improvement," Hellquist noted.
"When this happens the excitement of loot drops gets staler and staler as you feel there is very little out there that can improve upon the weapon you are using. This feeling can make a large portion of the Borderlands gameplay loop fall flat." Sadly even major boss characters weren't supplying the goods.
"When I investigated further I determined that the heart of the issue was in the growth curve of enemy health and weapon damage compared to gamestage. The rate at which the damage increased with weapon level and the amount of health the enemies had at each level was relatively flat. This meant that there was not a big difference in the damage the player could deal with a level 15 weapon and a level 30 weapon allowing the increase in player skill and the expenditure of skill points to essentially allow the low level weapon to maintain its effectiveness at higher levels."
He continued: "In a game with millions of pieces of gear it is a shame for people use the same weapon for a thirty level period. My mission became to try and get players to use a weapon for a much shorter period than in Borderlands so that players would explore the massive breadth of weapons and gear that the game provides instead of using Sledge’s Shotgun for the entire game." The solution? The game's economy already had it figured out.
It was the "compounding interest model" that the game used for gear items that provided an idea.
"I took this model and applied it to the damage of weapons and health of the enemies. What this method provided was a significant difference in the damage stat of a weapon that was a level higher than the one you were using."
"When your weapon becomes about 4 levels old the damage number on the new weapons dropping is so much larger that you will generally upgrade because the old weapon just can’t hit hard enough to keep up with the health of the higher level enemies," said Hellquist.
Check out thefrom creative director Paul Hellquist for more about Borderlands 2 loot.