Fergusson on Epic Games, Irrational, Black Tusk and Gears of War
Rod Fergusson speaks out on being the longtime producer of the Gears of War series, working at both Epic Games and Irrational Games, BioShock Infinite, heading Black Tusk Studios and where the COGs are going from here.
In an interview with Total Xbox, Rod Fergusson spoke about his 10 year tenure at Epic Games, where he helped produce the Gears of War trilogy. Total Xbox mentioned that became just as important to the franchise as Marcus Fenix and legendary designer Cliff Bleszinski were. We definitely noticed Bleszinski, Fenix and Fergusson's absences from the series in Gears of War: Judgment and were left wondering where could the franchise go next. Fergusson left Epic after Gears 3 and went on to Irrational Games, where he helped them wrap up the recent classic, BioShock Infinite. Earlier this year, Microsoft purchased the rights to the Gears of War IP and founded a new studio in Canada, called Black Tusk. The Big M gave Fergusson the keys to the studio and gave his new team a massive first project: bring the next Gears of War game onto Xbox One.
"For me it's like a strange triple homecoming. I worked for Microsoft for ten years, so coming back to Microsoft after all this time - I think it's been 15 years or whatever since I've been here - going back to Canada and then coming back to Gears," Fergusson said. "It's just been this three-step thing and it's awesome, because Gears of War is my favourite game."
In terms of Bleszinski and the rest of Epic Games not being around to work on the new Gears of War, Fergusson said the following:
They are obviously great friends and collaborators - it's not one person makes something, it's a team effort - but what I'm really excited about is just the pure energy that's at Black Tusk. When you live with a franchise for seven years, there were people at Epic who were kind of done - like I wanted to do something else interesting. But when you look at Black Tusk it is just a pure, raw, pool of energy and excitement for what they want to do.
So I'm like walking through the studio and Gears of War is on every screen, we're playing multiplayer together and we're playing horde together, and doing all this different stuff. Just to have that fresh enthusiasm is really invigorating.
Fergusson cites 343 Industries' work with Halo 4 being a basic model of what he wants to do with Gears, but to take it way further, especially since they're going to put it exclusively on Xbox One. He mentions that Gears will be running on Unreal Engine 4 and that Epic Games was very helpful in terms of handing the reins over, even helping them with Unreal 4's implementation on the next GOW title.
Fergusson compared Epic Games to his experiences at Irrational, saying that Epic's primary focus was the game first with story second. Whereas with Irrational, it was story first, gameplay second. He wishes to balance them both since they are equally as important.
"This isn't a great way of phrasing it but I always talk about shipping a sequel to customers as 'managing betrayal'. They want something new but they don't want something so new that it doesn't feel like what they want," Fergusson said. "But if you put out something that's very familiar and is the same as the game they just had, then it's like 'I've already had this. This isn't new enough.'"
"You actually have to betray them enough to give them something new and surprising but not so much that they disconnect, and I think that is a big thing that we have to focus on. It's how we can innovate and bring something new to the franchise while at the same time really proving that we understand Gears - that this is the franchise that you know and love."
Here's to hoping Fergusson and his team at Black Tusk can pull it off.
We're hope Black Tusk will be able to top unforgettable moments like these: