A Macho Made In Heaven

While Kieron has been making space-adventurers wear hot pink and disco-dance in Tabula Rasa, I’ve been feeling the effects of a swollen Y chromosome playing some Gears Of War on PC. Big, big men, see how they kill. I’m not sure what it is about Epic’s current design ethos, but I just can’t get over the hyper-solidity of these soldiers and their kill-to-be-caring attitudinizing. Marcus and Dom. It’s like each knows what the other one is thinking…

Anyway, the RPS verdict on Gears’ transition to PC is a good one. It looks incredible (if very gloomy) on my weaker-than-thou PC, and my reviewing comrades (much farther ahead than I in the world of ‘War) attest that the new levels fix a great big plot-hole and make the game a more satisfying length (and girth, presumably – InnuendoBot). It’s a fun time and so hyperbolically violent that you can’t help Ooohing and Aaaahing like the blood were a fireworks display.

All of which unsavoury suggestion leads me to this video, which is a kind of trailer for the Unreal 3.0 Editor and scripting toolkit, which arrives free with Gears. The question is: will anyone make a decent Gears Of War mod? When I met Cliffy B earlier this year he predicted “the entire game reskinned as World War II” within moments, but could we get something more interesting? The entire game reskinned in pink and yellow? Let’s have Gears Of War modified for corduroy and cashmere.

Thanks, Game Trailers! You big hot hunk ‘o’ video archiving.

More on Gears Of War in a week or two, when Kieron and I get around to “playing” at being “Marcus and Dom”. In a co-op gaming sense, of course.


  1. finished_okami_a_while_ago says:

    Somebody should point Brash of Morrowind 4 Kids fame into the direction of this editor.

    “Gears of War 4 Kids”, yea that would totally rock….

  2. JP says:

    Cliff needs to remember what year he’s living in. If anyone does reskin the game as WW2 it’ll either look like garbage compared to GoW and/or it’ll be done by a team of dozens of content creators and take at least 12 months – ie a professional dev studio.

    That’s the problem with mods for modern games, the fidelity and production quality for the original games are so high that, with very few exceptions like Minerva that cleverly skirt the problem, the mod scene is just a pitiful knockoff of the retail space. They try to match the fidelity of the base game’s content but come up way short in the quality department.

    Compare to the days of the Doom / Quake mod scenes where you could take a wacky idea, get some passable art for it, it holds up well and there’s a vibrant scene with hundreds of people doing this.

    I’d really love to see a game come out that has a broad enough base of content – something like Unreal 1’s schizophrenic mix of castles, space stations and ancient temples – that a mod community can actually create cool stuff without spending years creating content from scratch – modeling the nose hairs on yet another dumb space marine’s face but minus the massive resources that the big boys command.

  3. Bobsy says:

    Oh, that’s a nice looking scripting system.

  4. Thelps says:

    I have to agree with JP on this one, despairingly. I used to be an avid modder, doing it more for fun more than anything else, and learning along the way. This was back in the Doom/2 and Quake days, straight through UT and Quake 3. My problem was the standard schizophrenia of never finishing a project, but I always felt that I could really go forward and create something impressive, all by myself. Nowadays it seems much more a case of needing a large team, excellent people management skills and at least SOME money to create anything that isn’t just a series of new levels for a game. I’m specifically thinking along the lines of graphical conversions, as Cliffy B alludes to.

    I don’t want to come off as a complete nay-sayer, of course. I still firmly believe that if you’re creative enough you can do spectacular things with someone else’s engine and a lot less effort than the end results could suggest. It’s just that it’s much harder and getting more so with every generation of game that comes out. Obviously the progression of graphics won’t cease, in the industry, and like I said, there’s always the potential to completely go the opposite direction and either use all in-game art resources or embrace a very ‘retro’ graphical style, but these restrictions inevitably impact on the size and growth of the modding community.

    It’d be really nice if we can get some commentary from recent game modders in this thread (Thinking specifically of, but not restricted to, YOU Cargo Cult!) as to how they think this is all panning out.

  5. ryan in exile says:

    We are very hunky.

  6. Ging says:

    I’ve been poking around the HL2 modding scene for a while now and I despair at the number of mods I see that get as far as releasing “clay” renders of their models but not much else.

