The PAX East 2013 Gearbox Panel

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I pushed my way through the colossal throng on my way to the Main Hall of the Boston Convention Center. I hadn’t seen a line that massive anywhere else at PAX East 2013. As we all shuffled and bumped our way closer to the entrance, a group of Gearbox lackeys passed out small squares of colored paper. No one knew what they were for, but they seemed important and the grunts delivering them wouldn’t let anyone choose their favorite color. Each one was branded with the Borderlands 2 insignia and a render of the loot chests found within the game. After climbing what felt like the world’s longest staircase, orange scrap of paper in hand, I forced my way through and found a seat.

The hall was huge and every inch was splashed with moving colored light. A set of twenty foot screens with Gearbox and Borderlands 2 logos bumping about on them book ended the stage. In the center, Randy Pitchford, Gearbox CEO, was doing card tricks for the audience as Mikey Neumann (voice of Scooter) was screaming into a microphone randomly selecting people to participate. Prizes were being thrown out to the audience. As a Vault Hunter hat flew by my head, I was handed a piece of BL2 chocolate equipped with a SHiFT code for the game. As the last remaining stranglers entered the auditorium, the music and lights faded and the stage’s main house lights went up. The crowd erupted as Anthony Burch (lead writer), Paul HellQuist (creative director) and Chris Faylor (community manager) leisurely shambled out from behind a strategically draped curtain.

Everyone took their seat and started up the panel eerily similar to how a corporation would present a PowerPoint meeting. Starting with an announcement of an eleven level increase to the BL2 level cap, the team enthusiastically spouted details of what was to come for the franchise. With each reveal, the crowd roared louder. A five dollar price tag for the increase, a release of April 2nd and a free downloadable third play through of the game got everyone clamoring for what else was in store. Despite the chaotic fandom filling the room, the presentation continued in its mundane sort of manner. A few blank slides of text later, the true reveal was set to begin.

A movie file appeared onscreen and Randy asked for help played it, the stuffy nature of the presentation broke as Anthony accidently cut to the end of the video prematurely revealing the newest playable Borderlands character and screaming “Fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck. That didn’t happen, try to act surprised when it pops up!” The trailer was dark, etched in red and black much like a trailer for an exploitation film with a higher budget. A few clips of hype and build up climaxed with the full scene from the accident earlier started. It was the Kreig the Psycho and it was glorious.

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When the cacophony of accolades faded, the team grabbed a controller and showed off some gameplay. Throwing us into the Borderlands testing arena and pouring an array of guns onto the test ground floor by the hundreds for the crowd’s pleasure, they hacked up hoards of bandits with Kreig’s buzzaxe. But shortly after hacking, sawing and throwing the axe about, the team got bored and decided to die. This lead to Kreig’s character specific Second Wind scenario which equips the played with dynamite and requires them to blown up and enemy to continue. When the bar depleted fully, Kreig stood up, raised the remaining dynamite in hand and kamikaze exploded killing many enemies in the surrounding radius. This is Kreig’s failsafe and counts toward an successful Second Wind. The team finished off the presentation by exemplifying key parts of the new character’s skill tree and explained that most of his actions and power comes from hurting himself however killing an enemy restores your health in full. This leads to most sessions having you “ping-pong” between full and little health the whole time. A cry of “BUTT STALLION” echoed from the right side of the auditorium.

The announcements were huge and entertaining, the public was wild and the panelists were enthusiastic. My legs were starting to hurt from having to stand up for climactic moments. Finally there was a break. Chris Faylor stiffly pushed himself from his seat and took center stage. The words “Aliens: Colonial Marines” left his mouth and the whole theater went silent. The timber in his voice sounded shaky. The awkward silence was finally broken when the admission “I don’t know if you know, but a lot of people like the game” was made. Everyone loosened up after that and he continued promising that the team loved the universe and would be administering patches to help graphics, gameplay, AI and challenge. The crowd, though now accepting in the subject matter, didn’t seem to care.

As Chris took his seat once again, Randy began talking about the Borderlands 2 collector’s edition. He said that though the company produced much more than anticipated, the preorders were so numerous, that not everyone got one.

“The company is working with ThinkGeek to produce a new Borderlands 2 loot chest.” He continued. “Filled with all types of swag.”

The presentation became a laundry list of memorabilia to salivate over: window decals, trading cards, SHiFT codes, a custom Goliath mask both physical and for in game. It was sight to behold for any Borderlands fan. In the same detailed breath he announced the price at one hundred dollars and as the price left his mouth, the screens behind him faded into that which we had all been holding this whole time. It was the six alternately colored squares of paper. Randy continued about how it was a shame that the BL2 chests ran out, but they found a whole room full of them at 2K and anyone with an orange was going home with a chest. He even said that there was a slight chance for a Marcus bobble head to be inside one.

I held my winning orange slip in disbelief and the team pointed to where the prizes could be picked up. As I eagerly inched closer to the front of my chair the team at Gearbox revealed their final surprise.

“Although we’re not saying anything, we didn’t want to leave you guys hanging, so here’s a teaser for the new Borderlands 2 campaign coming out in May. This may confuse you more than you were before, but whatever. Enjoy it!”

The lights dimmed and the trailer began showing Mordecai, Lilith, Brick and Tiny Tina playing the license friendly version of D&D: Borderlands and Badasses. Arguing back an forth it was shown that the pieces were the playable characters of the game. A few drunk jokes and Brick wanting to be a pretty lady scenarios later, the trailer ended. The team said it would be their biggest yet, but we have more to be excited for in the meantime.

They evacuated the stage and moved into the main hallway outside to sign just about anything people had to offer. The mob was so thick that people were actually trading their prize chests for a spot in line. Gearbox really delivered to their BL fans and gave as much as they could to everyone else in gratitude and appreciation. Friendly and charitable, it almost blinds me of the entire Aliens: Colonial Marines incident.

To see my Gearbox Chest unboxing slide show, check out the Random Assault Facebook page (And, oh I don’t know maybe Like it too) here.

To hear Random Assault’s outlook on Gearbox and Sega, check out episode 080 here.

[Written by contributor Alex Cabral]