Speaking with The Coalition’s Chuck Osieja ahead of EB Expo this weekend, Stevivor learned that Gears of War 4 was almost developed as a prequel.
“We actually sat around, when Rod [Fergusson, formerly of Gears’ original developer, Epic Games] first joined, we sat around for a few days and talked about what we could do,” Osieja said. “Do you go back and tell – well, there’s a ton of lore in the Gears’ world.”
The Coalition first entertained telling stories only hinted at in the likes of Gears of War, Gears 2, 3 and yes, even Judgment — a prequel itself.
“Do we go tell the Pendulum Wars? Then we go, ‘nah. Gears really isn’t about human on human fighting.’ It’s always about human on monsters, so we thought maybe we could do Emergence Day. Judgment sort of got close to it, but again, no,” he said.
Osieja asserted that the inherent problems with prequels meant it wasn’t the right direction for Gears 4.
“The problem when you went back in time — which felt like a good place to go – is that eventually you know where it’s going to end up,” he said. “It’s going to end up with Marcus in prison. It’s sort of like, okay we know where the ending is, everyone knows where the ending is, what can you do inside of that that’s going to be interesting?”
The Coalition also toyed with the idea of a different setting and a completely removed cast of characters, much like the direction BioWare seems to be taking with Mass Effect: Andromeda.
“The other one was, we said, ‘okay, could we go — do we want to set it some place completely different with a whole new cast of characters? Do we want to go to a different planet do we want to do something like that?’
“That seemed like a lot to bite off; when Epic builds something as iconic as Gears you have to be careful as the people who are taking it over,” he said. “So that the fans know that you actually understand what the franchise is all about. That one felt like — I wouldn’t say it’s disrespectful – but, like you’re not sensitive to what the franchise is all about.”
Instead, the decision was made to propel the franchise 25 years in the future, with characters players would be familiar with.
“For us, we really said, it’s about doing it right before doing it better,” Osieja said. “You got 25 years with no war, no emulsion — so what’s happened to the planet? What happens to a warrior like Marcus when his entire life has been about fighting? It’s sort of The Hurt Locker scenario, right? Where the guy is like, okay, all I know is war, I need something to do.
“You got JD [Marcus’ son,] on the other hand who has never known war. You get that contrast between the two of them and obviously that’s part of what we play out in the story. It’s just the relationship between the two of them. Why it’s strained and how it got to that point.”
There are also parallels to themes explored in the original Gears trilogy, Osieja explained.
“From another facet we looked at it and said, “okay, Gears 1 to 3 is about Marcus the son trying to save Adam, his dad.’
“Now we flip that on its head — we’ve now got Marcus the dad trying to save JD the son — how does that play out? By not making Marcus the main character — the playable character I should say — you get a different perspective on Marcus.”
As you’d expect, Osieja is quite happy with the direction The Coalition has chosen to take for the upcoming sequel.
“It felt like the right place to go, because we had new characters, because we want to bless the new hero at some point. Which is what the whole idea behind JD is. We didn’t want to completely abandon everything we did so having those touchstones and being able to connect them together.
“If you’ve never played Gears, it’s a great place to jump in because you don’t have to know the history. If you’ve played Gears, there’s tons of fan service. There’s plenty of things that happen during the course of the campaign that you go, ‘oh sh*t, I know that came from there’, or ‘oh, I can’t believe that happened’, or, ‘I remember when that happened.’ It’s nice. It serves fans of the game forever, but it’s a nice play for somebody new to jump in and learn about the franchise.”
Gears of War 4 is an Xbox Play Anywhere title that heads to Xbox One and Windows PC on 11 October.