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Cliff Bleszinski: Devs should feel free to use Gears of War's active reload

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With last month’s re-release of Gears of War on Xbox One, we’ve been thinking about the active reload system a lot. Steven wrote about the mechanic out of a preview event, and wondered why it wasn’t a bigger part of Gears
legacy. He’s right — it engages the player during an otherwise idle
animation and injects the smallest degree of risk versus reward. It
makes reloading fun, which is something not many games can say.
When we recently sat down with Gears of War‘s creator Cliff Bleszinski, we were there to talk about his upcoming shooter LawBreakers. We talked about its use of verticality in gameplay, its free-to-play-model, and its prospects for coming to consoles. We even touched on Bleszinski’s honest intentions behind his retirement in 2012. But, seeing as how we’ve had this mechanic on our minds, we decided to ask Bleszinski how he felt about active reload.
“You know, I am surprised,” Bleszinski frankly commented when asked
if he wondered why more people didn’t cop the active reload system from Gears of War when they took so many other features and aesthetics. “It
was a great mechanic in the heat of battle. It was all about
maintaining your cool just like an NBA player shooting free throws.”
“It’s one of those mechanics where people don’t want to
take a good idea because they’re too afraid of saying they’re copying
it, but I think they should feel free to,” Bleszinski continued.
This isn’t the only example that came to Bleszinski’s mind as far as
mechanics that are so unique they’d seem stolen. Recalling a
conversation he had with Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford prior to Borderlands, he said “Pitchford was convinced with Borderlands
that everyone would take the last stand move where if you kill an enemy
while down, you get a second wind. I’ve barely seen that taken. That’s a
genius idea. It’s an organic process.”
For as revered as active reload should be, Bleszinski admitted that
it’s not without its faults. “One of the mistakes we made for
multiplayer — and it was fine for single-player to have a boost to the
damage of your weapons — but in multiplayer, all players did was fire
off shots to the right, reload, and get an increased magazine damage,”
he lamented. “That’s cheap. It’s not cool. I think Rod’s re-triggered
and balanced all that (for Gears of War Ultimate Edition).”
Tying his old game into his new game, we asked if LawBreakers will have any sort of mechanic that he could equate to active reload. “Not
a little mini-game, but I think blind-fire is one of those little
things in first-person that proves to be surprisingly cool, especially
when you mix it with variable gravity and projectiles,” Bleszinski said.
“One of the happy accidents we found is that Breacher has that
shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. This is one of those things that just
emerged from the code. If you hold ‘ctrl’ for blind-fire and then hit
‘q’ to launch your rockets, he’ll actually shoot his rockets at 6
o’clock. We didn’t even know you could do this until the testers found
out the other day.”
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