Epic’s Rod Fergusson Talks ‘Gears of War 3’

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We worked really hard to try to eliminate that hindrance, by actually giving you a speed boost when using cover. So as you approach cover and you press A, you can slide into cover from a reasonably far distance. And we give you that sort of speed, and you can cover-slip around corners, which gives you a little boost of speed.

You can SWAT-turn between two pieces of cover, which allows you to move faster side to side. This idea of creating what we call “horizontal platformer,” with the ability to kind of hop from cover to cover and move quickly through the environment.

One of the goals early on was, can you move through the environment faster, taking cover than you could have just roadie-running through it. And that was always something we tried to focus on, trying to make it as fluid as possible, and actually be an advantage rather than being something you felt was a burden.

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You talk about making a mechanic an advantageanother thing that’s become a signature of playing a Gears of War game is the active reload. And it’s really impressive how that concept has wound up in other games, to the point where the independent game developer Chris Hecker, he’s talking about adding something like that in the game that he’s working on, Spy Party. What is it about active reload that made it so sticky with people who play Gears?

I think it’s taking something that is usually a passive activity or a moment of vulnerability, and it’s putting a little game-ism to it; it allows you to get some risk-versus-reward. The notion that I can do nothing and I’ll just play it normally, I can roll the dice and gamble, and try to do it faster and get a damage boost, and reload quicker.

But, of course, it has the downside. I could jam my gun and it could hinder my ability to fight. So it’s having that notion of taking a vulnerable passive moment and turning it into an active moment where people are still engaged with the game. They’re not just pressing a button and waiting one-and-a-half seconds for something to complete. They can stay engaged.

Actually, I have been kind of surprised, as much as things like “Horde” mode have been picked up by other developers. I was actually kind of surprised that it’s taken a little while for “active reload” to kind of get people to start leveraging that idea. Basically, I didn’t see it hardly at all during the timeframe around the Gears 1, early Gears 2 timeframe. It’s only recently that I’ve seen things that look like they’ve been inspired by active reload.

Right. That’s not the case with Horde Mode, though. One of the ways that you can tell it’s been a huge innovation is how quickly and obviously other games have aped it. I think those two words have become synonymous with the whole style of multiplayer. I know some of the changes that are coming for Horde Mode in Gears 3, but what do you think is the key ingredient there in terms of, “Here’s what ‘Horde Mode’ is and here’s what it isn’t?” Can you give me an example of something you would never add to Horde Mode because it would just break it?

Oh, what would we never add to Horde Mode because it would just break it. I’m sure you want a more specific answer, but to give you a slightly more generic answer, one of the things we were really afraid of was too much complexity. To use an MMO term, PVE, when you play it Player vs. Enemy versus Player vs. Player. Horde is a PVE experience.

A lot of people, sometimes if their skills are not where they want them to be in a Player vs. Player competitive multiplayer session, a lot of people can fall back to Horde to have that same kind of experience. Only they’re playing against A.I. so it’s not as stressful on a person who is maybe not as good.

And so I think one of the things we had to be really careful of when we were going from Horde 1 to Gears 3’s Horde 2, was this notion of wanting to provide depth, variety and persistence, but not wanting to make it so complex that people don’t feel like it’s something they can go to as a place where they still feel comfortable playing.

And that’s what Horde is, it’s a co-op friend experience where it’s a bunch of humans abusing the A.I. to see if they can survive the 50 waves. That sort of experience means that it needs to be quickly understood.

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