Gears of War only shipped because of the team’s amazing “talent and passion,” says Capps

By Stephany Nunneley, Saturday, 5 March 2011 14:57 GMT

Epic president Mike Capps believes that if not for the talent and passion of the Gears of War 1 team, the game may never have shipped due to the developer’s “lack of maturity,” and the use of untested technology.

Speaking during a session at GDC in San Francisco this week and attended by CVG, Capps passed on a few words of wisdom to developers by stating that inexperience can create an unnecessary and increased risk when shipping a new IP.

“Lack of maturity [in your studio] will cost you time,” he said. “I don’t mean an immature team as in making fart jokes, I mean that your team is not experienced or using technology that’s not finished. Gears 1 was the ultimate example of that.

“We had a team who hadn’t shipped a story-based game as a group ever before – and individuals who hadn’t really shipped a story-based game since Unreal. We had technology that wasn’t finished yet on a platform that wasn’t finished yet. And we had a process where they basically didn’t really have a producer, or were under-served by a producer, because they had many different things going on in the company. That’s the reason I went there.

“When you look at Gears 1 from a risk mitigation standpoint or a team perspective, you know, it should have failed – in terms of all the things that could have gone wrong. It’s only because of the amazing talent and passion of the team that we were actually able to ship when we did.”

Capps also touched upon the importance of sticking to a firm, noncompetitive release date. He believes that if the original Gears had released as a new IP in 2010 instead of 2004, it would have had a tougher time due to the genre’s crowded market.

He also shared with the crowd what he called the “Iron Triangle” of release: scope, schedule and resource. All three must be balanced, so if the schedule of a developer’s project is “cut back,” the same should apply to features in the game. Capps also suggested that extending the development time on a new IP in a series should not be an option, as the team should instead continue to improve upon a series with each release in the future, using GTA III as an example.

Due to this philosophy, Capps believes Epic has continued to evolve the Gears franchise with each iteration, thus making Gears of War 3 the better game in the series.

“We at Epic believe it’s better to ship a very small thing that’s highly polished, than to ship a very large thing that’s mediocre,” he said. “We will cut scope purely to give us time at the end to polish what we have.”

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