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Epic's New Game – President Tells All

Illustration for article titled Epics New Game – President Tells All

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?

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DISCUSSION

@Suda51: I'm going to have to go ahead and share the more recent perplexed looks you're being given for earlier remarks.

Epic is a 17 year old indie studio who has remained indie and still managed to get a really high profile hit... something that just doesn't happen very often, whether you like the genre or not. That said, the Unreal franchise is what made them who they are today, not Gears.

Sure... they make space marine shooters and not much else. At least anymore... though I tend to doubt anyone is looking for them to return to making Jazz Jackrabbit regardless.

But what is it that you expect, anyway? As a small developer who is only recently beginning to grow, they typically have been able to release one title every couple years. Plus, they're largely responsible for making such a "space marine genre" in the first place. How many other small shops have the assets to do more than one thing anyway?

Do you honestly expect them to quit doing what they do because everyone else and their mother decided to copy them? They should toss away their formula and come up with a new one now that it's stolen by everyone else?

Should they change their plan because they had a hit that doesn't match your personal taste/standards of quality? Or do you perhaps not think the people who play their games are worthy of getting more games that they like?

Maybe you're more angry about the attitude they carry and the way they present themselves. But that's nothing new in this industry either. From indie developers to console manufacturers... spin is the norm.

I mean... I'm weary of monotone shooters too, but if you want to be pissed... be pissed at the large studios who are endlessly copying their mold, not the guys that started it on a shoestring budget and got a hit out of it. Whether it's anyone's particular cup of tea or not, the Unreal franchise deserves a lot more credit than you seem to be willing to cough up, both for it's own success and the influence it has generated.

But what's the point in being angry about space marine games anyway? What harm does that do anyone? No one is holding people down and pouring "space marine" on into their faces.

Just seems like a lot of wasted emo rage right there.

...

And what's up with the "hardcore" deal? I too find myself wondering why people still care about this. Okay... sure... hand that label to the Wii players and make the GoW kids wear badges that say "casual gamer". Whatever that would achieve... no idea.

I understand the finer point you seem to be trying to get at with the statement... but I think that's pretty odd as well. Are we honestly supposed to believe that the majority of Gears owners were complete non-gamers even though such a high number of 360 owners are previous Xbox owners? More so... we're supposed to believe they're mostly middle-aged, apparently angry men, who've never gamed? I'm seriously wondering where THAT magical demographic is coming from. And are we really supposed to believe that the Wii install base is, on average, heavier and more committed gamers than those that play Gears? Dedicated Nintendo fans aside, that's just not the picture that EVERYONE else from pundits to Nintendo themselves have been painting.

I'm sure there are a few Gears players who fit your description, just as there are 'hardcore' Wii players... I just seriously doubt your assessment that this is the norm. I can't imagine what data you're collating to produce such a statement.

Either way... I'd suggest just avoiding space marine in the future. Clearly it's not your thing. But I'd kindly thank you not to piss in everyone else's tea just because you don't like the taste.