Gears of War design director Cliff Bleszinski wants you to play his game's upcoming beta, not only to extract a "metric fuckton of data" from your playing time, but for you to upload whatever bugs you see to YouTube.
Bleszinski, who says the April-due Gears of War 3 beta is as much about weapon and map balancing as it is about generating "hype," is an opportunity to squash bugs, publicly if need be.
"I want people uploading their bugs to YouTube," Bleszinski says. "When the game's released and that happens, it kind of breaks your heart. But now I want that to happen. In hindsight, we should have had a beta for Gears of War 2. That would've prevented a lot of the rocky online start, which I think really hindered the online success of the game."
Gears 3's beta, which is estimated to last "at least two to three weeks" when it launches this spring, is an opportunity for players to unlock virtual goods in the retail release, due in September for the Xbox 360. Gold-colored weapons and a special Thrashball uniform, Epic Games hopes, will motivate Gears of War fans to partake in the beta.
"It's all cosmetic — but cosmetic is powerful," Bleszinski says of the unlockable virtual items, which also include a "Flaming Fucking Lancer" gun for those who own Bullestorm. "People in the real world, they look at what shoes you're wearing, what shirt you're wearing... Thrashball Cole, that's a very cool model, once you see him running around, you're going to feel bad that you weren't able to get into the beta and unlock that character."
I asked Bleszinski whether a virtual goods model, the actual purchase of cosmetic items—a very profitable endeavor for game makers like Valve who sells hats and accessories for Team Fortress 2—is something Epic Games is pursuing for Gears of War.
"It's kind of amazing that Valve can do that," he said. "Normally when you talk about microtransactions and what gamers perceive as nickel and diming, and then Valve—who I absolutely adore—that they can 'get away with it,' that says something about the current state of a gamer's mind on buying virtual goods."
"We may experiment with it. We're still feeling it out as far as what we can do."
One item you won't ever see in Gears of War 3 is a piece of content suggested by one games media member, a Thrashball cheerleader outfit for female COG Anya, newly playable (and chainsawable) in the next entry. Bleszinski says that's out of the question.
"I have an overall riding mantra for Epic of making sure that female characters are treated well and respected in regards to the fiction," Bleszinski said. "It's kind of ironic considering that our guys are so big and 'Grrrr!'—almost caricatures of men—that the women aren't."
Asked about the component of Gears of War 3's multiplayer that he's most proud of, it's a simple one: Team Deathmatch. Epic's implementation of that largely standard mode, in part inspired by dodgeball scoring, flips the scorekeeping rules on its head. It's a gameplay mode Bleszinski says Epic "resisted" for a long time, but is now a "light meta-class" experience that keeps drawing him back.
Finally, we asked about the promised "new Gears of War gameplay" that was originally set to debut on the Spike TV Video Game Awards, a premiere that was pulled at the eleventh hour. Cliff calls that "whole debacle" a "tricky subject."
"At any given point we have multiple irons in the fire and we were about to announce some cool stuff, but it was decided it wasn't the right time for it at the last minute," he explained, chalking it up to an executive decision. "Whether or not that ever sees the light of day… it could turn into something else... who knows?"
"That unannounced thing, who knows what it will ultimately become."