The One Who Resurrected Duke Nukem: Interview with Randy Pitchford, Gearbox Wizard

    RUVDS together with Habr continue the project, consisting of a series of interviews with interesting, in our opinion, people in the IT environment. Last time we met Richard (Levelord) Gray, designer of Duke Nukem, American McGee's Alice and many other popular games.

    Today is an interview with Randall Steward “Randy” Pitchford II. Randy is President, CEO and Co-Founder of Gearbox Software.

    Quick reference: Pitchford worked for 3D Realms for a while, where he contributed to the development of the Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition and Shadow Warrior.

    With Gearbox Software, Pitchford created Half-Life: Opposing Force (for which he received an award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences as the best action game of 2000 on PC), Half-Life: Blue Shift, Half-Life: Decay, Counter -Strike: Condition Zero, James Bond 007: Nightfire, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved for PC and of course Borderlands.

    The interview was attended by Habr editor Nikolai Zemlyansky, Richard (Levelord) Gray, wife of Randy Christy Pitchford and his son Randy Jr.

    Table of contents

    1. Borderlands as the perfect hybrid. Randy and Nicholas
    2. Addons to Half Life, or how we protagonists shuffled. Randy and Nicholas
    3. Duke Nukem Forever is a game that should not have been released. Randy and Nicholas
    4. The show begins: Randy and Nikolai
    5. What are the honorable igrodely talking about. Randy and Richard Levelord
    6. Why drop out of college and how to make smart settings. Christy Pitchford and Nikolai
    7. The most important advice. Randy and Nicholas
    8. "How the hell does he do that." Randy and a deck of cards

    Hi, my name is Nikolai, I’m the editor of, and today we welcome Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Software. Hi Randy!


    Randy, you came to Moscow to perform at DevGAMM. Your report was yesterday ... or the day before yesterday. (A couple of days ago) What were you talking about at the performance?

    I talked about different things. At DevGAMM there were Russian game developers, mostly indie developers like Gearbox. The best I could do was share the experience that I gained in my work. What helped Gearbox achieve current results. That would be helpful to the audience.

    I talked a bit about the history of Gearbox, a little about my philosophy of entertainment and the relationship that we need to maintain with the audience. He spoke about our values, our mission, that they are used by me and my company as a guiding light. So that we can always understand where we are going and what our goals are. It really helps us for 20 years. Gearbox Studios is already 20 years old, and this is a great achievement for the game developer.

    Oh cool. I'm a little surprised because I read that you will talk about Borderlands 3, but you talked about game development for young developers ... unexpectedly!

    Of course, I talked about Borderlands 3, even the trailer showed.

    Borderlands as the perfect hybrid. Randy and Nicholas

    I was going to ask you about Borderlands, (of course, ask about Borderlands) but since we talked more about the industry, let's start with this.

    На выступлении я представил Borderlands как самый кассовый проект Gearbox. Во многом Borderlands стала для нас переходным проектом, позволила нам расти и попробовать новые вещи — например, стать издателем. До Borderlands Gearbox целиком зависела от других издателей, которые поддерживали нас и помогали достичь аудиторию. Но с Borderlands мы имеем возможности и ресурсы приходить к аудитории напрямую и помогать это делать другим в роли издателя. Сюда входит разная деятельность — от маркетинга до производства и дистрибьюции физических копий игр в магазинах, прямого взаимодействия с разными платформами: Steam, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo. Ну и конечно, Apple, Google, да и вообще со всеми платформами, где играют в игры. Borderlands стала своеобразной опорной точкой, с помощью которой мы достигли нужного баланса.

    Tell us, did you start Borderlands right from scratch? Did you come up with her whole, her whole world?

    Well, this is teamwork. It all started with an idea. She did not appear in Gearbox offices, she was in my head and among those who came to Gearbox. The idea was this. The entire first-person shooter fan is made up of individual episodes. It occurs at specific points in the game, when you move, dodge, aim, shoot at the target, see the result. This fun spikes and at such times you enjoy playing first-person shooter.

    But there are completely different games. I loved these games before Wolfenstein 3D changed everything for me. I'm talking about role-playing games. In them the fun never concentrated in specific moments, it was with you constantly - when you received new levels, experience, equipment. For example ... did you play Diablo?

    Oh sure.

    For me, Diablo is a graphical version of one of my favorite game, Hack. Or NetHack. In it, right with the help of textual characters, they drew a hero and monsters in the dungeons. The plus sign was the door, and when you opened the door, there was another door or something else.

    This is similar to the next generation of text quests.

    Yes exactly. Think about the principle of playing Diablo? You move the cursor, press the buttons. Just like when you move the cursor on the desktop and click the icons. In Diablo, all salt is not in motion, but in getting new things, getting stronger, discovering something new.

    And here is what I thought. First-person shooter fan - aim, dodge, shoot. He does not rule out a longer role-playing role-playing fan. You can combine episodic and long-playing fan together in one game. This was the beginning of the Borderlands.

    All the games that I worked on in their concept combine some history, style and design. Sometimes it all starts with a story - like, for example, in Brothers in Arms. What if we became soldiers of World War II and fought with other soldiers? It all started with history, and then style and design pulled themselves together. Sometimes it all starts with style ... did you play Mirror's Edge?

    Yes, I love Mirror's Edge. I don't like Catalyst, it sucks, but the original Mirror's Edge is great.

    I think ... I don’t know for sure, but I guess this game started with style. Rendering and art direction pulled a design, a story. I have not worked on this project, but I think that this was the case. The idea is that an idea can begin with one element, and the rest will be pulled up after it. In Borderlands, it all started with design, with the principle of combining a first-person shooter and role-playing game. It was as if Doom had met with Hack. Or Halo with Diablo, if we talk about more modern games. Nobody did that before. And we thought that we could do it, that it needed to be done. The universe and history have already appeared next, as well as style.

    If we make a first-person shooter, and part of the game is to kill everyone and take their things, then we need to make sure that you remain a good guy. And the Borderlands universe allows it. We combine science fiction and western.

    Yes, Western. I thought it was some kind of futuristic western.

