Gears Of War was almost a ‘Battlefield kind-of game’

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Way back when I first got an Xbox 360 console, one of my very first games that I had on the system was the original Gears Of War. Suffice to say, I had never ever played a game like it before. It was brutal, it was fast-paced and the action was relentless. And it was almost a very, very different game when it was first being developed.

Gears (1)

Speaking to GamesTM, programmer James Golding revealed that Gears Of War originally had a different name and style. The game was originally going to be known as Unreal Warfare, and would have focused on massive multiplayer battles with vehicles and infantry thrown into the mix. “Gears started as a class-based Battlefield kind-of game,” Golding said.

It had classes, mechs and it was going to be multiplayer focussed… that was until [Cliff Belszinski] played Medal of Honor and he was like ‘no, single-player campaign is where it’s at!’ Because we’d been working on Unreal Tournament 3 before that (and then Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004) by the time we came back to look at Unreal Warfare, it’d been a couple of years and the industry had completely changed.

We saw the rise of more single-player and campaign-based games, so we took Unreal Warfare back to the drawing board – it became just ‘Warfare’, got another name, then another name (but we always kept the ‘War’ part – that stayed!). We redid a whole bunch of the characters at this point, too: we went from the traditional-looking soldiers to a more sci-fi looking thing and certain precepts like ‘no laser guns’ came along a little bit later, and it slowly became more in line with the Gears of War we know now.

After that decision to scrap the multiplayer focus, the game went under the working title of Warfare, with development focused largely on the main campaign. A revised version of the game then appeared at GDC 2002, setting the template for a title where four soldiers explored the underground areas of an alien planet, setting the stage for the eventual COGS vs Locust theme of the Gears Of War franchise.

Gears (2)

According to Golding, Gears of War art director Jerry O’Flaherty took many of the existing Warfare assets before retooling them to form the signature style of Gears Of War. All in all, the development from concept to final game took half a decade. “The team at Unreal was working on the first draft of the game in 2001, as a multiplayer game, and Gears shipped in 2006 – so it took five years for the whole project to become this very different, whole other thing,” Golding explained.

Epic has moved on since then though, having cranked out a trilogy of VREEM VREEM games. Despite a lacklustre prequel, there’s still plenty of life in the franchise now that is has a new direction and a team dedicated to creating Gears Of War games, in the form of Black Tusk studio. While I doubt development will hover around the five year mark, it might still be at least a year before we finally get to see what studio manager Rod Fergusson and his team have in store.

Personally, I just want some solid multiplayer in the next game. My chainsaw rifle hungers for unsuspecting kills from behind.

Last Updated: August 21, 2014

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