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 .

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.

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ClapTrap - Stage 1

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

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

ClapTrap - Final

The final design with specific real-world reference for the modeler.

Sanctuary - Development 1

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

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.

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Sanctuary Building Study

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.

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Boss Droid

Boss Droid

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

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.

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Teleporter ideation

Teleporter ideation

Final Concepts for Teleporter

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

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

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.

 Re-entry sequence.

Re-entry sequence.

DeathTrap Ideation

DeathTrap Ideation

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.

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Train

Train

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.

Train Final

Train Final

The art director and I decided to go with a more modern flavor and chose a bulky Eastern-bloc diesel engine as the foundation.

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Hyperion Loaders

Hyperion Loaders

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.

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Hyperion Loader Final

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

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.

Fantasy DLC Environment Design

Fantasy DLC Environment Design

Hyperion Station

Hyperion Station

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.

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Hyperion Station Int. Detail

Hyperion Station Int. Detail

Interior detail paint over of an in-game screenshot.

Hyperion Station Int. Detail

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.

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Hyperion Station Int. Detail

Hyperion Station Int. Detail

Hyperion Station Cannon

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.

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Bandit Gyro-Copters

Bandit Gyro-Copters

This is a fleshed out take on a base design by the amazing Danny Gardner.

Hyperion City Bldg

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

Hyperion City Detail

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Crimson Lance Jeep

Crimson Lance Jeep

A hybrid Hummer-Lamborghini-Tank used by the militant corporation in one of the DLCs.

Pirate Hovership DLC Concept

Pirate Hovership DLC Concept

Pirate Skiff 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!)

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Random Environmental Props

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.

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Turrets

Turrets

Three different stages of turrets.