    I was asked why the game is called Borderlands. This makes no sense. When we imagine what Borderlands means in English, it doesn't seem like a planet. This is part of some place. But I didn’t name the game so because I wanted to show exactly this place. I put in a broader meaning. The history and universe of the game lies between science fiction and western.

    That's the problem…

    And in terms of game design, Borderlands is between a role-playing game and a shooter. Even her style is also in a borderline position, between the realistic and the surreal. The art direction is fantastic, it's almost a graphic novel. But at the same time, everything is absolutely in accordance with the rules of the gaming universe. You start and immediately feel the universe with style.

    In general, borderland is such an uncomfortable, uncomfortable position between two things. For example, there is a road, and the road grows grass. In some places, the road cracked, asphalt crumbled and grass made its way through it. And this part seems to be no longer a road - the road is broken. But this is also not grass, there is one and the other. Something third, and his name is borderlands.

    Oh, how cool and lively you explained, I now understand more. Maybe you should go back to Borderlands 2 (thanks!) And play it before the release of Borderlands 3.

    We made Borderlands 3 so that you can play it even if you don’t know what happened before. If you are a Borderlands fan, then you will find many discoveries. If you have never played Borderlands before, we will take care of you. We made it so that people who had not played before in the Borderlands immersed themselves in the game as if they hadn't missed anything. They are well mastered and live a new story. But if you played Borderlands before, then the characters and the universe will give you more.

    So if you haven’t played Borderlands 2, I recommend: it’s a lot of fun! In such matters, I use my wife as a litmus test. She is a gamer, but she doesn’t always like the games I make. We work as a team, and I am surrounded by many amazingly talented people. I am proud to work with them, that we are doing something as a team. But sometimes something that one does not like the other. Some people like some games, others like other games. And I felt what we did when my wife - and she is a Borderlands fan, went through the second part six or seven times - she returned to the first Borderlands over the past two weeks and began to replay, several times already.

    Oh, this is a fan!

    Yes, it's awesome when your wife likes what you work with the team. But this does not always happen, this does not always happen.

    Let's continue about Borderlands, but move on to more controversial issues. I know that you will release Borderlands 3 on the Epic Store, and there will be a Steam release in six months. Tell me, why did you decide to do this? As far as I know, on Steam you can sell much more. Why did you decide to make it exclusive for six months?

    I don’t want to upset you, but this is not my decision. The game is published by 2K Games, it has publishing rights. and 2K Games is the Take-Two Interactive brand. My company is Gearbox Software, we own Borderlands, and we created the game. But the publishing license belongs to 2K, and they decide where the game will be published, on which platforms.

    They decided to enter into an exclusive agreement with Epic. Take-Two - a public company; at least that was when I checked it. They are businessmen, unlike us, artists and creators. They like to make money. I’m sure they did it because it was the best way to make money. I also think that they work in the interests of buyers. A business like 2K cannot be successful without taking into account the interests of customers. I think there are many more factors involved.

    As for me ... I'm not upset with their decision. I remember when Steam started, and many were against it. I remember how I bought Half-Life 2, and I could not play it until I installed Steam and went online. Changes are hard to come by, in life everything goes by inertia.

    Do you know what inertia is? This is a scientific term; it has two meanings. If the object moves, then by inertia it will continue to move. If it stands still, it will stand that way. And that suits everyone. But inertia works not only in physics, but also in our character, in personality and in activities. Many people are afraid of change. But without change, the future does not come. So it will be fun. Everyone who wants to play in the end will be able to do it on any desired platform.

    I remember when we did Borderlands 2 ... or 1 ... the main complaint was that we did not have a version for Linux. We made Borderlands 2 for Linux! The number of people who played this version ... very upset. Very little. I don’t know if this example is suitable, but it seems to me that if people are interested in content, they will search for it and find it wherever it is. Let's see what comes out. I want everyone to play our game. As a creator, I want everyone to try it, because this is our mission in the world of entertainment.

    In general, such paradoxical thoughts often visit me. On the one hand, I have to be at the forefront, motivate for change. On the other hand, I just want people to have fun, this is what makes sense for me and my company. Let's see what happens.

    Addons to Half Life, or how we protagonists shuffled. Randy and Nicholas

    Вы сделали Borderlands, где у вас была свобода действий, но в начале истории Gearbox вы сделали две игры по вселенной Half-Life — Opposing Force и Blue Shift. Здесь вы уже были ограничены готовым сеттингом. Сюжет тоже, думаю, был почти готов, все герои. Но вы сделали что-то классное, даже дважды — Opposing Force, Blue Shift. Эти игры были похожи, но людям понравилось, и они покупали обе. Как вы смогли это сделать в таких условиях?

    Это было так весело. Сама Half Life, история, арт, контент — все было прекрасно. Эта работа была для нас как привилегия, мы были очень рады. Когда мы только начали, я отправился в Valve и закинул им идею: а что если мы будем играть от лица противников, солдат? Не от лица Гордона и ученых, а от лица тех людей, которые вломились и должны все уничтожить?

    I liked the idea, and I was sent to Sierra Online - then the rights to Half-Life belonged to them. Here the idea also came in, we made an agreement and from now on we could do whatever we wanted. We were able to pack our ideas into the world of Half Life, we loved Half-Life and wanted to do everything very carefully. Of course, our progress was observed from the side. And if we did something that no one would like, or were not consistent enough, then the project would probably be interrupted. But almost no one indicated anything to us, there were almost no restrictions.

    I also want to recall the third game in the Half-Life universe - Half-Life: Decay.

    Did he go out for the PS2?

    Yes, she was cooperative and came out for PS2. It was fun. In Opposing Force you were a soldier, in Blue Shift a guard, and in Decay I wanted ... did you play Half Life?

    Oh sure.

    Remember when Gordon Freeman gets a HEV costume? There are three capsules, and only in the central there is a suit, and the two extreme are empty. Who took these costumes? In Decay, you play as the one who took them. You already know one character - this is Gordon's trainer, Gene. She used to be present in the form of a hologram, but a real person was hiding behind her. One suit was with her, and the other was with a new character, Colette Green. The two remaining costumes were with Gina and Colette. Half Life: Decay was a cooperative game - one played for Gina, the other for Colette. We could play together, solve puzzles to move on.

    Together on one screen?

