GO3: Gears of War was about fun, not innovation: Epic producer

Gears of War producer defends title against claims of unoriginality; says games should not innovate for innovation's sake.

The Xbox 360's Gears of War may have sold millions of copies and garnered multiple awards, but that didn't stop critics from pointing out that the game's cover-based gameplay and gruff-marines-facing-insurmountable-odds storyline wasn't exactly breaking new ground. Epic Games producer Rod Fergusson has now jumped to his game's defence, saying that games should be fun first and innovative second.

Fergusson, speaking to GameSpot AU at the GO3 Conference held in Perth, Australia, this past weekend, says people are missing the point when they criticise mainstream games like Gears for a lack of innovation.

"That was the thing that bothered me with some of the early European reaction to Gears, that it wasn't being innovative enough," Fergusson said. "There's no mandate in the games industry that we have to make games that are totally innovative--the mandate is to make games that are fun."

"I'm sure everyone has heard of games where people say, oh, it's very innovative, but it's not fun to play. Well, that's death, even if it is innovative. It's about finding that sweet spot between evolution and revolution.

"By taking more evolutionary steps rather than revolutionary ones, it allows you to take something gamers know and improve on it. And I think that's what a lot of the game industry is about. For example, our cover system--it's something that kill.switch and other games brought to the gaming world, but Gears was able to say OK, we're going to take this, and we're going to evolve it and make it stronger. And I think a lot of games do that."

Fergusson said that the industry still needs innovation to move forward, however. He said the independent games sector should be the key place where innovation is encouraged, as independents face less commercial pressures than larger development houses.

"There is obviously still a need for high innovation, there is a need for revolutionary titles. A lot of the revolutionary stuff will tend to come from the independent game industry. They have the opportunity to be edgy and not worry about having to sell a million units," he said.

"You can still be revolutionary, but you have to focus on what are the anchors, what are the ways that your game can be approachable to the mainstream audience without being so revolutionary that it becomes a game that no one gets or understands--you don't want to innovate for innovation's sake, instead of innovating for fun's sake."

Fergusson was one of the keynote speakers at the GO3 Conference. In his speech, Fergusson outlined some of Epic's detailed planning before Gears of Wars was released to maximise its potential as a system-selling game. Fergusson said one of his company's key strategies was to develop a unified marketing approach from very early in the game's development. This allowed the brand to develop strongly months before its actual release.

"I think this is one of the strengths of Microsoft, that they have this continuity of message, this idea of having visual identities, making sure that their marketing is consistent--it's something relatively new but they're executing well on it. There are not a lot of games that you can put an icon up and have people immediately recognise what game it is, but we have that with the Crimson Omen." he said. The Crimson Omen is the round gear-shaped logo with a skull inside used for Gears of War.

While Fergusson would not be drawn on the existence of any Gears sequels, he did say that the film version would carry on the same themes as the game--destroyed beauty, humanity's last stand, nightmarish horror, and never fight alone.

"We already have these strong themes, and working with a film company, we had to come up with some creative guidelines where we set out the do's and don'ts of our IP. But ultimately, you have to give control to the creatives in that medium and let them do what's best for that medium. Is it scary? Sure. But you have to allow them to create in their own space," he said.

Discussion

202 comments
pixelsword
pixelsword

THAT'S being picky for pickiness sake. Gears reminds me of kill.switch mixed with Rainbow Six, so it's not original at all, but man, it's fun. Resistance is like a beefed-up Halo2 mixed with Medal of Honor, but again it's fun! And Paper Mario is like... well, kinda like every other Mario game, but still it's fun. Being original in a game isn't the same as being enjoyable...or smart.

A game that's too original will often suffer from being unfamiliar and confusing. imagine if the multiple joystick-button, and pad controller for the PS2 came out right after the Atari 2600's joystick. Now while "innovative" compared to the one stick and one button 2600 joystick, it would've been too unfamiliar and therefore ultimately rejected for it's confusing configuration. If the gradual addition of buttons and sticks were to take a quantum leap, then it would've been different. Pac Man took a leap from the nice but mostly monochrome games of it's day. Rescue at Rigel was the first game that used "bullet time". Spy Hunter was the first game where you could change characters in-game. Street Fighter and Street Fighter II were innovative as fighting games and defined the fighting game genre. Virtua fighter took a leap from 2-D to the first massively successful 3-D game. Doom's 3D world was a game that took a quantum leap over the flat-floored games like it's predecessor Wolfenstein, pioneering use of immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming on the PC platform, and the support for players to create custom expansions (WADs). Tomb Raider was one of the first woman lead characters. While each game were innovative in and of themselves, timeliness of the need was a factor; and, if you notice, they built themselves on on the other.

