As we covered in our Gears 5 preview, one of the biggest changes to the long-established franchise is the addition of open-world aspects. To make it easier to get around the game’s gigantic levels is the skiff, a new vehicle that’s part sail, part snowboard (or sandboard).
Stevivor sat down with Campaign Design Director, Matt Searcy, to discuss the creation of the new vehicle.
“The original prototype was worked on by our lead gameplay engineer,” Searcy said. “He just stuck a sail on a car rig and a reel. And then we started playing with wind.”
It was important for The Coalition to make the skiff feel like a real-world vehicle, but also one that was fun to use.
“Rod [Fergusson, studio head, was] the one who was always like, ‘I want it to feel like an extreme sport. I want to have fun. I don’t want it just to be a tool to go left and right across the world’,” Searcy continued. “He’s really to thank for the crazy jumps and everything; in theory, [the skiff] would work in real life but nobody has ever made anything like this.”
The Coalition not only needed to the design the vehicle but systems around it.
“We have a wind system in the game that actually affects your speed and the way it moves and everything. But even that we had to learn how to make it dynamic because nobody really wants to figure out how to sail upwind in an over-world — they just want a point where they’re going and go there,” Searcy said. “So we have dynamic wind system that watches what you’re doing and we’ll sort of subtly change to make it feel right.”
Because the skiff requires its driver to use to hands to control the sail at its front, it limits the chance to use it in combat scenarios, Searcy also confirmed.
“We looked at [combat applications] for a while and ultimately it just didn’t get us the experience that we wanted,” he said, “so we decided to stay focused on what feels the best in Gears, which is the foot combat, the on-foot combat.
“We kept the skiff for what I was talking about before — this breath of fresh air and this feeling of exploration. It was partly a mechanics decision, but it is partly just a pacing decision. It just didn’t feel as good when we kept any of the tests we did where we tried to force combat into that game. It didn’t feel like it was making the experience better of travelling around those spaces.”
Gears 5 heads to Windows PC and Xbox One from 10 September; Xbox Game Pass subscribers can play from 6 September. Check out our new preview here.
Steve Wright traveled to Vancouver, Canada to preview Gears 5 as a guest to Microsoft. Travel and accommodation were supplied by the publisher.