    Yes, on one split screen, this is a console game. We saw each other, but the screen was divided. I don’t remember, horizontally or vertically, as if we were giving a choice.

    Oh, that's great.

    We did everything sequentially. Remember when at the beginning Gordon pushed the sample into the reactor, and this causes a cascading resonance, which formed a breakthrough between our world and the world of Xen. The sample rises from below through the elevator. At Decay, you become a scientist who delivers a sample to Gordon. You're downstairs! You prepare a sample, push it in, press a button, the sample rises - and from the side you hear everything that happens there.

    That is, the story is cool from any point of view.

    Yes, we had a lot of fun creating it all. You see the story from different perspectives, you get a real crossover. When we started Gearbox, our first project was Half Life: Opposing Force. There were only five of us, and by the time the game appeared in stores, it was already twelve.

    Good growth!

    Imagine. There are 12 of us. The Opposing Force seemed to have 45 cards. The original Half-Life was 88 or so. The Opposing Force add-on was the size of a half Valve game. Valve had 40-50 people, and they spent 3 years on the game. We finished in 8 months with 12 people. Incredible. Each of us played different roles at once. I was a screenwriter, designer, producer and leader. About a third of the levels I did myself, as a level designer. The game had terrible code and scary textures that I made myself. The cool people in our team did a great job, for example, Stephen Ball made all the soldiers and about two-thirds of all the monsters and weapons. Landon made several types of monsters and weapons, along with some textures. Brian also created monsters, as well as many textures, which we then used. Rob made a lot of sound effects, which we used - and he was also a left designer, made about a fifth of all levels. Everyone was doing everything.

    Инди-студии в начале своей истории — это полное сумасшествие. Как подумаешь, сколько вещей делает каждый…

    Да, а сегодня над Borderlands 3 работает 400 человек. Масштабы велики, и мы работаем над игрой… я первый раз сделал что-то для третьей части лет пять назад. Масштаб совсем другой.

    Duke Nukem Forever — игра, которая не должна была выйти. Рэнди и Николай

    Окей, давай поговорим о другом старом тайтле — Duke Nukem. Все ждали новый Duke Nukem с самого выхода Duke Nukem 3D, скорей, скорей, скорей, но Duke Nukem Forever вышел только в 2011 году.

    Да, это было почти «forever». Не совсем, но почти.

    В 2011 году вышла игра и получила… смешанные отзывы.

    I would not even say mixed, the reviews were pretty bad. It was a crazy situation. I left 3D Realms in 1997 .... yes, in 1997, and we have already been working on Duke Nukem Forever for several months. I left 3D Realms, joined another company, the company went broke, then I founded Gearbox. The whole company managed to open and go broke. In 1999, I founded Gearbox. We developed all Half Life games, all versions on different platforms, all add-ons, the James Bond game, the game from the Tony Hawk's ProSkater series, made Samba de Amigo, Halo for PC, Brothers in Arms, Borderlands. Did all this while 3D Realms continued to work on Duke Nukem: Forever. Throughout the history of Gearbox, even after the release of Borderlands 3D Realms, it worked on Duke Nukem: Forever.

    I remember when I was still working in 3D Realms in 1997, we were developing another game - Prey. She used a new technology that was just emerging - a 3D graphics accelerator. This is the board you inserted into your PC, and it accelerated 3D graphics. Before that, everything was processed by the processor at the software level. When I got the first 3dfx graphics card, I thought: this is incredible! I launched the original Tomb Raider and thought: wow! 3D graphics! I had a Matrox graphics card, and I ran one of the Quake versions on it. As a developer, I needed Matrox cards.

    I remember we somehow worked for Duke Nukem: Forever - I was actually not on the team then. We just got 3dfx and matrox. And then one day they decided: we’ll do Prey for 3D cards, but Duke Nukem will be released soon, and will be adapted for software rendering for now. Imagine: 3dfx appeared, gave a good start to the 3D-card industry, went through the entire development cycle and was liquidated. 3dfx no longer existed as a company, all within the development cycle of Duke Nukem: Forever.

    I remember at the dawn of Gearbox in Wired magazine - do you have Wired in Russia? - then Wired used the term "vaporware". “Vapor” is about something that is not really there, such as a ghost. And “ware” is from software. Vaporware is the promised software, yet ghostly and unreal. Someone wrote an article about Duke Nukem and called it "vaporware." Now this term may already be in the dictionaries, it is well-established.

    The following year, Wired made a new article entitled "Vaporware of the Year Awards." They made an award that was given to all developers of such software. Technical, specialized software had many awards. Wired talked about one vapoware, another, third, and so on to the end of the article, where they presented the No.1 Vaporware of the Year Award ... Duke Nukem: Forever.

    This is victory.

    They handed it to Duke Nukem the following year. And in a year. And a year later, until ...

    How much did they give the Duke Nukem Award?

    10 years! A whole decade! And after 10 years, Wired wrote: we give Duke Nukem: Forever a lifetime award, we will not talk about it anymore, this is the king of vaporware, which no one will overthrow. Yes, Duke will not do anything halfway and even among vaporware will be king.

    But he still came out.

    Yes, even though this should not have happened. The guys ran out of money, and they closed.

    So what is the reason that the game is poorly received?

    I think it's all about expectations. Well, in the game itself. It reflects the story of its creation. I am not objective: I believe that I owe a lot to my career as Duke Nukem. When I joined the Duke Nukem 3D team in 1996, this was my first commercial game. When I worked on the Duke Nukem Plutonium Pak and Atomic Edition, which were bundled, these were my first commercial games. I worked in 3D Realms only a year before I created my company, but I felt that I owed a lot to it. I cannot be objective.

    When 3D Realms closed and left its employees with nothing, the company’s management thought that you could just raise your hands and say “that’s it.” But the publishers - we had previously discussed the difference, the publishers are promoting the game, deciding where to sell it and are interested in money - the publishers began the trial with 3D Realms, with George Broussard and Scott Miller. You could not just get up and leave.

    And who was the publisher?

    Take-Two, like Borderlands. They sued George Broussard and Scott Miller. “You can't just go and leave. We have invested millions in this game. ” You have obligations.

    It's been invested for almost 15 years! And then they just quit!

