The first episode of Telltale Games’s Tales from the Borderlands launched in November 2014 to critical acclaim, and while the following episodes were also warmly received, the project was deemed a failure by the publisher.
In a long oral history on the development of Tales from the Borderlands posted on Campo Santo’s Quarterly Review, Director Nick Herman said the game failed to achieve success internally. “I had a hard time getting excited for the next thing,” Herman said. “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.”
While disappointed, Herman said the team expected the lack of “high fives and crowd surfing:” “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.”
Most of the development team was also pulled off the project during development on the fifth and final episode. “About halfway through, we made a deal with the studio that if they let us go on, we would give up like 95% of our staff as long as they let us maintain a skeleton crew,” said Herman. “We had at least one person from every department working on the game. But that’s a very small team for an episode.”
Tales from the Borderlands’s final episode is also one of the “largest episodes Telltale has ever made” from a production standpoint, says producer Adam Sarasohn. Without spoiling much, the finale took into consideration most player decisions made throughout and included a gigantic robot boss battle.
Developer and publisher Telltale Games skyrocketed to fame since shipping the narrative-driven, emotionally-distressing The Walking Dead game series. From the outset, the Tales from the Borderlands team’s shift to a lighter tone was risky, and the team revised its character sketches multiple times during early development days to find the right balance of seriousness and comedy.
Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands is available on Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.