Tales from the Borderlands

(Telltale Games)

Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic adventure game based on the award-winning first person shooter Borderlands by Gearbox Software. Tales follows two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, as they trek across the savage wastes of Pandora in search of fortune and glory.

I was Co-Creator of this project along with Mike Stemmle. Early on we wanted to establish that the game would center around greed and survival on Pandora for regular people, instead of the nigh-immortal player characters from the Gearbox game, the Vault Hunters.

We had wanted to try to emulate the multiplayer-centric feel of the Gearbox Borderlands, and so after a lot of false starts, we landed on the solution. We would have multiple protagonists, and swap between then during the game. After watching the film Rashomon, the final piece of the unreliable narrator fell into place. it was a foregone conclusion to have one protagonist be a man and the other a woman.

This was my first experience being one of the creative driving-forces behind a season, and I wanted to do something other than the power fantasy that the first person shooter fulfills so well. I wanted to find the “Telltale” angle to the world.

The season story was pitched to the creators of Borderlands at Gearbox Software, who were very supportive of the direction we wanted to go in. They agreed that there was a huge amount of space to tell the more intimate stories Telltale is known for.

Of course, that didn’t mean we were off the hook from delivering the kind of over-the-top action and satisfying looting mechanics that really makes Borderlands the success that it is.

Along with helping craft the season story, I led the design the look of the main cast, as well as their emotional arcs and back stories. I also designed and prototyped several completely new mechanics involving using money as agency, and using the loot Borderlands players expected in interesting ways.

Concepting a season where each episode swaps back and forth between two characters, each disputing the accuracy of the other’s story was a really unique and interesting challenge for myself and the team. This project is very special to me in a lot of ways, being my first attempt at taking a game experience that is very different from a Telltale one and attempting to adapt it in a way that is satisfying to both existing Borderlands fans and Telltale fans alike.