with Cliff Bleszinski - Lead Designer on Gears of War |
Bleszinski from Epic Games was kind enough to answer some of our questions concerning
their upcoming Xbox 360 game : Gears of War.
Gazette : What is your name and position in Epic Games ?
My name is Cliff Bleszinski and I'm the Lead Designer on Gears of War. Some people
like to call me "CliffyB" because my last name is a bit of a handful.
Xbox Gazette : Can you give us
some details about Epic Games, your previous games, and your current projects
CliffyB : Epic has been in business for over fifteen years now and
was founded by Tim Sweeney in his parent's basement in Maryland. We started off
creating what was known as "Shareware" in which we would create a trilogy
of episodes for a game and then release the first episode for free. I designed
a game called "Jazz Jackrabbit" with Epic when I was merely seventeen
years old. That business did well enough for us but we knew we had to make the
transition to full retail in order to compete with the big boys and "Unreal"
was born. We then produced "Unreal Tournament" which was a runaway hit
and since then it's been making lots of amazing games in that universe. Nowadays
I'm full time on making sure "Gears of War" is the best game it can
Jackrabbit (1994)||Unreal (1998)||Unreal
Gazette : How long has Gears of War been in development for, and where are
you in development now ?
CliffyB : Gears has been in full production
for nearly two years now. The idea, however, has been kicking around in my head
for years. Right now we're trying to finish the single player campaign and tighten
up the versus multiplayer.
of War (2006)
Xbox Gazette : How
many people work on Gears of War ? Can you present the main designers ?
: The team has fluctuated from twenty-five all the way up to forty-five people.
We believe in working smarter, not harder - our tools and talent are some of the
best in the business.
The leads on the project are as follows:
O'Flaherty - Art Director - 19 year industry veteran. Responsible for the overall
visual style and quality of the game.
- Chris Perna - Lead Artist - Paints
a coat of pretty (and nasty!) over darned near everything while leading the character
and environment team.
- Rod Fergusson - Producer - Responsible for bringing
order to my chaotic design style. Keeps the project moving ahead, pushes everyone,
gives great design feedback.
- Ray Davis - Programming Lead - Makes everything
happen code-wise. The core of what drives the gameplay.
- Lee Perry - Lead
Level Designer - Where the rubber hits the road, Lee's responsible for the environments;
pacing, technical feasibility, balancing, etc.
- Mike Capps - President of
the company. As my boss he makes sure I lose sleep over making this game fun!
Gazette : Can you describe for our readers the principles of Gears of War
? What kind of game is it ?
CliffyB : "Gears" is a cinematic
tactical action shooter
with monsters! Most shooters are run and gun experiences
and it's important to note that Gears is not that kind of game. It's fast paced
but it's also extremely tactical. Cover is crucial to survival in this universe
and acquiring that cover is a joy. Flank the horrific enemy that is the Locust
Horde and watch them explode when you toss a grenade at them or cut them into
bits with the chainsaw bayonet. There's really too much to list here!
Gazette : What were your sources of inspiration for Gears of War ?
: I'm a big fan of Tom Clancy games as well as titles like Resident Evil and
Silent Hill. So it was a no brainer to take the best elements from both genres
and merge them into one rollercoaster of a ride.
Xbox Gazette : What is the story of
Gears of War ? Where does the action take place ?
CliffyB : Gears is
about a man named Marcus Fenix who was sent to military prison for disobeying
orders. A heinous new foe has burst forth from the depths of the planet known
as the "Locust Horde" and they're laying waste to everything in sight.
It takes place on a planet called "Sera" which is not at all unlike
Earth. Marcus and the men of Delta Squad must figure out a way - any way - to
stem the tide of monsters and possibly turn the course of the war. If they fail
then humanity will be extinct.
Gazette : Can you describe the four main characters of the Delta Squad ?
CliffyB : Marcus Fenix is the main character; he's really not in the mood
to be dealing with eight foot tall monsters who burst through walls.
friend is Dominic Santiago; Dom is the guy who bails Marcus out of prison at the
start of the game. He's witty and has a good sense of humor and uses it to deal
with the horrors the boys constantly face.
Next up is Damon Baird. Baird is
a bit of an ornery fella, he's really smart and he knows it. Always quick to come
back with a cynical retort.
Finally we have Gus Cole aka "The Cole Train."
Gus is a former Thrashball player who seems to be enjoying the insanity that is
unfolding. Generally speaking, the more fun Gus is having the worse the situation.
left to right :|
Damon Baird, Augustus Cole,
Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago
Gazette : Why did you choose a third person view instead of a first person
CliffyB : We like to think of our viewpoint as "second person"
because you get all the benefits of third person when moving with all of the benefits
of first person when targeting. (The view is super tight and nearly first person
down the barrel.)
We simply felt that there was a lot that could be done in
regards to movement and cover that few shooters have really mastered. Taking cover
in first person involves staring at a wall; that's not very exciting, is it? It
made more sense to show a well animated soldier gliding into and over cover rather
than constantly looking down the barrel at a big tube of steel.
Gazette : What are the main tactics the gamers will be able to use in the
game ? What kind of orders can we give to our team ?
CliffyB : Gears
is tactical but it's a fast tactical title. Players can flush out their foes with
grenades, confuse them with smoke grenades, flank, suppress, and ultimately dominate
the battlefield. Orders wise you can tell your squad where to go, order them to
attack different targets/locations, and ultimately regroup. We wanted a simple
and easy to use orders system for the game.
