I worked on Borderlands (and its sequels/prequels/DLCs) as a senior conceptual designer. Fun game.
My “feather in my cap” contribution was creating the player’s muse through this dark and violent world, Claptrap. The final version, of course, was a collaboration consisting of myself and four other artists.
Another surprise was to see his cameo in Ready Player One.
ClapTrap - Stage 1
Originally called “zippy” in my initial thumbnail, ClapTrap went through a very shallow evolution. The art director and myself had a pretty good idea in mind of what we wanted.
ClapTrap - Stage 2
The shape and proportions are about 90% at this stage. I was a little sad that we had to drop the articulating eyebrow flaps.
ClapTrap - Final
The final design with specific real-world reference for the modeler.
My favorite assignment for this game. I was put in charge of designing the new mindless automatons. I pulled my go-to references: Transformers (the cartoon), Terminator, Robotech, Robocop, etc.
The next few concept sketches show the evolution of the design as game-play requests were implemented.
Hyperion Loader Final
This was the final design. It had a head, but to make it more threatening and off-putting, we removed it and instead embedded the “Hyperion eye,” the staple of all Hyperion robots (ie: ClapTrap), into its chest.
What also made this design fun was being able to cut together a short film of movie reference displaying my ideas on this things movement; to make sure there was enough menace. The animators seemed to appreciate that. I also provided specific sound and robotic noises and “voices” to the audio designer to reference.
Hyperion Loader Final Orthos and Details
For the modelers, I provided these flat orthographic views and some other details to show various mundane, yet important, functions.
This is the Hyperion Corporation’s space station that is ever present in the skies of the game. In subsequent releases, it would take on a more substantial role with the players going on board (which was not in the initial design brief).
It started with this simple sketch, and then evolved over the next few concepts.
VFX: Mill NY
Loader model and textures:
Adam Dewhirst & Scott Denton
Sanctuary - Development 1
At one point in the game, one of the key characters suddenly makes a town lift off from the planet. As a designer, I needed some sort of grounding reality/scenario to add some legitimacy to the design. I came up with this micro narrative of the town Sanctuary having been built up, over the years, on top of a derelict mining craft that was left by one of the game’s corporate giants.
Sanctuary - Development 2a
Another idea I thought would add some character, was the idea of giant war machines left behind and pulled together to form part of the protective wall surrounding the town. Over time, the denizens of Sanctuary would inhabit the machines and form shanty dwellings.
Sanctuary Building Study
To help the modelers and texture artists, I would create the concept and provide some points of reference for specific materials for each model. As the buildings were modular, I would use similar reference so that there was some consistency, while also permitting some chaotic and natural collaging inherent with an older town with character.
One of the main “bosses” you as the player battles is a giant, robotic flying tank. I found the general shape in a horseshoe crab and crossed it with the faceted faces of an F-117 stealth fighter. The design language also had to match with the established shapes of a specific corporation within the game universe.
Boss Droid Cannon Detail
This design was meant to be able to telescope up and down through the main hull so it can attack you from virtually any angle.
Final Concepts for Teleporter
These were initially supposed to rocket in from orbit, but it ended up being more cost-effective just to plant them in the ground. They unfold to reveal various information to the player and even transport and re-spawn them.
Crimson Lance Dropship Concept
In one of the game’s DLCs (downloadable content) a militaristic corporation called the Crimson Lance would rocket down to the planet violently in robust drop-ships. This was one of my first designs.
Crimson Lance Drop-pod
Final design ended up being more of a cylindrical capsule that slams into the planet’s surface at high speed. Some would carry troops and others would be cargo containers.
Some sketches of a new character for Borderlands 2 who could use her technical/supernatural abilities to conjure a “spooky” grim-reaper-like monster to attacker her enemies.
Initially supposed to be a hovering train, but that was changed for something more visually interesting. It was going to be ever present in all locations, so there needed to be tracks to pass through the environments. This also emphasized the “western” flavor of the game. We decided to have articulating arms holding the train to the elevated pillar-tracks, which could be placed on any surface.
The first round of designs were literally going to be sci-fi western locomotives. My main point of reference was the classic hover train from the last Back to the Future film.
The art director and I decided to go with a more modern flavor and chose a bulky Eastern-bloc diesel engine as the foundation.
Fantasy DLC Environment Design
Hyperion Station Int. Detail
Interior detail paint over of an in-game screenshot.
Hyperion Station Int. Detail
I did several architectural “vignettes” for modular pieces to be used around the interior sets of the station. The modelers and level designers could then pick and choose specific pieces to kitbash into innumerable variations as an alternative to creating original props, which would substantially eat up game memory.
Hyperion Station Int. Detail
Hyperion Station Cannon
The “eye cannon” that shoots planet-side a variety of player props, but in this case was just a giant space gun.
This is a fleshed out take on a base design by the amazing Danny Gardner.
Hyperion City Bldg
On the planet, one of the main locals is an artificial island/city headquarters of the games’ primary villain. It’s perpetually under construction; this building sketch was initially just supposed to represent the scale and gaudiness of the island, but ended up becoming part of the environment in the game.
Hyperion City Detail
Crimson Lance Jeep
A hybrid Hummer-Lamborghini-Tank used by the militant corporation in one of the DLCs.
Pirate Hovership DLC Concept
Pirate Skiff Concept
This was for on of the DLC add-ons that was pirate-themed. I unabashedly lifted Jabba the Hutt’s skiffs from Return of the Jedi (hey, if it works use it!)
Random Environmental Props
This was for the first Borderlands game. The intent was create set dressing as well as help to define the visual aesthetic of the game as a whole.
Three different stages of turrets.
I was a senior conceptual designer for the Borderlands franchise since 2009, having worked on every aspect of this world from environments, vehicles and various props, to one of the game's signature characters, Claptrap.
The following are selected images from three of the games from the franchise: Borderlands, Borlderalnds 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (which Gearbox acted as support on).
Borderlands 3 artwork coming soon.