VideoGamer.com: Few people would argue with the notion that Gears 2 is still the best-looking game to use the Unreal Engine. Is there anything that you've seen, perhaps from outside of Epic, that really blows you away?
SP: [Exhales slowly]. So, I guess the problem is that I don't know if I can't talk about the games I've seen! There are some really good-looking games coming out... There have been some Arkham Asylum trailers, and I think that's going to be a good game. I've not gone hands on with it, but I've seen videos of the gameplay and it looks really good.
VideoGamer.com: Is there anything else you can hint at, without being too specific?
SP: Yeah, like I said I've seen some stuff that's really impressive. But there are two things. One, I can't really talk about it, and the other thing is that stuff can look really impressive in its early stages, but then sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you see something that looks really impressive and it falls flat, for whatever reason. But there's definitely some stuff that I'm very optimistic about. Sorry to be so vague!
VideoGamer.com: No worries! Moving on, slightly... Sony says that the current generation of console will last for ten years. Do you think that will be the case?
SP: No-one seems to be talking about next generation console yet, and you'd think that by this point you'd start hearing serious rumours about the next console. So based on that my guess is that this generation will be longer. The fact that's there's an economic downturn right now is also probably a factor; I don't think that anyone wants to bring out a new console during a recession! When machines come out they tend to be expensive - it's hard enough to get people to buy them anyway, even when times are good. So my sense would be that this generation will stretch on a bit.
VideoGamer.com: Is the Credit Crunch something that concerns you guys?
SP: It's certainly something we're watching. I mean, we've been quite fortunate. Gears has done quite well...
VideoGamer.com: Quite well?!
SP: [laughs] Obviously we'd rather there weren't an economic downturn, but the silver lining for us is that we're always trying to hire and we're also very, very picky. It's hard for us to hire, but we've gotten a lot more resumes recently - so it's been good from that point of view! I'm certainly hopeful that it doesn't last too long. We want our licensees to do well. But regardless of the downturn, the games industry is very cyclic. It expands fast and a bunch of projects start, then it re-trenches. Even if there hadn't been a downturn, I wouldn't have been surprised to see some of things that have ended up happening. It's not just the games industry. For some big companies that are shedding people, the downturn provides an easy explanation for restructuring that it would have made good business sense to do anyway. It's the same for games. There's a huge amount of investment, then there's a bit of pull-back. But I think it'll start back up pretty quickly.
VideoGamer.com: So what, if anything, do you think the effect of the recession will be on games? What will we see when we look back on it in years to come?
SP: I think in the short term there will be maybe a smaller number of games, but I don't think there will be less good games. Some of the stuff that's been cancelled were projects I was looking forward to, so I can't just say that it's marginal games that have been cut, but it's the projects that would have marginal in terms of how much their publisher would have given them. So I think it will just weed out some of the games that would have unfortunately not gotten the love they needed, for whatever reason. That's my optimistic view!
VideoGamer.com: Changing topic... Have you seen or played much of Quake Live?
SP: I haven't had much of a chance to play it, though I tried it out once really quickly. It's a cool idea, a neat experiment. We're always looking for new ways to bring games to people, especially on PC, so it'll be interesting to see how it does.
VideoGamer.com: Do you think it's something that Epic might explore in the future?
SP: The problem is that we're a relatively small company, and we have more projects that we'd like to do than we can really explore, so I guess it's hard to say that it will makes its way to the top of the pile of things we want to do.
VideoGamer.com: But as an idea?
SP: I think in the long term... By the time we'd be doing that, there will probably be more of a track record, the right way will be clearer.
VideoGamer.com: Apologies for these next questions, but as an Epic employee I'm afraid I have to ask you two quick Gears-related questions. Firstly, is there any news on a possible PC port of Gears 2?
SP: Ah, there's no news - and I'm certainly not the right person to ask! [laughs]
VideoGamer.com: Okay. Here's the second: If a person were to hypothetically suggest that four-player co-op for Gears 3 would be a shoe-in... would you describe that person as sensible or stupid?
SP: [Long pause.] Um... but we have Horde! That's five players! I guess the only thing I can say to that is that Cliff has answered that question with Gears 2. I don't know if the answer to that question will ever change, but the answer with Gears 2 is that it was something that we thought about, but the trade-offs you have to make... You can only invest so much attention in every part of the game, and the trade-offs you had to make didn't make sense. But it would be fun!
Unreal Tournament: Titan Pack will be released via free download on March 5, for PC and PS3.