Passing Judgment: Epic talks Gears lore, sweaty palms and "bringing back the terror"

Smart Spawning, new characters and first-person Gears

Gears of War: Judgment looks like your typical Gears of War game, all rusty iron, homicidal tunneling beasties and soft blue armor lights. It's not. The campaign is the work of Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly, who've applied their own super-violent brand of volatility to Epic's proven template.

In one of his last interviews as Epic's director of production before moving to Irrational to work on Bioshock Infinite, Gears veteran Rod Fergusson spoke to us about how People Can Fly became involved and how Judgment improves on Gears of yore. Pick up a copy of OXM issue 90, out today, for more.

I get the impression Epic is mainly working on the multiplayer for this title. Is that true?

Yeah. Basically, People Can Fly are mainly focused on the campaign, we're focused on multiplayer but there is a lot of cross in between, a lot of creative ideas and it's a great partnership, we're just focused on making a great Gears.


When you brought in People Can Fly, did you give them an open brief, or did you have a defined, fully worked-out strategy in place?

How it started was that there was a looming transition into the next generation and we were like, "we have an opportunity to get another Gears game out - how do we do that?" Well, the way we can do that is to get a partner who loves the franchise, so it was an easy way to go.

So we started talking and they had some ideas that we thought that were kind of interesting, and so the campaign is a very different type of campaign. It's not the sort of cinematic, heavily scripted campaign - they have something called a Smart Spawn System that we call S3, that'll change the game every time you play it.

So if you die and reload, it'll actually have guys who spawn differently - different types of guys in different locations - and it'll watch where you're going and respond and change it around. It's a lot more about the action than scripted cinematics.

One of our design principles was the idea of sweaty palms; when you play you've got to have sweaty palms or we're not doing it right. So far in all of our playtests we've all got sweaty palms so that's good!

And it's about making the Locusts scary again - when you spend 8 years with the Locusts it feels a bit like Germans in a WWII game, after a while they just become a known enemy. We wanted to bring back the terror of year one, and that's what we're trying to do in Judgement - it's only a few weeks after E Day, these things are all new to us and we're really scared of them, what does this all mean?

So we've changed their power and our health to make them more lethal - one Wretch can take you out so it's a lot scarier. It's that whole idea of feeling more cautious and feeling overwhelmed.

I guess the advantage of a prequel is that you can strip out the more advanced weapons.

It's been an interesting challenge to figure out, and we haven't completely solved it, we're not done yet, the idea of whether to stay true to the gameplay or stay true to the canon. Those are the things that we struggle with.


We did our Game Informer cover and it had two lancers on it, and people were like: "what the hell? The lancer wasn't part of the Pendulum war!" And we said: "fair point but people know Gears and the lancer and it's really fun." Do you piss off people who read the books or do you keep it true to the game? We're still wrestling with a bunch of those types of issues.

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