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Gears of War can "do a lot more" now that Microsoft owns it

Black Tusk producer Rod Fergusson says Microsoft owning the IP means "we can expand its breadth and do a lot more stuff with it."

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During a special Twitch stream last night, Black Tusk producer Rod Fergusson, who is leading development on the new Gears of War game for Xbox One, discussed the project and even showed off a piece of concept art, though it's quite blurry. Check it out below.

"It's only been 100 days, so I can't go into a lot of depth about a lot of things," Fergusson said about the new Gears of War. "This isn't going to be the place where I can announce the name of the next game and all these sorts of things. Obviously, it's going to take some time to get to a point where we can do so."

"We are in what we would call the concept/prototype phase so we're really super early," he added.

Discussing the challenges of starting a new studio and working on such a major franchise, Fergusson said: "The hardest part is getting people up to speed on the way you make Gears. Everybody here is a Gears of War fan; everybody's played the games and loved the games. But there's a sort of style; the way you have to think about when you make a Gears of War game."

Fergusson pointed out that the Gears of War franchise has a lot of rules, design methodologies, and central pillars that go into making a great experience. Making sure everyone at Black Tusk is on the same page and trending toward the same goal is another challenge, Fergusson said.

An advantage Fergusson says Black Tusk has in making the new Gears of War game for Xbox One is that Microsoft now owns the IP. The backing and support of Microsoft means Black Tusk can "push a lot harder" in many "major areas," he said. "I think the franchise can do a lot more now that Microsoft owns the IP. We can expand its breadth and do a lot more stuff with it."

Gears of War Xbox One concept art.
Gears of War Xbox One concept art.

Fergusson went on to say that Black Tusk benefits from coming at the Gears of War series with fresh sets of eyes. Of course, Fergusson is a Gears of War veteran, having worked on the original trilogy, but the team he's assembled around him is new to the series. He pointed out that Epic Games spent seven years making Gears of War games, and, "After you've made the same game for seven years, it's a little bit harder, like 'how do I make it different?' And I think you might have picked up a little of that out of Gears of War: Judgment."

What Black Tusk brings to the Gears of War franchise is "raw enthusiasm," as well as passion and energy, Fergusson said. He went on to say that it's not uncommon for watercooler conversations, and awkward urinal conversations, to be about Gears of War.

It's likely that the next Gears of War game for Xbox One will have some form of multiplayer mode, and though Fergusson didn't give specifics, he did offer up his thoughts about what defines a Gears of War multiplayer experience.

"It really is about intensity and about responsibility and about accountability," Fergusson said. He said in Call of Duty games, he feels like an individual (because he doesn't play with clans), and though there are 11 other people on his team, "I feel like I have my own personal objectives, I want to unlock my red lasersight or what have you, but I'm not really so [caring] about the results of the match or the well-being of my team. Whereas in Gears...nothing gets my palms sweaty more than you know that it's on you; so when you die you know I left my team a man short. And now that's why I feel this sense of accountability. As we look forward, we have to really focus on and double down on is the idea of owning what it is that makes Gears unique and embracing what is Gears instead of potentially taking a different [approach]."

Lastly, Fergusson said Black Tusk will do its best to stay true to Gears of War canon for its new game, but he made it clear that the studio won't have any reservations about deviating if it's in the interest of fun.

"If you know anything about me, I always believe fun is greater than canon," Fergusson said. "That's not to say I'm going out of my way to destroy canon…" He pointed out that Black Tusk will pay tribute to existing Gears of War novels as much as they can, but, "if I get to a situation that I have to make a decision between what's really fun that may invalidate a comic book, odds are that I'm going to make that fun decision."

There's no release date, or even a title, for the new Gears of War game for Xbox One. Microsoft's E3 2014 briefing is slated for June 9, and the company plans to announce new games and new sequels during the event, though it's unclear if Gears of War will be part of the show.

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