IGN: Do you think four player is the sweet spot for co-op? Should the series have gone to four earlier?
Cliff Bleszinski: At the beginning of the console's launch, co-op was one of those things that not a lot of people had played. As Gears 1 and Gears 2 came out it became something that, because we had it, players would play it more, more gamers would be aware of it. Now that there's so many millions of Xboxes, we're at the point where more players play co-op than ever, so now was the perfect timing for us to introduce four player co-op and make it an integrated part of the storyline, which a lot of shooters – unfortunately - do not do in this day and age, so you can't enjoy the rollercoaster ride of the summer blockbuster together.
IGN: How does it work in terms of story?
Cliff Bleszinski: Player one is Marcus Fenix, player two is Dominic Santiago, and then as you move throughout the game, there's different times where we play around with the timeline in the game, kind of like the movie Pulp Fiction, where you flash back and you're playing as the former Thrashball star Cole, or the wisecracking mechanic Baird, and play as all these different characters throughout the series that you normally wouldn't play as in the campaign.
IGN: How did four player co-op inform the level design? Did it change the way you design combat bowls?
Cliff Bleszinski: Well, the bowls had to be a little bigger, right? But at the same time we didn't want to have our combat be extraordinarily long, so what we did was allowed for more elbow room on the sides, more flanking opportunities, and the ability for the players to split up. If one player wants to go to the left and three to the right, they can. If two players want to charge ahead and two stay back they can. It's all up to the player and it's actually quite replayable once you get into the campaign, because we have this arcade mode that allows you to compete for points which is quite a bit of fun.
IGN: Do you randomly spawn enemies in the campaign?
Cliff Bleszinski: They are slightly [random], but it's more about once they spawn, where the AI goes and takes them is completely different every time. One thing that's different from two to four co-op is the enemy counts. You'll actually be taking on a lot more Locusts if you play three or four player co-op, because the enemy numbers for one and two players is just not enough for four players; they're just chewing through the enemies like a lawnmower. That's the main difference from two to four.
IGN: Did that present a problem technically?
Cliff Bleszinski: Technically, no, because what we would do is we'd do a little bit of a show game, because when you're rendering what you're trying to render you can only draw n enemies on screen, however many that is – I don't know what the number is, so what we would do is once we'd get down to one or two guys left, we'd spawn a few more on the back end so that we'd have a steady trickle of enemies as opposed to a sequence jumping from ten enemies to twenty. [Instead,] you'd fight eight and then twelve would eventually start spawning on the back end. That's one of the development tricks and techniques we use.
IGN: Each Gears game takes a noticeable step forward in presentation. How much longer can you do that on the same hardware?
Cliff Bleszinski: I think if you go back and look at the difference from Gears 1 to Gears 2, and then from Gears 2 to Gears 3… you can see there's a marked improvement with how Gears 3 looks, from the lighting and the characters and everything like that. The thing is, the hardware isn't going to change any time soon, right, the 360 should be around for at least a little while longer I'd imagine, but it's up to us as developers to figure out how to squeeze more water from that stone and figure out how we can have more code tricks and get better at cramming more into memory or on the disc, because that's the nature of game development, right? Towards the end of the Super Nintendo's life cycle, there were so many tricks that people were doing – like mode 7 – all these crazy things that you could never have imagined, so it's on us now.
IGN: Gears is really all about up close and personal combat, but it's also big and cinematic. How do you ensure the set pieces don't take away from the moment to moment gameplay?
Cliff Bleszinski: That's one thing that I've gone on record before and said about Gears 2 is we got a little – quote – "drunk on set pieces." It was like – wow, now I'm in a worm! Now it's like a Mario game! I have a new phrase I like to say at work when I play a sequence in a game that I wasn't expecting called 'I did not sign up for this.' For me it's like, I love the Dead Space series – I really really do, so let me preface this - but the one part in Dead Space one that drove me crazy was the asteroids bit. I was like 'I didn't sign up to play Asteroids in this game! I signed up to kill necromorphs!' It's like the tank on the ice in Gears 2 – I didn't sign up to pilot a tank over ice in this game. I signed up to be cool and kill Locust and have a great story.
And so that's [what we're going for is] giving people what they want, and to use the pacing that we have as creatives to know when a combat should crescendo into this amazing moment with a building falling down and then let it dial back, and let the characters talk, have a little bit of exposition - oh wait, a creepy Wretch just went by! What's going on? Hell breaks loose! And play with that rollercoaster pacing that we've gotten very good at.
IGN: Tell me a little more about the casual mode you're implementing for multiplayer.
Cliff Bleszinski: When you play a game like this, we wanted to please the fans of Gears, but we also wanted to expand our audience. We didn't just want the people who played Gears 1 and 2 to play it, we wanted more people to try it who haven't. If you go into the online space, it's often like you're jumping into the NBA with Michael Jordan. It's like, hello, welcome to Gears – shotgun to the face!
And so what we want to do is make it so there's like a kiddy pool, where if you haven't played Gears 1 and 2 or you're just getting online, you have a little bit of a helper and your own zone where you get a little bit more damage, you can take a little bit more damage, just to give you that edge. You stay in this – we jokingly call it the kiddy pool – until you get to a certain level and then you graduate into the big leagues, so we know you at least have a certain level of competency. I think it's a great trend and I think Blizzard did it with StarCraft with some of their leagues. I think it's something that online gaming needs to continue to advance in order to encapsulate a wide range of skills and play types.
Source = IGN