Cliff Bleszinski – His Last Gears Of War Interview
This interview is taken from issue 124 of gamesTM, where Cliff Bleszinski was talking about Gears Of War: Judgment. You can buy back issues of gamesTM from Imagine Shop.
When Gears Of War was in its early stages of development, what was the original design philosophy you had? Did it change before it launched in November 2006?
Cliff Bleszinski: Yes, the original game was a Battlefield/Enemy Territory-style game that featured classes, landscapes, vehicles, and was far more multiplayer oriented. Soon after playing the heck out of games like Resident Evil 4 and Kill.Switch, we realised we wanted a game that had a fun, summer, blockbuster-feeling campaign, with integrated co-op, and a solid, if simple, multiplayer.
Once the credits rolled on Gears Of War 3, had it ended and progressed as you always planned? How much changed as you developed the two sequels?
Bleszinski: The end did, in fact, turn out as I had hoped, with one big exception. I actually wanted to have the third game originally focus on the space race. Marcus and what was left of humanity were to find a way off of Sera before the entire thing exploded from imulsion affliction, later possibly finding another planet where they could restart. Then we saw ‘2012’ and realised that idea, done poorly, would really box us in and be kind of dumb.
Gears Of War 3’s closing scene emphatically ended the narrative that had been building up over three games. Do you feel as if you’ve left Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad fittingly?
Bleszinski: I believe we left Marcus and co. tired and ready to rest, which was always the goal. Marcus just wants to take off his armour and relax on the beach, perhaps reading 50 Shades Of Grey with a Mantini.
The franchise has become synonymous with the Xbox 360, easily one of the console’s biggest games. Did you always anticipate the beast it would become and do you feel there’s added pressure to return to it in the future as the community for it has become so large?
Bleszinski: We’re proud to have helped Microsoft make their console a success. They’ve been a great partner. The franchise has done extraordinarily well for all involved. I want to continue to please our die-hards in the future while growing our customer base, which is always a tough thing to do.
There was always speculation that before the biggest characters were designed, the original character models were far slender and more agile. Was there ever any truth in that and, if so, what prompted the change?
Bleszinski: The concepts for Marcus were originally a cool-looking, sci-fi soldier. When these characters were modelled, however, our artists blew out the proportions of the characters. When we got them in game we enjoyed the feel of rolling around with a guy that’s like a Mack truck. I never burst into a room and declared “I want to see the biggest, manliest men we can create!” It happened organically.
Where did the idea to continually do away with the Carmines come from? Do you feel as if, due to his survival in three, he could be a character you returned to in future?
Bleszinski: We had gotten used to using the term ‘redshirt’ around the office on a regular basis. Those who watched the old Star Trek shows would get the reference – anyone who left the ship in a red shirt was disposable. Carmine, Rojas, all of these names are also names that mean ‘red’, and that’s been a running gag.
With a fair few months now passed since Gears 3’s release, is there anything you feel could have been done better or smarter over the entire trilogy? Has hindsight taught you anything?
Bleszinski: If I could go back in time, I would have figured out more ways to continue to make our multiplayer stickier and deeper, while also finding out fun ways to blend the single-player with the multiplayer experience. I would have also learned that no matter what you do players don’t always want to stop and pop – they always want to flow through the environments as fast as they possibly can, and that they go for a path-of-least resistance thought process when it comes to killing their buddies online. Shotgun gibs with over executions, for example. It seems super-obvious now, naturally.
What challenge did you face throughout the development, and did any of these increase as the fanbase did too?
Bleszinski: We faced the problems of drowning on our own fiction and universe, as well as figuring out how, over multiple games, you can win a ‘battle’ but not the water. On the multiplayer side, we learned that with each sequel, there’s always a risk of upsetting fans by adding in new guns. If I could go back in time I would remove the sawed-off shotgun. Yes, I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.
What have you learnt about storytelling, multiplayer and how to get the most out of a third-person shooter?
Bleszinski: Here are a few quick ideas off of the top of my head. If you’re going to be a sci-fi shooter, embrace every ounce of what that means. Use what science fiction allows you. Make guns always feel like guns, not weird toaster devices. Never assume the audience is stupid. Let players figure things out for themselves. Don’t harm your smart, long-term audience at the expense of trying to add in accessibility.
What’s your standout moment from the series?
Bleszinski: Shipping the entire trilogy and realising all of the things that we did right with it… and all of the things we’ve done wrong.