Cliff Bleszinski (aka 'CliffyB') must be a very happy chappy right now. Gears of War
made him a gaming celeb when it was released to rave reviews and excited gamers alike. Now, two years later, the series that has pretty much defined the Xbox 360 is back with more modes, weapons, story and – according to the B-man – heart as well, and critics are posting favourable impressions of the upcoming sequel.
At a special event in London, I was invited to play through a huge chunk of the campaign as well as become addicted to the new five-player co-op mode called 'Horde'. You can read the SPOnG preview of this over here
During the event, Cliff made an appearance as he demoed a new cavern stage, complete with indigenous rock worms that need to be used in order to progress throughout the level.
More information was made available on Dom’s side of the story – his missing wife, Maria, and there was news that the Collector’s Edition of the game will include a special worn-out photograph of Dom and Maria. This, Cliff told SPOnG in an interview I participated in, is just one of the ways in which Epic hopes to make the Gears
franchise appeal to a broader audience.
Read on for our chat with the artist formerly known as CliffyB, including just what has changed due to online feedback from gamers on the original Gears
, why other games are doing it wrong with their co-op modes and why Epic inadvertently made Microsoft splurge many coins during development of the Xbox 360.
How many changes and tweaks that you’ve made to Gears of War 2 have come from feedback from your fans playing the original?
A good chunk of the changes have been made due to the feedback we’ve received, but we’re very careful with what we do in regards to listening to what people have to say. Sometimes there’s very valid feedback available to us, and we listen to the fans and see what their concerns are. But occasionally there’s just one rabid guy with multiple message board accounts who has an opinion and feels the need to post it all the time…
What we do in that case is treat it just like a science, where we look for consistency in reports and common concerns and then adjust to it. For example, we got rid of the Active Reload Sniper Downs due to assessing the general feedback for that, it appeared to be universally frustrating people – there was like 20% of people that thought it was really cool, and everybody else hated it. So we said ‘right, lose it’ – that’s how we work.
The pacing of Gears of War 2 is quite different this time around, and indeed you’ve talked a bit in the past about ‘blockbuster pacing’ and ‘palette cleansing’ moments. How did that come about?
I think if you look at the first few levels – there’s the Hospital that’s just kind of a basic combat, ‘traverse through the location while a lot of cool stuff happens around you’ stage, with the intro cutscene after that, and going into the Derrick level where it’s a bit more tense with all the Tickers in the tunnel… We’re continuing to do this interesting pacing where we’re alternating the styles of levels we have to try and keep players on their toes.
I dunno, maybe it’s because our attention spans are quite short or something like that, but we just find that after spending 30-40 minutes on one sequence you want a slightly different style of gameplay, which just so happens to pan out that it makes for a better paced game in general. We just like variety.