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And a Stain From a Coffee Cup…

September 2, 2013
1,675 Views

In the original script for Gears of War, the Brumak from Adam’s house chased the squad through the streets of Timgad,  trapped them inside a thrashball stadium, and ended with a vehicle vs. Brumak “boss battle”.   As we were running incredibly low on time, that entire level got cut and Delta squad just sort of magically appears at the Timgad train station after leaving Adam’s house without any real context or explanation.  After we shipped the game, we decided to do the Windows version, and felt like this this content was worth reviving.

As we sat and looked at the script, however, we knew that we wanted to do something a bit more extensive for the PC version, and something that tied more into the core combat loop of the game rather than another vehicle sequence.  So we went back to the drawing board and wrote a whole new script.  As we talked through what would happen during the sequence, we wanted to have a visual representation of what the city looked like so that everyone involved would have the same understanding of what we were building.

timgad

I started sketching together a Timgad neighborhood while we were talking, and attempted to incorporate all the different areas that people suggested.  An old Theater, a disabled drawbridge, a multi-story parking deck… I just started drawing as we talked, and we were able to work out the flow of the level before anything was ever built in the editor. If you’re familiar with the level you can pretty easily see how things were meant to flow from a top down perspective: Start at the central road in the direction of the arrow, jump across a fissure (blocking the path back) and end with the APC trapped at the open drawbridge. Travel under the bridge into the alleyway.  From there head into a park, followed by a co-op split in the theater.

The theater loops back to the parking decks, which were separated by a footbridge at the top.  The second parking deck leads back down to street level where there are some shops (and a piano for dramatic effect) before crossing over to the power station.  The power has been cut by a giant e-hole, but Jack works his magic in the control room and restores power to the bridge so that the squad can make it to the train station in time to intercept the Lightmass bomb.

Some changes that happened along the way through development:

  • The PC version of Timgad was supposed to be a series of Berserker fights instead of a Brumak.  But the idea of being stalked by – and eventually getting to fight – this giant dinosaur was just too appealing so we brought him back in from the original script.
  • The first Berserker fight was planned atop the parking garage, and you had to lure her to run off the edge in order to get away.  But with the Brumak in pursuit, the Therons entering the fray, the Troikas, and the Seeders… the ramp in difficulty (and overall chaos) was just too much.  It made sense to just focus on the Brumak as the main threat and push ahead.
  • The piano was supposed to have a much larger role in our original plans.  We wanted you to push it out into the street and use it as mobile cover during the fight toward the power station.  It was supposed to cover you from a Troika attack, and possibly even a Berserker roaming the streets.  We had some technical difficulties with networking and scripting, so in the end, the piano just falls into the fissure.
  • The final battle was supposed to be a sequence where you remotely controlled Jack as he was being pursued by a Berserker.  With the Berserker cut and the Brumak in place, we thought it would be much more exciting to actually fight the giant Brumak (you never got to do this in the original game) rather than play with a little RC Jackbot.  This also made much more sense from a co-op perspective since only one person could control Jack, and we didn’t want to cut anyone out of the action of the final battle.

Anyway, the map ended up crumpled and coffee stained as evidence that it went through a full development process, but it’s actually kind of amazing that it never really changed from that original meeting we had.  It was fun to find it all these years later, and reflect back on how far Delta went on their journey.

– Jim Brown

Source: EpicGames

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