Wednesday, February 26, 2020

"Tales from the Borderlands: The Oral History"




From 2017 by Duncan Fyfe:

Playing Tales is the most satisfying kind of thrill: that of watching the thing that’s not supposed to work working better than just about anything else. It takes the benefit of the doubt and runs with it like Rocky up the art museum steps.

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As we started looking at Borderlands [like] maybe we don’t want to approach this the same way we’ve approached The Walking Dead, it became clear to me that this game shouldn’t be about two terrible choices, it should be about two great choices.

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The Walking Dead, while creatively satisfying, was a miserable development experience because you spend all day trying to figure out what the best way to make someone cry is, or the best way to gross someone out, or put them through the emotional wringer.

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Episode One had about three tracks that we had actually purchased, and had the rights to. We’d start with one and go “That’s the one,” and we bought the rights, and a week later we’d go “Oh, crap, that’s not right, we need a new track,” buy another one, “Oh, crap, that’s not right.” We made a lot of mistakes on Episode One.

With Jungle, Busy Earnin’, it was an album that had just come out, and we were about a week and a half away from shipping. Pierre heard the album and he sent me the track. I was like, “We’re going to change the track again? I don’t know, man. We’re costing people a lot of money, there’s a lot of emotional stress that people go through every time we make one of these changes.” But he played the track and I was laughing. Laughing, like, this is so crazy, this is so different from anything that we’ve been talking about. I realized how perfect it was.

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It also thematically made sense. I think that’s ultimately what my big pitch to people was: “Dude, it’s about getting money. How can you argue with this?” But that’s not really what mattered. That’s the argument you make, the intellectual argument for it, but really, no, it’s the energy. They could have been mumbling and it wouldn’t have mattered. It feels like it hits and when the horns kick in, it feels like: Let’s go.
On voice actor Troy Baker:
ERIN YVETTE
He posted a photo of his feet when he was flying somewhere and the only people who do that are girls at the beach and guys who like socks.

LAURA BAILEY
He always wears fun socks. It’s an interesting trait.

ADAM SARASOHN
There’s a scene in Episode Two [where] Rhys flies out [of Fiona’s caravan, losing] a shoe for the majority of the episode. Because we knew Troy was a sock guy, we took extra pains to design a suitably fancy sock.

NICK HERMAN
We were well aware that Troy was a sock nerd, so it made perfect sense that we should not only concept, model, and texture a Hyperion dress sock, but also rig and animate a shoe for one stupid, close up, slow motion shot of it coming off.

That might sound like a normal thing to do, but in game development, you actively go out of your way to avoid doing almost all of those things for something so inconsequential. In hindsight, it might be a microcosm of what it was like developing that whole season.

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NICK HERMAN
We made jokes along the way during production that we should get team socks instead of shirts, and he would just stay very quiet.

ADAM SARASOHN
I found a company that made custom stitched socks and made [Rhys’s Hyperion] socks for the entire studio. Then I made Borderlands holiday cards and sent a pair of socks to the voice actor leads.