The most innovative games this "gen" will come when the programmers, systems, and the technology are settled and companies are familiar enough to know the programmer's limits and the system's limits. Now the most innovative leaps at this time will be hand-in-hand with graphics, and sometimes with gameplay. Crysis doesn't look innovative in terms of gameplay, but the graphics are where it's innovative qualities will reside. After the technical and graphical enhances are made, the innovative gameplay will arise. This may occur in the games production cycle or after the first release of Crysis. If with the game, then it will be perceived as "innovative" as a whole, but if a graphic innovation or gameplay innovation will come after the other in another game, the initial game won't be looked on as innovative. Both Gears and Resistance were like that; But then the second installment of these games come out, watch out. Lair looks like it may nail it depending on if they can pull off the gameplay and controls. Now if Gears changed it's gameplay too much, you wouldn't probably like it as much, as well as Resistance; but as it is, "critics" will be calling for changes that they'll eventually hate because if companies listen to them and are pushed to innovate for the sake of innovation, the games will be crappy for the sake of crappiness; and it's not like critics know what to do, 'cause if they did, they'd be working for companies instead of writing blogs.

Let the gamers game, the programmers program, and the critics shut up.

_Sam_
_Sam_

the game was still very successful ;)

theKSMM
theKSMM

Those are words of wisdom. The idea of balance between innovation and fun in games is a hard sweet spot to hit. Hopefully the AAA titles will continue to push the technological envelope, while games with compelling new modes of gameplay will find venues in downloadable game services.

705H1R0
705H1R0

Sure, there are a lot of things about GoW that aren't new, but they're certainly done the best. Even so, you could say the same of many 5-star releases on any next-gen platform. Unreal Tournament is just a glorified deathmatch, as is the Battlefield series. Saints Row took tons of ideas from GTA. Rainbow 6 is about counter-terrorists fighting terrorists. Motorstorm is basically a beefed up version of Midway's Offroad Challenge. Viva Pinata has similar elements to Harvest Moon. Need I go on? Nearly every game out borrows some idea from something else, whether its a small detail or a large part of the gameplay. It's like they say: good artists borrow, great artists steal. And really, that's okay, as long as they make it better and acknowledge where they got their inspiration. I think it's pretty clear that Epic has accomplished that.

imrlybord7
imrlybord7

I thought Gears was very innovative. Active Reloads, cool weapons, mix of fast paced and tactical multiplayer, interesting multiplayer strategies, many ways to interact with cover, etc.

V-Nine
V-Nine

Doom/Wolfenstein lives on..... I kinda miss Duke Nukem though.

Mkeegs79
Mkeegs79

It will never matter if the game is fun. That is all that will ever matter. The innovation of the Wii DOESN'T guarantee fun gameplay as everyone blinding thinks. It will have it's many lackluster games Far Cry and Red Steel anyone? Anyway, Gears of War does did many things right to be considered a great fun game.

mixhawkeye
mixhawkeye

I guess selling millions of copies means it mustve been advertised well? or perhaps it was just a game that was great.

smoothn00dle
smoothn00dle

Game developer are stupid. Just shut up and make game.

chadstew
chadstew

is it possible to make a good film out of a game that is meant to immitate a cheap sci-fi action film?? lets hope so... *fingers crossed*

thug_angel123
thug_angel123

now do tell me why the hell did every freakin site gave it nearly full scores goew was criticized more for being over rated rather then lacking any inovation..

Paceydre
Paceydre

At PixyMisao: I haven't red your big message below but I saw one thing in your news post which was "Apparently there's some double standard that it's okay for Gears of War not to have a story," Well, you're wrong. Gears has a story but in the game it isn't a big one. It's more a story in progress. Sure Halo has a story in the games, but that story is small if you haven't red the 4 books (3 great books from Eric Nylund). Eric Nylund is also going to write books for Gears so expect the story to continue in the future and I can tell you this, it will be great :) Eric Nylund knows his stuff and he executes it very well. I just finished reading his 3rd book for the Halo Universe (Ghosts of Onyx). After thinking (for a few months by now) about Gears of War's storyline in the game...and thinking about the many things that can be done in the Gears universe I can say that we can expect BIG things in the future. About the movie: I just hope they won't f**k this IP up since the movie could break things if it isn't done in a way which the Gears universe needs. For now the story is little, but it has the ability to grow into something epic. Time will tell, and gaming keeps me young on the inside....so bring it on,... in the future :)

