This first DLC pack for Gears of War 3 focuses on Horde. Why is that?
"So we wanted to reach as many people as we can. There's some big competition coming out soon. We just announced the single player campaign extension DLC, and those are our largest buckets of players, our single player players and our Horde players traditionally. We wanted to make sure and get those people in and playing with each other, so that was our big goal."
You mentioned competition - is that why it's timed for November 1 between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3?
"There wasn't anyway, I mean, we had those dates picked out, it was a case of when it was done, and when it was available, as opposed to, 'Oh, we're planning to go between these two specific people', it just happened to be that way. It's holiday season and everything's coming out."
Out of interest, how are DLC releases worked out? Is it when you predict people might tail off from the game, where we need to bring those people back up, or is it a case of, 'This DLC is done, now's the best time to release it'?
"Yeah, I mean it's hard to say. You have to... it's a weird showgame where you have to get it in soon enough before people start to lose interest, and start to gauge where the tail-end of where people is to keep them playing. Our main goal, really, is to keep the game fresh in people's minds and update it with enough frequency and enough cool stuff that people remember it and people keep playing."
"We have the new levelling system that keeps people going in Versus, we've been doing special events at weekends and doing Ticker Tuesday last week on Horde... it's more a manner of us trying to keep people's interest and keep the game fresh as opposed to we need a marketing bump and these people are coming out, because that stuff is unpredictable really. We just want to keep the game cool, fun, and keep people playing."
This DLC adds three new maps. How do they compare to the current roster of maps, and what new situations do they provide?
"This one is the Horde Command Pack, and the three maps in particular there are excellent, excellent Horde maps. Blood Drive, which is a returning map from Gears 2, has been updated slightly, but that was the number one map for Horde in Gears, so we're happy to bring that back.
"Azura and Rustlung are really, really good Horde maps. Azura is a little big bigger, while Rustlung has a unique... I wouldn't say it's a gimmicky map, but there's a lot more to do. There's like cover you can raise and lower, a Silverback that you can get in and ride around, the whole map is set on a ship in a storm, and it sways on the water, and there's a lot of interactive elements like choppers taking off and landing, and all kinds of stuff going on.
Are they designed with Horde in mind?
"All of our maps are designed to be playable in all modes, that's the way we set it up, but enviably there are certain maps that play in certain modes better than others. Blood Drive in particular was a very good multiplayer map, and the way that it happened [was that it played] very well in Horde. And Azura is actually one of my favourite maps in the game, across all game modes. It's not designed, specifically for Horde, but it's just a very good Horde map as well as for Versus multiplayer."
There are new fortification types in this DLC - how did you decide to design or introduce them into Horde? Is it to make things easier, or add variance or replayability?
"We have the levelling system for fortification in Horde, and we wanted to give players who are playing Horde, or into that levelling system, something more to do, so the game just doesn't stop and cap out. So these are all very high-level fortifications. I imagine most people haven't unlocked them yet. In order to get the Command Centre, you have to have the very highest level of Turrets, and in order to get the new sentry, you need to have your Sentries maxed out.
"So it's more for the hardcore Horde guys, some more high-end Horde stuff to do. The Onyx Guard is a great addition because it basically adds a multiplayer bot to your team, so even if you don't have a full party or even want to play by yourself, you can throw some money into a decoy until you get some AI help so you can get through some rounds of Horde, so it's a way to kind of expand the game."
"And all those fortifications also work in Beast mode, so something like the new Sentry turret, which is a fire-based turret, an incendiary round, so if you're playing in Beast as the Armoured Kantus or the Berserker, it's now going to be a lot harder because there's going to be a defensive option that takes advantages of your weaknesses, so to speak. So there's a lot there for Horde and Beast, not just for Horde."
Did you introduce that fire bolt with the sentry because those bosses are quite difficult? From my perspective at least, the Berserkers in particular are the toughest guys to take down.
"Yeah, these are your top-level fortifications, they should definitely be more useful against the top-end creatures as well. We didn't design the fire turret specifically to counter the Berserker, it's just that a high-end sentry gun better be damned useful if you've invested that much money and time into building it and earning it and unlocking it. It would be sad if it was just gone the second a Berserker just came running at it."
Can you explain how the new Command Centre works?
"Sure. it builds like a little unit where you can go, and there's a screen that shows what you're going to do and a button you're going to press, and whenever you want to, you can run up and use it. It's a one-use item. First level - the lowest level - calls in a sniper squad, and they will fire off a few shots for whatever they can see in the map, and obviously you'll get headshots on drones and units that have shootable heads. The second level calls in a Mortar strike, and you'll get a few Mortar Strikes throughout the map.
"And the top level calls in the Hammer of Dawn strikes, and they will just strike throughout of the map and cause all kinds of crazy things. Rustlung is a little bit strange, because it's on a boat and an indoor map, so the fire and stuff can't come from the sky, so there's no way to do mortar strikes or Hammer of Dawn strikes, because it's inside, so those cases are actually set up to call in a squad of Onyx guards that will come in and cause wreak havoc across the map before they leave."
So it's a global map attack rather than a locational one like everything else is?
"Right, yeah. It'll hit everywhere in the map, it doesn't matter where the enemies are, the Command Centre will take them down, so to speak. It's more of a last resort type thing, like, 'Our base is overrun, we're all about to die, someone go push the button', and boom, boom, boom, you can even the odds and try and save the day."
Talking about the Onyx Guard, and how it's a bot within itself, did you consider at any point adding AI bots into Horde?
"No, because Horde is not meant to be played solo, it's meant to be played co-operatively, you know? Yes, you can get that guy in for help, but he stacks onto your team, you know what I mean? So you don't necessarily want people to be playing by themselves... we would rather people play together and help each other out. Because that's what Horde is; not only is it co-operative, but especially now we've added the fortifications, everybody has their own very specific skill set.
"If you're the turret guy, you may have high-level turrets unlocked, and I may have never touched them, but I've got sentries and the Command Centre unlocked, so when we play together, it's a totally different experience. And it's that immersion stuff is really, what I think, makes Horde insanely fun and keeps me coming back, it's different every time you play and different with every group of people you play with."
Talking about future DLC, you've just announced the RAAMs campaign, which has quite a lot of content, like this one does, such as new Achievements, skins and other parts. Will all DLC have lots of different content and offer value for money?
"Yeah, that's absolutely our goal. We wanted to do a campaign DLC that was impactful as possible. As Cliff [Bleszinski] says in the press release, that alone is the biggest DLC we've ever done. A whole other act added on to the campaign, allowing you to play as the Locust as the first time, allows you to see both sides to the story, there's a whole heck of a lot of content there. All those characters and those weapon skins are available in multiplayer as well as single player, and there is a lot more coming that we haven't announced yet, some of it coming very soon. There is some good stuff on the horizon there."
Will future DLC target different modes? This first one does Horde, the next campaign - will you next look at Versus, and so on and so forth?
"I don't know, we haven't made any announcements as to what's coming in DLC three and four yet, but I will say that we are not ignoring our Versus players, they have some cool stuff coming very soon. And we want to make sure we touch everyone that's out there and the all different ways to play the game, because it's a huge game between campaign and Arcade and all the Versus mode and Horde and Beast, there's so many different ways to play, we have to try and hit everything the best we can."
> Read our review of Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3's Horde Command Pack downloadable content will be available from November 1 for 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80 / $10).
Watch the Gears of War 3 Horde 2.0 trailer: