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Release Date: September 18, 2012

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Gearbox Explains Borderlands 2 Backpack, Bank, and Secret Stash Limits

Posted on December 26, 2012 AT 05:58am

Gearbox Software has decided to finally respond to fan’s questions regarding item limits in Borderlands 2 by explaining its choices for each of the game’s storage limits–backpack, bank, and Claptrap’s Stash.

The developer offered a rather long explanation for the restrictions, which basically boiled down to data that was collected from the original Borderlands. “From the information that was gathered, we were able to get a better picture of how the average player played the game. We knew how many players had reached the level cap and how many had not. We knew which player class was being used the most. We knew which skills in the skill tree had more points invested in it. We knew what items people carried in their backpacks and what items they used the most,” a post on game’s official forums explained.

The full post can be read below:

We did lots and lots and lots of focus testing. As features were added to the game, we brought in people to try things out and get their opinions on the game. We had people who had played hundreds of hours of Borderlands 1 and we had people who had never played Borderlands before. We would explain to them what they were going to play and then let them play the game for a few hours. After that, we would have them take a brief survey and give us feedback on what they liked or didn’t like about the game that they played. All of the information collected from play testers was passed along to the design team. This feedback was used to make adjustments to the game. Make things harder, make things easier, make things that were difficult to understand a little more clear to the player so that they knew what they were supposed to do.

“Okay, that’s great and all, but what does that have to do with the size of the backpack?” I’m getting to that. Like I said, it’s important for you to understand where some of the decisions came from. It wasn’t just some random number someone pulled from a hat. There were many factors that went into the decision.

When a feature is added to the game, there is some design discussion that happends first to decide how that feature should work, but many of the details like “How big?”, “How fast?”, “How often?”, etc. are left out because we don’t always know what is going to work the best. Sometimes big things should move slowly but sometimes big things that move fast are “better”. I put “better” in quotes here because what is “better” is often chosen by a designer based on feedback from as many people as possible. Some people want things slower, some people want things faster. So you try to find a compromise that makes as many people as happy as possible. You try to maximize the satisfaction of that feature.

One of the things that people complained about (and still do complain about) is that it can be difficult and tedious to compare the stats of an item in the world with all of the stuff in your backpack. We included the little up/down arrows in the item card displayed for that item to help you determine if something is better or worse, but this only compares against the item in your hand or currently equipped on your body (for shields, class mods, and grenade mods). There have been some suggestions on how to improve this and make it better, but each of them had some limitations and we had a limited amount of development time so we were unable to implement each of these suggestiongs and try them out.

The more items you have in your backpack the more overwhelming it becomes (especially to new players) to decide whether you should pick up something or not. Some of the more hard-core players can keep the stats of every item in their backpack in their head all the time and comparing items is a breeze, but most players don’t posses this skill and have to manually go through items one-by-one.

Another issue that the UI guys were concerned about is how to present and sort a large number of items in your backpack. The UI team wanted the “in world” UI (where you see a map of the world, your missions, your inventory, etc.) to be as efficient as possible, present the most important information quickly and allow the player to easily see the information that they needed. The player should be able to get in to the UI, find out what they want and quickly return to the game. Ideally, the player spends more time in the world playing the game than they do sitting in the UI sorting through items and having to shift things up and down to find the information they want. The more items you have in your backpack, the longer it takes to sort them by type or manufacturer and the more scrolling up and down you have to do to compare stats of something in the world with something in your inventory.

Something that I’ve seen over and over is people saying that Borderlands is a game about collecting loot. But it’s not. The problem with that statement is the word “collecting”. “Collecting” implies that you find something and keep it, forever. This is what a lot of people want the game to be, but it’s not the way the game was designed. The game, as the designers designed it, is a game about finding something better than what you currently have. It’s growth through discovery. You play the game, you find something better than what you have, you pick up the new item and you discard the old item (either by selling it, dropping it on the ground, or giving it to someone else). Why would you want to keep something that isn’t as good as something you just found? I’m willing to bet that there are very few players who kept the first gun they were given at the very beginning of the game (“My First Gun”), carried it all the way to the end of the game, and used that gun alone to defeat Handsome Jack.

I think many people WANT Borderlands to be a game about collecting loot, storing it away in a Trophy room, and being able to show off that loot to their friends, but this is not the game that Borderlands was designed to be. Some people may want Borderlands to be a sleath game, like Splinter Cell, where the player can sneak up behind enemies, and stab them in the back to kill them. Splinter Cell is a fine game, but Borderlands is not Splinter Cell. Borderlands wasn’t designed as a stealth game and trying to play Borderlands as though it were a stealth game will only lead to dissapointment and frustration. Trying to play Borderlands as though it were a game about collecting and storing trophies will probably also lead to dissapointment. We aren’t trying to force you into playing the game in any certain way, but you are trying to do something that the game wasn’t designed to do.

Sometimes people will pick up an item, try it out briefly, then stick it in their backpack and never use it again until they eventually sell it when they find something better. I think maybe people think “Oh, this isn’t as good as something else that I’ve already got, but I might need it at some point in the future, so I’ll hang on to it just in case”. I can see doing this for different elemental type weapons. Maybe you want to keep one corrosive shotgun, one fire shotgun, one shock shotgun, and one slag shotgun so that you will have them if you need them. It is nice to have a variety of weapon types with different elemental effects so that you can use them against the enemies that they work the best on. That’s the reason that you have as many backpack slots as you do. But I don’t see the need to carry 10 different corrosive shotguns in your backpack at the same time since one or two of them will probably be substantially better than the rest of them. Having things in your backpack that you never really use is just wasting slots and increases the time it takes to compare new items that you found with items in your inventory.

So, here’s how the number of slots in your backpack came about. Designers felt that the number of backpack slots in Borderlands 1 made it more difficult for new players to decide if a new item was better or worse than things the player already had. UI designers were concered about not being able to sort and display a large number of item in an efficient manner in the UI (this becomes even more of an issue in split-screen on consoles). BTest stats indicated that people tend to carry around weapons that weren’t used much. Borderlands is not a game about collecting a large number of items and keeping them forever. The size of the backpack was reduced and when play testers felt that it was too small, the size was increased. More play testing was done by focus testers and developers and the size was tweaked accordingly. Designers and developers were happy with the size of the backpack at the time that the game shipped.

The size of the bank was set using similar criteria, but one of the design decisions (despite things said by Randy early on) was that the bank was only supposed to hold weapons that were “super special and rare” to the player. The bank should only hold the “best of the best” items that you’ve found while playing the game.

Claptrap’s secret stash was added as a way for players to exchange loot between different player characters that they had created. This allowed you to pass a special weapon “down” from one character to another. The stash is as small as it is because designers didn’t want players to use it to pass the entire inventory of one character to another character. They wanted each new character to spend time playing through the game, exploring and finding new loot on their own, and not just getting “hand me downs” from a previous character. Again, I think this is not the way that some people want to play the game, but it is the way that the game was designed. You can agree or disagree with that decision, but designers are happy with things the way they are.

All of this is not to say that these things will never change in the future. With DLC and updates we can changes these but I do not know if, or when, that might happen.

Are you happy with the imposed limits? Should they be increased? Let us know in the comments below.

Matthew Bennett, Associate Editor
Matthew Bennett finally got his big break with EGM three years ago, following years of volunteer work for various sites. An ability to go many hours without sleep and a quick wit make him ideal for his role as associate editor at He often thinks back to the days when the very idea of this career seemed like nothing but an impossible dream. Follow him on Twitter @mattyjb89. Meet the rest of the crew.

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