Which came first, Epic Games or Gears of War? There are honestly times when that doesn't seem quite as stupid a question as it is. The rope-necked, simian-armed action series has defined Epic in a way the venerable Unreal shooters never did, stamping its trademark bleeding skull emblem deep into the publisher's flesh.
But even the lumpiest, surliest warrior has to call it quits eventually. With the third and final outing of Marcus Fenix mere days from release, OXM pinned down proud parent Cliff Bleszinski for a teary-eyed retrospective.
This is the end of Delta's story. Are you sad to see the back of them, or happy to tie things off?
I've got a lot of mixed feelings. We've all been working on this franchise for a long time since the first game in 2006 - seeing the final cutscene and seeing how the story wraps up... I admit I got something in my eye, there. I'm a big softie - I wear my heart on my sleeve and it was a combination on Greg doing a great job on the cinematics within the game and Karen doing a great job of the writing, the voice actors knocking it out of the park, and getting attached to the project personally.
I think for a lot of us there's a lot of personal stuff in the game. Now we're on the homestretch and thinking about the hundreds of thousands of man hours we've poured into the three games, seeing it as a whole trilogy is going to be hugely rewarding.
Do you think it'll be an emotional moment for players too? More profound than Maria's death?
Maria's death certainly has its share of people who love it - if you look the scene up on Youtube, around three quarters of the hundreds of comments on there say the scene made them cry. That said, we can always do better - we may not have earned it that well; we didn't build up Dom and Maria's relationship enough to get players attached to it - but that's the kind of narrative we often do, we're very cut-scene based. You can't force emotion on a player, but we're hoping players will feel something because they've been attached to these characters for so long.
Tom Bissell is writing a book on the making of Gears. Do you think we'll see more of this behind the scenes documentation in future?
Absolutely - I think users are getting even more savvy than ever. We've had director's commentaries on DVDs for a while, but I think Valve are taking that one step further with Portal 2. It's the new thing - people want to know these things when they're fans of the franchise: how the project began, what decisions were made, what led to the game they're playing.
Is it also an instance of the games industry trying to legitimise itself a little bit?
I think it's partly to do with the industry trying to legitimise itself, but I also think the fans want to know. It won't be 100 per cent of the fans, it'll maybe only be 2-5 per cent. But the ones who want to know? They're the ones who go to Comicon. They're the ones who get the tattoos. They're the uber-fans of your franchise who are almost like your shamans, who'll go out and preach to the masses - you want to keep them happy, and fans of the games as well as the studio, because they will go and recruit for you.
Are you ever scared of those fans? Some of them sound pretty intense...
We've had a few close calls with some creepy moments. It's a good problem to have, but you've gotta be careful - it's a connected world.