Around this time, Team Fortress 2 and Borderlands changed their art style mid-development.


Image of the article titled That Time Team Fortress 2 And Borderlands Changed Art Styles Mid-Development

Video games change a lot between announcement and release, but most of it happens under the hood. What the game looks like is usually set in stone. But this is not true for all video games, and it certainly was not the case for Borders and Team Fortress 2, games that looked very different when they were shipped.

Yes, it actually happened. Here’s how.


It’s hard to imagine that Gearbox Software Diablo-style shooter without its striking, cartoonish look, but for years the game has relied on a much more pedestrian aesthetic. I even saw a playable demo of Borders at E3 a year before the game art change. Needless to say, it didn’t leave a big impression.

Here’s the drastic change, side by side:

Gearbox described what happened at a game developer conference in 2010, but in short, gamers were confused Borders with Fallout 3 and Rage; the art was too similar. BordersThe style had been developed with the terms “serious”, “serious” and “realistic”. it is not a surprise Borders looked the way he did it.

“There can be something a little sterile and cold about contemporary super normal mapped games,” said art director Brian Bartel in an interview with IGN.
“I wanted something a little more human and warm, something that allows you to really see the hand of the artists in the work. You should feel the art the way good concept art moves you. This was the genesis of the concept art style. By sorting it out with the artists, I could see that they light up and are extremely excited about the idea.

The new art previewed in this trailer:

For inspiration, the developers turned to concept art for the game, which depicts a much more visually eccentric game, and the short film CodeHunters.

The creator of CodeHunters, Ben Hibon, was both impressed but annoyed by the proximity Borders seemed to ape his short, especially since he was, at one point, contacted to work on Borders. This is what he said Pound of flesh:

“I was contacted by Gearbox before the game redesign in 2008,” Hibon said. “They asked me if I would be interested in making / designing cutscenes for them. We exchanged a few emails but the project did not materialize in the end. I didn’t think much about it at the time – until I saw the final game in 2009. To be completely clear – I never created or designed anything for Gearbox or Borderlands. Gearbox saw my work and decided to reproduce it – make it their own – without my help or consent. The hardest part for me when this happened was figuring out why they weren’t asking me directly. We were already talking about working together, it didn’t make sense.

Randy Pitchord, CEO of Gearbox recognized connection To Kotaku in 2010.

For more, I recommend GameSpotexcellent writing from the Gearbox GDC conference.

Team Fortress 2

The success of Half-life enabled Valve to make bold decisions. One of these included the ad Team Fortress 2 in 1999 and did not ship it until 2007. Over these many years, the game has changed dramatically, especially the art.

Here’s how drastic it was:

As Borders, Team Fortress 2 was presented at E3 in a previous form.

Team fortress started as a earthquake mod, with Team Fortress 2 switch to the modified version of Valve from earthquake engine, GoldSrc. Valve ended up contracting the mod’s creators, Robin Walker and John Cook, before bringing everything in-house.

By a GameSpot report from June 1998:

Valve LLC announced last week that it had acquired Australian developer TF Software Pty. Ltd., the creators of Team fortress, perhaps the most popular team-oriented multiplayer mod for earthquake available on the Internet.

Sierra Studios and Valve will ship Team Fortress 2 like a Half-life expansion pack later in the year (following the release of the expected first-person shooter this summer).

“We looked at all the different gaming platforms that we could host TF 2 on, ”added Robin Walker, lead designer of Team Fortress 2. “Half-lifeState-of-the-art technology, along with its flexibility for extensions, with features like support for client-side DLLs and additional controllable HUDs (heads-up display), allowed us to do things with Team Fortress 2 this would not be possible on any other system.

Obviously, Team Fortress 2 was not shipped soon after Half-life. Being internally at Valve gave Walker and Cook the opportunity to rethink what the game could be, ultimately giving it the subtitle Brotherhood of arms. The game was delayed several times, but when the game was postponed in 2000, it turned dark.

Here are some images from the discontinued game:

Nothing would be heard of Team Fortress 2 for another four years.

It’s not like Walker and Cook are twiddling their thumbs around this time.

By an Rock paper pump shotgun 2007 interview, after its rebroadcast:

Walker: Well we’ve been working on TF2 a lot. We tried three or four different versions of the things we called TF2. And we all worked on Half Life 2 and Episode One. Valve is a company small enough that everyone is working on everything. So that wasn’t all TF2.

They also weren’t worried about how long it was taking:

The arc of TF2 is something that is probably familiar to many developers or hobbyist designers. When we got here the first thing we built was too complex, a very hard core, almost impenetrable for anyone unfamiliar with FPS in general. And as we found while playing it, it wasn’t any more fun because of it. I think one of the things we’ve learned as designers since we’ve been here is to better preserve our ideas while making them more understandable. We are personally very proud that TF2 is the best product we’ve produced to do this, where we don’t think we’ve sacrificed the depth or complexity we wanted, but at the same time players can sit in front and have fun without really understanding half of it. that is happening. Most of the things that happen tend to be visually understandable at face value.

Although still Team fortress Basically, the sequel was very different:

The original Team fortress still lives on as a fan-led project called Fortress forever, inspired by the original game. It’s also completely free!

I wonder how long it’s gonna take Fortress Team 3.

You can reach the author of this article at or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.

Image of the article titled That Time Team Fortress 2 And Borderlands Changed Art Styles Mid-Development

That Actually Happened is a weekly series at Kotaku in which we highlight interesting moments from video game history. So far, we’ve revisited the moment Sonic kissed a human, a live action game show on Xbox 360 and Sony throwing a God of War party with a dead goat. If you have any suggestions for future sets let us know in the comments below!


Comments are closed.