An Audience with Mark Rein (P1)

Interview: Epic VP on Gears, UT III, Halo 3 and much more...

We're not sure that Mark Rein really needs an introduction but... Genuinely one of the nicest blokes you could meet and known for not holding back on his opinions, he's vice president at Epic Games, the developer behind Unreal Tournament, Gears of War and the Unreal Engine.

The studio's currently working on Gears of War on PC and Unreal Tournament III for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, but Rein took time out to fly over to the UK and the Develop conference last week where we caught up with him for a good old chinwag over a glass of Diet Coke and a packet of Skips (we're so decadent)...

Below is part one of a two-part interview. We'll bring you the second part shortly.

We were just talking about this year's E3... Did you see the stuff on the Halo 3 campaign?

Mark Rein: I think that [showing the single-player campaign] hurt Halo 3 at E3. Halo 3 didn't win any game of the show awards that I could see. Well, because they didn't have to show Halo. There was no need.

I'm sure if they'd actually had a big Halo 3 presence, if Microsoft had set up eight machines or 12 or 16 machines so you could sit and play it, it would have won all kinds of awards. But they don't need to because, like me, everyone's already placed their order... So I think that worked against them at E3.

But also I think that was very smart from Microsoft. What they wanted to do was highlight all the other great games that are on Xbox 360 too so people don't just think it's a Halo box. They don't care. They're going to sell eight million of them anyway.

All those records we broke with Gears of War are going down on September 25 (laughs). We've had a nice nine, ten months of being the record holder, and now we're going to get our ass kicked. In a good way.

E3 saw Gears of War on PC finally announced. How come there's no cross-platform support between PC and Xbox 360 for the game?

Rein: The problem is the two code bases aren't actually compatible. It would take a humungous patch on the Xbox 360 side to make that possible, or not using the newer, more optimised code base on the Windows side. It just didn't work out.

What's Epic's view on Games for Windows - Live in general?

Rein: We kind of have mixed views on it. Obviously we'd like it to be free (laughs). But at the same time it's a good service. When you're playing Gears of War, it feels like the only way to play it. For a game likes Gears of War, which is a co-op game and a couple of players at a time, it seemed like the obvious choice.

For a game like Unreal Tournament, where we have a bunch of very high level features - and we've had them for years, the stats and all that other persistent kind of stuff, and the fact that we're shipping the game on PS3 - it just didn't make sense.

And what about the new content you've created for Gears on PC coming to Xbox 360?

Rein: It's the same problem. It's very unlikely because the two code bases aren't compatible. To do that, we would have to patch the 360 version and the size of the patch would probably dwarf all five updates we've done so far. It's just too much work. I can't see it happening.

It's not impossible, it's just very unlikely.

We know people aren't happy about that because they will devour any content we have, and we know that from the downloadable content we've had so far. But it's just a very, very hard job to do that and I don't think we'll be doing that.

Is there any new content in the pipeline for Gears of War on Xbox 360?

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