e3 2015

Gears Of War's Rod Fergusson On Judgment, Gears 4, And Remaking The Original

by Kyle Hilliard on Jun 21, 2015 at 01:20 PM

Shortly after the announcement of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, we got a chance to talk to studio head of The Coalition, Rod Fergusson, about remaking the original game for a new console generation.

Along with going into how much of the game has been truly rebuilt (a lot, it turns out), we also chatted about the most recent Gears release, Judgment, the line between nostalgia and modernization, and tried, unsuccessfully get in a few Gears of War 4 questions. You can check out the brief interview below, as well as more on the game by heading here.

You re-did all the motion capture and remade many other aspects of the game. Did you re-record the dialogue?

No, that was one of the things we decided to leave the same. We wanted to to really stay true to Gears 1. There's a fine line when you're dealing with a remaster to stay true to the nostalgia versus the modernization, and this was another choice towards nostalgia for the campaign, which was to really stay true to the dialogue. Those lines you remember, the way that Marcus said, "Nice!" or the way Dom said something – we wanted to keep that. Also, all the actors have aged 10 years and everything else. If we had gone back, we would have had a different sounding game and we didn't want that. We re-did the foley and we took the original soundtrack, which we didn't re-record, but we did remaster it in 7.1. There are a lot of things you will hear that are true to the original.

Since you didn't re-record on the dialogue, the story must be exactly the same?

Correct. The one thing we did do was take that PC content, the two hours of campaign, the journey to that station to catch the train that was actually cut for the release of the first game, and then were able to take that content and put it back in chronologically correct.

343 Industries remade Halo: Combat Evolved before diving into Halo 4. Is this a Microsoft requirement for working on its core franchises? Or just a good exercise to avoid diving in blind?

It had multiple advantages. One of things we looked at – part of being The Coalition as a diverse set of developers – one of the things was getting people soaked into what it is to make a Gears of War game. Remaking Gears of War meant we had to go in and reverse engineer and pick it apart and look at the scripting, understand the levels, the flow, what is cover spacing, what are the combat distances – it was sort of a boot camp for the team to get ready for Gears 4, and it was like, "Okay, I really understand what it's like to make a Gears game." And on the other side, we looked at it from a consumer and player side and we said, “Hey, we’re going to do Gears 4 and it is going to take multiple years. How do we get a Gears game on Xbox One faster?” And we said, “Okay, let’s remaster one – what’s the most impactful one?” And we felt like, go back to the original. It sort of serves as a bridge because there is somebody who, when we shipped in 2006 was seven years old who can now play it at 17, so there is a whole new audience and then there is the nostalgia audience as well. It’s kind of a gateway into it. It’s a ramp, you’ll see. It’s Ultimate Edition this year and then Gears 4 next year.

Throughout this presentation you reference Gears of War 3 as the modern baseline for the series. What are your thoughts on Gears of War: Judgment?

Oh we have lots of thoughts on Judgment. It’s a filtration process of what works and what doesn’t work. There were certain aspects of Judgment that were sort of – when you look at Judgment it was sort of a planning for the future in terms of trying things. Like what if we tried a first person shooter control scheme? What if we tried the ability to fall great distances? And try to streamline a lot of stuff? And we felt like some of that resonated and some of it didn’t. And that’s why we went back to the original control scheme and why we went back to a shorter fall distance.

Every iteration of the game, everything got a bit smoother and responsive, and that’s really one of the big things we’ve taken away from Judgment, and I think 60 FPS speaks to it, is this idea of responsiveness. Just before I left Epic, that’s what we were talking about: be a shooter. Which means as much as you want to have a fantastic presentation and you want to have amazing animations and you want to have all these amazing visuals, at the end of the day what’s most important to a shooter is responsiveness. So how do we get that? What that means is, not every footfall is perfectly placed or animation doesn't go through every single frame so that you can get a weapon much faster and that's what it means to run at 60 FPS. When we look at it and we say, what is our baseline? What’s been the most popular in terms of TDM? Gears 3 is sort of the home for that, and what we do is we look at Judgment and see if there is anything we can cherry-pick from what resonated that was maybe overlooked because having a completely different control scheme could hide some of the things that were in there.

Are you answering any Gears 4 questions?

Not really. Her name’s Kate Kait – that’s about the only thing we can answer.

I want to know if it takes place on the same planet as the original Gears of War trilogy.

And you are not alone in that question.

For more on Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, head here.