    It’s not true however that a successful mod requires a huge team – if anything, that seems to be a good guarantee to be one of these mods that sits in unreleased limbo (Caliber (the domain for which has expired, hence the moddb link)) or eventually vanishes completely (Nightfall). I get concerned when I see a mod that has “department heads” or a PR guy.

    We’ve made the Hidden with a team that’s never grown much beyond about 6 people – some of the artists have moved on to new projects for the team and we’ve brought on a couple of part time coders to help out, but it’s generally balanced out at around 6 people. I’ve noticed with “testing” teams bigger than our entire mod team!

    Part of the issue faced is meeting the expectations of gamers – there’s not much point spending what equates to months (if not years) of your spare time to create a mod that no one will play because it looks like arse. Sure, you can get away with it for a while, as long as you show progress towards a prettier future – but some players will just not play if the visuals don’t meet the expectations they’ve developed from playing AAA retail titles – to a lot of people, that equates to requiring a huge team.

    Robin Walker (of Team Fortress and Valve fame) gave a talk at a Japanese IGDA meeting about modding – he discusses how mods can choose to compete on a couple of different levels, I’ve uploaded a copy along with some extra notes and that’s available here.

  7. Theory says:

    I worked on NightFall as a scripter, am one of the playtesters for Minerva, and have spent time on the features team at ModDB. I don’t think the issue is so much with the scope of the projects but with the way people expand their plans without thinking of the workload.

    NightFall was a simple enough concept at the beginning, but it became more and more complex as time went on: new NPCs, new weapons, new voiceover, new textures and new GUIs to name a few of the areas that were being worked on. Some of that stuff was useful (we weren’t going to get very far without our own dialogue!), but doing things like replacing the SMG and changing the frontend took resources away from other areas, caused global problems that were never resolved, and didn’t much help anything or anyone in the first place. It was modding for the sake of modding, and it was a very large factor in the project’s death shelving.

    For another example of this look no further than SourceForts. They had a brilliant run of releases that kept me playing for several months, but now they’re trying to make it into a total conversion and keep having to post “not dead” notes on their blog for the handful of people who still care enough about them to read it. Why do we need custom weapons and little robot models for the players when we play your game, guys? HL2’s stock content works just fine, looks better than anything you’ll produce (no offence, but let’s be honest here) and has already undergone extensive testing by the best people in the industry!

    At the moment I’m tinkering with a one-man project that may or may not lead somewhere, and I think this is how all mods should start — no matter who starts them or what skills they have. You don’t have to be some kind of genius; just work within your means. I script maps but can’t create them, so I’ve decompiled some of Valve’s BSPs and am working on re-engineering them to my own Samorost- and Knytt-influenced ends. I’ve limited myself to the entity block (i.e. I can’t edit the world, only what’s in it) to keep my work from expanding further than I can carry it. I know I can do it, and if my experiments ever come to something I know I’ll be able to release them. I won’t be tempted to kill the entire thing by hiring fifty people who don’t know each other and expecting them to work together for three years to produce…well, anything.

  8. Theory says:

    *needlessly expand their plans

  9. Theory says:

    WordPress also appears to have stripped my cross-out tags from around “death“.

  10. etho says:

    I hate, hate, hate the UT/GoW art style. If anyone wonders where the stereotype of gamers as malnourished, sexually-confused male nerds with dreams (delusions?) of being hyper-masculine, hyper-violent superheroes comes from, I can tell you. It comes from Epic, and it comes from Cliff Bleszinski.

    Gears of War may have been enjoyable to me, but a theoretically sound gameplay concept was absolutely ruined by the fact that it looks and sounds (dialogue, that is. I’m sure the technical aspects of the audio were fine) like a WWE-branded straight-to-video movie. Even if the storyline of the game had been any good (it wasn’t) I was constantly distracted by the nigh parodical masculinity of everything on the screen. And not just the characters, but the aliens, the guns, the level design… everything was just a half step away from being overtly comical, which would have been fine except the game took itself so damn seriously. It tried to be epic, but it just comes across as silly.

    Sure the game is technically impressive. But it is artistically abysmal.

  11. JP says:

    Good post, Theory, I’m looking forward to whatever you might come up with.

    Being able to pick a proper scope takes some creative maturity and technical insight, and it’s uniquely hard in modding because your biggest reference point is often a million-selling juggernaut of a game (like HL2 or UT).

