A closer look at Gears of War 4 - Interview with Glenn McCollum from eLevate
The release date for the Gears of War 4 is coming closer and closer. Dedicated fans are waiting for the October 11th to get their hands on what the devs call ‘Gears: Next Generation’. If you are lacking patience and you want to grab the game earlier, you have plenty of options. Initially, the game was supposed to be launched on October 7th but the console version will now be available to players on October 6th. The Xbox One S 2TB comes with a Gears of War 4 Limited Edition bundle for the price of $449. The bundle includes a custom Xbox One S console and a Crimson Omen Controller, early access to Gears of War 4, Vintage Limited Edition Console back and other exclusive features. If you are planning on investing in a new graphics card, keep in mind that the Nvidia GTX 1070/1080 purchase comes with a free GoW 4 on PC/Xbox One. Game trailer can be accessed here!
If you are seeking to buy a new console or a video card, for $100 you can buy the Ultimate Edition and play the game four days earlier, beginning October 7. Pre-loading is also another viable option and it will be available before the game releases. Moreover, Microsoft has announced a livestreaming event called Gears of War 4 Live on October 5, 3 PM PT/ 6 ET. Tune in if you are interested to see exclusive gameplay, surprise appearances and maybe to win some giveaways.
We are not going to give a lot of details about the story mode even though it’s worth mentioning that the GoW 4 takes place 25 years after the close of the 3rd entry and campaign focuses on three main characters: JD Fenix , Delmond Del Walker, Kait Diaz. Beloved classic characters like Marcus and Augustus Cole are going to be part of the story. The new enemy is called Swarm, even though they have a lot in common with the Locust enemy types from the previous games. New characters, new enemies, new weapons.
The story mode will definitely attract some new or veteran players but the main question is can the Coalition team deliver a game that is going to bring out the best of the community, satisfy both amateur players and the competitive scene. How will Gears fit in the competitive scene and eSports in general? October is right around the corner and it is easy to notice that teams and players seem to spring up like mushrooms after the rain. I had the pleasure to have a discussion about Gears with Glenn McCollum, the new Gears of War Director for eLevate.
How did you get into Gears? What’s your personal story?
Long story short, I had two roommates about ten years ago who played Gears of War 1. At that time, I didn’t even have an Xbox and I had little interest in video games. One day, I ended up having my appendix burst and I was rushed to the hospital. I wasn’t able to walk for 2 weeks and my friends talked me into play GoW. I ended up enjoying it and ended up buying an Xbox. When GoW 2 came out, I played religiously, that is how much I loved the game! My friends and I transitioned to GoW 3 and ended up playing on LAN a few times and took part in a couple of local events called MG Halo. Such events gave me the opportunity to meet my first Gears friends who initiated me into real competitive scene and the legitimate eSport scene. After meeting some people, it transitioned into an obsession and a hobby and now I am where I’m at. It took a lot of hard work and effort.
What do you think about the yank and shank move, the vault kick and the nade plants? Do you think these features will have an impact on the competitive play?
I am convinced that the yank and shank move will be given a technical term, just like it happened to wall bouncing. To be honest, I think it’s going to be more like a chainsaw. I don’t believe it is going to be something that is going to be utilized as much because the fast movement system is back where you can air cancel or bounce faster. They are probably going to call it an air bounce but I think its usage will be minimal. The mantel kick, it is going to be utilized like the jumping over movement because people are going to run in quick cover instead of bouncing off. You will see players use that kick. I don’t know how much it will be utilized until we see the game play out. I have a feeling some of those meta are not going to be used as much as air bouncing because I think air bouncing is going to control a lot of game play. Concerning the nade plant, currently you can plant 2 nades or 2 smokes just like in Gears 2. The third one would detonate everything. I am predicting they are going to remove the ability to plant 2 nades/ smokes. The change will be made for the competitive purpose of it. For example, if you have 10 players on a map and they can each plant 2 smokes/nades, you’re dealing with 20 planted objects. That is a bit absurd. I do think that it’s going to be moved to one but I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of competitive players planting nades. You are probably going to see players using smoke on a hill for capping, but I doubt you are going to see too much nade planting. It’s going to be more of a throwing style.
How did you find all the weapon in GoW 4? Any thoughts on the weapon balancing compared to Gears 3 let’s say?
