Gearbox Software was once known as a maker of Half-Life ports and expansion packs but now the developer is best known for the two games in the Brothers In Arms series which despite a glut of WWII action title,s have been singled out as some of the best tactical shooter ever made. FiringSquad got a chance to ask some questions to Gearbox's always outspoken founder and head man Randy Pitchford about Gearbox's future plans, his views on the game industry, and other topics.
FiringSquad: First, how is life overall at Gearbox Software at the moment?
Life is really great at Gearbox in that we have made games we're proud of, we're making more than we're spending, and we have really interesting, amazing games in development. But we're really always terrified about all the things we want to be doing better. Even though the industry measures what we've done as successful, we really feel the gravity of the ways we need to improve. So, we're really investing a lot in the next generation. We are still learning a lot. Our games are way better now than they've ever been before and we're still not satisfied.
FiringSquad: The company released two Brothers In Arms games in 2005. How hard was it to develop a first game in the franchise to be followed six months later by a sequel?
Well - building a new AAA franchise is very hard. We've worked on several of the biggest brands in the business and there are a lot of lessons there. Also, the support and quality of Ubisoft as a publisher is amazing.
When all is said and done, though, developing a game as complex and historically authentic and important as Brothers in Arms is very difficult work. But I will say that much of the work that went into the Brothers in Arms sequel was developed before the first game shipped. That's one of the reasons why I think BiA: Earned in Blood is such an amazing game. It's pretty usual for us to stagger development of our games like that. In fact, most people don't know that Brothers in Arms was in development even before we started work on the PC version of the first Halo game.
Likewise, we've been working on Brothers in Arms for the next generation since the early part of 2005. It is very exciting to see how far along we are.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us at the moment about your plans for Brothers In Arms 3, the first next-gen console game in the series?
I have to say that I am really eager to talk about Brothers in Arms for the next generation, but have to take it slow until E3. I can tell you that what the team has been doing is just unbelievable - really... It's amazing what a real next-gen game can look like. What you need to do is to go out and buy the April issue of Official Xbox Magazine - it has a two page teaser about it. The May issue has a cover story - the screenshots should speak for themselves. BiA 3 shows how good real next gen can look.
FiringSquad: What hints can you give us about other upcoming Gearbox Software projects?
I'll give you a hint - Brothers in Arms isn't the only video game brand Gearbox will build.
Here's another hint: Gearbox is capable of doing several next-gen projects at once. Our lead teams have worked on the best brands in the business and have participated significantly in building our own brand.
Here's a last hint about a couple of the things we're cooking up - When we started Gearbox, we planned to make things we thought would be great and to work on other people's things we think are great. Halo isn't the last time Gearbox will work with something we didn't invent from scratch.
FiringSquad: Since Gearbox was the main developer for the PC port of Halo, what is your opinion on Microsoft's plans to port Halo 2 to the PC as an exclusive for Windows Vista?
Does this strategy really astonish anyone? Microsoft is a big, powerful public company. Microsoft tends to make huge amounts of money with its operating system software while Microsoft still tends to lose money in the division of their business that makes games. I think in the larger picture it makes sense for Microsoft to look at their content business as a loss leader for their operating system business (at least, that is how I would look at it if I was a powerful, public company that does what they do).
FiringSquad: Speaking of Windows Vista, Microsoft has stated that it sees the PC OS as a way to recharge gaming development for the PC platform. Do you think that will actually happen with this new OS?
I think Microsoft realizes that it has neglected the PC games business for a little while and I really respect the stated commitment towards games that they are telling us to expect with Vista. I think that if Microsoft does follow through with having a strong commitment towards gaming with Vista, then Vista will be a very successful platform for games on the PC. I personally am excited by Vista and am very much looking forward to its appearance and adaptation.
FiringSquad: We are seeing more and more PC games becoming available via paid download. Do you see this as the main future for game distribution as a whole?
While I can see that digital distribution is expanding, it is very difficult to imagine the retail business shrinking any time soon. I currently expect to see the retail video game business continue to grow all through the next generation. It gets more difficult to predict beyond that.