Since the series' debut, Gears of War players have logged an impressive 2.3 billion hours playing Gears of War's multiplayer. The Coalition is acutely aware that it has a passionate fan base looking forward to digging into the next online Gears experience. Our recent trip to visit the studio for our April cover story focused largely on the game's story-focused campaign, but we were still able to eke out a few juicy details about multiplayer. 1) Multiplayer is getting a bigger focus this time: "Historically, the campaign is the hardest thing to make out of any of these games," says studio head Rod Fergusson. "So if you look at the development of Gears one, it was probably 90 percent single player, 10 percent multiplayer. Over the course of the franchise, that percentage shifted, but I don't think it ever got above 70/30. Coming here, multiplayer has a much greater position at the table. On day one, as we were prototyping our first campaign experience, we were also building multiplayer maps. We really want to meet the needs of not just recreational players but eSports players, and it's something we've been thinking about for the entire development cycle." 2) Ryan Cleven is the Lead MP Designer: Cleven's resume includes series like Need for Speed and SSX. We'd be shocked if Horde mode didn’t return: The Coalition wouldn’t confirm the addition of any particular multiplayer mode, but the team is keenly aware of the mode's popularity and seem focused on making the Gears community happy moving into the future. 4) The multiplayer beta will start this spring: During the beta, players will be able to play as five of the campaign's protagonists. The first three are the three main playable heroes, JD, Kait, Del. The fourth is Kait's mom and leader of the Outsiders, a woman named Reyna. The fifth is Kait's uncle, Oscar, who is an ex-Gear soldier and expert survivalist. 5) Multiplayer is still humans vs monsters: To fit into the lore of the world, there will be at least three factions in multiplayer, but these will still be separated into humans vs. monsters, meaning one side will play as the new Swarm enemies, while the other side with play as either COG soldiers or human Outsiders. We're not entirely sure if multiplayer is only limited to these three factions, however, so it's possible that there is a second, unknown monster faction. 6) Each faction has their own knife and will likely have other unique attributes: 7) The team is making a big push for the eSports market this time around: The Coalition even has one staffer dedicated to work full time on the eSports initative. "Gears of War was one of the first games to be part of the eSports growth, and it came around during a time when things like Twitch were just starting to explode," says director of community Adam Fletcher. "What were trying to do now is treat eSports as a brand. We started that with the Ultimate Edition where we partnered with the ESL, and worked to created different seasons in of a pro league as well as an open series that spans North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. During our championships, we had over 130,000 unique viewers on Twitch, and we sold out of tickets for a live event down in Burbank." But casual fans are still welcome: "When I was at Epic, we didn't really value pro players," says studio head Rod Fergusson. "We were always focused on accessibility and how to get more recreational players. We let pro players do whatever they wanted and tried not to overdevelop for them. Now we're trying to find that balance. We recognize that there's this professional player, and have you sort of build a funnel toward them but also make sure your game is highly accessible." 9) Don't expect a lot of wind: Wind is a big part of the story campaign, but at this time, the team isn't planning on incorporating wind flares into the game's multipayer maps. 10) The Coalition is getting some help: The multiplayer team also includes London-based developer, Splash Damage, which has previously worked on games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Brink, Batman: Arkham Origins, and even Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. “They’re helping with a lot of the level design stuff," says Fergusson. "Especially with meshing of multiplayer maps, we’re tapping into the expertise they got from Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. They also have a lot of expertise with online systems, in terms of matchmaking from Ultimate Edition. They basically had to rewrite for Xbox One, between us and them, the whole matchmaking sub-system…when you get a strategic partner like Splash Damage, we talk about training up our own team on Gears, but when you have another team that’s trained up on Gears, we definitely want to work with them as much as possible.” 11) Multiplayer will run at 60 fps and will have its own dedicated servers:What else do you want? 12) Balance is important to The Coalition: The Studio has introduced a new takedown system that allows players to initiate a series of close-combat melee takedowns. In single player these might become fairly easy to pull off, but The Coalition has worked hard to ensure that, in multiplayer, players on the receiving end of these have several ways to counter the attacks and escape before a knife ends up in their brainpan.