Among all the hardcore tech talk that permeates much of the sessions at GDC, there are talks that us mere mortals can appreciate; sessions that discuss the process of making games in terms that are a bit broader in scope than the nitty-gritty elements of coding. One such example was Cliffy B's session this morning: Designing Gears of War: Iteration Wins. In it, Mr. B made a strong case for the creative process as a process something that takes equal parts creative muscle and rigid discipline, along with a complete lack of ego in order to ensure that the final product is as strong as possible. Of course, Cliffy's resume speaks for itself so he must be on to something. Among the interesting little nuggets from this morning's session:
- When it was first envisioned, Gears of War went by the code name of "Unreal Warfare," and was initially going to deal with large-scale class-based battles ala Team Fortress.
- The Locusts in Gears were initially known as geists (from the German word for ghost), until the team ran into legal trouble with Nintendo's sci-fi shooter, Geist.
- As the game evolved, the team referred to the game internally as "Resident Killswitch" a reference to two of the games from which Gears draws its main source of inspiration--Resident Evil 4 and kill.switch. The intense narrative of Resident Evil 4 inspired the action, while kill.switch's innovative cover mechanic was the basis for the system used in Gears.
- Another idea borrowed from RE4: off-set characters on the screen. Cliffy made a special point of criticizing action games that put the hero in the center of the screen, saying this placement only serves to block the player's view of the action.
- The four most valuable tools in Cliffy's design arsenal: FRAPS (for capturing footage of games to show developers), Test Track Pro for tracking bugs, Outlook for communicating with the team via e-mail, and, perhaps most importantly, personally harassing his team until a feature or element fit his vision of the game.
- The low-down wobbly sprint used when the Gears are sprinting from point to point is known internally as the "roadie run"--a reference to the crouched motion rock band roadies use when running on stage to fix a broken amp or replace a microphone.
- Thanks to a number of factors--as the wobbly camera, the slightly lower and wider field of vision--the "roadie run" mechanic makes it look like you're really trucking along. It's an optical illusion of sorts, however--in actuality Marcus Fenix and his crew only move 1.2 times faster than their normal jogging pace.