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New, Better, More: Epic's Cliff Bleszinski on Designing Gears of War 2
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New, Better, More: Epic's Cliff Bleszinski on Designing Gears of War 2


October 24, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next
 

How do you work with the writers? They're external, right?

CB: Yeah, Josh Ortega. That's also organic as well. Starting off on Gears 2, I came up with a two-page treatment. That was then torn to shreds by the other leads. Then work cycled on again and again, sat down with a whiteboard, beat on it some more until we had something we thought was compelling, then brought Josh in.

We had basically the bullet point of what the major plot points would be throughout the campaign. Then Josh was just unleashed on all of the scripts, which went through like eight to 11 cycles on each one. There were times where Rod and I would edit those scripts to the point it looked like somebody got chainsawed on top of them, there was so much red.

Josh, thankfully, is such a tenacious person he was able to see it through and do a great job with the story and the scripts. But it's an exhausting process, and there's not a lot of people that could do what the video game writers do in this day and age. It's very much a rare thing.

You get your Rhianna Pratchetts. You get your Susan O'Connors. You get your Josh Ortegas. There's just a handful of them, man. There's just not a lot of people that can do it. They're incredibly valuable for the business, because context and writing are going to be increasingly important.

Were you considering working with Susan O'Connor again?

CB: The scheduling didn't work out. She's a great girl, a wonderful writer. Really smart. But she had a lot of other stuff going on, and there was a little while there we didn't know what was going on, we didn't know who was going to write the game. I had lunch with Eric Nylund who wrote the Halo novels, and was very much involved in Gears 1 with regards to the Gears story. Chris Taylor was there too.

From Gas Powered Games?

CB: Yeah. We were having curry in Seattle. Josh happened to be along. We were talking about politics and porn and things like that. Josh and I just kind of clicked. We were like, oh, you seem cool. We kept in touch. I read his graphic novel The Necromancer, which I just loved, and read some of his other work. He's done so much stuff in regards to writing his book, writing for [comics series] Death Dealer, things like that. He was a no brainer for us.

So he came out, and he was so enthusiastic, and he had the tenacity to pull it off, really. If you look at this campaign [compared to] the first game, there's a lot more going on in the story. It is such a delicate balancing act. It is really tricky to pull off in this day and age. I'm pretty proud of the team for doing it.

Is it a challenge for this genre? I'd imagine a lot of people would just say, why bother finding a writer you click with, because it's an action game.

CB: There's a certain amount of people that will always not care about the action. I'm a big believer in empowering the user. If the user wants to skip all the cutscenes, if he wants to ignore the collectibles, if he doesn't give a crap about the story, fine, let him do that.

But if we can grab you with the first couple cutscenes and show you this is something that's compelling, then maybe people will want to hang around and pay a little bit of attention to what's going on in the universe. Because if you don't have a certain context to your game and your game mechanics, it's not as powerful.

I think if you can believe in what's going on in the world around you and really believe that this is a desperate situation, and that Dom is becoming increasingly frustrated with the search for his wife, those are narrative hooks. And television and theater have been getting by with plot points for hundreds if not thousands of years, right? Well, theatre, of course.

So if you can infuse a little bit of that in your game, why not? Because ultimately, if you fail, and your game's still fun, you still have a great game. But if you have a great story and your game is fun, then you just might have a classic, like Silent Hill 2.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

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