PixyMisao
PixyMisao

Farreg > Millions of sales don't necessarily mean much of anything except that the game was advertised on tv well and done frequently. There are dozens upon dozens of mediocre and bad games that sell millions of copies every year, but that doesn't make them any better than indisputably quality games that sold less (let alone a perfect balance of anything). Gears of War in the end is just another video game, and no video game is above criticism. But it's part of a new breed of video games where innovation is taking a backseat to playing it safe and making the online game better than the offline one. He has a point that fun is more important than innovation, but at the same time a lack of invention is a template for laziness and only aiming for 2nd and 3rd place. Placating the masses with another FPS Wolfenstein clone, another 3D Fighter with cliche'd characters, more Mega Man games with nonsensical plots, and another RPG with the spikey haired swordsman that saves a mysterious girl from darkness trying to rule the world. Most disturbing of all is that it renders original source material as unimportant, like how everyone says Doom-clone instead of Wolfenstein-clone. But that's a socialogical issue. Apparently there's some double standard that it's okay for Gears of War not to have a story, but if Zelda misses a plot-point then the whole game is ruined. You can go thru dozens of the same rooms in Halo games, but if it happens in Castlevania the game is "crap". Gears of War can copy Halo's exact control scheme, but if any other game of similar quality copied a famous control scheme it would be sacrelige.

Farreg
Farreg

Millions of sales say the game was the perfect balance between fun and innovative. Maybe we should criticise the critics for not coming up with any innovative questions...

osxgp
osxgp

Give me a break. If you don't like it, don't play it. I had fun playing it as well as millions of other people. Who cares if it wasn't original? Not many games are. Every game takes something from another game. It's called influences. Yeah I thought maybe they could have done this or that (like with every game), but it didn't ruin my experience playing GOW. I liked the characters of GOW and didn't need a background on them to enjoy the game. Here's an idea, if all the critics of GOW have a better idea for a game, let's see their results. Enough said!

Countachlpsx
Countachlpsx

I think the story is definitely not as much shallow as short...the world you get put into is completely immersive...the story is amazingly interesting and although underdeveloped...people who havent played it really should give it a chance..co-op is amazing

malmeid2
malmeid2

You guys can talk all the trash you want about GeoW and rather than defending it I'll just say this; You are certainly missing out on some great fun and a great game. Period. Also, as a side note, every game can't be "exceedingly original and innovative" but if a game takes a tried and true idea or genre and nearly perfects it, a few bugs aside, I still think that's pretty impressive. I certainly think that Gears is an improvement over every other shooter I had played thus far. The cover, pop, and shoot mechanics of the game are outstanding and certainly a breath of fresh air from the normal "spray and pray, bob your control stick left and right, jump up and down so you can't shoot me" CounterStrike/Halo/R:FoM type of games.

ocdog45
ocdog45

its true, if reloading is innovationg your thinking wrong. nothing was new in that game.

nintendorocks
nintendorocks

Rod Fergusson is right. A game should not just innovate so it can say, "Hey, look I'm innovative." That being said I don't think Gears of War was unoriginal at all. I've sure never played a game like Gears of War.

Redsyrup
Redsyrup

AvIdGaMeR444, I disagree about MGS3 and TP being merely AA titles, but thats irrelevant as that's only a small difference of opinion. What you're really saying is you believe Gears is a AA title and that's ok, but I'd grade it more like a B because the story is so mediocre, and the game play seems conventional, keep in mind I've only *seen a ton of videos. What's disheartening is I think Gears had a much larger budget than *most titles and they choose not to spend any of those dollars on innovation. Graphics don't make game play.

AvIdGaMeR444
AvIdGaMeR444

RedSyrup...you only play AAA titles? Man, you're missing out on a lot of great AA games like MGS3, TP, GT4...etc.