    Yes, the development took 15 years, and Scott and George thought they could just drop everything. But there was a problem. They made a deal and pledged to make a game - but did not. In addition, they personally took a lot of money from Take-Two, a lot of money. Take-Two said that the money needs to be returned, but the guys have already spent the money.

    So, 3D Realms has problems. Big problems. We started discussing them with George and Scott.

    You said you already left 3D Realms. What was your role?

    Yes, I already worked at Gearbox, it was 2009 or 2010.

    What was the role of the Gearbox here?

    Никакой. Совершенно никакой, с момента как я ушел из 3D Realms в 1997 году до момента, когда Джордж, Скотт и я в 2010 году сели обсуждать закрытие Gearbox. У Джорджа и Скотта были проблемы. Они получили иск и нуждались в помощи.

    Что я чувствовал по этому поводу. Представь, что ты едешь один по шоссе в Сибири. Не никого на мили вокруг. И вдруг ты видишь автокатастрофу: пожар, кровь, трупы. Что ты сделаешь? Остановишься или поедешь дальше?

    Конечно остановлюсь! Людям же помощь нужна!

    Of course, most will stop. Now imagine: you recognize a car, and it is a car of people close to you. For example, your first boss, who sent you to the profession. And at the same time you are leading a whole column - an ambulance, a tractor, service vehicles. There is no one around.

    That was us. We agreed that I would be obligated to sue them. I went out under the bullets. Take-Two no longer sued 3D Realms, George Broussard and Scott Miller. They sued me.

    Brave step!

    I relied on two things. The first is my relationship with Take-Two, because they have already published Borderlands, which has become a big hit. I thought that in this situation they would meet. I knew Take-Two wanted a game. And I knew something else - Scott and George told me this in a personal meeting. They fired all-all developers and closed the company. But the team has a lot of people, and they have been working on Duke Nukem for over 10 years. They devoted themselves entirely to this game. And what happened was not their fault - George and Scott did not know how to handle money and were forced to fire them. This was a big surprise for everyone.

    But no one wanted to quit. Everyone was eager to make a game. And some guys still had money to continue - even without a salary. And one of the employees - Allen Bloom, who stood at the origins of Duke Nukem even when it was a side scroller - he, producer David Regal and several other guys continued to work. They were fired from the studio, the studio was bankrupt, they did not have access to working computers. They took computers from home, brought them to someone, set them up and continued working.

    Wow! Home Studio!

    Почти половина сотрудников поступила так. Я не помню точную цифру, но они продолжили работать. И знаешь что сделали? Они сшили вместе все, что у них было и получили игру, с началом, концом, серединой и всем необходимым контентом.

    И они дали мне поиграть. Я поиграл. И было довольно круто! Я даже не мог поверить, что эта игра существует, потому что для меня Duke Nukem остался тем, что помогло мне попасть в индустрию в 1997 году. Я смотрел на нового Дюка и понимал — вот он! Я не ожидал ничего подобного. Я знаю, как делать игры, знаю, как сложно компании масштаба 3D Realms конкурировать на рынке.

    I thought it would be a nightmare, but when I played, I saw something cool there. It was fun to play! It was a Duke Nukem. I could not believe that I was playing this. My expectations were around here [shows], and the game was at that level [shows]. For me it was wow!

    The condition that Take-Two takes the lawsuit was that the game appears in stores. So we needed producers. We signed a contract with the producers to finish the work - and they finished! Our producers and their developers finished the game. When you launch it, you see “Gearbox Software presents a 3D Realms game”

    It's generally a miracle that she came out!

    Yes! Then we went with her to the Penny Arcade Expo . Everyone thought that Duke Nukem would not work because the studio was closed. By that time, the game had already become a legend; people had been talking about Duke Nukem for over ten years. We took a large stand and covered it with black cloth so that no one saw anything in advance. And as soon as the exhibition opened, we took off the fabric.

    There is a video on the Web how people rush to the exhibition, right to the next show of the game, run past Duke Nukem, turn around, slip, turn back twice to return to the queue to Duke Nukem. An eight-hour queue gathered in 15 minutes. The game has become the number one theme on Twitter. The trailer has become the most popular game trailer of the year, ahead of Call of Duty. Everyone was crazy about what hit they had prepared.

    Everyone happily tasted our craft, and it tasted good. Could have been cooler. Maybe it would be different if I were a publisher. The whole point here is pending. The game turned out as it was supposed to be - popcorn shooter, bi action movie. But she was funny, crazy, funny, sometimes absurd. There is a moment where you shrink and run around the diner, jumping on french fries. The game is absolutely absurd. This is not the best game of all time, but it is fun.

    If you expected this to be the best game of all time, then you get a critical difference in expectations, think “to hell!” And your personal assessment of the game becomes lower than fair. My situation is the opposite, as we recall, my expectations were low. What had to be done was not to sell this game as AAA for the full price. It had to be sold in a brown cardboard box and called Duke Nukem Forever: Bootleg Edition. She should not have existed. After the close of 3D Realms, the game consisted of individual pieces that the team assembled and stitched together.

    It was worth selling bucks for 20. And writing something like, “It shouldn't have existed. But if you are interested in how the past 15 years have passed, then hold on. ” Then the initial expectations would be completely different, and we would have a better chance of success. I think if today people come back and look at the game, taking into account the realities of the market and what the team has gone through ... Duke Nukem will look charming.

    But Duke Nukem fueled high expectations. For 10 years, George and Scott have told everyone that this will be the best game of all. When you say that, and then you don’t do it, that’s it, the end. You're in deep trouble. But the game had to come out necessarily by agreement, it came out, and now we can do something further.

    Like it or not, it's good that she came out. Maybe it's worth a replay.

    Yes, of course, buy the PC version and replay. It’s cheap now, it will cost five dollars. She's funny, I'm sure you will have fun. You will remember how fun you were in this game, and even forget some other, better ones. There is something special about her.

    The show begins: Randy and Nikolai

    Randy, you know, I met a girl at the bar yesterday. I had a deck of cards with me, and I tried to show her something cool, like a magician. But everything failed because I'm clumsy.

    Are you a magician ?!

    Yes, I'm trying a little, but the cards fell to the floor, the floor was sticky, yuck. But she laughed, and I think I have a second chance. Can you teach me some kind of trick that is impressive and yet not too complicated?


