We both did microtalks at GDC this year, and mine was about making a game that targets yourself, as a developer, and not targeting an anonymous group of players that you can't define. Target your own specific, weird interest and make that. That's what a lot of indies are fantastic at, but I don't see it enough from larger teams, and I think that's because there's less of an emphasis on auteurship and directors.
I wonder if you think that's a good thing or a bad thing, especially as we discuss how you might alter all these other franchises.
CB: I think you have to find a way of having a super creative, collaborative auteur. And I've always said I don't have every idea for the Gears of War franchise or games, but there's a lot of my own personal DNA that's running through the projects. There's a reason why in Gears 3, the game ends with Marcus and Anya on the beach, because that's my fiancee and I -- whenever we have a nice weekend we go to the coast.
I would love to have the opportunity to make something that's deeply personal. I've spoken fondly of my childhood in New England, and going out to the woods. There's a hill behind our old house in where somebody just had cast out six or nine old tires they threw away, in an old field.
And as I kid I quickly learned that if I lifted those up I'd find snakes and interesting little critters underneath them. And every day before school I'd go up there and, guaranteed, I'd always find something, and it was like the Zelda secret moment, right?
And I don't want to get into too many details, but finding abandoned pieces of plywood in the woods and then taking it back to build a fort or whatever, that is your initial way of trying to have your own apartment as a child, essentially. Some of that DNA I might be able to weave into Fortnite, since that's what I'm primarily working on right now.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
It would be great to have a really discovery-oriented game, like you're talking about. When I was playing the first Uncharted, I felt there was a bait and switch, because I was really enjoying exploring and finding things. I thought, "Oh man, I'm discovering this world; this is fantastic!" But then I was just shooting Mexicans for a long time.
CB: Well, that game was really a thinly veiled metaphor for border tensions in Nevada -- no, I'm just kidding. But yeah, I love Naughty Dog and Uncharted. What they do is top tier; they're a top tier developer at what they do. But one of the things that I find missing from Uncharted is that if I'm a treasure hunter and I'm playing Uncharted 3, I'm finding like a random Faberge Egg every once in a while, and I'm in this jungle and I try to go off the beaten path and I can't.
If I were at Naughty Dog now -- wow, this is turning into an "if Cliffy ran the world" interview -- but yeah, I would do a version of Uncharted that's multiplayer, in which every person is their own version of a Nathan Drake and you're doing global treasure hunts. And have dynamic events where "A new rune has been found in Peru!", you know?
Right -- you've got to race to get there.
CB: The race to get there, and then if somebody else got there first they actually left traps behind or bait/switch, and people backstabbing each other, and really have that be player-driven, and have a lot of emergent gameplay. Don't focus on the script-y stuff.
You know, make the jungles and make the players race to get to it, and make The Amazing Race with treasures, you know, a version of what Indiana Jones was -- globetrotting around the world. And then let me be that. Let someone make her character with a fedora and cool leather boots, and let me be the guy with the vest and all that, and just customize it and then set it in like the '40s or something. There's so much fun you could have with that.
What would stop you from doing a smaller thing like [Epic subsidiary and Infinity Blade dev] Chair is able to do? I guess you're supposed to be the blockbuster guy.
CB: Just time. The biggest thing we grapple with at Epic is that one of our little mantras is "Everything we do is epic," and we actually have a really hard time just making a little thing that is what it is and we put it out there. And I'm amazed we were able to do [iOS tech demo] Epic Citadel -- it's just a tech demo, not really gamified, we put treasure chests in and then say "Trade with your friends!" and all this stuff. Because with Infinity Blade when I talked to [Chair's] Donald [Mustard] about what he's done, I'm like, "Dude, you were setting out to make a great little mobile game, but you made almost a full console game with a campaign and all these rich social features."