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Studio Visit: Gearbox Software

XBW dons a ten-gallon hat and flies to Texas to explore Gearbox, home of Borderlands and Aliens: Colonial Marines

The latest issue of Xbox World is on sale now.

A bunch of men stroll into a bank lobby with guns in their hands. It's time to call the cops, right? Not if you're in the City Of America bank in Plano, Texas. There, those guns are almost certainly replica Pulse Rifles from Aliens, and those men are pretty much guaranteed to be employees of Gearbox Software.

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When Gearbox Software was founded in 1999 it started life on the tenth floor. Later, it obtained the 12th. The developer would then acquire the floor in-between and the penthouse too, and shift operations upwards to accommodate a workforce now 200-odd members strong.

For now, the movement has stabilised (for all of a few months until Gearbox move 15 miles to the city of Frisco). Aliens: Colonial Marines is being created on the 11th floor while Borderlands 2 lives on the 12th. The penthouse is home to the offices of the company founders and marketing teams. There's even a golden pneumatic lift that links the 12th and 13th floors. One that looks a lot like Duke's lift in Duke Nukem Forever...

It's hands-down the coolest office in existence. In the reception, Gearbox keeps some of its many trophies and copies of its products. And a life-sized Claptrap model from Borderlands. And life-sized cut-outs of the Borderlands protagonists. And the giant throne from Duke Nukem Forever.

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It only gets better. On every floor there's a break room and a snack room stocked from floor to ceiling with crisps, confectionary and soft drinks. All free. Root beers, cream sodas, colas, Pop Tarts, M&M's, Kit-Kats...

Then there's the small matter of 'Pinball Alley' on floor 11, where you'll find six vintage, free-to-play pinball machines (Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Pinball Magic, Safe Cracker, Medieval Madness, and Indiana Jones) sitting next to a framed copy of Xbox World's Duke Nukem Forever cover and story from issue 98. Gearbox is immensely proud of its press coverage, and you'll find framed stories from different publications on every wall throughout the building.

PITCHFORD & PLANO

A motion-capture studio lives on floor 12, and a vault dedicated to Gearbox swag sits a few doors down. Did we mention the working hours? Our tour's taking place at 10.15am and the office is half-empty because it's 'too early for most people to be in yet'.

But the best rooms belong to the founders. We saw two: Brian Martel's, in which you'll find a collection of rare memorabilia from the film, comic and gaming industries sitting alongside Lego knick-knacks, Space Hulk board games and facehugger plushies; and Randy Pitchford's, a veritable gaming museum in which two of the walls are lined with every console imaginable sitting on metal pedestals. Pitchford always comes across as a man endlessly enthusiastic about games: this is physical proof of that.

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We've joked in the past that Gearbox isn't a stranger to delays and the cynic in us can now understand why that might be so. Many devs talk about their love for videogames, but none have ever come as close to proving their devotion as Gearbox did when they let us in.

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