GDC 2009: Killing the Gears of War 2 deadline

Epic Games' Rod Fergusson describes how the best-selling shooter was made in just two years and how fixed release dates can help developers make tough decisions; Franchise growth tips also on tap.

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Intimacy, Gears style.

Last year's Xbox 360 hit Gears of War 2 landed less than two years after the original. That impressive feat is even more remarkable when you consider that Epic Games was simultaneously working on the PC version of the first Gears as well as downloadable content.

Although some might have balked at having to ship a AAA game under such a tight schedule, Epic executive producer Rod Fergusson embraced the deadline. In a 2009 Game Developers Conference presentation yesterday, he said that setting a firm date helped shape some of the key creative decisions behind the game--and kept his team laser-focused.

But even before the release date was fixed internally at Epic, Fergusson said that the team approached development on Gears of War 2 with a "versioning" mindset. That is, the sequel would build on the strengths of the first and not necessarily add any massive, game-changing features.

"We knew what our core was, and we just wanted to start building on top of that," he said. "If you were to look at GTAIV or Metal Gear Solid, and then say 'I want all of the features in all those games,' the chances of you doing that are almost zero. You have to be careful not to get too much stuff on your plate. Every feature you put in is essentially stealing polish time from the other features. Potentially, the more features you add, the bigger the chance of you lowering the overall quality of your product."

Fergusson said that, after setting the deadline internally, all decisions were then framed against meeting that schedule. "This provides a clear goal for the team, and it forces prioritization and creativity. If I said you only had two years, you damn well better be working on the most important thing first because you might run out of time," he explained.

"It's the belief that this ship date you have is both realistic and achievable. And then you say let's hold the date like it can't be changed. Our plan is to hold it as steady as we can and allow that to drive our resources."

Another key method that Epic used to keep game development in focus was setting thematic pillars. For Gears 2, Fergusson said that the pillars were a grander scale, more intimate moments, and accessibility. New features were then added to the game only if they supported one of these pillars. For example, the narrative involving Dom's wife was added for intimacy, as was the whole mechanic of using injured Locusts as meat shields. "After all, what's more intimate than a meat shield?" Fergusson quipped.

Although some ideas or concepts won't make the cut because of their incompatibility with the game's thematic pillars, Fergusson said that these shouldn't necessarily be abandoned completely. "Doing that allows you to put ideas in the sequel bank. You don't just throw them away--you put them aside," he said.

Discussion

95 comments
Gaito123
Gaito123

Epic needed to spend more time on making Gears of War 2 the game has too many bugs and it lags way too much. Epic you disappointed me by releasing this game too early I feel if I'm playing the prototype

pureskull123
pureskull123

Ive purchased gow 1 for the pc, Now Epic tells us that is a xbox 360 exclusive, i wasted 740 dollars on my rig, with a video card far beyond the ps3 and xbox 360 capabilities. btw its a gtx 260. And now im supposed to get the xbox 360 just to play this game!!!!. EPIC FAIL. Piratery is no excuse for leaving a bunch of fans like me with no gears of war 2.

Phazon_Killer
Phazon_Killer

gears 2 might have alot of stuff going on with but thats the game i come baq to the most to play online gears 3 needs at least 5 years to be made gears is such a huge game u cant do it with all that stress

joshuahaveron
joshuahaveron

Whos with removing the smoke/ stun grenades???

joshuahaveron
joshuahaveron

That is so funny! He is saying how good GOW2 is and that the fixed deadline made it that way. But GOW 2 is bad because of this, the game feels rushed and is very glitchy. If they had removed this time scale from the game it would have been a lot better. Next time don't rush it, the only reason the game got good reviews is because the reviewers are afraid to go against a big developer like Epic games and it got so many sales because of these ratings and how good Gears 1 was. I don't think gears 3 will sell a lot compared to 1.

hatieshorrer
hatieshorrer

Its surreal to see him boasting about polishing a game that has so many glitches and difficultly logging into multi-player. Many people have complained that the multi on the original made the first game better then the second. I have to ask when did we get to this point where a game with so many glitches constantly effecting gameplay can be good if a game this glitchy was released ten years ago people would be talking about how bad Gears2 is compared to Gears1.

