Interviews

Gears of War

Epic Games' CliffyB and Mark Rein twist our gaming cogs over their massive next-gen Xbox 360 third-person shooter

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So humanity realise they're losing the war against the Locusts, they fall back to a plateau, hold up there, and that's the start of the game. You play as Marcus Phoenix, you were released from military prison basically because they're running out of bodies. You were jailed at the beginning of the Locust War for disobeying orders, helping your father out instead of holding your post, and now reigning bodies have to reduce prison sentences and you're getting sent out of prison, being sent into war and fighting with your best buddy Dom.

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How further have you developed the idea of taking cover in the game?

CB: Well, it's one of those things where depending on the weapon, it suddenly gives you much more interesting variance with it. Blind fire is one of those things where we do it not only because it looks cool but because it's a last ditch scenario, but we're thinking of the AI of the Locusts coming at you, and this to me is like, he's around the corner and he's coming, when you pop up you're commiting, you're revealing yourself. When I look at games now where characters shoot at each other, they're both just going at each other, it's whoever got the drop of the other guy first, kills the other guy right? If you've ever seen real gun fights, or if you've ever played paintball, whenever you play paintball you take cover, why? Because it hurts, you don't want to get hurt by that, most gunfights to me are like super soaker fights - if you get hit you don't really care. This is more like a paintball gun, that's kind of the dynamic we're going for. If you're not in cover and you're just standing ...

What sort of order system is the game going to have?

CB: Simple. It's 'orders light' as I like to refer to it as. It's not going to be Full Spectrum Warrior, I love that game but Full Spectrum Warrior is about commanding your squad. Gears is about getting into cover, it's about timing and killing the enemies, figuring out mobility as far as squad turns, running in cover, it's a secondary mechanism for how you order your squadmates. Obviously your squad needs to be smart in the game, I don't want you to be like "Hey, you're getting shot at, that's usually a bad thing, you might want to get behind something," to me that feels like baby sitting, they should automatically know how to do that. So we keep the order system simple, say for example advance, hold or follow, then just leave it at that.

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What other environments can we expect to see in the game?

CB: The environments that we've shown thus far, one of them is Aldo Fero which is kind of like a Washington DC kind of capital, the other one we showed at E3 was Academy which is kind of like a college campus - that was where Marcus's father was. There's a whole bunch of other scenarios that we're working on right now, the artists are working night and day to build every single last bit of concrete or marble. You see the thing is I want this to feel very tangible: when we started building the factory I was hoping that the factory looked a lot more like an old tech style building, a lot more so than random robotic, techy stuff on the walls, more brick, more wood, more believable day to day material as opposed to this super-clean sci-fi future.

How do you get such detailed environments without utilising the Xbox 360's hard drive?

CB: We stream! We stream and stream and stream. We're essentualy stitching the levels together. We know where the player's going at any given point, we know what's coming up, we know where he's been. Any time there's a port in the world we have to account for that, and you know, we have 512MB of memory which is alot, still like any developer we'd like more but we have to work with what we're given and make it shine on that. Sometimes it's a little bit of slight of hand, but it looks pretty damn good and it's going to look better.

Will the game have any advantages for those with a hard drive?

CB: We're working on some plans for downloadable content, but as far as cacheing things to hard drives and stuff like that, we thought that a lot of gamers aren't necessarily going to have a hard drive so we can't count on that, that's one of the tricky things about peripherals - you know if there's a camera that comes out and we can maybe put player's faces into multiplayer, that's only going to be a minor feature because you never know if they're actually going to have it.

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Will the game feature any vehicles?

CB: The APC you saw in the intro is fully drivable and there will be some vehicles, but its not a vehicle-based game, it's a cover-based game. So some drivables and we have a twist on the drivable vehicle formula that we're not willing to talk about, but there is a twist on that which will be revealed at a later date.

I want the corpses to stay around as long as absolutley possible and as the designer of this game I will work with the engineers to make sure the bodies stay as long as humanly possible. To me there's nothing more gratifying than blowing a Locust up and seeing the details of the loss, it's the greatest pain as a gamer to be looking at your enemy and see the body fade into the ground. There's never a trick for designers to work around that, but if we do our job, which I damn well plan on, you will never notice stuff like that. The bodies will stay in the scene, you move on, and then when you're not looking we'll get rid of the bodies. It's all slight of hand to make it work, David Blane-style.

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