splintercelldg
splintercelldg

Demoman286th- To answer your Question, I don't have any preference for any particular system, the one with the games I like the most is the one I'l get. Also, Millions of people can like something, that doesn't make it good. Remember the Macarena? Remember how everybody loved it? It's a fad, Gears is a FAD. Innovation isn't solely about making a new genre, it's about doing something nobody has seen before and making it last. For example, everyone whines about how uninnovative the WWII shooter is, well guess what? I can make a WWII game that'll get people to rethink their minds; What did Cliffy B. do when he made Gears of War? Appeal to the mass majority, that in and of itself confirms to me he has no Talent. Video Games are an Art, and this game tells me that people don't want a Piccasso or a Van Gough, they want a Jasper Johns. They want the same old slop fed to them with prettier graphics and a more palatable taste. So yeah, in a couple of years, when you're all playing DeathKill-360: Death Ceases Not for the Tiger on your Xbox720 and being excited over how awesome it is to chainsaw your enemies with Chainsaw Nunchuks. I'm going to be perfectly happy bursting your little ignorant bubbles ____________________________________________ (before i start, im aching to hear about that innovative WWII shooter you could come up with, really i would.) Well first off, you could have fooled me about your preferences toward a system. When you say stuff like "to hell with microsoft, to hell with GoW, To hell with people who dont agree with me", along with that jab at nintendo (nunchucks), you can understand why i'd think you had a bit of fanboyism in you. Personally, i believe you are another pissed off Sony fanboy, but neither of us can really prove otherwise. As for GoW being a fad, you have no idea if it will or wont be, you never know what was a fad until years later, so you can't make that judgement call. You might hope it's just another fad, or think it's just another fad. But like i said, until enough time has passed, you just can't make that assessment, or at least not logically. And i never said innovation was creating a new genre. You really can't create any new genres now days. Simply because there isn't much left that hasn't been touched on, (i.e. cooking, singing, drawing, even math isn't safe anymore). As i was saying though, innovation isn't creating new genre's, or even new ideas, its creating new ideas within a genre that the majority of people can enjoy. If i create some weird new shirt brand, something that no one has seen before, but only 12 people buy it, can you call that innovation? No, because no one else finds any use for it. If you think that game developers (even ones all about innovation) want to make games that are always new and only appeal to hardcore gamers, then you are sadly mistaken. I believe, as i'm sure many other gamers do, that innovation can exist in taking a fairly new concept, strengthening it, then puting it out there for people to enjoy. Not something that no one HAS ever seen before, but something AS people have never seen before. For example, God of War, Prince of Persia, Ninja Gaiden, Onimusha, Devil May Cry. All of these games are considered by many to be some of the best around. Think about it for a second, these games are just plain fun. But what did they really do? they took specific parts of a genre, and made them just unbelievable. That in itself was innovation to many, many gamers. As for your last statement, you go ahead and stay away from mainstream gaming, just waiting for that next truely "fun AND innovative" game. Keep missing all the fantastic and fun games just because they aren't original enough for you, trying to burst our "ignorant bubbles". We'll just sit here being ignorant, having a blast, and playing our little thumbs off waiting for you.

Pete5506
Pete5506

This was a ok game, not one of the best

Redsyrup
Redsyrup

I haven't played Gears, and I might be under estimating it, but it doesn't look worth my time. I only play AAA titles and when I play I want innovation in game play as well as graphics. I also want a story in an action adventure title. RE4 was the last game I played and that was the PC conversion. Before that FF4 on GBA. I think most people bought Gears for it's graphics. And I'm not hating on it but from all the videos I've seen, it looks like a hollow experience.

ticalmc2k2
ticalmc2k2

Now that even Epic admits that GeoW is not very innovative, can you fanboys finally stop praising its innovation? It is a f*kin great game though.

TryMe01
TryMe01

that is true, i never saw GoW to innovate, rather doing the best of any kind in its genre

Demoman286th
Demoman286th

-splintercelldg "What he's saying is, the elements implemented in his game have been time tested to be fun, and millions of people who have seen them in action, or have played them for themselves, love the ideas. So how can you disagree with millions of gamers? No one can make you think something is fun, they know that, you know that. But they can say, "hey, everyone else thinks it is fun, maybe you will too". Now get over yourself" To answer your Question, I don't have any preference for any particular system, the one with the games I like the most is the one I'l get. Also, Millions of people can like something, that doesn't make it good. Remember the Macarena? Remember how everybody loved it? It's a fad, Gears is a FAD. Innovation isn't solely about making a new genre, it's about doing something nobody has seen before and making it last. For example, everyone whines about how uninnovative the WWII shooter is, well guess what? I can make a WWII game that'll get people to rethink their minds; What did Cliffy B. do when he made Gears of War? Appeal to the mass majority, that in and of itself confirms to me he has no Talent. Video Games are an Art, and this game tells me that people don't want a Piccasso or a Van Gough, they want a Jasper Johns. They want the same old slop fed to them with prettier graphics and a more palatable taste. So yeah, in a couple of years, when you're all playing DeathKill-360: Death Ceases Not for the Tiger on your Xbox720 and being excited over how awesome it is to chainsaw your enemies with Chainsaw Nunchuks. I'm going to be perfectly happy bursting your little ignorant bubbles

Mariofan1314
Mariofan1314

Gears is the best game I've played so far. Besides Saints Row.

