Update: You may have noticed Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford speaking out against the "girlfriend mode" nickname on Twitter.
As reported below, the Mechromancer skill tree that helps video game newcomers is formally called Best Friends Forever. But Borderlands 2 lead designer John Hemingway referred to it numerous times as "girlfriend mode".
"Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode," Pitchford stated on Twitter. "Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn't there.
"The future DLC Mechromancer class has a skill tree that makes it easier for less skilled coop partners (any gender!) to play and be useful."
Pitchford didn't deny that Hemingway had said "girlfriend mode". Instead, he labelled the term a "personal anecdote" that had been spun by the media.
"There is no universe where Hemingway is a sexist," Pitchford added. "All the women at Gearbox would beat his and anyone else's ass."
Original story: Borderlands 2 developer Gearbox Software has revealed more information on the in-development fifth class for the game, the Mechromancer.
The Mechromancer is a punk/tank girl wth a robot arm and pig tails. Her main skill is the ability to summon a robot, called Deathtrap, onto the battlefield, which acts as a tank, drawing fire from the player.
During a studio tour of Gearbox's Dallas offices, the developer showed us a work in progress build of the Mechromancer, planned to launch around 60 days after the game releases in September. Currently, the Mechromancer uses assets lifted from Maya, the Siren, for her arms. But her design and one out of three skill trees is complete.
The skill tree is called Best Friends Forever, what lead designer John Hemingway dubbed the "girlfriend mode".
"The design team was looking at the concept art and thought, you know what, this is actually the cutest character we've ever had. I want to make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree. This is, I love Borderlands and I want to share it with someone, but they suck at first-person shooters. Can we make a skill tree that actually allows them to understand the game and to play the game? That's what our attempt with the Best Friends Forever skill tree is."
One of the first skills available in the BFF tree is called Close Enough. This means your bullets that hit walls or other objects, that is, miss their target, have a chance to ricochet off towards the enemy.
"Can't aim? That's not a problem," Hemingway said.
In a gameplay demo, Gearbox showed this skill in action. At points, after taking damage against bandits, the Mechromancer was able to hide behind cover waiting for shields to recharge. From there, she could safely shoot in the general direction of the enemy, with bullets magically hitting targets.
Hemingway told Eurogamer in an interview that he's thinking about using one of the Mechromancer's other skill trees as a counter point to the Best Friends Forever "girlfriend mode".
"Right now, I'm thinking of it as a hardcore mode. So if you are a really expert player, and you want to do some tricky, difficult things, this is the tree for you, for just a totally different experience. We're not ready to talk about it, because we have no idea if it's even going to pan out. But we've got some interesting ideas there."
Hemingway imagines the final skill tree as "the shock gameplay tree". "It's all about shields and electrical damage. We've never really had an electrical-themed character skill tree. So that's exciting to me."
The Mechromancer is yet to be named, and Hemingway is keeping his cards close to his chest.
"What's her name? That's a good question. What's the name of a girl with a robot hand? Something techy?
"She's got this robot arm. It immediately asks a few questions. Why does she have a robot arm? Where did she get it? Does it have special powers? We all love little things that get your mind immediately running. That's what's really exciting about the Mechromancer. Even for me, as the guy who's going to build all the skill trees, I'm like, okay, robot hand, what does that do? Hmm. So you'll definitely see a few things with the robot hand in her skill trees."
Scattered throughout the Mechromancer's skill tree are skills that teach the robot, Deathtrap, new abilities. One shown by Gearbox was called Explosive Clap. This sees the robot head towards enemies, open up his arms wide and slam them together, setting off a huge explosion that knocks enemies back.
"It's a bit of a departure from the norm," producer Randy Varnell explained. "To have a class summoning another person for them to attack, that's outside anything else we've done in Borderlands before."