Acooch8
Acooch8

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

red_bear_tir
red_bear_tir

I purchased GOW2 the week it came out, and I finished it about four days later, and I have to say a few things. 1. The game was good, very good, but limited. I loved the secure compound w/ the messed up things inside, but the hints given especially with the half monsters makes me wish there was more back story. That's what everything in this needs, more back story and the novel if/when it ever comes out should fix this... But could it be a case of too little too late? 2. Online was decent, but it did not suck me in like the first Gears did, I remember wasting over 100 hours on that before I got sick of it. I played a good 15hrs or so online in GOW2, but the bugs and rampant cheating/glitching was too much for me. 3. Epic and Cliffy are damn brilliant developers, but GOW3 needs to be much, much more than just big guns and explosions...

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

Hmm epic that explains why you released such a wonderful game as Unreal Tournament 3 right??? those strict deadlines really help you keep to a great core game that is polished and rocks... Or wait lets look at Hellgate London as another example... force a release date on a team and more often than not your going to end up with an UNFINISHED game in some way or another. Apparently gears2 has terribad online, something that would easily have been worked out with more testing .... Or i can mention Socom: Confrontation.... need I go on about who WRONG you are Epic?

Merl57
Merl57

this article does nothing to explain how BROKEN this game is online it has the most fun concept and some of the best art in the business but the game just does not work online people do not die , host has too much power, and even with the patches it is so buggy, bullets do not hit on target and the collision detection needs work. This is my favorite game and most hated at the same time and I would rather wait a little longer for better quality

Carpe_Noctum
Carpe_Noctum

Interesting. Well, Horde mode just never gets old. It's nice to have something new to do online as adversarial just becomes boring, after so many years I stopped playing it about a year ago. Playing wave's like 39 and 40 with friends on Insane really is a blast.

a7xfan7
a7xfan7

I have to agree with Sydwynder on this one. While the game's single player was decent, but still kept the same style without adding much new, the multiplayer was just god-awful. When I played three weeks ago it would take ten-fifteen minutes to find a game. What is that!? Why would I want to waste that much time FINDING a game, and then playing a game where the gameplay is constantly laggy, imbalanced, and just a matter of who can chainsaw the other person first. The game has way to many flaws in general to be enjoyable at this point. I doubt any patches will fix them.

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

so, have we learned a lesson, Duke Nukem Forever?

MrHanky35
MrHanky35

if they wanted to build on the good formula that they had on gears one, they should have at least left the base formula ALONE. and For The Love OF God give us back the old multiplayer system!!!

tsiper
tsiper

Gears 2 is great!!!! I love the multiplayer and the single player was awesome, i loved getting to know what the situation with dom and maria was. Thanks epic you ROCK!!!!!!!

Sydwynder
Sydwynder

Yeah, having a fixed release date also enables you to release a game with a much bigger, buggier and just plain bad multiplayer....way to go Epic. I'll play Horde mode and that's it. Otherwise I still have Resistance 2, Killzone 2, Halo 3, COD4 and CODWAW and of course Left 4 Dead for mulitplayer. Why would I waste my time on Gears 2 POS multiplayer? Oh yeah and the single player story game was really really lame......a giant worm? Really? That's the best your company could do? Where do I preorder Gears 3?

vivendidoom
vivendidoom

Orig and mace....they wont come out with a new xbox in the next three years. Sorry. And there are plenty of reasons this will not happen. for one the economy, thats an obvious. The second would be a waste of money at this time for microsoft because as of a couple months ago, they just started making money on the console. and the third is, the 360 is still untapped in its utilization of hardware, its just easier to work with than the ps3. I say untapped because all microsoft needs to do is replace it's dvd9 feature, to unlock the 360's true potential and get it off the ground running. its a waste of time and resources for microsoft to make a new console so soon, same goes with the other companies.

XxorigxX
XxorigxX

Epic should release the 3rd gears with the release of the new xbox.

mayceV
mayceV

the next Gears of war is not goin to be on 360 :( its goin to be on the next microsoft game system because its going to use the unreal engine 4 which is exclusively far the next generation systems NOOOOOO!!!! I gotta wait 3 years to get gears 3???????!!!!!!!!!!!!! :*(

moore356
moore356

im all about the multi-player. the single player game was good but the only way a game lasts longer than a week in my house is a good multi-player game. thats why i now play killzone 2. epic i wasted 4 months on your broken game. thats what it is...broken!!! stop releasing new maps and fix your game!!!

MaxBlaze
MaxBlaze

Unless you spend some money on dedicated servers, Epic, multiplayer is always going to be unfair. Chainsaws have vacuums attached to them(in case you haven't played this game). If you try to roll away from them you'll get sucked back in and killed. Can't say that I'm not addicted regardless. Pretty much the only game I play. Just bought the combustible map pack. Kind of regret it...just fueling the scam that is Xbox Live.

Pandemic-7
Pandemic-7

the $30 i got in trade in for GoW2 speaks volumes about rushing games. way to go epic. functional multiplayer my a@#

GodOfSyn
GodOfSyn

lol i heard the multiplayer is better in GoW2 than GoW1 but i dont have the second one and have yet to beat the first one still lol, been so addicted to my ps3 lately for some reason, but want to finish up GoW1 so i can get the 2nd one.

Koal_Jadian
Koal_Jadian

so what features were left out because of the rush? ...functional multiplayer perhaps?

Sins-of-Mosin
Sins-of-Mosin

Just this weekend my friend and I went back and played Gears 2 on co-op after beating it on SP last year. Game still wows me and I can't wait for the 3rd game. Also, it's always fun to play MP at our LANs so we think it's top notch.

iamtheju
iamtheju

He's not saying they made a deadline and rushed the game to meet it, the point is that the solid deadline made them concentrate on producing the game instead of trying a load of experimental changes that would probably only make the game worse. A lot of the time when i finish a game the thing i want most is not a sequel with different controls and features; it's a continuation of the game so i feel like the story is continuing rather than changing into something new. I with the makers of Grand Theft Auto would look at it in the same way as me and stop making new games that have forgotten everything that was in the previous one. GoW2 ftw!

xexis
xexis

If you guys are gonna whine and moan about a supposed broken game go whine on the Xbox.com boards for GoW2 they actually read those so they can get your feedback.

bigtuna753
bigtuna753

TU3 brought alot of good stuff like the ranking system, which i think is much better, and i like when you quit you loose experience, but it sucks when your in a laggy match and you dont wont to quit cuz you loose to much experience, so somthing needs to be done about that, and whats up with the shotty, some mathes it works some its just broken and doesnt kill anyone, and last the bots accuracy is rediculous with there lancer or hammerburst, ive never died that fast from anyone on line so the bots should not be able to do that, so overall TU3 brought alot of good stuff but Gears of War 2 still needs ALOT of work

Sharhan96
Sharhan96

gears of wars 2 was a lot better than gears of war 1. gears of war 2 had better graphics and better storyline.

FlakoPR
FlakoPR

So according to Ferguson, they set a deadline and rushed everything in order to meet it. Is this what he calls a "versioning" mindset - build crap really fast and revise it later with several updates. To me this game was a disappointment.

B1G_DADDY
B1G_DADDY

Gears 2 multiplayer was definately a FAIL, almost everyother game is laggy and the host has way too much of an advantage, I like how they added bots if someone dropped out but when there's lag every other game, the bots will kick your @$$, bots don't lag, and they will get all the kills, getting rid of the melee was worse, I can understand making the melee worse for the shotty because alot of noobs got owned by the two-piece, but why would they screw up melee for every gun? It makes it seem like the melee is just broken, after the update, I finally decided to get rid of the game, BEST decision of my life.

advanracer
advanracer

This game is so different compared to the first gears of war. They not only slowed down the COGs but also lowered the default ammo count. I'm not going to get into numbers. But all i can say is, load the Gears of War take note of the run speed and ammo count and next play Gears of War 2 and you'll notice a significant difference. With all the Updates Epic has done is surely and slowly destroying the games original functionality. All for the sole purpose of preventing the infamous "Roll and Shotgun" manoueuver when it comes to the ever so old "multiplayer" aspect. I mean come on...if that's the so called effective method then..why change it? Regardless of all the tweaks its still the same OLD "run" and "shotgun" game. Horde on the other hand is probably the only relative improvement (er...improvement? right..) I mean "addition" to the game. Gameplay is as predictable as the first one but sadly, as you lurch around and become truely dependent on the OLD roadie run feature you slowly realize the faster moving Locusts gang up on you and by the time you draw your weapon due to the slightly slowed down weapon choice commands on the D-Pad,..you're already on the ground..crawling and before your buddies could even "revive" you. You're dead. Sad this all has to come down to a negative review. But honestly, its just a voice from a humble consumer. Bigger Badder and more Badass? hmmm..yeah right. You mean Bigger, Slower, and more Fatass. Enough SAID.

BattleSword1
BattleSword1

Horde was just barely a good enough addition to make up for the lousy multiplayer. The game's not broken, it's merely in critical need of a patch.

