Interview with Cliff Bleszinski - Lead Designer on Gears of War
June 2006

Cliffy B

English version
Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

Cliff Bleszinski from Epic Games was kind enough to answer some of our questions concerning their upcoming Xbox 360 game : Gears of War.

Xbox Gazette : What is your name and position in Epic Games ?
CliffyB : 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 be.

Jazz Jackrabbit (1994)
Unreal (1998)
Unreal Tournament (1999)

Xbox 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.

Gears of War (2006)

Xbox Gazette : How many people work on Gears of War ? Can you present the main designers ?
CliffyB : 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:
- Jerry 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!

Xbox 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!

Xbox Gazette : What were your sources of inspiration for Gears of War ?
CliffyB : 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.


Xbox 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.
His best 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.

From left to right :
Damon Baird, Augustus Cole,
Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago

Xbox Gazette : Why did you choose a third person view instead of a first person one ?
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.

Xbox 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.

Xbox 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.

Xbox 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.

Xbox 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!

Xbox 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 ?
CliffyB : 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!

Xbox Gazette : What will the music be like ? Who is the composer ?
CliffyB : We're Epic Games and we're delivering an epic soundtrack for this product. Kevin 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, and strings.

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 course!

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.

Xbox 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 ?
CliffyB : We are not announcing anything about a demo at this time.

Xbox 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.

Xbox 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 :

- Gears of War videos

- Gears of War focus (in french)

- Gears of War official site

- Gears of War on

- Other Xbox 360 interviews

Max73, Xbox Gazette, June 16th 2006

Thanks to : Cliff Bleszinski, Epic Games, Alexandre Clerc,, Microsoft Switzerland