    I have a deck of cards here ...

    Oh, you brought cards!

    I knew you would agree. Are these suitable?

    Yes fine. We have several advertising cards, jokers. Do you have a favorite card?

    Yes. Ten clubs.

    Oh, I was close, I thought you would say a dozen rush.

    So here are a dozen rush. Put your hand like this, but relax your thumb, because I will insert a card there. Here are a dozen rush, look if you do not believe

    Ten rush, ten rush.

    Here I have a dozen clubs. Relax your finger, I'm not too good at it. Now I’ll change your card very quickly. If I have a dozen rush, then what about you?

    Ten clubs.

    If I return the card to you, what will you have?

    Dozens of spades and clubs.

    Ready to be surprised?


    Do you want to show first on camera?

    This is a dozen clubs and a dozen rush! (points to camera) Oh hell!

    In fact, I have them ...

    They are not in my pocket? Not in my ear?

    Here they are. Anyone can do it. Let's try it harder. Can you interfere with the cards?


    Do you really want me to teach you the trick. I can show one.


    I will show you the focus, and then, when we turn off the camera, I will teach you how to do it. I vowed never to give away secrets. So, now everything is fine. I won’t even touch them? Is the floor visible on camera?
    Can you take off about half the cards?

    Stripped off

    I’ll roughly mark the place so that we don’t lose it. Okay You just saw me do the trick. You know that I'm a magician and can control cards. But if you mixed and removed, then you know for sure that I can’t control the situation. All honestly, you can check, it is very important. I will show you the card that you took, and I will turn away. Had seen?

    Can we show in the camera?

    Yes, you have to find and show it yourself

    Oh, I can’t find it.

    Let me help you. Now we have a demonstration. Now I will throw cards one at a time. You look at the cards - I look at you. You look at the cards - I look at you. If you see your card, your task is to not let me know that you saw the card. Because my task is to understand from your reaction that you saw your card. Look at the cards and hold the poker interface. When you see the card, do not react.

    [throws cards]

    One card is left in my hand. We bet on anything - a thousand rubles - that the next card that I will turn over is the one you were looking at.

    I bet.

    Look, here is the map.

    Damn, there she is!

    I had to somehow determine which card is yours. Do you want me to teach you this trick?

    Yes, come on when we finish.

    What are the honorable igrodely talking about. Randy and Richard Levelord

    Randy, it's so unexpected and nice to see you in Moscow.

    What are you doing here, Richard?

    I live here.

    I can’t believe that you left little Garland in Texas, where we worked, and moved here to Moscow.

    Yes, it is a big city. It's great that you, Christy and Randy Jr. came here.

    I like it here!

    I want to ask you some questions, do you mind?

    Of course!

    I’m interested in this. I have not been working in the gaming industry for more than 10 years, and you are the CEO of a large Gearbox studio. In the ten years that I retired, I managed to play around with Unreal and Unity. Tools for creating games during this time have evolved greatly. Anyone can make games, and there are a lot of such people, indie developers. How do you feel about this, is it good or bad in your opinion?

    I think it's great! I remember - and you remember - when everything was just beginning, it was not widely available. You had to have access to technology, to tools, or to create the necessary tools yourself. And today, computers are available to everyone, because everyone has a telephone.

    And there is internet.

    Yes, everyone has a telephone and Internet access. And that means you have access to everything. We live in a time when all the information is available, you can find it and use it for your work. You can learn on your own. Therefore, we now have more game developers than ever before. In game development, interaction is very important, so this alignment is only for the best.

    Agree with you. There are more bad games, but also more good ones.

    You cannot do something well until you have tried it many times. Many start, do some shit, understand why it happened, do it again, repeat, repeat, and finally come to the fact: oh, I'm good at it! Here, practice is needed, repetition is needed.

    Another question about the gaming industry. I left there because I was already old.

    This is not a problem at all.

    Yes, I know, I left AAA tiles and now I love casual games. In general, games have become so complicated, so you are working on Borderlands 3 ...

    The way it is. The Borderlands team has 300-400 people. (Yes, that's a lot) It's really a lot! Do you remember how we could all fit in one room?

    8 people, 8 people.

    Yes, now it takes a lot of time to organize, but you know what? Thanks to this, specializations are now developing. One person can focus on one thing and do it very well, because he does not need to worry about everything else. The main thing here is to know that everyone is doing his own thing, so that we put everything together and take a step forward. This is very cool, this is exactly what I like today.

    Звучит очень интересно. Специализация. Помню, моей первой специализацией было отвечать за уровни игры. Я полностью отвечал за уровень игры. Это мой уровень. И даже если он в твоей игре. это все равно остается моим уровнем. Когда мы начали делить обязанности, это было неудобно. К тому времени, как я ушел, у нас был человек, занимавшийся освещением. Сейчас у тебя есть человек, который делает пол-уровня с помощью моделей вместо обычной геометрии.

    Yes, the whole level design has changed since you and I started. But level designers still exist, and some of them deal with level geometry. They bring together what others are doing, and are more likely to design gameplay, game space. Now we divide the creation of the game world into two parts - this is the design of the game level and environmental. And the design of the game level is further divided - to create architecture and scripts. And environmentalists put everything together from pieces, from elements. Everything is constantly divided by specialization.

    I still think that in this situation, I would not be happy.

    Hah Richard, you poor man!

    Yes, and my vanity is too great, I do not like to share toys.

    Actually, I understand you. When we made the first game at Gearbox - it was Half Life: Opposing Force - as I said, there were only 12 of us. And I had to do a lot, I actively invested in the game, because I had no choice. Now I am only one of 400 participants in the project.

    400 people ...

    Yes. And although I bear the greatest responsibility, my role is one four hundredth. This is a team work. All we do is the overall result. I made some contribution entirely on my own - I drew a logo, came up with a name. These are trifles that everyone knows about.

    Yes, it turned out cool.

    But most of my work is behind the scenes, it’s not easy. For example, when it comes to design principles or a game design system that extends beyond one level. I do not decide, for example, whether to put this door here - I do not remember the last time I put the doors on the levels. I operate with larger entities and systems that must exist together.

    As a designer.

    Yes. This is hard.

