Bordering on anxiety
New Tales from the Borderlands is very much a Borderlands game, albeit in a genre different from what we usually see. This time around we’re getting a narrative adventure, but just like with Borderlands proper, there will be some tough decisions to make.
In an interview with Shacknews, director James Lopez talked about player choice in New Tales from the Bordlerands. Players will certainly have all sorts of directions they can take the story in, but be ready to handle some challenging situations based on what you say.
Choice is our most important feature in this game. I think a lot of people think of choice as that time you press the button for a dialogue choice, but it’s really everything you do. Every input you make is a choice — the choice to move forward, the choice to move backward, how you respond to a character’s question. Everything you’re doing is some sort of deliberate decision, and we wanted to reinforce that and support it as much as possible. So you do make choices that have a lasting impact that sometimes you won’t [be able to] tell for a while.
Sometimes you might not know if the decision you make now influences the ending until you get there. We have quite a few decisions that you get immediate feedback on, one way or another. We think of that as like… in the mini-games, the Vaultlanders game, you make a choice whether or not to dodge being hit; you make a choice to attack, and there’s feedback for all those sorts of things that I think people take for granted. It’s a reinforcement of your choice. In addition to that sort of thing, we heavily invested in performance capture which is full body — face, mouth, fingers, the whole shebang. We did that because we didn’t want to rely on the sort of notification process that says, “Someone will remember that decision.”
There are a couple of things about that. One is that it puts an interesting spotlight on the decision you just made, but it oversells the importance of that decision to the extent that it undermines every other decision you make that doesn’t have it. Also, you get buyer’s remorse sometimes with those where you’re like, oh crap, was that the right decision? Should I go back and reload this checkpoint? Maybe that’s like five minutes of the same story I have to replay again before I know, before I decide how I feel about it.
We tried to eliminate that sort of anxiety by doubling down on the performance of the actors. And what we showed on stage at PAX, when you’re first in the sewers, Anu has to choose between Fran’s plan or Octavio’s plan. We chose Fran’s plan and Octavio’s feelings are clearly hurt, he definitely resents that his sister didn’t side with him. We could’ve slapped a notification at the top that says, “Hey, maybe he hates that.” But instead, we used Octavio’s delivery [to reflect] how his feelings are hurt. We leave it up to you to decide if you’re okay with that. We want you to decide for yourself how to feel about it, not have us tell you how to feel about it.