First off, I will start with the pistol that has been downgraded a massive amount. In Gears 3 and Ultimate Edition, it was very powerful and very fast paced. In Gears 4, you are not able to down a player of the full clip and pop their head with a pistol right away with one clip. I am not sure how useful the pistol is going to be. However, I like that it was nerfed because now it plays more for consistent accuracy and hitting the active reload at the proper time. It’s not just shot one bullet, keep one active, shoot another bullet and keep one active. That will not be possible. As for the shotgun, it seems like a lot of people are really happy. In Ultimate Edition, you shot out of from the center of screen. With Gears 4, it’s coming out of the barrel and not the center of the screen. Therefore, you’re going to see the fast pace, quick air bouncing players utilize the shotgun a bit more because it gives you the opportunity to get into serious battles. I think you’re going to see a lot more skill coming out with the shotgun/ gnasher for this game. About the lancer, I can’t give an opinion but I’m assuming it’s going to be the third option. Once you’re out of pistol or out of shotgun, you’ll probably going to see some lancer usage. They are tuning the weapons and they had about 2 or 3 beta testing for pro players. Those players were able to put in their input concerning certain features like weapons and weapon balancing. The devs are receptive and are changing things around, making the game more suitable for competitive play. I believe, they are building this game for eSports and they want it to succeed.
Fun and random question: What do you think about the Swarm? The steaks looking enemies with guns!
Everyone favors the COG but I like seeing new characters. I don’t play a lot of campaign and the roles of the characters don’t matter much to me from a competitive perspective. Everyone appreciates seeing new characters. I am excited to see how they all look when the game is released with the new graphics. It’s going to be interesting to see all the details of the characters. For sure, I am going to play with some of the old school characters but I hope to see a new Carmine especially because we haven’t heard a word about that.
Let’s talk about your team. Congrats on being assigned as the Gears of War director for eLevate. What are the strong points and weaknesses of your team?
Currently, the roster we are working with was originally made by eLevate and Ben from “Strangulate” at the time. He made a team for MLG Columbus. At that time, I was with Strictly Business. The current eLevate team is not technically created by me, but they are good players. They just picked up KraZ and they won the first open. It gave them 2000 pro points and it put them in the number 1 seat going into these 4 2ks that create the Invitational for the first LAN. Week 2 they took third/forth place. I am expecting these players to do well. They are very good at playing execution and very good with the shotgun. In Gears 4, I am not 100% sure with who we are going to be working with and if we’re going to be rolling over with this team or not. We are weighing out the options for eLevate for the future. We want to make sure that we are building a brand around the players that we feel are going to be the most successful in Gears 4 and fit us well. This is one of the reasons why I joined the team because of my knowledge of Gears and the players. I am confident about taking the reins for Gears for eLevate.
With introduction of Windows 10, do you think that the pro scene will go PC or stay console?
I think it is going to stay console. I haven’t really heard much about people, competitive wise play with keyboard and mouse. Definitely, you are going to see a lot of people playing it and having fun with it. The graphics are going to be much better and the response time is going to be different. I am interested to see what it will bring to the scene but competitive wise, it’s definitely going to be all console.
Let’s say I am an amateur Gears player and I want to join the competitive scene. What advice would you have for me? What’s the first step?
If you are new and you want to be a pro make sure you put yourself out there and make yourself available. Afterwards, you need to put in the proper amount of time. My honest suggestion is to find a group of people that is dedicated as you and have the same passion as you. You need to grind GameBattles because that is where you are going to find people. A lot of these top teams that are coming out now come from GameBattles. The original Synergy team came from there. My eLevate team and the players from VexX that I believe recently left VexX, they came from there. It is all about finding the right people that fit you. Eventually, someone will pick you up. SuMuNs came from GameBattles and he is part of the Optic team now. GameBattles is literally the stepping stone to become an amateur or professional player. Get on there and establish a reputation and of course, be consistent. Grind, grind, grind! Sure, you are going to lose, you are going to have ups and downs but you have to continue to grind!
Is your team planning to help out the Gears community as a whole besides being part of the competitive scene? I am asking this because Gears is known not to be open to new players. Any steps in changing this?
