How to make Battleborn pretty

If there's one thing Gearbox does better than anyone else, it's building RPG-shooters that look like they've jumped straight out of a comic book. Borderlands has become the studio's international calling card, so if you're going to build another IP that involves co-operative shooting in a cartoon setting, how do you make it stand apart from your previous efforts? We already know that said new project Battleborn will be a smoother, more action-packed version of the bandit-bashing gun porn of Borderlands when it arrives in earnest this winter - but how has Gearbox managed to produce another gorgeous-looking slice of animated action? In the latest issue of Official Xbox Magazine, the team caught up with art producer Sarah Rosa to discuss the arena-based offering's eye-popping visuals...

The game features a very distinct style, especially within a genre that often aims for realism. How would you describe its artistic approach?
The best way that we can probably define it is taking the Western CGI approach... like Pixar, that polished nature – then combining it with Japanese animation to get that graphic and action-y feel.

It’s especially cool to see the 2D effects set against the chaotic action. How’s that achieved?
We have Michel Gagné, who worked on The Iron Giant. He’s done lots of 2D animation, so he’s been helping our team do those effects, which add lots of wonderful flavour to the game – not only for characters’ special abilities, but also those effects around the maps. In our snow, for example, you can see some wispy 2D snow effects.

Can you talk a bit about the environment we played in and what other types of settings we can expect?
You got to visit Bliss, which is a moon. You got to see some of the snow and a little bit of the temples; you also got to see a Peacekeeper base. But, obviously, there is a good amount of other variety... jungles, deserts, temples, things like that.

Can you talk a bit more about those specific genres and inspirations?
So our overall direction combines CGI with anime, but then our influences are... well, a large variety of things. We love fighting games, so there is an influence there; we were inspired by MOBAs, RPGs, and by different movies. Our crane arms, seen in the demo, even reference an old ‘80s toy that was a robot arm.

The latest issue of Official Xbox Magazine, with Halo 5 Guardians on the cover, is out now. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.