    I guess the big casualty I see in this current era is the role mods used to have, serving a similar function to the indie scene – the wacky unproven ideas get explored, and the mainstream can cherry-pick the most promising or deep ones. A few years ago it seemed like Counterstrike almost single-handedly sucked every last drop of creativity out the mod community with everyone doing me-too “realistic” crap.

  12. The_B says:

    I think my main mod for Gears will in fact be replacing all the in game music with the Village People’s Greatest Hits.

    And errr… sorry for missing your workshop today Ging. I blame Halloween. And Alcohol. I suppose I better come to the second one tomorrow…

  13. Richard says:

    Do you think they could make those grunts sneer more?

  14. Ging says:

    Halloween and alcohol are a poor excuse lad – you should turn up at the very least to just sign the register!

    I think I’ll forever be amused by the early footage of gears that showed Marcus with his mouth constantly open when he fired – it was I suppose meant to be a snarl, it just looked amusing though.

  15. Lh'owon says:

    A psychologist would have field day at Epic…

    At the very least they actually think that today’s gamers still crave quake-style hardcore machoness. But surely such a competent development team couldn’t be that out of touch.

    It’s kind of funny for a bit, but frankly it’s a bit sickening for a game like Gears to be so mind bogglingly shallow. Don’t get me wrong – the game was great otherwise – but what a worthless approach to be taking. If you’re going to be shallow at least make it amusing.

  16. Radiant says:

    Don’t forget the Gears of War “DONG” of Gravitas.

    Look! Some dead people “DONG”.

    Oh no! The team you are looking for is dead “DONG”.

    I don’t care because I just killed fifty eleven aliens burns victims and just saw some chaps skinned and strung up when I escaped from prison.
    Having a ridiculous “DONG” sound isn’t really going to make me give any less of a poo.

    I felt as ridiculous playing this in front of people as I did playing Yoshi’s Island on the N64.

  17. Radiant says:

    not to mention that the Gears’ story makes no sense.
    It’s like the developers made up all this backstory and reasoning and then forgot to tell anyone about it.
    I mean…Emulsion is an important resource?
    I know we are in the middle of a war but are people really that hopped up on re-decorating?

  18. Lh'owon says:

    Yea, the story was forgettable. I clocked it on my friend’s 360 (and had heaps of fun – the gameplay is good) and very quickly gave up following the story. I just found I didn’t care, it wasn’t at all engaging. And this is from someone who usually follows game stories to an annoying degree.

    I don’t know… I just feel the industry should have higher standards in this respect. Games have the potential (which has, of course, often been realised) to be really interesting, worthwhile experiences on the level of storyline and character along with having great gameplay and graphics. Just achieving the latter seems like a bit of a cop out.

  19. KindredPhantom says:

    That video makes it look pretty simple to create a level using the unreal editor.

  20. finished_okami_a_while_ago says:

    Well, watching my co worker create a character using Maya and Z-Brush looks really simple too…

  21. Ghiest says:

    Lets get it straight, the setting, scenery and music for GoW were all great. The backdrop and level design (well at least the SP iteration anyway) were fantastic. But I do agree with the whole character art direction.

    Personally I love the whole dystopia type of future settings and I think they did it well. Add to that UnrealED was and probably still is the best modding tool out there for any fps.

  22. The_B says:

    Halloween and alcohol are a poor excuse lad – you should turn up at the very least to just sign the register!

    Erm… yeah.

    I’ll just boot up Steam now and work on the sheet from here…

    For everyone else’s benefit: I may have neglected to turn up again today… *ahem*

  23. harrison schaerr says:

    gears on the 360 was amazing… it’s going to be even better on pc with the extra mp and sp levels, and of course, unreal ed.

    buy this game. it’s amazing.

  24. schizoslayer says:

    “That video makes it look pretty simple to create a level using the unreal editor.”

    Do not believe their lies.

    Those people who have never used Kismet lead happy fulfilled lives and have lots of sex. Those who do just see lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and ohgoddon’tsutosavenowgahcomeoncomeoncomeonright and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines and lines….


  25. schizoslayer says:


  26. Eschatos says:

    Do you need to pay for GamesForWindows live for multiplayer? Or is that only for matchmaking?

  27. kadayi says:

    I suspect Cliff Bleszinski is a big fan of ‘Tom from Finland’, google at your own risk ;)