    The last two games that I created - to earn extra money on retirement - are two games with hidden objects. In three years I made two games, and 90% of all the work was mine. I did not write music, but I found it and paid royalties. The whole process gave me great pleasure. I had no meetings. I kept documents only for myself.

    This is how to comment on your code so that you yourself do not forget the important.

    I did not need to explain to some idiots what I want to do, I just did it.

    It's great. Thanks to the success of Borderlands Gearbox was able to try itself as a game publisher. We help small games enter the market. We just released a game like this, Risk of Rain 2. Three people worked on it. Three persons! The game is wonderful! I played it and thought: God, that would be what the Borderlands would look like if we had ...


    Not if we had 20 people. Those three did so cool. Great thing, play, a lot of fun.

    Yeah, it is on Steam, and I already have a key.

    Yes, you know who to contact.

    Last question. He is connected with the rest. When we last worked together, it was 25 years ago. I'm still a level designer ...

    Are you sure 25 years old?

    Yes, exactly, three years ago!

    Let's go back for 25 years.

    Let's go back to 25 when you were still a boy, and I am a respected developer. You started as a level designer.

    Well, at first I was a programmer.

    Yes, you were a programmer before joining 3D Realms to work on Duke Nukem. There you were a level designer - this is a very creative work. And now you are the CEO of a company of 400 people. I do not think that this is creative work - it is more focused on business, on management.

    This is the other side of creativity.

    She is creative, but in a different way. How do you combine everything together? Do you miss those days?

    To be honest: I'm not a CEO. Technically, I am not a CEO, we do not have a CEO. I just don’t argue with people when they call me CEO, I don’t want to interrupt the conversation. I founded the company, I am its owner, and this makes me someone.

    In fact, I feel happy when I create something. I have two offices - an administrative office and a development office. My participation depends on the stage of the project. At an early stage, I dive deep into the project to clearly understand what we are doing. But in what we do, I am no longer the best. There are people who create art, levels much better than me.

    Yes, they are younger, faster ...

    Here it’s not even about age, but about specialization. I need to focus on different things, control everything at a much higher level, so I'm not so good at the levels below. Not as if I were doing this every day. And I think that if I did this every day, I would be able to maintain my skills. If you do something, your skill grows in this. In my case, it is always a compromise.

    One of the coolest things that appeared in Gearbox from the very beginning is that the system of reward, profit distribution does not depend on your position in the company, but on the time you devoted to the project. The producer receives the same portion of the profit per day as the level designer. This is cool.

    Yes, it’s great, it brings together.

    Thanks to this, we can work where we are most effective. We don’t think where exactly we will make more money - everyone will get the same way. There are no compromises.

    Let's remember Duke Nukem: 20th Anniversary Edition. For me, this was the first project since I retired from Ritual Entertainment, which is no longer there.

    I pulled you back!

    It was so much fun working with Allen ...

    And what you have done is one of your best works!

    Allen with Randy Pitchford, Doug Wood & Dirk Jones.

    Yes, Allen excelled here, I always liked how he works. With Ritual, we received more money from games than we invested in them, but I never received a check depending on royalties.

    Oh, I'm glad you got it all the same!

    We got money there, here, most of the money went back to the company. And then I received the first royalty check ... it seems, for $ 250,000. I received it in Moscow from you from Texas via mail. I look and think ... what is it? Oh my god, this is a check from royalty!

    Yes, you can earn thanks to your creativity, why not?

    I printed it and hung it on the wall. It was nice!

    Yes, I was also happy when our financiers said: “Oh, we paid off. This game brings money. " This is a cool feeling.

    Let's do it again.

    Yes, let's do it again. In Duke Nukem 3D six episodes, you can come up with something else.

    Of course. The world needs more.

    And thanks for taking the level in London! I started to draw this map but realized that I did not have enough time for this.

    I put it all together, and at this level I got two puzzles. And then your Q&A guys said they were too complicated.

    Yes, this is my problem! I always do the most difficult puzzles.

    Level designers love this.

    And people themselves are like their puzzles.

    And I love when the fun begins immediately, I'm here to shoot.

    I recall the puzzle that Shadow Warrior inserted in the first level. Everyone said that I was crazy and no one would pass the first level. This is my problem ...

    I do not like puzzles, I like to shoot.

    I perceive everything as Tetris, my brain collects everything as a puzzle.

    Great game. It was invented in Russia. I don’t know if he is still here or in America ... I think here.

    I do not know. I have this way of thinking.

    Tetris is one of my favorite computer games. Together with the Colossal Cave.

    It's so nice to be with you here. I still can’t believe that you are in Moscow.

    Yes, I still cannot believe that I am in Moscow. I go, look around and think: so, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Church ... okay, I'm here, I'm here.

    This is my first time in Moscow, and it is nice here. Thank you for telling me something and spending time with me. I want to come back again and come back. Let's meet again.

    Oh sure. Super.

    See you.

    Since we are here, I want to ask you. I used to have some idea of ​​Russia. I came here in some fright, not knowing what to expect. And the point is not propaganda, but that we simply do not have enough information. But I, and another 30-40 of my friends come here and say: Russia is a cool place, people are great, cities are fantastic. What do you feel before leaving home?

    I love. The more I travel the world, the more I understand: all people are the same everywhere. We want to be loved, we want to have fun, be happy, be happy. The more I understand this, the more I think that politics and all this shit don't matter. People are what matters, and we all want the same thing. Have a good time and be loved.

    To have a roof over your head, food, start a family ...

    We want to feel comfortable and safe, have fun. And I am pleased that my job was to create entertainment. This industry creates joy and happiness.

    And connects the world.

    Yes, I felt it very well at DevGAMM when I saw all these young independent game developers. They are the same as me, and it doesn’t matter that we speak different languages. I am them in 20 years. They are me 20 years ago. This is a wonderful feeling, and I am already waiting for the moment when I will return.

    Yes, we will definitely call you again.

    Why drop out of college and how to make smart settings. Christy Pitchford and Nikolai

    We are pleased to welcome Christie Pitchford. Christy is the CEO of Nerdvana Game Studios, Nerdvana Spirits Bar, and Nerdvana Coffee Shop. As many as three companies.

    Hey. Thank you for calling!

