Devs share the highs and lows of working on Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands
"I think it turns out that that Venn diagram of people who like games about shooting millions of things and people who like games about talking to people is probably a slimmer slice than we all would have hoped."
- Writer Anthony Burch, looking back on the production of Tales From the Borderlands.
One of the more surprising projects to come out of Walking Dead developer Telltale Games in recent years was Tales from the Borderlands, a 5-episode game produced in conjunction with Borderlands dev Gearbox and released throughout 2014 and 2015.
It was a seemingly unlikely team-up, and especially notable because of how much its comedic tone strayed away from what Telltale was making at the time (dramatic, dark games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us).
Devs who are curious about how it came to be should check out the excellent oral history of Tales from the Borderlands' development published today in the latest Campo Santo Quarterly Review.
It's a nice, meaty article (made up as it is of comments and memories from over a dozen folks involved with the project) that sheds some light on how the ups and downs of Tales' development -- from its odd genesis at the 2012 Video Game Awards to its bumpy conclusion as a critically-acclaimed game viewed internally as something of a failure.
"I had a hard time getting excited for the next thing. Tales was my life for two years, and internally it was perceived as a failure. Critically it was a huge success, but from a sales and production standpoint, it wasn’t awesome," said Nick Herman, who worked as a creative director at Telltale on Tales from the Borderlands and has since left the studio.
"So after all that, there wasn’t a whole lot of high fives and crowd surfing, but I guess we already knew that stuff would be absent at the finish line. Pierre [Shorette] and I talk about how it’s hard enough to just make a shitty thing; that’s like 75% of the work. I guess it just seems crazy to not push for that last 25% and give yourself a shot at making something special."
It's well worth your time to read the rest of the stories from those involved with the project, which together convey a sense of excitement and stress roughly analogous to summer camp ("the project’s done, summer’s over, now we have to go home," is how former Telltale staffer Martin Montgomery describes it), over on the Campo Santo Quarterly Review.