I’ve been playing through the Gears of War games recently. From a gameplay stance, they’re quite fun, but from a narrative point of view they really bug me. The problem is each campaign (I’m about half-way through Gears 3 at this point) has only a few plot points, but each plot point is dragged out to absurd lengths, with every minor task turning into a set of recursive obstacles to overcome. It is so silly that by Gears 3 even the characters are joking about how nothing is ever easy. I feel like these games could’ve been narratively stronger if there was a longer story with more plot points, but with each point being less cumbersome to achieve.
But when it Rome, right? So I decided to write the script/design doc for the next game, Gears of War: Lunch
Act I: The quest for bread
Marcus Fenix is hungry and is ready for lunch. However when he opens the bread box to make a ham sandwich, he finds nothing but crumbs! Marcus needs to get to the bakery for a loaf of bread. For company he enlists Sam because once she reads this script I’m sure Claudia Black will sign on to do voice talent and every game is improved by the addition of Claudia Black.
Chapter 1: Trees release me
Marcus knows there’s an old jalopy in the garage they can use to get to the bakery. He and Sam leave the house only to find a storm has knocked over a large tree and it is blocking access to the garage.
Goal: Marcus and Sam have to use their chainsaws to cut the tree up into manageable chunks and drag them out of the way.
With that task done, Marcus attempts to flip a giant switch that is supposed to open the garage door. It is jammed! Sam reminds him that there used to be a remote control for the door and maybe that will work. Marcus calls control on his radio, and Anya provides him with the intel that the remote is in the basement of the house.
Chapter 2: Rats!
Marcus and Sam head for the basement only to find it is flooded. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts, “I can’t get my COG-issued boots wet! We have to find a way to drain this water.” Sam suggests that if they cut off the supply of water, it should all drain away. There’s a giant valve along one wall of the basement and boxes of old Christmas ornaments they can walk on to get to it. The only problem is… there are rats in the basement!
Goal: Trap the rats, get to the valve and turn it off
The flood drains away remarkably quickly once Marus turns off the valve. Sam grabs the remote and they head back to sunlight. The remote works and the garage door opens. They jump into the jalopy but… no keys! Sam mentions that she thinks the keys are stored in the attic because where else would you store car keys?
Chapter 3: Photographs and memories
Marcus and Sam head to the attic. It is PACKED with junk…boxes and boxes of old photos, magazines and other assorted junk. On the back wall they can see the keys hanging on a hook, a single shaft of sunlight passes through a crack in the roof and illuminates them.
Goal: This is a puzzle level. Marcus doesn’t want to destroy anything so he has to carefully push and slide boxes to clear a path to the keys. One mistake and he and Sam will be crushed by a pile of old National Geographic magazines
With keys in hand Marcus and Sam return to the jalopy. It starts! “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts, “We’re almost out of gas!” “No worries,” Sam says, “There’s a fuel station nearby, let’s head there before going to the bakery.”
Fade to black, cut scene of them driving through suburban streets and pulling into a gas station
Chapter 4: Hard currency
Note: This is a ‘catch your breath’ chapter. Lots of cut scenes, light gameplay.
Marcus pulls up to the gas pump just as the jalopy’s engine sputters and dies, its tank completely empty. Marcus notices a sign “Please pay in advance.”
Goal: Buy some gas (spoiler: unobtainable goal)
Marcus grumbles and heads inside, holds out his credit card. “Sorry, stinkin’ COGS pay cash!” the attendant shouts. Marcus reaches for his lancer but Sam grabs his arm. “There’s an ATM machine in the corner, just take out some cash, this guy isn’t worth your time.” They head to the ATM, Marus puts his card in but nothing happens. “That ain’t worked in weeks!” the attendant cackles. “Circuit board is fried. I ordered a replacement but I haven’t had time to get to the electronics store to pick it up.” Marcus growls, but Sam says “We’ll get the circuit board and fix your ATM if you’ll sell us some fuel, deal?” “Deal!” says the attendant, “But circuit board first, then fuel. The shop is just down the road a ways.”
Marcus calls Anya and gets GPS data to guide them to the electronics shop, but she notes the shop closes early today. He and Sam start running towards the city. This is a timed segment. They have to avoid both foot and vehicle traffic while maintaining a roadie-run through the whole section.
This level leads them into the city proper. However their way is blocked by an overturned bus. They can’t get past it! Marcus casts his gaze up to the tops of the apartment buildings that line the street. “There’s our road” he mutters. They run up to the front door of one of the apartment buildings, but it’s a secure building; they can’t get in. “Let me handle this, you lack tact.” Sam says to Marcus and she starts pushing intercom buttons at random, trying to sweet talk her way into the building. After the 3rd attempt Marcus loses his patience and smashes his fist into the intercom panel, crushing it. The front door inexplicably pops open. “Or that works too.” Sam mutters.
Chapter 5: What a super building
Goal: Reach the roof undetected
This is a stealth level. Marcus and Sam have to move up the stairs to the roof while avoiding the roaming superintendents. For some reason this building has 5 of them and they’re all in the stairwell. Marcus and Sam can briefly exit the stairwell to let a super pass. When they get to the top floor they notice it is being renovated.
Optional: There is a fire alarm when they first enter the building. If Marcus pulls it, the building will be evacuated and he and Sam can run up the stairs without unhindered.
Once on the roof the pair see that they have to cross the gap to the next building and then one more after that to clear the mess in the streets.
Chapter 6: Planks for the memories
Goal: Get to the third rooftop
Marcus looks at the gap between buildings doubtfully. “Don’t think we can jump that,” he says. “We need a bridge.” Sam says, “What about that construction on the top floor?” The two head back into the apartment building to the floor that is being renovated. They find a plank and carry it to the edge of the building and drop it across the gap.
Now they have to carefully walk across it. The player has to manipulate that analog sticks to help the characters keep their balance. Just as they step off onto the 2nd building, the plank slips and falls into the alley below. They are trapped.
The secret to crossing to the third building is that there is a pigeon coop on this roof. Marcus can push it to the edge of the roof and then topple it over, forming a makeshift bridge to rooftop #3. When he starts pushing it the pigeons get free and he has to shoo them away, push the coop, and repeat until he makes it to the edge. Finally the two can cross to building 3.
But the door to the stairwell is blocked!
The last part of this chapter is finding some repelling gear conveniently left in a corner, and repelling down to the street.
Once back on solid ground, the pair approach the electronics store… and it is closed!! There is no way to get the circuit board. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts. “Marcus,” Sam drawls, “Isn’t the bakery just one street over from here? Why don’t we just hoof it?”
They cut through an alley, get to the bakery and see there is a single loaf of bread left. “Mine!” Marcus screams, startling the baker. “Yes sir!” the frightened man says. “Do you take hard currency?” Sam asks. “Of course we do!” says the baker. Marcus and Sam leave the bakery, bread in hand.
Fade to black.
Act 2: Hamming it up
Marcus and Sam are back at the house, in the kitchen. Sam cuts a few slices off the bread while Marcus goes to the fridge. He opens the door, peers inside. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts. “We’re out of ham! We need to get to the butcher shop, stat!”