Depresso
Depresso

Yeah, I agree with the criticism, multiplayer was a major disappointment for me. They managed to screw the shotgun detection in favour of constant chainsaw plus sticking tags everywhere is fun at first but then is made too easy. The single mission was great though, even though I didn't feel that was a grand finale anywhere. And no female characters in multiplayer was cheap omission, considering the amount of female players around was a sad act of lazyness.

Nimbuster90
Nimbuster90

Is this an early April Fool's Day joke. "build on the strengths of the first and not necessarily add any massive, game-changing features. " HA! "Every feature you put in is essentially stealing polish time from the other features." HA HA! The biggest complaints about the game are: buggy, not original gameplay, laggy, etc. That contradicts everything he just said. I like his idea, but Gears 2 was an Epic FAIL, not an Epic Game. Try again, or make the third title update a charm.. meaning bring the original gameplay and shotty back, and kill the lag. Don't make me pay for Gears 3 just to get what Gears 2 should have had from the beginning.

abbnormmal
abbnormmal

It only took them 2 years to release a broken expansion pack for the first game? Impressive. Overall I enjoyed the Co-Op campaign of both 1 and 2 (played through with my wife) and the horde mode was alright. But very glitchy, lots of returns to checkpoints from death by geometry, getting stuck on things, and weopons not behaving correctly. Poor multiplayer.

msharki
msharki

This is crap. Why would he say the deadline kept them focused. I could see it making them work harder, but quality games take time. Gears 2 was a good game as was the first, but they were both quite glitchy. Microsoft should be more leanient with their release dates. It's obvious to see where Epic cut it's time (product testing) If the game was tested longer we would have all the glitches that this game can produce.

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

i enjoyed gears 2 got go throught it again some time but got so many great games on xbox with so little time.

ChrnoTrigger
ChrnoTrigger

How hard is it to make a sequel of an already AAA game? Them having trouble would be an excuse if they were making a new IP.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

Well, hopefully, they won't rush GoW3, and since I don't see the Ue3 becomes exponentially better, I wouldn't mind having to wait 3 years for another full-time GoW game, wait for the next generation, or having an expansion a la ODST. The online in GoW2 a horrible net code, there's way too many sessions with lag.

hector530
hector530

so epic is proud of releasing a broken game. cgs

newgames128
newgames128

"Epic Games' Rod Fergusson describes how the best-selling shooter was made in just two years and how fixed release dates can help developers make tough decisions; Franchise growth tips also on tap." ....lol at this. Maybe they should've first mentioned how Gears 2 is essentially an extension of Gears 1's engine, environments, gameplay, etc. and that it really did nothing new. Oh and apparently 2 years wasn't enough time to get the multiplayer working right. How many patches have there been so far? Is it even fixed yet? Yeah, Epic, don't make this title for PC, your obvious expertise lies with the 360 platform, lol.

Jehuty-88
Jehuty-88

I think it should mention the fact that they basicly built above the first game its not like they designed from the round up, however if it was talking about the first gears the time to produce/design would have been much longer

SDMF_TrueBlue
SDMF_TrueBlue

If they focused on adding polish, why does the multiplayer suck? The first Gears was fun online. Also, why do updates and patches cause new bugs and glitches? Epic, please fix the multiplayer for Gears 3.

xPiiTBULL122
xPiiTBULL122

Its funny on how Gamespot and Epic don't even take notice on how the Game actually Flopped online when it was released. Sure it had a great campaign and it sold only because the first one was such a big success but the multiplayer was nearly unplayable on Gears 2's release but now they've fixed it but still, Epic can't just hide the first few months of the Games release.

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

I need to hop online and try this again, want to see the fixes. But RE5 is consuming me, as well as WaW

liam82517
liam82517

I wish they had taken their time so they could have avoided having a broke online game. What exactly did the 3rd update do? apart from the 2 peice "fix" and numbered rank????? it still has horrible lag most of the time, horrible match making, I still see games starting with 3 vs 5 players. I still see people running around with no gun unable to shoot or pick stuff up. Gears would be the best game ever if it would only work properly. Im sick of shooting people 5 or 6 times with a shotgun point blank then being shot once and Im dead, Im sure people are sick of it when its the other way round( neither of us host either). I have a 16MB connection, seriously how much bandwidth does a game with 10 people need?

Buffalodude
Buffalodude

But I am glad they didn't leave it like that.

Buffalodude
Buffalodude

Should have added a month to work out Multiplayer. Horde Mode was a good addition though.