Interviews// Gears of War's Cliff Bleszinski

Posted 29 Sep 2008 18:15 by
What’s the story behind Tai?

Cliff Bleszinski: Tai Kaliso is kind of a spiritual, mysterious warrior character. He’s a Pacific Islander type of guy and he has a history with Marcus (Fenix), they have fought together before. He proves to be a staunch ally throughout sections of the campaign and he’s turned out to be something of a favourite among our testers. He makes some strange and interesting comments, which is probably why they like him so much.

It’s funny this time around because we actually break the fourth wall in regards to the dialogue, saying what the player’s probably thinking. We have Carbine, for example, say stuff like “How come we don’t have flashlights?” and “How come you guys aren’t wearing helmets?” – just little things that help lighten the mood.

What has the biggest challenge been in creating this sequel?

Cliff Bleszinski: I think doing the campaign mode was the biggest thing. If you look at the pacing of what you guys were playing, which was about 75% of Act 1… imagine keeping that up for five Acts of the game. And then making it playable with two players. And then balancing it for multiple difficulty levels – that in itself has proven to be a tremendous challenge, and I’m pretty sure we rose to that challenge and produced something really cool.

Do you feel like you’ve fulfilled your vision for the series with Gears of War 2? Has it all fallen well into place?

Cliff Bleszinski: Ultimately we have fulfilled the vision of what the game can be – having a more robust multi-player, expanding the co-op experience in a way that makes sense and doesn’t completely destroy the narrative, as well as having a campaign that has these kind of rollercoaster moments. I think the game has a bit of heart as well, in regards to Dom’s side of the story. It’s all really come together, I’m really proud of it.

Why did you feel it was necessary to add depth to the storyline?

Cliff Bleszinski: Well, the first game had some criticisms that the story was very bare bones and simple, which I think is a valid criticism. It was basically ‘Armageddon’; it was ‘blow up the asteroid’ which was throw a bomb in the hole and blow up the Locust… and quite frankly that was probably all we were capable of pulling off at the time, due to the amount of time we spent on Gears 1 and the number of staff we had working on the project.

Now that we’ve scaled up a bit, we have a larger team, a new writer and we’re more confident in our abilities. We’re willing to take a few more narrative risks and go for those emotional leads and I think that resonates more with gamers. Just watching that opening cut scene and hearing the music, it’s something that’s fairly rousing and shows how we’ve grown and evolved as developers, designers and storytellers.

Going with that, how challenging was it to add that extra depth to the game? Has it been difficult to do without making it seem too much like a cheesy action movie?

Cliff Bleszinski: There’s certainly plenty of action in the game, and it’s been a challenge for us to pull off. The thing is that people might look at the Gears universe, see the franchise as a whole and what they initially see is the big armour and the guns. Their first reaction most likely would be “Oh okay, guy’s doing a lot of dick-wagging”, but I think if people look beyond that a little bit they might see Marcus, a guy that’s very tired and doesn’t want to be fighting this war. They see Dom, a man who’s getting increasingly frustrated at losing the love of his wife after he already lost his kids.

As well as people like Baird, who’s annoyed that he’s not the one in charge, on top of the themes behind the game, such as humanity’s true desperation and being on your last stand for survival. An enemy that’s incredibly evil that’s going to do whatever it takes, and revealing more about what the Locust are truly about.

I hope that gamers will pick it up and enjoy the blood and the chainsaws and all that stuff, but really we’re going to be seeing some of the cool secondary themes and the narrative pieces that come through in the game.
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