No matter how one looks at it, it’s hard to deny that Gears of War left an indelible mark on the third person shooter. From the hyper violent multiplayer to the refined cover mechanics, Gears of War set a tone and a style for a new generation.
However, as it turns out, the Gears of War that we know and love wasn’t always a campaign-focused third person shooter. In fact, Epic Games had originally envisioned the game as a class-based multiplayer shooter called Unreal Warfare.
According to Unreal Engine Lead Programmer James Golding, it wasn’t until several years after into on-and-off development that Unreal Warfare eventually morphed into Gears of War. Originally the game was focused on the aforementioned class-based multiplayer experience – albeit still with a sci-fi theme. But after competing work on Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004, Epic discovered that times had changed.
“So we were working on this multiplayer focused class-based game, which I think started off being called Unreal Warfare, and the idea was that you could play it in a big multiplayer arena or against bots, and we came up with this mech that you could deploy and use to suppress the battlefield. Because we’d been working on Unreal Tournament 3 before that (and then Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004) by the time we came back to look at Unreal Warfare, it’d been a couple of years and the industry had completely changed.”
What they found was that the single player campaign had become a major selling point for not just shooters but all games. And sohey started tweaking the concept — pulling it away from the Unreal brand — and eventually Gears of War was formed. But that wasn’t before the game saw some significant revisions, primarily with the enemies players faced (originally called Geist) and the approach (it was a vehicle-based shooter at one point).
“We redid a whole bunch of the characters at this point, too: we went from the traditional-looking soldiers to a more sci-fi looking thing and certain precepts like ‘no laser guns’ came along a little bit later, and it slowly became more in line with the Gears of War we know now.”
It might seem strange to imagine Gears of War as anything but a chainsaw-revving bloodfest, but clearly it took some time before Epic zeroed in on a concept that worked. And luckily for them, Gears of War turned out to be a resounding success, fueling three mainline games, one spin-off, and a few extended universe novels. There’s even a fifth Gears of War game in the works, but not at Epic Games. The new shepherds of the franchise are the folks at Black Tusk Studios.
Coincidentally, Epic Games has come full circle and is now hard at work on a new Unreal Tournament, one that will be developed under the watchful eye of the fans. The game is starting out small, but through fan feedback and extensive modding, Epic hopes to turn Unreal Tournament into something special. Who knows; maybe some of the ideas that never made it into Unreal Warfare might end up in this new game.
How do the original ideas for Gears of War sound to you? Are you happy that Epic settled on the concept they did?
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