Gazette : Can the gamers use vehicles in the game ?
CliffyB : We
are planning on vehicles but we're not quite ready to talk about them yet.
Xbox Gazette : Which weapons
will there be in the game ? Can you talk a little bit about the chainsaw and the
reaction of Microsoft ?
CliffyB : There are a multitude of weapons
in Gears ranging from the elegant yet brutal "Torquebow" (which fires
explosive crossbow rounds) to the enormous Locust grenade/rocket weapon known
as the "Boomshot." Microsoft has been a stellar partner to work with
and I'm not going to lie, there were some concerns over how over the top our chainsaw
bayonet is but ultimately I think everyone has come to love and appreciate this
weapon of monster destruction.
Xbox Gazette : Can you talk about
the AI of the teammates and adversaries ?
CliffyB : Well, the AI of
the teammates ties directly into the orders system. It's important to note that
the orders system in Gears isn't one in which you have to tell your pals to take
cover and to react to being shot. That's called babysitting. Instead, you're able
to override the natural and smart artificial intelligence of your squadmates if
you choose so. AI driven characters know to throw grenades, flank, climb over
cover, create cover and use the full arsenal that Gears features.
Gazette : Can you describe the multiplayer game, the number of players and
the possibilities on Xbox Live and split screen ?
CliffyB : Multiplayer
involves a very intimate four on four match in which the heroic COG attempt to
vanquish the horrible Locust Horde. We've designed the maps for some amazingly
interesting tactical moments; each map has very clear and obvious flank routes.
I've found myself truly suppressing my foes while my squad mates make a mad run
for a great weapon or grenade. You'll be able to host a game and quickly and easily
find friends to kill online as well as check on your status via Leaderboards.
It's all going to be there from day one.
Gazette : Will there be other multiplayer modes than coop and deathmatch ?
CliffyB : Well, to say that Gears has "Deathmatch" makes one
think of games of years ago such as "Doom" and "Quake" and
we're really not that game. Gears is more about "squadmatch," the team
based war in which both sides strive for domination. So we have single player,
cooperative, and squadmatch - we're looking into several possible variations on
the versus mode and we'll chat more about that when we're ready!
Gazette : What kind of missions, and how many will there be in the game ?
How many hours does it take to finish the game in solo ?
We don't think of the Gears experience in terms of length, we think of it in regards
to overall satisfaction of experience. Will Gears be worth every penny you pay
for it? Absolutely. You won't be able to finish this game in a flash, but it also
won't be the length of, say, popular RPG games.
We have many different types
of missions from rescuing and extracting to dealing with giant monstrosities to
bomb delivery. You'll have to play it to see the rest!
Gazette : What will the music be like ? Who is the composer ?
: We're Epic Games and we're delivering an epic soundtrack for this product.
Riepl is scoring the music for the game. We recently had a session
with a live orchestra in Seattle in which they recorded the score in a cavernous
church. The results are goose bump inducing and extremely memorable. It is a focus
on classical elements, no rock guitars, no techno, just clean, sweet horns, drums,
Xbox Gazette : Can
you talk a little bit about the engine you use for the game ? Which new possibilities
does it give you ?
CliffyB : We're using Unreal
Engine 3, of course, as we're the ones who build that technology. Judging
from the number of talented developers using the engine it would appear as if
we're doing a pretty good job with it! Graphically we're able to render scenes
previously only available to pre-rendered graphics delivered by packages such
as 3D Studio Max or Maya. Unreal Engine 3 is a conduit for painting the portrait
of our wildest dreams and Gears is that dream.
Our toolset is also second to
none. We understand that teams need to grow this generation but we also believe
that they don't need to triple or quadruple in size. With our toolset the staff
is able to rapidly prototype; the set empowers the art and design departments
to spend time thinking about how they can make the game more beautiful and more
fun instead of wrestling with obsolete methodologies.
Xbox Gazette : What kind of framerate
can we expect in the final version ?
CliffyB : Why a smooth one of
Xbox Gazette : Which bonuses
will be included in the collector/limited edition ?
CliffyB : We haven't
announced what will be in this edition but I assure you it'll be pretty cool stuff
that you won't want to hock on Ebay.
Gazette : Why the Xbox 360 ?
CliffyB : That's the way the deal
turned out! Microsoft wanted a great exclusive new game and franchise and we were
willing to do it.
Xbox Gazette : Will
there be a demo for Gears of War on the Marketplace, and if yes, when ?
: We are not announcing anything about a demo at this time.
Gazette : Are we going to see a sequel ?
CliffyB : That depends
on the gamers and whether or not they embrace our baby and would like to meet
her sister. There are lots of universes to tell in the Gears universe and we'd
love for the opportunity to share them with the world.
Gazette : Any closing comments for our readers ?
CliffyB : I just
wanted to let them know that in versus multiplayer you can put a boot to your
foe's head when you knock them down. This is rather nasty and is known as a "curb
stomp." How cool is that?
Xbox Gazette : Thanks
a lot for your time and your answers !
Related links :
of War videos
of War focus (in french)
of War official site
of War on Xbox.com
Xbox 360 interviews
Gazette, June 16th 2006
Thanks to : Cliff Bleszinski,
Games, Alexandre Clerc, Pleon.ch,