Epic Games Unveils 'Gears of War 3' Multiplayer Details

Epic Games lifted the veil off the multiplayer options for its much-anticipated "Gears of War 3."

Epic Games lifted the veil off the multiplayer options for its much-anticipated "Gears of War 3" at its newly expanded headquarters here.

One of the big games of 2011 will come home early, despite the recent five-month delay for the Xbox 360 game. Epic is releasing a free public beta for "Gears of War 3" multiplayer that will allow gamers to dive into some of the new maps and game modes, while giving Epic a chance to receive feedback that will actually be used to improve the game as they focus on polishing the final installment in the trilogy with the extra development time.

Jim Brown, lead level designer on "Gears of War 3" at Epic Games, talks about the new multiplayer in this exclusive interview.

Q: What impact will the recent delay of "Gears of War 3" have on the game?

A: A big philosophical thing for our design department is to accept how people play the game online regularly and embrace the tactics that we see in the wild, as well. So this extra time that we've had has been really helpful in terms of how to do that in an intelligent way that we can make the game that fans want to see, as well.

Q: What are the new multiplayer modes in "Gears of War 3"?

A: One of the problems that we ran into looking at our stats online is we kind of figured out that when you see that your friends are playing Horde, it doesn't really mean anything to you. We wanted to make all of our game modes very accessible and build off of what our previous strengths were. We had been working with this game type that was a defend-or-rescue-the-leader sort of thing. So in our effort to make it more accessible, we created Capture the Leader, which is essentially Capture the Flag -- only the flag for the enemy team is the enemy leader. We also have King of the Hill, which essentially combines Annex and King of the Hill and adds more depth to them. In addition to having War Zone and Execution as gamers know and love them, we've added Team Death Match. When you die you re-spawn in groups and in waves so it's not just a re-spawn generator where you kill, re-spawn, kill, re-spawn. This allows you to establish a front and fight on that front throughout the level. And instead of just going until 50 kills and then the match just ends magically ends, this mode is based off of the number of re-spawns. So you will start the match with say 15 re-spawns, and once those re-spawns are gone then it becomes a dramatic fight to the finish.

Q: What characters can you play as in competitive multiplayer?

A: We found people really identified with entire characters and not new knee pads or helmets. We wanted things to be very visually distinct, so you actually get to unlock full-blown characters like Thrashball Cole. So while most people are used to playing Cole in his big armored suit, this one is entirely different. It's essentially Cole in a football uniform with shoulder pads and a helmet. Thrashball is a sport that we invented just for the "Gears" universe, but it's very distinct. It's a very different look. And that's just one example of the many, many variants that we have.

Q: Will you have dedicated servers for "Gears of War 3"?

A: We fully recognize that "Gears 2" had a bit of a rocky start and we've done a lot of work since then to kind of iron out the kinks. The game right now is very solid, but we are definitely fighting a battle in perception. Whenever something goes wrong, you're always going to blame it on something. So dedicated servers are something that very much levels the playing field. We're always going to have online lag and we can't manage your connection per say, but on our end we're going to do everything we can to make sure a level playing field is there and running as smooth as possible. We've also implemented host migration, so if the server does fail it doesn't just cut off the match. It seamlessly transitions into a new round so everybody starts at square one and keeps going without interruption.

Q: How is Epic making the competitive multiplayer experience "stickier" in "Gears of War 3"?

A: When we shipped "Gears of War 2," we didn't have any concept of leveling your character or persistence in the game whatsoever. We added it in over time, but it was very shallow. It was all we could do at the time, and we have since turned it into a fully supported system. So all the new unlocks like weapons, skins, abilities in-game are persistent to your character. You level up like you would in an RPG and collect new characters like Cole.

Q: What new executions will we see, and how do those work with the XP system?

A: Two of the cool new executions are dependent on race. If you're playing as the humans, we have expanded the face punch thing where you kick them down and you punch them in the face a few times. If you do that significantly enough, you unlock the ability to continue punching them in the face longer and longer and you're getting a little XP every time you do it. That's a very open-ended cool taunt you might do at the end of the game where you just hunker over somebody and beat the snot out of them. And similarly, if you're playing as the Locust, the equivalent execution for that is the ripping off the arm and beating them with it. If you do that well and unlock the ability, you can continually do that, as well. So you can stand there for quite a while over them humiliating them. We're basically trying to tie into what people want to do with enemy humiliation to the scoring system as well.

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Video Games: Epic Games Unveils 'Gears of War 3' Multiplayer Details

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