'Gears 5' Director on His Career of Salvaging Game Development Trainwrecks

When Microsoft purchased the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games in 2014, it hired someone from the game’s past to help lead its future, producer Rod Fergusson. This week, Fergusson and his studio, The Coalition, shipped their second game, Gears 5, and the first one directed by Fergusson himself. It’s a departure for a person best known as a fixer, a person who comes in and helps games finally ship. He was part of why the original Gears of War got out the door, and came in as a closer for BioShock Infinite.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a353p4/gears-5-director-on-his-career-of-salvaging-game-development-trainwrecks
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This was a cool interview; my thanks to both Rod Fergusson and Patrick Klepek!

A point the conversation keeps returning to is that you often need to make sharp cuts to scope to allow a game to actually ship. The way a lot of gamer culture refuses to recognize that is so frustrating. Studio can’t talk about anything in a game that isn’t locked in, to avoid angering the influencers if something changes. It’s a lot of needless secrecy.

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Yes hello, software engineer checking in here.

Making stuff is hard. That really cool new AI system you want someone to implement will probably run as long as you don’t mind it taking up all of your processing power. Every fifth Tuesday a goat burps “Ave Maria” at 11:38 p.m. and it lights every PS4 on fire in a five mile radius and the product doesn’t ship until you silence the goat. The 18th iteration of this loot system isn’t fun, but maybe the 19th will be.

Rod’s a genius at this sort of thing. He’s honestly the ideal guy for the gig he has now.

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Fergusson deftly avoided getting into the crunch topic considering his career history. If you’re the “Fixer” or the guy they airlift into fucked projects, then you’re someone who can and has cracked whips to deliver an outcome.

I just finished Gears 2 last night and during the credit roll, about 3 different developers referenced crunch and one his “endless engagement” to his now wife while finishing the game. Fergusson, due to his management position on these projects, is accountable - if not directly responsible - for that.

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You know it’s about real project management when Gantt charts and the critical path show up. Good interview, and I dug the Wikipedia as structure concept.

But 1000% this guy will have either outright said the words “mandatory overtime” or set policies that left no doubt. To hit unreasonable schedules (and they are all unreasonable in some way) you have to use all the tools and crunch is one of them.

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This article is trending on r/games so good on Waypoint (er Vice) for getting that traffic. But it did feel a little softball, with no real pressing of Ferguson about crunch and how it’s used in the gaming industry. He even mentions at one point about “passion projects” bleeding into the weekend for team members, and the tone of the interview puts that in a positive light. Given the proximity of this interview to Gears 5’s release, this just feels like a promo fluff piece than the quality reporting I expect from this outlet.

EDIT: Reading back my comment I realize I might be coming off a bit harsh on Patrick, so I’ll just note something I liked. Pushing Ferguson about running a studio that creates a safe space for a diverse staff to feel safe and empowered was good stuff.

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