Next-Gen Gears of War: Sometimes Innovating Means Betrayal
“This isn’t a great way of phrasing it, but I always talk about shipping a sequel to customers as ‘managing betrayal.’”
After Microsoft bought up the rights to the Gears of War property from series curators, Epic Games, the company’s in-house development studio, Black Tusk Games, was quickly assigned the job of carrying the franchise to the Xbox One. Rod Fergusson, former production head at Epic, joins Black Tusk in keeping Gears’ cogs turning.
Though Fergusson was put in place in order to keep the fabric of Gears – it’s identity, so to speak – intact, the producer wants to stray from the familiar. “They want something new but they don’t want something so new that it doesn’t feel like what they want,” said Fergusson to OSM. “But if you put out something that’s very familiar and is the same as the game they just had, then it’s like 'I’ve already had this. This isn’t new enough.’”
Black Tusk basically wants to avoid Back to the Future Part III Syndrome. It’s a wise play. Fergusson's philosophy on how to achieve this, however, is unique. “You actually have to betray them enough to give them something new and surprising but not so much that they disconnect, and I think that is a big thing that we have to focus on.
It’s how we can innovate and bring something new to the franchise while at the same time really proving that we understand Gears - that this is the franchise that you know and love.”
Fergusson has broken down for his team which core conceits of Gears have to remain unchanged versus rusty joints in the gameplay where innovation is needed. It may be a good long while before fans endure the betrayal of change, as Phil Spencer, Xbox’s new commander-in-chief, has stated he wants to give Black Tusk all the time in the world they require to evolve Gears of War for the Xbox One.