    Кристи, в твоем твиттере я прочитал, что за 29 лет твоей жизни с Рэнди он ни разу не выпил кофе или алкоголь. Хотя у тебя есть свой бар и кофейня. Это показывает большое взаимное уважение. Но иногда… Я знаю, что делаете ряд проектов вместе, вместе ведете рабочий процесс. Возможно, иногда у вас нарастают конфликты, бывают даже споры, ваши интересы пересекаются. Если так происходит, что вы делаете для решения?

    I think where we intersect ... he doesn’t drink coffee and alcohol, I like both, but that doesn’t bother him. He likes what I do, table and video games are closely related. But when we have disputes ... I can’t even call it disputes. We have different management styles. I am very attached to my employees. He is also close to them, but for Randy it is less friendship than for me. I don’t think we are arguing - we just complement each other, including in the style of company management.

    It is more difficult with travel. We both travel a lot. We can not see each other for a long time. He does not tell me that he is going somewhere, but I have joint plans, but he did not know ... this is possible here. But we have an assistant who is trying to compare our calendars so that we know where anyone is and our plans do not overlap. In general, we do not argue. We do not argue often.

    I know that your last project in your game studio is a board game in the Borderlands universe. Can you tell me her story? I know people love board games, including in Russia. But why now? As far as I noticed, at least in Russia, the boom of board games took place 5-10 years ago. Why did you come to this now? Was that the plan? Tell us about it.

    I think it was a natural development. Randy has his own game development, in my bar and coffee shop there are board games. And I have a team that loves board games. Together we play a bunch of games.

    We had a great opportunity to work with the Borderlands franchise. My own office is inside the Gearbox office. I can easily consult with artists, screenwriters, I make up a single picture of this. I am in the best position to give Borderlands life in board games. In general, working with someone else's intellectual property is a struggle. And I myself worked on the first part, and on the second, and generally sick fan of the series. For me, this project has become a natural development. And again, my own team is very fond of board games. So it all came together.

    In what genre did you make the game? What does she look like?

    We made this game very quickly, because we wanted it to be released on the day of the announcement of Borderlands 3. I needed to get everything done in four months. We worked with a company in Chicago that makes this fun robot game [we are talking about XYZ Games and RobotLabs - approx. transl.]. We took this game, changed it and turned it into a Borderlands card game, where you build different Claptraps - Claptrap gentleman, Claptrap pyromaniac. And you have to stop others from building their Kleptraps. You give your rivals details that they don’t need, and you get what you need ... this is a pretty casual card game with great art from Borderlands. You can learn it very quickly - we did it so that the gameplay was very dynamic.

    Starting with Kleptrap is a great idea. Everyone loves Kleptrap.

    Yes, and this game of Tina Tiny, which everyone also loves, like Klaptrap.

    Is this a set of cards in a small box?

    Yes, this is a small box with ordinary cards, action cards, robots - this is such a game.

    Any plans for future games in the Borderlands universe?

    Oh sure.

    Can you give me some teaser?

    No, I can’t say anything, but we really like working in this setting and bringing Borderlands to board games. This is my favorite intellectual property, I know this universe well, and we have plans for the future.

    Perfectly! Let's get back to the times when you were just starting the Borderlands universe. Randy said it all started in a mix of RPG and shooter. But we also love Borderlands for the setting, a post-apocalyptic, crazy universe. I know that basically you made her. Can you tell us any secrets of a cool setting?

    You know, this is such a great collaboration between different people. I was responsible for the dialogs. In the original Borderlands, I prescribed replicas of Patricia Tannis and other characters. My work was not the most exciting. You have an NPC, he gives you direction, tells you what to do. But if you come back and do not complete the quest, the NPC asks: “Have you done this? You did it?". But you don’t want him to convey this idea the same way each time, so I wrote a table with four options for this replica. "You did it? Well, how is it? Have you done it? Did it work? ”And at the same time it is necessary that all remarks correspond to the character's character. This is a rather tedious part, but it is necessary so that the player does not get bored repeating the same actions.

    I must be able to get used to each character in order to understand how he speaks. Will he be impatient, will he freak out, will he be frivolous ... this is necessary in order to create personality through dialogue. It's very funny.

    You must get used to the head of each character in order to say the same thing on his behalf forty-fifty times in different words. Crazy experience! You need to live directly in the Borderlands universe.


    What about the creation of the sequels? You made the first Borderlands, a set of characters, a cool world. What about Borderlands 2 and 3? How to make people want to return to the game world?

    I think the beauty of Borderlands is that everyone can find himself in a particular character. They are all very different. I believe, instead of having a limited set of similar characters, Borderlands offers truly unique characters. This is very attractive to players, they want to return to each character, to learn more about him. This is what makes Borderlands replayable - a large number of dynamic characters. More such incredible characters are added to the DLC - Moxie, Mr. Torrgh. These characters were not in the original game, but they became the hallmark of Borderlands.

    That is, in each new part of the game you integrate new heroes, new stories. You have no problems connecting characters, placing them inside a world where their connections and rules have already been established? How do you place each new character in such a way that he looks organically, as if he was always in the game?

    These are engaged in Gearbox more experienced screenwriters. But I think, due to the fact that the whole world is so crazy, you can be bolder and more innovative in introducing new characters. No need to strictly adhere to any rules. You can add a road with cars in the middle of the desert, all sorts of crazy things (for example, Earle). No need to follow the exact rules, this is Borderlands, everything is strange here. They fly to this planet from everywhere, which gives us a crazy world in which it makes sense.

    Borderlands has no rules, only style, right?

    No, it has its own rules, but Borderlands does not play by the rules.

    There are rules in Borderlands, but they are not strict, you can break them.

    Yes, you can do with them more freely, this is the style of play.

    Okay, games are great, but let's go back to the days when you first met Randy. You also studied as a lawyer ...

    No, not studied.

    You were not going to become a lawyer. Where did you study?

    I was in college, but Randy met at school. And he just graduated. I got a job at an ice cream shop on the beach, and he already worked there. We became friends, started dating. He went to study in Los Angeles, and I went to Santa Barbara. Between them 90 minutes drive. We were together, we went to different colleges. When he received an invitation to 3D Realms in 1996, he was still studying. In the video game industry, it was then very difficult to break through, we decided that this was our chance, dropped out of colleges and left for Texas. That's how it was. And now after more than 20 years we are sitting here ...

