Epic Games’ Gears of War franchise is one of Microsoft’s top franchises. The developer is working on a fourth game, Gears of War Judgment, which ships March 19, 2013. The prequel follows the story of Kilo Squad, which brings back fan favorites Cole and Baird and introduces Garron and Sofia. In addition to a more action-packed campaign mode, the new Gears introduces OverRun to multiplayer. Jay Hosfelt, lead animator at Epic Games, talks about what drives him in this exclusive interview.
Can you talk about what drives you creatively at your job?
Nothing drives me more than being around the creative minds who surround me at Epic. I’m constantly inspired by the work of others and I know the work coming out of my department needs to be equally inspiring. I also love the constant progress our programmers are making to the engine tools. Every now and then a feature gets added that opens up an entirely new approach for us. It’s very exciting.
What’s a typical day like in your life as a game developer?
The days are so varied. There are some days where I can come in, have a coffee, read through my email and dig into some animation work. Some days are spent having fantastic discussions about what make our game’s characters tick, or discussing a new gameplay mechanic. Some days are spent fixing issues that were called out during a playtest. It never gets boring.
How did you work together with your team to overcome challenges during the game development process?
Since making a game requires trial and error and iteration, it’s really important to get great communication cycles. Embrace feedback and even though it may sting egos, it’s always important to get over that because everyone is working toward the shared goal of making a great game.
Can you talk about how advances in technology and the tools you use have influenced what you’ve been able to accomplish with this new game?
We’ve always been limited by things like memory budgets, and time budgets. Having tools that allow us to quickly retarget character animations to different characters, or add additive layers to make unique animations have been instrumental in our last few games. For Gears of War 3, using real-time IK, retargeting and animation layers allowed us to use a relatively low amount of animation for a large chunk of our characters. Going forward, we are looking to give animators more flexibility as to how animations blend in-game and increase iteration speeds.
What are you most proud of when it comes to the animation in your new game?
With each iteration of a Gears of War game, we want to push the character performances further and further. With our most recent title, Gears of War: Judgment, we pushed our cinematic process to have more pre-visualization, so we knew up front what angles we’d be shooting our actors from. So while we recorded the actor’s motion during the motion capture sessions, we also had a camera crew getting footage of our actor’s facial performances. The acting decisions from the actors were a great resource to our animators who key-framed the facial performances.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators interested in getting into the videogame business?
Keep animating, push yourself and don’t give up. Find other animators to get feedback from and make good contacts. Study the work of other animators. Take any job you can get that allows you to get your foot in the door.
John Gaudiosi has spent the past 20 years covering the $75 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, Forbes, NBC, CBS and Geek Magazine. He specializes in the converge of games and Hollywood. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and dogs and can be reached at JGaudiosi@aol.com.