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Epic's New Game – President Tells All

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Except there's not much to tell. Yet. Just yesterday it was announced that Epic Games would be joining EA as one of two new partners along with Grasshopper Manufacture (of Suda 51 fame). I got some face time with Michael Capps, President of Epic Games, to see how the little independent studio that could feels about going with a Big Scary Publisher – especially one like EA that's got a reputation for ruthlessness with smaller development houses. "The EA five years ago is not the same EA they are now. We wouldn't have partnered with them five years ago," Capps counters – shooting a furtive look at the EA handler at the interview. He scratches the back of his neck and removes a square of tape. "From the [stage] microphone," he says. Sure, I believe him. He's not going all Manchurian Candidate on me.I asked about his game and got one of those fluffy PR answers about "it's great, but we can't tell you about it." But he did say that it was being developed by Polish studio People Can Fly, which Epic picked up last spring after being blown away by how awesome the studio did with PC content for Gears of War. "We said ‘do another Painkiller!'" Capps laughs. He's really into Painkiller – and guns, and things that go "boom." But what do you expect from the guy who brought the world Unreal Tournament and Gears of War? Gears of War 2, is what I expect, maybe another Painkiller. But Capps is anxious to go with a new IP; and that's a big part of why he went with EA instead of some other huge publisher. Their enthusiasm about this mystery project clicked with Epic's enthusiasm – and that's the way to make a game, Capps says. You need more than just a dev team that's jazzed about the game; an entire studio of people has to love the game so much that they're willing to sacrifice sleep and years off their lives. So People Can Fly + Epic + EA = at least 300 people who aren't going to sleep for the next few years while this game gets made. I say "few" because Epic's average dev cycle is between three and four years and we can assume this idea was pitched well before my interview. Gears of War 2 doesn't count because most of the game was already made before they even started, so cut that dev cycle down to two years. So what kind of game are we getting for the collaboration of no sleep? Anyone's guess at this point, by my money's on something action-packed with a rich back story and tons of super cool guns that explode things. And multiplayer; they can't do a game without multiplayer. "We don't do unicorns," Capps says. I asked about exploding unicorns and he wrote something down, muttering, "We'll see." "We only get so many ‘fuck' tokens," Capps says. "And ‘badass' is one of them, so I won't use that…" But he says bigger than "wicked" and better than "really cool." And we won't have to worry about some watered-down version on the Wii. Capps is pretty sure this new game won't appeal to "that crowd" and that the best way to make a game that works on multiple platforms is to build a super-awesome story, find a badass hero and then work with the system particulars to deliver tailored experiences. So – maybe – mods for the PS3 version and official DLC for 360? "We'll see, we'll see," Capps says. As a parting shot, I asked about chicks in this new game. I hinted (flat-out said) every Epic game I've seen is severely devoid of badass females (except Unreal Tournament) and wanted to know if he planned to do anything about it. Apparently, I'm not the only one with this concern. Capps's girlfriend is also very interested in the badassitute of female characters in Epic games – ditto for the EA handler's girlfriend and double it for all the guys at People Can Fly with girlfriends. "Well, we thought about…" Capps starts to say. The EA handler sits up and Capps switches to, "Ah! I can't, I can't! You almost got me!" Almost. The option to play as a girl? Co-op female sidekick? Gotta wait a little longer for more details to leak out. But seriously – Epic – give me Ellen Ripley and exploding unicorns. Is that so much to ask?