Gears of War 2 was in town earlier this month, which could only mean that series frontman Cliff Bleszinski wasn't far behind.
After chainsawing our way through the opening section of the sequel, we got to sit down with the designer once again to discuss the new ideas, multiplayer modes and how he's going to get girls interested in the sequel.
How many of your design changes in Gears of War 2 are the result of fan feedback?
Bleszinski: A chunk of them have been made because of feedback but we're very careful with what we do in regards to listening to that.
I think just like any other tool it can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Sometimes there is very valid feedback. We listen to the fans and we find out what their concerns are, but occasionally it's all one rabid guy with multiple message board accounts who has an opinion and feels the need to post all the time.
We treat it all like a science. We look for consistency, look for average concerns and comments and then adjust to it. For example, getting rid of the active reload sniper downs which were universally frustrating people, where as 20 percent of people thought it was cool. So we were like 'ok, lose it'. That's kind of how we work.
The pacing of the second game seems quite different from the first. You've mentioned "blockbuster pacing" before. Can explain how that works?
Bleszinski: I think if you look at the first few levels, the hospital is basic combat, traverse through the location while a lot of cool scripted things occur around you, then the assault and rousing cut-scene after that.
Then going into the derrick level there's something a bit more tense, having to deal with the Tickers and the tunnel.
We're continuing to do this interesting pacing of alternating the kinds of levels that we have. Maybe it's because our attention spans are short, but we just found that after spending 30 to 40 minutes on one sequence you want a slightly different style of gameplay.
What's the story behind the new Gears member, Tai?
Bleszinski: Tai is kind of a spiritual, mysterious warrior character. He and Marcus did have a history as far as fighting alongside each other. He proves to be a strong ally through sections of the campaign. He's turned out to be a favourite amongst some of the testers because he makes some very strange and interesting comments.
This time we actually break the fourth wall in terms of comments, like Carmine asking 'how comes we don't have flashlights? Why aren't you guys wearing helmets?' and things like that. Just little things in the fiction that I think help out.
What's been the biggest challenge in developing the sequel?
Bleszinski: I think the campaign has been the biggest thing. If you look at the pacing of what you guys have been playing, which is like 75 percent of Act One, imagine keeping that up for five acts of the game... and then making it playable with two players, and then balancing it for multiple difficulty levels.
That in itself has proven to be a tremendous challenge. I'm pretty sure we've rose to that challenge and shipped something really cool.
Would you say you've fulfilled your original vision for the sequel?
Bleszinski: I think ultimately we have fulfilled the vision of what the game can be. I think having a more robust multiplayer, extending the co-op experience in a way that makes sense and doesn't completely destroy the campaign narrative, as well as doing a campaign that has rollercoaster moments - and with a little bit of heart too with Dom and his story... it's all come together.