Character role-playing in New Tales From the Borderlands will resemble “4D chess.”
Players will have to make their own decisions and respond to them because there are three protagonists.
The work that players will be performing with Lin Joyce’s characters is “like a kind of 4D chess,” just applied to narrative role-playing, according to Lin Joyce, chief writer of Gearbox Software’s upcoming New Tales From the Borderlands.
As a result, gamers will take on the personas of three different characters and act in ways they deem fitting for them. When they are in charge of one of the three protagonists, they will then be required to respond to the choices they made.
These responses aren’t inherently “good” or “bad,” according to Joyce, who also claims that any difficult failures—where a player makes the incorrect choice—are confined to a few quick-time events elsewhere in the game. Players can branch their narrative with a gut call for what they’d do in that situation or try to piece together a multi-character relationship that takes into account the things they’ve done and said in the past for the dialogue, which includes reading body language and facial expressions from full performance capture.
So, while acting as Anu, one of the new heroes, “what I would imagine I would do might be genuine to Anu, but it might enrage Octavio,” Joyce said. I’m also playing Octavio in that case.
The cynical, street-smart opposite of his sister’s charitable nature is Octavio. So, as Octavio, how am I going to react to these things now? said Joyce. There is a lot of interaction there, but you also have a choice. Do you support the group, i.e., are you nourishing it? There is therefore a lot of 4D chess activity. To be clear, the character swapping is not under the player’s control. The game is in command there, even though it may be done moment to moment (as opposed to chapter to chapter).
In what may turn out to be a crucial year for the franchise as a whole, New Tales From the Borderlands debuts. The well-received Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which debuted in late March and has performed so well that Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford told investors (of parent company Embracer Group) that the studio “clearly” considers it a “new franchise unto itself,” is already an adaptation of the Gearbox Software shooter series.
The potential exists for New Tales From the Borderlands to become more than a spinoff given its focus on narrative-driven design and open-ended storytelling. When Telltale Games closed its doors in 2018, Gearbox acquired the Tales From the Borderlands IP back from them despite having licenced the Borderlands setting and characters.
Joyce, who holds a Ph.D. in interactive narrative systems and other degrees in English, joined Gearbox in 2020 and is currently the company’s head writer. She claimed that Gearbox wants to expand the essential elements that had made Tales from the Borderlands so popular while also easing it up from its previous stiff engine and constrained places of interaction. Without a doubt, the first task was the story.
Hey, now that we have this IP, can we take action? was the order. said Joyce. On my end, we simply consider what may be done to create something akin to a Telltale game version 2.0. That included using Unreal Engine 4 to create New Tales From the Borderlands rather than a more customised point-and-click system. Performance capture was a part of it, allowing Joyce to write with a little more nuance and less exposition. Textual callouts from Tales From the Borderlands were also absent, which would have alerted players that they had said something an NPC would probably remember.
We frequently discussed philosophical questions like, “Even though they are the same tools, how are we using them differently?” said Joyce. “So, not every QTE is what we would refer to as a hard fail; sometimes the story can move forward there. We refer to those as soft fails. We haven’t actually seen anything like it before. There are other situations where we provide you a choice or the option of taking a certain action, but you decide against it. Inaction could be the best course of activity.
Other interactive features will be included in New Tales From the Borderlands to enhance the gameplay experience, ensuring that players don’t just get a talk-fest or a scavenger hunt for a single detail on the screen, which were two common problems in the Telltale games despite their widespread praise. The three characters, Anu, Octavio, and their friend Fran, all have devices that should emphasise their personalities, according to Pierre-Luc Foisy, the game’s chief gameplay designer. Fran uses a “gadget-packed hover chair,” Octavio wears a smartwatch, for instance, and Anu uses a pair of Tech Glasses for wearable computing.
According to Foisy, this will work in conjunction with the acting and writing to give players a hint as to whether they made the right decision or one that will make things more difficult for themselves. So that you can understand, OK, here, if I perform this QTE — it doesn’t feel in character, it will be less robotic and more human emotion. The decision doesn’t feel right,” Foisy stated.
The fact that New Tales From the Borderlands is not set on a post-apocalyptic world where resources are being exploited or on orbiting spaceships that are performing the exploiting will help set it apart from the main series. It’s on Promethea, which the weapon manufacturer Maliwan attacked in Borderlands 3 from 2019. In order to provide players a more complete understanding of a more complex scenario, Joyce said Promethea was picked as the location for New Tales early on in the tale scripting process.
Despite having the same objective, Joyce stated that they did not have the same driving factors or personalities. Group dynamics are crucial to this story’s development, thus this meant that we could play with their dynamics more.
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X will get New Tales From the Borderlands on October 21.