When it comes to making games that appeal to the widest audience, it’s hard to compete with Nintendo. The company invariably finds new ways to offer players more ways to join in on the fun, and that fact was all too evident in Super Mario Galaxy. The Wii title allowed a second player to participate in the game by simply pointing a second Wii Remote at the screen to pick-up star bits and unleash them upon Mario’s enemies. It was a simple mechanic, but one that worked well.
Speaking at the Montreal International Game Summit, Rod Fergusson, studio head at The Coalition, revealed that he looked for several different ways to make Gears 5 more inclusive for new players. One such game they decided to look to was Super Mario Galaxy. According to Fergusson, The Coalition specifically created the robotic assist character Jack's gameplay based on this example.
"As we thought about how we would deal with this from a beginner's perspective, we realized that the best way to deal with things as a beginner is to do everything sort of counter to what is the core of Gears," Fergusson said in the Summit’s keynote address.
In Gears 5, players can take control of Jack in the game’s three-player co-op modes, using the robot in a number of support functions. These include granting the players cloaking abilities, laying down proximity mines, showing the other players enemy locations and more. While Jack controls much differently from the main game, it still teaches new players a lot about the mechanics of the Gears of War world.
"So we purposely created this character whose abilities and movement were the exact opposite of what the main game is like, so that it would have a different way of playing," Fergusson said in the keynote.
What’s interesting about Fergusson’s revelation is that it’s easy to see how the inspiration took root. At the same time, however, The Coalition clearly took things in a much different direction from that initial idea, fleshing it out in a manner that makes sense in the world of Gears. Given the strong reception Gears 5 received upon release, it would seem that The Coalition's instincts paid off.
With a new Gears Tactics trailer set to debut at The Game Awards next month, it will be interesting to see if a mechanic similar to Jack appears in the game. While Gears Tactics will be a departure from the gameplay the series is known for, there’s always room for a clever mechanic to help teach new players about a game.