Edge posted an interview with Laura Fryer, general manager of the three studios which make up Warner Bros Seattle, covering the idea that producers don’t always know what they are doing. I can totally understand the rational behind this, many teams produce games without any producers. Obviously, I believe that Producers play a vital role in today’s video game production yet Fryer’s point still stands.
Following the interview, a couple of comments were posted, most notably about Laura’s role in the development of Epic’s Gears of War, whereby it’s rumored that she tried to take out all the fun from the game, based on an heavily edited video interview.
Wasn’t she the lady in the making of gears of war DVD who was basically toadying for Peter Moore and trying to force Epic to cut basically everything cool out that game?
In reply to the comment, her husband chimed in with some unique perspective on the whole video and her role on the project:
Forgive me for the following disproportionate response to your simple question. When this show came out, we were chagrined, but laughed it off, and Laura kept quiet, because she was “taking one for the team”. But now I’m tired of remaining silent, because here we are 5 years later, and Laura’s reputation is still being damaged, and there’s no way for decent folk (whom I assume you to be) to know the truth. So, I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight. The “cut the chainsaw” plot of this show was a fabrication, it’s not fair, and Laura didn’t deserve to be portrayed in that fashion. She would probably tell me not to talk about it even now, but she’s in a plane over the Atlantic, so here we go. First, I want to be absolutely clear: this was not Epic’s fault! And it was not their doing. She and they have a great relationship to this day, and I know that they feel terribly that the TV guys drove a bus over Laura’s reputation. This show’s falsehoods were solely the fault of the TV producers, who cheerfully smeared Laura’s reputation for money. I think they are wretched excuses for human beings, and I wonder how they sleep at night. Below are timestamps from the full show, along with commentary describing what was actually going on:
At 4:10, Laura says “Rod and Epic still want the chainsaw” (audio stutter) “so I’m going to work on that.” If you listen, you can hear the bad edit to cut out the rest of her statement, to hide the fact that she’s talking about the trailer.
At 9:10, during the MS bug bash, Shane says “they dropped in the chainsaw again, and let’s just say there was a gratuitous amount of blood”. They are talking about a bug in the game where, if you chainsawed someone, the blood-spray effect wouldn’t turn off, and you’d be walking around with a “blood fire-hose” for the rest of the game. Microsoft wanted to get that bug fixed for E3.
At 10:15, the “communication issues” Rod is talking about are regarding the chainsaw scene in the trailer. Epic wanted the chainsaw shot from 0:15 in the trailer to be the last shot of the trailer, because they thought the last shot should feature their signature weapon.
At 11:30, first they are talking about adding the chainsaw to the game build. That’s true – they added the chainsaw, which everyone, *including* Microsoft, loved. That’s why the “blood fire-hose” bug was there during the bug bash: they had just added the chainsaw, and that bug was introduced.
At 11:50, they are talking about *the video scene*. The TV producers cut out a huge amount of dialog to make it appear that Laura is addressing Rod’s statement at 11:30. Listen to how the audio clips right after Laura says “chainsaw”. She’s really saying something like “chainsaw scene”, but they’ve edited the scene to create a false impression.
The “over the top gore” issue is about *whether to end the video* with the “gory chainsaw” shot or to end it with the “Marcus overrun” shot which was actually used.
Laura says “that’s not something we can change because that ship has already sailed” because the TRAILER was already in the can. It was too late to re-edit the video to move the chainsaw shot to the end. Why would Laura be able to tell Epic “too bad, you can’t have the chainsaw in the game”? It was Epic’s code! It beggars belief that Laura could somehow wave a magic wand from 3000 miles away and force Epic to pull the chainsaw from their own game. Anyone who believes that doesn’t know Epic very well.
At 12:22, listen to how Rod’s speech is clipped: “…and that’s why we feel really strongly” CLIP “an assault rifle with a chainsaw”. He was talking about the video scene.
At 12:58, when Laura says “they really wanted to show that and have people remember that”, she’s talking about how Epic wanted the chainsaw shot to be the last scene. Epic felt that people would remember the last scene of the video, so they wanted the chainsaw to be that scene.
At 13:08 this entire conversation is faked, constructed through edits. They just took random bits of Mike and Laura’s conversation and made up this false conversation. Listen to how every time Laura says “chainsaw” the audio clips.
At 19:20, Laura says “I love chainsawing people”. True! She’s been a gamer since the 80’s. The first PC game she played was King’s Quest on the original luggable Compaq computer. The first FPS she played was Midi Maze on an Atari ST, and she’s played most FPS’s since then including Wolf 3D, Doom, Quake, and Halo. She and I played through Doom 2 in CO-OP using two 386’s linked via null modem. Can you imagine anyone who played DOOM, with its chainsaw, failing to appreciate the awesomeness of a chainsaw gun? But people believe these lies about Laura because it plays to their prejudices about Microsoft, executives, and women. The truth is that Laura and the Epic guys have been great friends since Laura ran developer relations (the Advanced Technology Group) for the original Xbox team. She left the Xbox team especially to work with Epic on Gears. She and they kicked ass, and there was tons of respect all around.
But a bunch of friends working hard and kicking ass doesn’t make good TV, does it? Laura did her job, she kept the drama to a minimum, and supported the Epic to the utmost of her ability (exactly as she described in her recent keynote). But *because she did her job well*, and kept the drama to a minimum, the TV guys had nothing to show. Because she kept the drama down, the TV producers fabricated this lie to create drama.
That’s the biggest irony: because Laura did her job well, and there was no real drama, the TV producers painted her as the villain in their lousy morality play. I will end with a quote from Mike Capps. This is what he said onstage when he accepted the GDC Game of the Year award for Gears:
“I’d really like to thank Microsoft one more time. Everybody sort of makes the obligatory ‘Oh the publisher, they paid for it, cheers’, but Gears of War wouldn’t have happened the way it did without the fantastic support of Microsoft. I know there’s a lot of folks here from Microsoft Games Studios. I know Laura Fryer is over there sitting with us, and she always gets to watch me accept the award, but you should stand up, and everyone else from MGS should too, because they put their heart and soul, and a lot of them put their asses on the line, for this game, and you know, we just had a fantastic partnership. So thanks very much.”
If you got this far, thanks for reading! It’s been a long 5 years, and I want the full truth known, lest Laura’s tombstone read “She tried to cut the chainsaw from Gears of War”.