You’re not the first person to bring that one up. If you haven’t noticed, you’ve seen a lot of transition from each new Gears game, and now it is more open to players. It used to be a core group of players and that has changed. With rosters expanding to teams of 5, you have organizations showing interest in the game. Players are much more open minded about finding the right players to fit them. They want to win! There is a million dollars’ prize pool. You are going to see a bunch of new players coming in and everyone is going to be more accepting. The scene is finally getting a little bit of spotlight to where you will find players from GameBattles who aren’t very well-known but they play very well, take part in scrims and if it goes well they will may be part of a good team. The perfect example is Chris iBN who now is part of Murder by Numbers (MBN). No one knew who he was a year ago. People gave him a chance because he played well and put his dedication into it. Another example is FatalStryke who was never given a proper chance to be part of a good team but thanks to his dedication and effort now he is a pro player. The answer to your question is basically the same as the previous one.
Let’s talk about the future of Gears, not only the competitive play. Any predictions and/or expectations?
I definitely believe Gears 4 is going to be a success! Jack Felling and the devs have put so much time and dedication into this new game. Originally, when they released Ultimate Edition, they said that they won’t be putting a lot of money and effort into it because they were saving it for Gears 4. If you look at the numbers on gaming platforms like Twitch, without a doubt, our viewers are not that many. We were hitting a couple of thousands of viewers on Twitch but keep in mind, those numbers were for a remastered game that is 10 years old. We just got a million-dollar circuit which is going to help a lot. Sponsors are coming in with organizations. We have Optic, EnVyUs, eLevate and other top organizations dipping in. The biggest question is how much will the viewership grow with Gears 4. Is it going to be lackluster like the previous games or is it going to excel? I personally think that the viewership is going to go up. I don’t think we’re going to get numbers like other big games, but I do think the popularity of the game is going to grow. I am sure you are going to see more players joining in. Open events allow new players to come in, no name players to test their skills and who knows what can happen. Someone might come in and just surprise everyone! We need that shocker team and that is going to boost viewership. Regarding expectations, I believe a few teams will stand out. Who knows how they are going to transition because we’re going from execution to an objective based game, escalation. I am sure you are going to see the dreams teams consistently topping the charts but teams like Tragedy, eLevate, Kaliber, VeXx that are really good are going be putting up a good fight. I can’t predict who is going to come on top. We don’t really know until we see the first LAN for Gears 4. It’s a whole new world and it’s exciting to see how it’s going to unfold.
Gears 4 announced two game modes for competitive: execution and escalation. Escalation is a domination type game similar to what you would find in CoD. It is nothing new, just another ring based game. In all previous Gears games, the playlist was divided between competitive and social. The opinion on this matter are also divided. However, if you look at other competitive games like CoD or Battlefield that have one playlist and you see how successful they are, it makes you question. Doesn’t having a divided playlist make the game less accessible to new players and divides the community as well? When you have devs that change the game to make it more competitive and listen to the feedback of pro players and make changes to the whole game, that makes you wonder. Is that really the best decision? The game is known not to be friendly to newbies. In every Gears game, when they considered a weapon too overpowering for the completive play, they will make it inaccessible. Why not just make players adapt to new features, new changes or new weapons? When I think about Gears 4, I want to see new maps, new features, new game modes that are going to make any player enjoy the game. The love for the Gears franchise is impressive. You can see streamers and players that love the game so much that they decide to get a Gears tattoo. Now that is pure dedication!
The success of a game stands in changing a mentality. New features like yank and shank or vault kick would be interesting to see in the competitive scene. Of course, the game has to be engaging enough to be played by pros but also, you have to take into consideration the entertaining value. Will people be interested to watch competitive game play? This leads to the issue of what game mode should be competitive? A game mode like execution that encourages drawing out a timer when at a disadvantage, will be boring to watch. If new fun features will be ignored and not used, this makes me think that old veterans of the game are reluctant to embrace something new to Gears. Now let’s have a look at the Gears community. I dare you to take a look on some major social media outlets and judge for yourself. Like I wasd mentioning before, there is no doubt that the fans are devoted but yet Gears has failed so many times in the past to deliver and so many just quit the game. The problem is not that it costs $60 to play a competitive game. Yes, there are plenty of free to play competitive games. I doubt this is the issue. However, we have all seen how poor behavior of pro players can do so much harm to a game. Let’s admit it: Gears as a game is unique and its community is like no other! GoW devs always wanted to add a twist to their competitive games, “make it their way”. So far did it really pay off? Why not follow the footsteps of other successful eSports games?
There are many expectations, fears and hopes when it comes to Gears 4. The game will be either a huge success or just another failure in the series. Expectations are high especially with so many teams and organizations showing interest. I am going to be optimistic about one thing only: the new teams and new players. They might change the fate of Gears as eSports and bring back the spark in a very divided, turbulent community.