Martyr
Martyr

gears is awesome, critics can eat it...

jc_tkml
jc_tkml

it's about fun people after playing the hard mode I doubt I'll be playing the Insane it feels so long if you play on Insane too hard to finish for me

damo11486
damo11486

It doesn't matter that the story line or plot wasn't innovative, its about the look of the game and gameplay, which for me , were both breathtaking, no game can be innovative in terms of story or situation because everything has been done before anyway

Somini
Somini

Well, thid Fergusson guy obviously knows what he's talking about. Most games that are truely innovative never reach the average gamer and the games that are the most main-stream will never appeal to the hard-core gamers. You'll have to find a middle ground! Games that are only some-what innovative will always be the most successful.

smoothn00dle
smoothn00dle

GOW, may sounds like a good game. But Epic sounds like an insecure boy, why do u say something like that? It is not like anyone care, they make ton of money. God of War, go go go!!

dartvuggh
dartvuggh

You've got a good point Veveqa, but the reason that Epic ripped off Warhammer 40k (and the same reason that blizzard ripped off original warhammer) is because to "he press and gamers so young they've apparent never played Quake or Doom", they've never seen chainsaw bayonets or great cover systems. Gears is the Ford (cars) of the xbox 360, it didnt invent its ideas, it only mass produced it. Plus, when a kid does start to play warhammer, they can relate to. "Hey, that guy looks a guy from GoW, cool!" Great game, so what if they ripped someone else off over it

veveqa
veveqa

He's certainly right that despite the gibbering from the press and gamers so young they've apparent never played Quake or Doom, GoW was not, on any level, an original game. It was, however, a reasonably good game. Even the chainsaw bayonet wasn't original. Various people in Warhammer 40K have had such things since at least 1988 (I remember some of first plastic Marine minatures I made had optional chainsaw bayonets). Basically they got the whole thing by ripping off and Americanising Warhammer 40k, just like Warcraft ripped off and Americanised the original Warhammer. That's what I'd tend to condemn. Not unoriginality when it comes to gameplay design, that's fine, but severe unoriginality when it comes to setting design is somewhat lame.

TWOC2689
TWOC2689

I agree even though it might look prity and that chainsaw bayonet were new ideas it was not a breakthrough for gaming and this is what appeils to gamers. Go Epic and M$.

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

"Games should be innovative AND fun." But if everybody is out "innovating," then who's going to refine the ideas that come up? After all, the first version of an idea is seldom the best implementation of it - sometimes its pretty raw but with obvious potential. Innovation and refinement are both needed. And to be honest? Some of the greatest games the world has known are decades, hundreds, even thousands of years old, and are still being played today. That's one thing video games don't have going for them - longevity.

Private_Vegas
Private_Vegas

Here here! Fun first, innovation second. I'm glad to see someone in the industry say it. Innovaating things can suck just as much as the norm.

Loosenut
Loosenut

Okay, so let me get this straight...no more FPS, RTS, Racing, RPG, etc... because of course these have already been done. developers need to make something new??? Just plain nosense. Sounds like somebody wishes that they would have come up with GoW.

kdt55
kdt55

Gears won about 8,000 awards. He should let that do the talking.

makemeweak
makemeweak

He makes some great points. I think Epic got it right, because Gears is a blast to play!

lamprey263
lamprey263

I originally thought that GEARS OF WAR's cover system was taken from Namco's KILL SWITCH. But does that really matter? What game is totally original? What awesome WW2 shooter didn't get everything from a movie? Still, if GEARS OF WAR deserves to be criticized, it should be for its lack of story.

mrynthom
mrynthom

I work for a small independent developer, and in order to be seen you have to innovate or find a nitch market. It isn't an insult stating that indie developers should innovate, because the major companies do control the main market. The key is fun is always more important than innovation. Red Steel tried innovated control with the wii, and Gears is far better.

Hoopin4thelove
Hoopin4thelove

gears is one of the best shooter ever made. stop haten its not good for you heart. yall wake up haten eat some breakfast first. and take back that expensive forman grill that allows you to play garbage 360 rejects.