Black Tusk Studios is quite evidently gearing up for the development of the upcoming Gears of Wars game for the Xbox One, and is currently hiring 13 new employees, with twelve of those positions offered in the last two weeks.
What’s more interesting is that the competences and requirements listed in the career opportunity ads give us some hints on what we can expect from the game, which seems to come packed with some quite lofty goals.
First of all, let’s start with the inevitable fighting words: almost all the ads include a high sounding mission statement that involves “forging the future of the IP and pushing the limits of Microsoft’s entertainment platforms and devices” and “delighting our fan base and shattering expectations of what is possible.”
Now that we’ve paid homage to the marketing spiel, let’s delve into something a bit more specific:
A post seeking a Senior Rendering Engineer, mentions that the game will utilize “bleeding edge new rendering techniques to deliver best in class visuals for an AAA Console game.” The candidate will also be responsible for developing and optimizing “industry leading high performance real time graphics features and effects.” We also read about “major new features.”
As we already knew Unreal Engine will be used for the game, and in fact experience with Epic’s middleware is considered desirable, together with experience with DirectX 10 and 11. This doesn’t really mean that the game won’t use DirectX 12 (there simply aren’t developers out there that have experience with it), and as a matter of fact the “Strong debugging and optimization skills in a multi-threaded environment” requirement indicates that it probably will, since DirctX 11 doesn’t really use multithreading for rendering. It’s one of the major features of DX12.
Moving on to the art department, there is an ad looking for an Art Director that will work across Environments, Characters, Cinematics, Concept Art, Lighting, Animation, FX and UI. Interestingly the candidate will need to be comfortable “working with a broad spectrum of styles, from photo-realistic to highly stylized”
This could mean a variety of things: Black Tusk may simply want a versatile art director able to work on a variety of styles for future projects. On the other hand the final art style of the next Gears of War might not have been decided yet. It’s also possible that it’ll involve different styles for cutscenes and gameplay (photorealistic for gameplay and comic-like for cutscenes, for instance). Finally, there could be more than one game involved.
The last option combined with the second seems to be the most probable, considering that the candidate will be “Responsible for creating the art style of the Gears of War franchise moving forward.”
The ad also mentions experience with ourtsourcing, meaning that Black Tusk will probably delegate part of the production to other studios.
A post looking for a Gameplay Designer outs the fact that the studio is seeking to implement “innovative features.” Experience with Kismet (a visual scripting tool within the Unreal Development Kit) is also desired. On the other hand an ad for a Gameplay Engineer advertises the preference for experience in a co-op gameplay development environment, strongly suggesting that cooperative features are coming back to the series.
Unsurprisingly cover mechanics are also making a comeback, as hinted by a post seeking a Multiplayer Level Designer. I seriously doubt anyone had any doubt here. Multiplayer definitely seems to be a focus for the game, as an ad for a Lead Multiplayer Level Designer involves creating an “industry-leading multiplayer experience.” Familiarity with “Gears of War gameplay and past Gears of War multiplayer map designs” is also required, probably indicating that Black Tusk intends to keep the new game true to its roots.
An ad for a Senior Level Designer mentions creating “interesting and dynamic levels and mechanics,” and integrating “great events and gameplay mechanics, with the goal of making every moment special and memorable.” Linear storytelling will apparently play an important role in gameplay, as the candidate will have to work on “fantastic levels with great flow and layout, to tell a story while guiding the player experience.”
A post looking for a Senior Online Services Engineer mentions the responsibility of “owning a reliable high-traffic services to support console and multi-screen end points,” which indicates that the game is probably going to involve SmartGlass in some capacity. Experience with Azure is also required, hinting to a heavy utilization of Microsoft’s cloud services.
A similar ad for a Lead Online Service Engineer involves building the “next generation of backend services to power the Gears of War Universe, on console, web and mobile,” indicating that the franchise’s online component will very possibly extend beyond the Xbox One. It also talks about “Games,” which is a clear hint to long term plans that go past a single Xbox One title. Taking advantage “of the best solutions available with cloud services running on Azure and integration of multiple new technologies.” is also part of the candidate’s responsibilities.
Interestingly enough, this last ad is very close to similar ones published for the next Halo, possibly hinting to a close collaboration or at least the intention to implement similar features between Black Tusk and 343 Industries.
Will we see the effect of any of this at E3 in about a month and a half? That’s possible. One thing is for sure: my curiosity is piqued.