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“Every game ships with compromises,” says Borderlands dev CEO

Sam Loveridge


Assasin's Creed Unity

Gearbox Software has revealed that “every game ships with compromises”, regardless of its success.

The developer behind such titles as Borderlands and Brothers in Arms has revealed a rather large industry secret — that shipped games are far from perfect.

Speaking during the Develop Conference in Brighton, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said that a developer’s job is not to make the perfect game.

“Our mission is not to realise our vision. Our mission is to entertain other people. And so you have to ship. You have to call it done,” said Pitchford. “Someone once said to me that ‘Art is never done; it’s never finished; it’s abandoned’. You have to figure out that point where you're willing to let go and be okay with the judgement.”

And that’s true of all the games you’ve ever played, even your most treasured titles apparently.

It's something that's becoming more palpable in the industry too, with a number of games of late shipping with horrendous bugs that often make them unplayable. Just look at Assassin's Creed Unity, and the more recent issues afflicting the Batman Arkham Knight PC version.

“There is no game I’ve ever worked on – from the most successful to the least successful, from the most critically acclaimed to worst critical disaster – where I haven’t felt, the moment we shipped, that there’s just tremendous compromises involved.”

“Every game ships with compromises. Some games that we celebrate as the greatest things of all time, if you actually analyse them from a developer’s point of view, you can see the compromises that were made. You can also feel the difference between the visionary’s attempt and the result that shipped.”

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Pitchford was even brave enough to mention some of the greats, highlighting that every single one of them isn’t without fault.

“I played Ocarina of Time on the original N64 and it’s one of my favourite games of all time,” said Pitchford. “But there’s no getting around the fact that that thing had 2MB of RAM. And those textures and surfaces are very simple shapes and washed out. You know in the creators’ minds that it was vivid and perfectly beautiful.”


July 15, 2015, 4:07 pm

Hey the N64 had 4MB RAM iirc (expandable to 8MB weyhey!). It was the PS1 that only had 2MB

nunya biznez

July 15, 2015, 5:33 pm

sounds like some serious excuse making going on. I don't think his theory of shipping unfinished product holds true either. super Mario bros never released any patches, neither did donkey kong. I could probably list hundreds if given the proper time and forum.
the problem is that game companies are run by retards that box good developers into corners with deadlines and marketing hype.


July 15, 2015, 9:08 pm

There's some truth to what he says. If you let developers decide when they've finish then they'll never finish. Also I doubt any software has ever shipped that was 100% perfect; remember he's talking about compromises rather than flat-out bugs.

However what he's saying really has very little bearing on what we're all thinking about here, the shocking state in which some games are released. Someone was told to get it finished so they re-defined 'finished'. The surest route to success is to re-define it.


July 15, 2015, 11:52 pm

His team developed Borderlands, and Borderlands 2 - which came out solid overall. It doesn't' appear to be an excuse, but the reality, in my opinion.


July 16, 2015, 2:24 am

As much as I enjoy brothers in arms and borderlands, I'm not a fan of this guy. Borderlands blatantly takes the art direction and style of mad max and the intro completely ripped off codehunters, then he sends George Miller a congrats on the new mad max and says it will "inspire him" for future games. The Borderlands 2 marketing ads/posters were a complete ripoff of a guy making fan star wars art and then they release Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens as if they feel it's in acceptable enough condition. Gearbox games almost always have comprimises, and the difference between them and developers like Nintendo is that Nintendo works around those compromises and ships games that actually feel complete.


July 16, 2015, 2:57 am

It was DaVinci who said art is never done.....

Randy, I love Borderlands, but you guys are one of the worst for constant patching and updating and stupid hotfixes. I hope Battleborn will be more playable....

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