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Gears of War 2 panel: 'hot chicks,' stereotypes, living cover and more

While megatons were nary to be found at Epic Games' Gears of War 2 panel at this year's New York Comic Con, Epic president Michael Capps and writer Joshua Ortega nonetheless revealed a few tidbits that are sure to pique the interest of the Gears faithful.

Immediately after production on the first Gears wrapped up, the team had to ask itself what it could to make the game "bigger" and "more badass." For example, they saw how people responded to the last-minute addition of the chainsaw. What could they do to improve the chainsaw? Chainsaw duels, perhaps?

Cover, which is admittedly inspired by the oft-forgotten Kill.switch, will also be expanded upon in the sequel. Players have already taken cover behind inanimate objects: rocks, walls, etc. But, what if players could take cover behind moving, living things? What if players could kill a massive enemy and then use it as cover? This ultimately led to the development of massive worm creatures for the sequel.




Dom and his "hot chick" (or, what's the story focusing on?)
Epic discovered that gamers enjoyed playing as Dom, and wanted to flesh out his character a bit more in the sequel. "It's humanity's last stand," Ortega notes. But he still wanted to create a more "human" story for Gears 2. Dom's long-lost love interest, Maria, will play an important role in the new story. A more practical matter was brought up by Capps: "Our game is sadly void of hot chicks." Maria would fill that void.

The heroes aren't the only ones that will feel more "human" in the sequel. The Locust finally gained a (British) voice at the end of the original Gears. Expect them to be slightly more "sympathetic" in the sequel, as we see more of their story. However, Capps notes that the game can't make the enemies too human: "In video game storytelling, you really have to build archetypal characters because in Gears of War, Marcus had a hundred lines of dialog -- it's hard to go deeper into his motivations. Spending that time with bad guys is even harder."

"Graphics is pretty much universally hailed as the easiest way to get someone to take a look."

Graphics, then gameplay
Capps talked about the hierarchy of game development. While Wii fans may argue the point, he puts graphics at the top of that list. "Graphics is pretty much universally hailed as the easiest way to get someone to take a look ... if it looks really cool, it gets them in way, way faster than good controls do because they're not playing it yet." Of course, good looks are simply meant to lure people in. After that, it's all about controls, gameplay systems, and balance. When designing a game, all these game mechanics must come before the story. Capps thinks that any other method may create a game that simply isn't fun.

DLC should be free
Even though the game hasn't even released yet, one gamer in the audience asked about the potential for DLC in the future. "Epic has been doing downloadable content since 1996," Capps reminded the audience. His policy on DLC seems to echo the sentiments of Valve's Gabe Newell: "You can make money in post-sales, but you can also convince your fans that 'I bet if I buy Gears 2, I'll get a lot of free sh*t afterwards.'" The recent trend of charging for map packs is something that Capps doesn't seem to approve of.



Is Cole a stereotype?
Fans in the audience expressed their appreciation of Cole Train. However, Capps wanted to speak on the recent controversy over accusations that the character is merely a stereotype. Morgan Gray, Senior Producer at Crystal Dynamics, said "Cole Train is basically like every other effin' black character in a video game. Like here comes the urban stereotype ... They go really far to do a lot of fictional justifications for this culture that they've built, and they go right back to this urban stereotype for the black character."

Capps insinuated that the criticisms may not be valid from a team that created the Lara Croft character. "That character is so Rasta," Capps added. The voice actor ad-libbed most of his lines, Capps noted as his defense.

What about the movie?
Hollywood has been working on a film adaptation of Gears of War. However, not much is known about the project. Seems like legal issues continue to slow the development of this project. "Working with the movie industry is pretty complicated ... it's mostly legal stuff." Capps is obviously excited for the project. With a movie, there's no technical limitations to worry about: "I don't have to worry about framerate ... there's a lot of scenes I'd love to see in a movie."



"Maybe I'll just find a way to give away the PC version for free."

The brumak no one killed
The Games for Windows version of Gears of War included an extra level, which helped fill a plot gap between the mansion and the train yard. PC players were able to experience an epic fight against a Brumak which the 360 version will never get (due to differences between the PC and 360 versions of the Unreal Engine). Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that this "deleted scene" will ever get its play on consoles. "I'm really proud of that content and I'd love to get it in more people's hands but I can't ... maybe I'll just find a way to give away the PC version for free."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.