Everybody loves Claptrap, despite his small stature, the fast-talking robot assistant played a big part in shaping the Borderlands universe that we all know and love. With Borderlands 2 on the horizon, we wanted to know a little more about how the wise-cracking robot's role in the sequel.
Then THAT got us wondering, where did Claptrap even come from?
We asked some of the guys at Gearbox — CEO Randy Pitchford, CCO Brian Martel, producer Matt Charles, and writer Anthony Burch — to tell us a little bit more about what goes into designing a character like Claptrap, its humble beginnings, and find out a little more about his role in Borderlands 2.
Complex: This is a broad question: What was the original idea behind the Claptrap?
Brian Martel: Claptrap originated from a joke. One of our concept artists, Lorin Wood, ended up posting a quick sketch of a robot as a joke. He was joking around on another project we were working on and posted the sketch in one of the projects tasks. We all instantly imagined it in the world of Borderlands and had him do a few more riffs on the original concept and that was how Claptrap was born.
Complex: Can you describe some of the earlier versions of Claptrap? How did it evolve Complex: from your original concept into the final version.
Martel: He was originally drawn in a much more sci-fi art style but in regards to shape and form, he has stayed very similar to the original sketches.
Complex: Can you talk about how you worked with voice actor David Eddings to create Claptrap's voice? Was he always supposed to be so chipper, or did that evolve over time?
Martel: Well David actually works here at Gearbox as our VP of Business Development and Licensing. He has always had an eccentric persona and a lot of that carried over with the direction he was given for the voice. Those features can be seen and heard by the player as it resonates so well in the game.
Complex: It seems like the team was confident that the Claptrap was going to become a popular character - It was used to promote the original Borderlands before it was even released - at what point did you realize that you had made something that was going to stick?
Martel: We honestly had no idea. He has quite the personality in the game but we decided to have some fun and make some Claptrap shorts internally. We fell in love with them and wanted to share them with the world and has evolved into something that people truly love watching which we greatly appreciate!
Complex: The Claptrap seems to have become the unofficial mascot of the Borderlands franchise: How do you think the Claptrap has helped to shape the identity of the original?
Martel: Claptrap is huge to the world and the story and we think he is just one part that has helped create a unique identity for Borderlands. We still feel the other cast, the gameplay, the art style, etc all play a huge role in creating this franchise and an amazing world for Claptrap to reside in.
Complex: What kind of role do the Claptraps play in Borderlands 2? Is there pressure to use them more or pur them in a more prominent role since they've become a popular part of the franchise.
Anthony Burch: Remember the Claptrap unit you first met upon arriving in Fyrestone? Well, he’s the only CL4P-TP in existence anymore. The Hyperion Corporation destroyed his entire product line, and so Claptrap is on his own, personal quest to destroy Hyperion and get revenge for all his fallen brethren. Since he’s Claptrap, however, his “vengeance” usually takes the form of petty vandalism and poorly thought out insults.
Given Claptrap’s popularity, he just sort of naturally fell into a position of quasi-importance in Borderlands 2’s story – there was no external pressure to give him more stuff than we’d already planned for him, or anything.
Complex: Do you approach making characters for a franchise like Borderlands differ from working with something darker like Aliens: Colonial Marines? You're designing robots in both cases but obviously they need to evoke very different feelings from players.
Burch: Robots in the Aliens universe are not allowed to hump air conditioning units.
This is the only difference.
Complex: Last question: Do you think that, maybe somewhere down the line, we'll ever get a chance to play as a Claptrap?
Matt Charles: Hah! That would be bizarre, but perhaps it’s too early for me to rule anything out…