Axis Studios are proud to have partnered with The Coalition to develop seamless realtime cinematics using Unreal for Gears 5, the new release in Microsoft’s global franchise, Gears of War. Following its release, Gears 5 has picked up Xbox Game Of The Year at the Golden Joysticks Awards, received a VES award nomination for outstanding visual effects in a realtime and an Annie Awards nomination for best characer animation. 

Axis Studios was set the task of creating cinematics that merge seamlessly into the Gears 5 experience.  For Xbox One X, The Coalition wanted to push the visual quality even higher for the cinematics and took an uncompromising approach by optimizing the game so that all modes run at 4K and 60 fps.  

We quickly established a strong working relationship with The Coalition, leading to Axis taking a greater role in the game’s visual development, providing every aspect of cinematic creation in-engine, from animation through to final lighting, FX, implementation and optimisation, with some of the elements being used in the actual game play. 

Traci Tufte, Axis Studios Executive Producer, comments, “The Coalition was incredibly supportive and treated us as part of the team from the get-go. Our person to person relationship was incredibly helpful, we had regular meetings with their artists and technical teams to stay in sync with developments. Our meetings were always collaborative.”

Expanding the Gears Universe

With Gears 5, The Coalition started to build and expand on traditional Gears of War environments with the vast sand dunes of Vasgar and ice of Kadar. As part of this, Axis Studios was given the freedom to generate ideas for the lighting of some scenes, from early concepts or completely from scratch. Animation and FX helped flesh out these scenes, experimenting and building content, allowing the team to help set the tone for spaces and be part of Gears 5’s visual style. As a result, The Coalition based several level and cinematic lighting around Axis’ lighting designs.

Working directly with The Coalition's cinematics team in the live development branch of the game meant a deeper sharing of content and ideas. The Coalition had never outsourced in-engine cinematics before, resulting in the joint participation and creation of an entirely new pipeline for the project engineered specifically for collaborative work with Axis Studios. This meant we could use our 20 years of storytelling and cinematic skills, adapting to the project’s needs and bringing them to the client in realtime.

Michael Zaman, Head of Real-Time, comments, “Axis is constantly pushing what we can offer to our partners. With Gears 5, we had the opportunity to expand our skills beyond creating purely cinematic content. For instance, Axis created a ‘Flock’ tool in Houdini and Unreal that simulated all the Flock for all in-engine cinematics. 

This project has helped establish our realtime department, which existed, but not as a core area of business. We are proving that we can produce seamless AAA game cinematics in-engine, taking the expertise we’ve gained over the years into a new medium.  From facial to cinematic lighting, the cinematics looked great. Even in low-effect scenes, Axis effects stand out.”