Epic Worked on Gears of War 4 for Six Months Before Abandoning It

Not everything was lost, however.

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A new report today from Game Informer shines a light on the work that Gears of War creator Epic Games did on Gears of War 4 before the studio ultimately decided to drop it and sell the franchise to Microsoft.

Epic did preproduction on Gears of War 4 for more than six months before deciding to move on--with the game and with the franchise overall. Producer Rod Fergusson, who worked on Gears of War 4 at Epic and is now leading the game at Microsoft studio The Coalition, said he saw the writing on the wall for Epic going in a different direction as it related to game development.

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"Back in the days of Unreal Engine 3, [Epic] had this belief that we'd only build technology that we would use," he explained. "So if Gears didn't need it, it generally didn't get put into the engine. That was from a perspective of, if we don't use it, it’s going to decay. If we don't touch it, it will just rot on the vine and then we'd have bad code.

"That's not how it was with Gears 4," he added. "Epic's initial Gears 4 engine was very mobile- and PC-centric more than it was console-focused. You can see their focus shift towards games like Fortnite and Paragon and stuff like that."

Game Informer goes on to mention that, following Chinese Internet giant's major investment in Epic, the North Carolina-based studio started making more PC-focused titles. "It's possible that Epic didn't know how the Gears franchise fit into this new vision," it reported, adding that, after Fergusson and Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski exited Epic, questions about the future of the brand emerged.

Epic ultimately started up conversations with Microsoft about selling Gears of War. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer was part of those negotiations, and he told Game Informer, "[Epic] didn't have a real clear roadmap for where Gears was going" after Tencent invested in Epic and Fergusson and Bleszinski left.

Microsoft officially acquired the Gears of War franchise in January 2013 for an undisclosed sum.

As for how Epic's vision for Gears of War 4 differs from The Coalition's, it's not exactly clear. But it is known that Epic came up with the idea for the fourth game to be set in the future with Marcus Fenix's son in the lead role, two pieces of the story that The Coalition kept intact.

While the new Swarm enemy type was part of Epic's original plan for Gears of War 4, The Coalition changed it significantly. "We started talking about what the Swarm would be at Epic, but [The Coalition] completely changed it as we developed the game on our own. The name stuck, but none of the monsters stuck," he said.

For more interesting insight into Gears of War 4's development, be sure to read the full Game Informer story as well as the magazine's cover story in its April issue.

Gears of War 4 has co-op, a staple of the series, but it is limited limited to two players locally and online, and not four, as was the case with Gears of War 3. It's unclear what Epic had in mind in terms of co-op for its original vision for Gears of War 4.

In other news, the sequel's resolution and frame rate have been confirmed, and The Coalition has teased that a PC version is "possibly" in the works.

Gears of War 4 will launch in full in fall 2016 and a beta will be held in April.

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