Borderlands 3 is out and while everyone is looting, shooting, rooting and tooting, Gearbox have presented something pretty darn unique to go along with the game for streamers and their viewers on Twitch. ECHOcast is an incredible and unique part of the game that allows streamers and their audiences to interact and change the game.
From sharing loot with viewers through red chests through to letting viewers see the skill trees of the streamer in real time, scoping out their build down to the most minute of details, there’s heaps of ways Borderlands 3 opens itself up to let streamers and viewers interact, let viewers directly impact the game, and let streamers make sure their viewers walk away with some cool loot.
And, behind it all, was a dedicated team who Gearbox sought out and wanted to make it happen. One member of that team is Richard Deveraux, a web developer, dataminer, UI designer, and all round amazing dude from Australia!
So, naturally, we had to have a chat about how the ECHOcast came to be and his role in its creation.
GTG: How did you wind up working with Gearbox?
Richard: I made a ton of web resources for Battleborn and through that I made a lot of friends at Gearbox, one of them being Scott Velasquez who was looking into Twitch integration for Borderlands 3. They wanted to make a kickass experience and it didn’t matter that I was living on the other side of the world in Darwin, Australia of all places!
GTG: How much creative freedom did you get? Did you get to pitch your own ideas to be included in the project?
Richard: Being the person on the team who was the most adept at building interfaces on the web, I was generally given a lot of freedom with how I went about adapting the in-game UI. Gearbox obviously had a list of functionality the extension needed to have, but there are definitely a few things each of us pitched that made it into the final build of the ECHOcast.
GTG: How difficult is it creating something like this, especially having not been done before?
Richard: It was definitely a challenge trying to condense UI designed for large screens to fit on something that could be as small as your phone. There weren’t a lot of other extensions at the time trying to really capture the look and feel of their game counterpart either and the unique Borderlands style UI was not something that easily translated to the web. We added support for mobile in version 2 and much like Twitch extensions in general, there are very few examples that were at the level of the ECHOcast, so we had to figure things out as we went.
GTG: What were the biggest hurdles to overcome on the project?
Richard: Definitely the biggest hurdle for me was trying to make the UI look as good as it does in-game. The team also had to work around the fact we were building something that only works with an active instance of the game streaming live well before the game was released and before it had even been announced for version 1! You can only simulate so much in your test environment and you can’t get a good feel for the interactive events without actually seeing them in action.
GTG: How hard is it to work on something so awesome and not be able to tell anyone?
Richard: I was actually pretty ok with it being a secret until the game launched on September 13, until I found out the ECHOcast would get showcased at media events like the Gameplay Reveal and later E3 and GuardianCon. Imagine flying internationally for the first time ever for the Gameplay Reveal knowing the official announcement was going to land while you were on the plane! FYI flights from Australia to the US are super long and there is no WiFi!
GTG: How have your previous projects helped you with this one, experience-wise?
Richard: I think it definitely helped me a ton I was already adapting game UIs for the web as a hobby. I went into the project with not much experience for a lot of the technologies we ended up using, but it was fairly easy to pick up since I do webdev for a living. A big shoutout to Rick Casey from DIM (Destiny Item Manager) who was my mentor and showed me the ropes!
GTG: Perhaps, most importantly, who are you gonna main in Borderlands 3?
Richard: FL4K all the way. I was sold the moment I discovered they commanded pet companions as I recall Randy Varnell once talking about how they tried doing something similar in Battleborn but scrapped it because of how complex it was to implement quadrupeds and pet AI controlled characters. The developer in me knows without being told that FL4K would have been a huge technical challenge to realize and I also just love that there is a monkey with a gun and sunglasses!
If you’re looking to know who the rest of the ECHOcast team were, check out Scott Velasquez, Michaël Dubé, Rick Casey and Brandon Johnson. Richard would also like to give a special shoutout to the QA team, Daquan Sease, Jeremy Neroes, Simon Pierre Lepage and Jenn King.