You're developing this game on Unreal Engine. Obviously, you're at Epic. Do you consider it more of an advantage that you have access at that level, or is it more that you feel the pressure that you have to put the best foot forward for the engine in the product?
RF: I think it's a bit of everything. I think we feel like there are some benefits, obviously, of having the engine being developed in-house, but at the same time, our engine team is servicing all of the licensees as well.
You know, other teams that use their own engine have dedicated engine programmers that are just on their product; we're sort of sharing our engine team.
So in some respects we're a little bit like the cobbler's children, but at the same time, having that, the engine leads are two offices down from me, and I can talk to them and understand; it makes it easier for us to plan about how we do things, and stuff. I think there are definitely some benefits to that.
But, like I said, if I had a dedicated engine team that were just focused on my game, I'd definitely get benefit from that as well. So, there are pros and cons to both of them.
I've talked to a lot of people who've been developing Unreal Engine games, and they do a lot of customization on the product for their own purposes, for their own games. To an extent, I've heard people say, "The engine is designed to make Gears of War." Not in a sense that it's only capable of making Gears of War, but that your product slots in well. How do you see that?
RF: Well I think that the design philosophy for Unreal Engine, from the very beginning, is that it's to support the games we make, and then people can take that however they want to. But we generally don't implement a feature unless there's an important need from the licensees; we generally don't implement a feature that we are not going to use.
And it's not, generally, because it's being proprietary or anything like that; it's that we can't do that feature justice if we don't use it. You need to be able to put it in, use it, see what's working or not working with it, optimize it, make it better, until you have a better product for the licensee.
So, to create a feature that we don't use, so that it just rots on the vine, or that we have to rely on other people to tell us whether it's good or not, that's just not doing any favors to the licensee.
So, it makes sense that as Gears [goes], the engine is helping to support the development of Gears, so you could say that Gears is an easy fit for it, because that makes sense. The same goes for Unreal Tournament for all these years, right? That engine was built to it.
But again, we keep an eye toward licensee needs; we're certainly open to licensees' needs, and we make tweaks and a bunch of other changes based on their needs. So, I can understand that perspective, but again it comes down to "We want to make the best engine possible," and if we're not using the feature, we can't ensure that it's the best.
Are there any features that have come out of the development of Gears of War 2 that are being implemented in the engine? That are going to be available to all licensees, that you are aware of?
RF: I think the fracture system is probably one of the easiest to point to; that idea of the semi-destructible environment, where you have the inner core with fracturable bits that fall off to make the gameplay a lot more dynamic and interactive. It's because we want to have that sense that you're hunkered in, and you're getting all these chips and stuff flying off.
So that was something that was a feature that came out of the needs of the Gears team in our "New, Better, More"; they wanted to have a more interactive environment, and a more destructible environment, so that got applied into the engine, which then became available to licensees.
Something I was interested about, that you talked a little bit about earlier, was with the first game you started with a blank slate, and then things became much more complex in the second game because they had to tie in, and things became more elaborate in the sense that there is more universe-building this time around...
RF: So are you speaking story-wise?
Story, especially in the context of games, is not just story, it's setting. When you talk about narrative in games, of course it's spoken dialogue cutscenes. But the whole Gears of War world is very distinctive, and the things that you can do, and what you've established as the capabilities of the Locust in the predecessor don't quite lock you down, but...
RF: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there's a lot more need of the universe, as well. The game, Gears 1, required a certain amount of information to form the universe, which we were able to provide. But then when you go to where it becomes a franchise, you have to look at -- I'm dealing with the author of the book, and stuff.
I'm looking at "What does the universe need to provide the author, to be able to make their story?" and "What does the comic book author need? What do you need for that information?" and "What does the potential movie script need for that information?" and then there's the second game's story...
So yeah, it's a lot more complex, and understanding what the full universe is, and how does it apply to all these different mediums, and the stories that they want to tell.