Interview: Putting the Wonder into Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

We had a chance to chat with some of the folks responsible for bringing Tiny Tina's Wonderlands to life.


Last year Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands took the Borderlands franchise back to the world of Bunkers & Badasses for an experience that combined the explosive action of looter shooters with a world inspired by table-top role-playing fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons.

It was a noteworthy experience to say the least and one that we liked so much here at Shacknews that we gave it our Best FPS of 2022 award! We had a chance to chat via email with Creative Director Matt Cox, Senior Project Producer Kayla Bellmore, Art Director Adam May, and Lead Writer Sam Winkler about their experience bringing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands to life and what we can expect from the franchise in the future.

A player character running away from an explosion without looking back.

Source: 2K

Shacknews: One of the things that really impressed me about Wonderlands was how well it combined traditional Borderlands gameplay with so many tabletop RPG elements like traps, and character stats. What was the balancing process like to make sure you could have those more meticulous elements while keeping the fast-paced action moving along?

Team Tiny Tina: Thank you! We’re so proud of our entire team from top to bottom for what we were able to create – not to mention we did this mostly learning how to work from home in quarantine!

The pace of our combat loop from Borderlands games is definitely a pillar we did not want to change. It was a lens we looked through when making decisions on how RPG or fantasy expectations could apply in our designs for Wonderlands. So really, whatever we wanted to add, if it was going to slow combat down, it was easy to spot early before anything detrimental got off the ground. The great news, however, is that there was so much we could do that elevated both the context of gameplay and the visceral gameplay loop itself.

Hero Stats, quest designs, the “living tabletop game board” inspired Overworld with quick in-and-out combats, to our approach to Spells, Melee, and other gear and so many other things were directly inspired by our collective love of tabletop or fantasy. On this note, it’s vital to mention the OUTSTANDING job our art teams did enveloping us in this crazy Tina-fied fantasy world.

Shacknews: The new overworld map element was a great touch and added a lot to the tabletop element of the game. Where did the idea to have the tabletop world come from and how far into the creative process was it implemented?

TTT: The idea of an overworld was something we had many discussions on very early and, through a lot of great collaboration, we ultimately decided to make it a distinct, specifically game-board feel, but with living, dynamic elements. We wanted it to be the one “zone” where players travel from quest to quest, with optional shorter activities along the way, but still having its own fun and useful meta. It’s one of our absolute favorite features that really wrapped the entire adventure in the tabletop feel.

An eerie looking dungeon from Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

Source: 2K

Shacknews: Borderlands has always had skill trees, but Wonderlands is the first time in the franchise we've ever been able to mix and match classes. Was this difficult to implement or balance?

TTT: Our character designers are amazing in their approach. Implementation and power balance are the bulk of the work that we kept iterating on until the very end. This is one of the most critical things to get right for balancing the character abilities themselves as it happens at the beginning of the process when pitching the classes. Each of the six (then seven) classes had to offer something distinct from each other from skills to feats and how they grow. The more distinct each class offering is, the more exciting it was to mix and match. This, combined with a permanent primary class and a finite amount of skill points to spend, provided a wide variety of ultimate paths you could cultivate.

Shacknews: How wild was it working with such a high-caliber cast for this particular game?

TTT: Our whole cast is a treat to work with! Admittedly, there were a few jitters around our first sessions with Wanda, Andy, and Will. Some of us got into comedy writing because of their work! But once we started recording, it was just a blast. They'd riff and have fun with the scripts, a lot of which ended up in the final game. And it's impossible to discuss Wonderlands without Ashly Burch, who is the glue that binds it all together. Her performance as Tina is iconic -- I wish every writer could get the opportunity to work with an actor of her talents and frankly just bananas ability to make people laugh.

Shacknews: In Borderlands 3 we were introduced to an older version of Tiny Tina, but Wonderlands brought the original younger version of Tina back into the fray. Was it always the plan to feature the younger version of TIna in Wonderlands? Was there ever a discussion about using the BL3 version?

TTT: In establishing Wonderlands as its own franchise, we wanted returning players to immerse themselves in the world of Tina's childhood imagination. Assault on Dragon Keep told an amazing story of grief and understanding through the lens of a fantasy tabletop RPG, and we fell in love with continuing the story, seeing Tina grow up and learn new life lessons through Bunkers & Badasses.

A character in armor powers up a massive magical machine gun.

Source: 2K

Shacknews: Was there anything in particular that came out of the development or release of Wonderlands that you'd like to take back to a mainline Borderlands game?

TTT: We’re always learning from our previous games, as well as listening to our wonderful fans, considering their responses to Wonderlands' unique features and identity within the franchise. I will say we learned a TON about working and leading from our homes, and those workflow learnings have only sharpened how we move forward on all projects.

Shacknews: Will we be seeing anymore content for Tiny Tina's Wonderlands or do we just have to patiently sit here and hope for another round of Bunkers and Badasses in a Wonderlands sequel?

TTT: Gearbox is always working on cool things to entertain the world. Make sure you follow us on all social media to stay up to date.

Thanks so much to the talented team at Gearbox for chatting with us! Be sure to check out all of our Tiny Tina’s coverage and stop by the game’s official website for more information and updates on the franchise. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is available now on Xbox, PlayStation and PC platforms and is rated T for Teen.

Events Coordinator

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 10, 2023 8:00 AM

    Blake Morse posted a new article, Interview: Putting the Wonder into Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

    • reply
      March 10, 2023 8:39 AM

      Fantastic game. Shit DLC, which is odd for Gearbox because their past DLCs were mostly outstanding.

      • reply
        March 10, 2023 9:07 AM

        how could they get the DLC so wrong here

        • reply
          March 10, 2023 9:09 AM

          It was so bad and so different from their previous DLCs I wonder if they farmed it out. I'm used to great story DLCs from them not Live Service shit grinds.

          • reply
            March 10, 2023 9:11 AM

            yeah - we both know someone involved in this and that person doesn't need to chime in, but its so strange. the BL3 DLC was amazing for the most part. the hammerlock wedding dlc was so rich. loved the others. and this … felt like another company made the dlc. no one needs to engage on this, it's done. but I hope they listened and learned on whatever is next for BL and make sure the DLC is as good as Bl2 and BL3.

          • reply
            March 10, 2023 9:12 AM

            I think it was just work from home, not many people dedicated to it or something but that's just a guess.

            • reply
              March 10, 2023 9:14 AM

              I can't blame that because the main game was also dev during Covid and was superb!

              • reply
                March 10, 2023 9:20 AM

                yep - something changed in leadership IMO around the game post launch (or whenever the main leadership moved on from TTW to whatever is next)

Hello, Meet Lola