When we booked our GDC interview slot with Mark Rein, Gears of War 2 was just an inevitability. By the time we sat down with him on the Thursday, Cliff Bleszinski had carved up the stage with a Lancer chainsaw bayonet and we knew it would be "more badass". With that in mind, we tried to prise some more details out of Mark and also talked about the new technology Tim Sweeney demonstrated for Unreal Engine 3 on 360, Unreal Tournament III's reception and Epic's future plans, and what exactly the PC Gaming Alliance - of which Epic is a member - is going to do for PC gamers.
Eurogamer: Indulge me, because the last few times I've seen you I have asked if you're doing Gears of War 2 and you've had to say that you can't say anything. So, Mark, are you doing Gears of War 2?
Mark Rein: Yes, we're doing Gears of War 2! Did you ever doubt that? It's been in development since before Gears of War 1 shipped.
Eurogamer: So are you making Gears of War 3 as well?
Mark Rein: No. I mean...you never know. No! No. No.
Eurogamer: It's okay, I won't tell the Internet.
Mark Rein: It's a good thing I didn't have that beer.
Eurogamer: You showed off tech demos at the conference for Unreal Engine 3 tech on 360 - when's that stuff going to be available to developers?
Mark Rein: How it works with our engine is that developers have access to our Perforce database, so whenever one of our programmers in the office checks something into the engine and checks it back into Perforce, it's available instantly to licensees. Licensees have a total transparency into that.
Now, that doesn't mean [a new feature] is a safe piece of technology ready to go - what we do is usually about once a month we do what is called 'blessing a build' where it goes through a QA [quality assurance] pass and we have testers make sure everything works, and then we say 'this is a blessed build' and then we tell licensees it's safe for them to go off and take these updates.
Eurogamer: Will the PS3 tech take a while to catch up?
Mark Rein: No, it's all the same tech. If it's in the engine, it's in the engine.
Eurogamer: Last time we spoke we also talked about UT3. Congratulations, by the way - Unreal Tournament 3 has now shipped in Europe for PS3.
Mark Rein: Yahoo! The European one is actually a slightly newer version and we're going to have a patch to the US one to match it.
Eurogamer: It struck me when Microsoft was talking about XNA and the peer-review concept that that would be a good model for UT3 mods on 360.
Mark Rein: That's all based on their proprietary technology and tools. We're still begging and pleading with them to try and get mod support. It's getting increasingly less likely by the day. It's just the difference between the way their system works and the way Sony's system works. Look, our customers who buy our game will be fine. We'll get them something - I don't know what, or how much, or how often, but we'll try and deal with it as best we can.
Eurogamer: So apart from that, how's the 360 build going?
Mark Rein: Great. I don't have a release date for it if that was your next question.
Eurogamer: If you had to pluck -
Mark Rein: I don't pluck. I'm pluckless. Pluck off.
Eurogamer: So what, this year? Next year?
Mark Rein: Oh, this year of course.
Eurogamer: Can you actually say anything about Gears of War 2?
Mark Rein: We're doing it. It's going to be a really good game.
Eurogamer: I liked it when you said it was going to be "more badass", because I was concerned that it might not be more badass.
Mark Rein: [Laughs] We had an executive review the other day and I can tell you it is definitely more badass. It's really good. One thing I can say is that compared to where we were in the February before we shipped the last Gears, the game is in phenomenal shape. There are some good surprises for people. We'll start talking about it over the next few months.
Eurogamer: You said November. Do you think you'll go for the same Emergence Day?
Mark Rein: I have no idea. I don't think anyone's put a day in the sand.
Eurogamer: Does Microsoft decide that?
Mark Rein: We figure it out based on when we think we'll ship it. Right now they said November. I see nothing that leads me to believe it won't be November. It's in great shape.
Eurogamer: Does it have four-player co-op?
Mark Rein: It is a game. You will like it.
Eurogamer: Let's talk about features in games that you like. Do you like four-player co-op?
Mark Rein: [Very long pause.] So what else is up? I'm not telling you anything more about Gears of War 2.
Eurogamer: We can say things like Marcus Fenix is back, right, because that's in your press release. What about Dom? What about Cole Train?
Mark Rein: [No response.]
Eurogamer: You talked earlier about how the tech demos weren't Gears of War 2 -
Mark Rein: Yeah, those were just test environments to show off the technology.
Eurogamer: You said yourself though that you rarely put something in the engine unless you plan to use it yourself.
Mark Rein: Yep. Those are features that will be in our upcoming games.
Eurogamer: So: destructible environments. If those were in Gears of War, that would make quite a difference.
Mark Rein: You never quit! I love you guys.