Developer The Coalition and its studio head Rod Ferguson are at E3 talking about the importance of establishing their Gears of War bonafides with the finally-confirmed Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. But in a behind closed doors info session on the game this week, there were indications that Ferguson and co. have plans to lay longer term groundwork for the series with the multiplayer community.
Among bullet points about resolutions and framerates and map counts, a few things stuck out to me in particular. First, that Gears of War: Ultimate Edition will include a spectator feature for multiplayer matches, a de facto requirement for proper "casting" — i.e., for commentators to direct view of the action and make play-by-play analysis of matches in a live capacity.
Second, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition will support LAN play, which may be a first for an Xbox One multiplayer title. LAN play is important to locally organized competitive play, as many tournaments are held in venues that lack proper internet connections. Ferguson himself used hotel ballrooms as an example of the kind of circumstance the team was designing for, and during a Q&A at the end of the presentation, he committed the studio and the Gears franchise moving forward to support LAN play.
Put together, and contextualized against Microsoft and Halo developer 343i's aggressive moves to position Halo as a legitimate eSports presence, it would seem that The Coalition and Microsoft may have similar designs on Gears of War. I asked Ferguson about the likelihood of an HCS like program for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and he claimed that nothing had been ruled out at this time. Along with a host of modes and maps the team has included to appeal to the passionate Gears multiplayer community — through such inclusions as fan-created game types like 2v2 all-Gnashers — it feels like the team is putting the appropriate pieces in place to support a revival of the series' online following. There's more work to be done in that arena, obviously, but Ferguson and The Coalition are saying the right things, for now.
Of course, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has a number of other things going for it. The Coalition has, according to Ferguson, rebuilt the game, recreating and updating almost all of the original game's art assets from scratch. The studio has remastered its soundtrack, and re-composed and re-performance captured all of the original game's cutscenes, and has also tried to make smart choices about mechanics and features from later Gears games to bring in to Ultimate Edition in an attempt to strike a smart balance between a faithful recreation of Gears of War and a game appropriate for the expectations of modern players, Gears faithful or otherwise.
Dedicated servers for all games, including private and custom matches, tweaked movement based on changes in Gears of War 3, and sixty frames per second multiplayer should help with that when Gears of War: Ultimate Edition launches in August.