    And everything is cool!

    Yes, everything goes like clockwork.

    I heard that you played a big role in making Randy move away from the legal profession and start doing what he really likes. What was the story here? Was there a moment when he clearly decided to change everything?

    I think both of us are not looking for proven paths. We love to take risks. There was a great risk of dropping out of college, leaving many states home, not knowing exactly what lay ahead. But we both love adventure, it captures us. And I think Randy would not be happy as a lawyer. This did not suit him. He already did magic, magic tricks most of the time, programmed, worked in the editors of Doom and Duke Nukem. He did this all the time, so ignoring that passion and becoming a lawyer just didn't make sense. We then only recently turned 20 - it's time to take risks in life, while there are no children and great responsibility. I think we both wanted to start the adventure and get off the safe path.

    Это здорово. Сегодня многие спорят об образовании, университетском образовании в России. Например, некоторые сайты с вакансиями исключают образование из анкет пользователей, оставляют только списки скиллов. Как думаешь, перестанет ли классическое образование быть нужным? Может, людям нужно просто поискать себя?

    Well I do not know. I returned to college and graduated five years ago, received a degree in psychology. And this is after 14 years! I like going to classes, getting an education. But this did not allow me to achieve what I achieved. But it helped me focus, I got an incredible experience. It seems to me that there is no right way, everyone should choose for himself. For those who don’t know what to stop at, the college is perfect - you can visit different subjects and understand what you need. But if you already know the direction, and you do not need a formal education, you just have to earn experience. Especially when it comes to art and the entertainment industry, where the portfolio is much more important than education.

    The first time in college I did not like. I was too young and did not understand what I was doing. But when I returned, I liked it. So I don’t know.

    Wow! Return to college after you have built a career in another field ... Are you still in college?

    No, I graduated five years ago.

    Oh, sure, you're already done. Does this help you in your work?

    Yes, I have a degree in psychology, and I think psychology is useful in any interaction with people. You can better understand people's motives, and I find this very useful. I have about 48 employees, and psychology helps me a lot. I interact with everyone, from dishwashers to managers, and my degree in psychology helps a lot in this. And also, of course, in communication with customers. So for me it was great. If I came back and got a degree, for example, in history, it would not be so useful, but a degree in psychology was useful to me everywhere.

    And Randy also helped in the decisions regarding the games of the company. I came home, told him about what I had learned, and this intersected perfectly with his work.

    You share experience and knowledge.


    It's great.

    The most important advice. Randy and Nicholas

    Randy, I know that you got a computer in the late 70s - early 80s. And you were still a child then. How could this then happen?

    Well, my father was like me. He was nerd. He worked for military intelligence, made computers and communications equipment - probably to spy on you guys.

    Cold war and its little things.

    Yes, and we had some kind of computers around the houses, just like when you were growing up. Technology has always been a part of my life.

    Can you describe your first computer? He probably occupied a whole room, a garage? How big was he?

    In fact, I remember the computer that my father made at Xerox - it was Sigma 7 . It was a huge mainframe. But the first computer he presented to me was based on the Z80 processor and was quite compact. It was one of the first home computers.

    What could he do?

    He had only 2 kilobytes of RAM - that's not much. I could program in BASIC. My computer was not bad, it could do more than it seems, but I always ran out of memory.

    Randy, what's next? You grew up, you will have a solid education, and then a solid legal profession. But suddenly something went wrong and you ended up in the gaming industry. How did this happen?

    It was not so sudden. My wife helped me understand that I should work in the entertainment industry. All that I loved in one way or another gave new impressions to other people. My tricks, my work as a game developer. It moved me. Christie helped me understand that money is not important, it is important to do what I want. It is important that there is a goal, and the process itself brings pleasure.

    When I started work in game dev, there wasn’t a lot of money, at least for me. I earned more as a magician. But you just do what you like, you become better at it and ... one day everything works.

    Wow. Can you give advice, one or two short tips to beginner game developers? You saw a lot of them on DevGAMM. One. One most important tip from the top of the Gearbox experience.

    I think the most important thing is to never quit, do not stop, even if something does not work out. We learn through our mistakes. Through constant attempts, you achieve quality. I think that failure taught me more than success. So you never have to stop. If you like, you don’t stop, so success will come anyway.

    Has your passion for entertainment passed on to your son? Randy went to you?

    I realized that Randy went into me when he once showed our friends how there is fire. Really devour fire! And he did it on stage. I lit a torch and put it in my mouth! And the point here is not that he knows how to do it. He wants to show others how it feels to put a burning torch in their mouth and eat fire. This is a crazy sight. Randy will definitely find himself in the industry.

    Oh Randy! We could make the interview much more exciting. But it's too late. Next time come to Russia, take fire, we will arrange a master class and you will show everyone! Thank you guys, it was very cool with you. I hope you will return to Russia for the second and third time, we will meet again and chat. Thanks! Till!


    "How the hell does he do that." Randy and a deck of cards

    So. Take your card and put it in the middle of the deck.

    Like this.

    Good. Now take a card that I have not seen, show it to the camera. Align the cards. Remember the one you took now? We now have two cards that you can recognize when you see them. We do it once ... two ... three ... We know that this is exactly your card, because it has an autograph. Oh, and did you choose this card?

    This is unbelievable.

    No, this card is not here, it is in my pocket. Now, do you think she’s in the deck? And she is in my pocket.

    Haaa haha!

    Let's try this. Choose any card. Align them. Now throw it one at a time. You can take it from the middle. From below. Until you want to stop.

    Like this.

    Now we no longer need these cards. Divide in half. So. How much happened in each pile. One, two, three, four, five, six. By you?

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine

    Ok, take three away. Six and six. One, two, three, four, five, six. Now you.

    One, two, three, four, five, six.

    I like the scene we're working on. Look. I have a line here, here, here. You have here, here and here. Choose one line from these three.

    This one.

    Ok, now pick a pair.

    Thanks, Randy, we had a great talk with you and Christy, learned a lot about Gearbox and other things. I hope you enjoyed it, we will be back with other interesting people.

    Also popular now: