I am Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director at Epic Games. Co-creator of Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, and Gears of War. AMA.
Here’s proof: https://twitter.com/therealcliffyb/status/245964600753930240
I've been in the videogame industry for 20 years.
I'm currently working on the Gears of War prequel "Judgment" as well as our upcoming PC game "Fortnite." I'm also giving feedback on our other projects such as "Infinity Blade: Dungeons", "Rampart: The Movie: The Game" and other unnanounced titles. Ask me anything; even non industry related questions.
Finally, we’re going to give that Retro Lancer away to a Redditor in this thread. The only qualification is that you act like a decent human - no trolls please.
I’ll be back here to start answering questions at 1:30 p.m. EST.
EDIT: Okay, I've got to go now guys. THANK YOU for all of the love. Seriously. You've gotten me to open up about a lot of stuff that I wasn't planning on talking about!
For those of you who want to get in the biz JUST DO IT. Start making something TONIGHT. Grab UDK or whatever's best for you and START. YOU are the next generation of innovation and I expect to see many of you at GDC at the Indie games festival with your own games in the coming years!
The winner of the lancer is Cheesiepoofs. DreamvsPS2 - you got the Transformer. Someone from Epic will be in touch to coordinate sending the goodies over.
It seems as if you're asking about two entirely different games. The first Unreal was more of a single player exploratory experience whereas Unreal Tournament was a multiplayer focused game with a "ladder" for the single player. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
I was quoted recently on a Fortnite panel about the first Unreal and what a reboot might look like. Having really grown into a big Bethesda fan lately (Skyrim rocked my world) I couldn't help but wonder what a reboot of Unreal would be like if it was more "SciFi-Rim." Sure, there would be shooting involved, but exploration would almost be more important. Get back to that sense of wonder that the first game had. (Caves and castles and crashed ships are basically your dungeon instances, whereas the "overworld" is less intense.) Put it on a high end PC and prepare yourself for amazing visuals never before seen in real time.
As far as a new UT, it's hard to say. Shooters and their sequels are a tricky beast. Often you wind up upsetting your core whenever you make a sequel because sometimes you change things the users didn't want changed, or the users are so very in love with their memory of the original game that there's nothing you can do to live up to the first game. This happened with Counterstrike: Source, Quake 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, heck, even Halo 2.
(All that said, I do personally believe that UT3 suffered a bit from an identity crisis in regards to whether or not it was a PC or Console game.)
So if, when? I don't know, honestly. We're understaffed right now for all of the projects we've got going on so I can't say if or when it may happen. I do love that IP and do hope to return to Na Pali some day.
p.s. The delta between the current crop of consoles and a high end PC is incredibly obvious now. Looking at Hawken at PAX versus the other console games and this difference is startling. FYI Fortnite is a PC first game.
I would say that your UT sequels have suffered an identity crisis because you've build each of the UT sequels with a console first mentality that is demonstrably visible from the GFX to the UI. All of them have been poorer because of it IMO.
That's the problem with cross platform development.
Is there any chance of a 2k4 reboot that goes back to the best player movement/interaction ever? One that obviously updates the graphics but can go back to that game play?
The assault/onslaught crowd was huge but ctf was an amazing experience. Ut2k4 5v5 ctf from UT2k4 is what I judge every single MP game I play off of.
-There was some backlash with ut2k3 but 2k4 pretty well put that down. Having started with the first UT the action, pace of play, and general movement/flow of 2k4 has yet to be matched by any game to this day IMO and by most that played 2k4 for any amount of time. Basically. WE REALLY JUST WANT A REBOOT OF 2k4 WITH NEW GRAPHICS. No ditching the shield gun. No ditching the Shock rifle. Those who preferred the Sniper over the Lighting gun were mostly 2face players. KEEP THE LG PLEASE, and the Sniper for their sake.
THIS Is exactly the comment I was looking for because It's exactly how I feel.
"WE REALLY JUST WANT A REBOOT OF 2k4 WITH NEW GRAPHICS." I second this.
This is the sequel catch 22. The fans clamor for "the same game, re-skinned" but if you do that the naysayers will say it's just "Sequel 1.5."
WOW finally im here for an AMA for someone i've wanted to talk to for years. Im such a massive fan of yours you have no idea.
1) How did you get to where you are in the videogame industry? How do you even get selected for leading the development of a videogame?
2) What point in your career did you go from being hired to make a game to being able to get games made? Have you gotten to that point? I imagine you've got quite the sway in the industry after all this time.
3) How much of development gets affected by the people funding the game itself? Is it just timelines or is it common for them to step in to make cuts to affect things like the target audience etc.?
Anything you want to answer would be absolutely incredible. Honestly I got nerd chills when I saw you were doing an AMA and it was only 9 minutes old.
Edit: Holy shit I just got back from class.. i cant believe it.. this has made my life... on top of that my birthday is in 2 weeks... i just.. i have no words. Mr. Blezinski you are my hero. Thank you.
I kicked and screamed and clawed my way to where I am today. As I mentioned below, I seldom went out in my teens and 20's and focused on my career. I was never very good at graphics or code but I did both of them anyways and later found folks much better at both that I could work with. Remember, I've been at this for TWENTY YEARS now, as I started at 17. The one constant in this business (and in technology) is change.
I just made my own games, it's that simple. I also realized the value of being visible in the industry at an early age. I used to be a drama geek in high school. I played Mercutio in our high school's production of "Romeo and Juliet" and was a lead in our production of "Rumors" as well as "Ten Little Indians." (FUNFACT: I was in drama with Courtney Ford ("Dexter" "True Blood") and we still keep in touch. I got her to do Maria's voice in Gears 2.) Anyways I use those drama chops for interviews and stage presentations and what not.
Epic is NOT the typical developer as we are the ones who decide when our games ship as well as the games that we work on. We use a combination of gut and market conditions while also balancing what's best from the engine side of the business to decide what's next.
How do you feel about chest-high walls?
They make for stellar cover.
What happened with Jazz Jackrabbit? That was my favourite game growing up. Any chance that game will be reborn?
Not any time soon. We're (fortunate) slaves to our success here at Epic with great franchises like Gears and Infinity Blade. It seems like a risky bet. Could we see a 2D platform game return and really move that many units, or would it just be a cult hit?
We make games as a labor of love, but we also try to weigh the choice of what we build based upon a solid understanding of the business. How could Jazz exist and flourish in this market? I don't know, honestly.
One idea that George Broussard and I discussed years ago was to bring back Jazz as an FPS, Jumping Flash style.
But yeah, we'll do that in our "spare" time. ;)
This is what I came here for. I didn't like UT after the 1999 version, and I'm not a GoW fan. I was a huge fan of Jazz growing up. I loved that game. I would love a mobile, XBL or PSN game, or even HD graphics on Steam or the PC in some way.
Hey Cliffy, cmon man. Cmon.
You should check out "Dust" on XBLA. The guy who made it was an animator on Jazz 2 and it feels like a spiritual sequel.
Can I have one of the toys from your office? PLEASE
Sure, you can have this one. Our folks will contact you shortly for shipping details.
You have unlimited funds and processing power, what film/novel/comic book do you make into a game?
Hey Cliff, it's Max Scoville from The Destructoid Show.
I drunkenly suggested this to you at GDC, but when are you gonna make a line of functioning NERF guns based on weapons from various Epic Games? I want replica Flak Cannon that shoots Ballzooka balls and a Bio Rifle that shoots Nickelodeon Gak. Basically what I'm asking here is can you use your fast fortune to do an real-life HD remake of my childhood?
Also: Jazz Jackrabbit reboot in Unreal 4? Fortnite's looking like a playable Pixar movie, when are we gonna get some bunnies up in this motherfucker?
Also also: You seemed impressed with the Oculus Rift VR headset. Any plans to like, do stuff with it? With your games, and shit?
(This is the closest I'll ever get to actually interviewing you because I know you're still mad about that time I took a shit all over Gears and Bulletstorm.)
Getting NERF to make guns based on an M-rated game would be tricky, but I sure would love to do it. We honestly haven't approached them yet, thanks for the reminder.
Already answered the infamous Jazz question at the top.
I think Oculus is awesome and VR is set for a BIG comeback in the next few years. Not announcing anything formally today, though.
Are you still mad because I blocked Jim Sterling on Twitter?
Yes. I'm also in the last 2 issues of the Nintendo Fun Club.
Are you looking forward to the Wii U, as a gamer and developer?
Being raised on All Things Nintendo I will always I love all things Nintendo.
I'll be watching the Wii U closely. I think Nintendo may have initially lost a little of their core with the Wii for a bit, honestly, and they seem to have realized this. I believe they also recognize that we live in a "multi-screen" culture hence the controller design. I played ZombiU at PAX and it was promising (even though the controls could use a little loving!) so we'll have to wait and see.
I sometimes wonder if we'll find ourselves in a PC/Phone/Tablet future, honestly.
Are there any Nintendo games that you were raised with that you find particularly inspirational?
The Legend of Zelda.
He spoke about it at GDC 2012. I checked, though, and that particular session is not offered for free, I believe.
Yes, the original Zelda. It felt like a mirror of my childhood growing up in New England. The sense of exploration, the hidden caves and items, the music, all of it. Sometimes I'll go to Youtube and call up the title screen and get chills at the goodness that is the opening 8 bit theme.
- What do you think of DayZ?
- as a successful game designer, do you look at games like DayZ, Minecraft, Kerbal Space program and their success and makes you change the way you think about gamers and how to design for them?
I haven't had a chance to play it myself, but I've seen the viral videos. That mod is a prime example of my theory that "bugs not withstanding, there's a direct correlation between how cool your game is and how many interesting Youtube videos it can yield."
I loved the "Never trust anyone in DayZ, especially if they have a helicopter" video. Pure gold.
So, put the survival and social aspects aside for a second and step back and consider that we're in a world where a mod like that CAN blow up thanks to the connected nature of the world in which we live. A handful of guys can now have a great idea for the next big thing and put it out and it can explode seemingly overnight! (We had seen this before with mods like Counterstrike, but it's only become more and more frequent lately.)
My wife and I were very hooked on Minecraft for months. It's brilliant and I have a lot of respect for Notch and the crew at Mojang (and 4J!) and I find it thrilling that unique games like the aforementioned can flourish now.
What is a movie that you would love to make into a video game and why?
The Big Lebowski, for every system. It'd tie all the gaming platforms together.
FORTnITE represents a pretty big change in direction from Epic. Are you tired of the over-muscled freaks of games gone by, or just wanting to branch out?
Or did you just come to realise how much freakin money Notch was making and want to get in on that action?
I'm thrilled to be able to work on something different. I'm currently dividing my time on our various projects. We just had a playtest of Fortnite in our war room yesterday and it's really starting to come together. The visual style alone excites me after living in the Gears universe for 7+ years.
Again, I never wanted to build a game with muscle-bound characters; the art department produced the concepts and models and they simply felt good slamming into walls and cutting one another in half with chainsaw guns. I do hope that in the future we can get some of the "dudebro" out of Gears, to be honest.
One time at E3 I saw Notch take his hat off and 100 dollar bills fell out, true story.
It was amusing you see you scramble to pick it up.
(Also, I love you, man)
You're just sad I didn't crash your rave at PAX. ;)
Hey Cliff. Met you at Quakecon/CPL Dallas back in the late nineties right after Unreal dropped. You had a really gangsta necklace. Still got it? Reddit needs to see pics of this.
What's your greatest triumph that you've never openly discussed with the press? What's about your greatest loss? How did you overcome it?
My greatest triumph would have to be finding and eventually marrying my amazing wife. I still have no idea how I landed her.
My greatest loss came in two losses, actually. First was the sudden loss of my father at the age of 15 to heart issues. Second was the sudden loss of my 20-year-old nephew a couple of years back to a car accident. The first motivated me to do what I do so that hopefully he's looking down on me and is proud of me, the latter reminded me how important family is and how fragile life is and to live every day as if it were your last.
How did you and your team take the luke-warm reception of Bulletstorm?
It sold fairly well and as the fella below mentioned it had a good critical reception.
The kill with skill system was rather unique and innovative, however, when it comes to shooting it's really hard to encourage a gamer to "play with their food" because we're trained in our shooting games to be as ruthlessly efficient as possible.
The marketing (which I was partially responsible for!) was also a bit off kilter for the game. The problem with the unique language in the title (Rick Remender did a stellar job on the writing, BTW) is that it becomes the standout thing that can outshine the graphics, world, gameplay and story. Suddenly you're the game with "Dicktits" in it, marketing latches onto that, and people might not take the property as serious as you'd like.
Also, I believe we should have had a versus multiplayer in the game.
What is the best advice for a possible future game programmer?
Stay out of the bar scene.
Can you elaborate?
I had this chat with my teenaged nephew the other day. He asked me to send him a picture of my car. So I sent him a picture of all of them with the statement "Not to preach to you, but everyone I know who is this successful was working hard at your age and not partying." I barely went out in my teens and 20's. I was driven and I wanted to make games more than anything else.
I'd make sure that there's still a place for survival horror games to exist and floursh. There have been a few that have come back (Amnesia comes to mind) but by and large the genre has almost vanished. Fatal Frame 2 and Silent Hill 2 are two of my favorite games of all time. (Everyone knows I loved RE4 as well, but that's kind of action-horror.)
I believe that one of the main factors for this is the blockbuster hit driven nature of the business that we have in a disc-based market. You're either Call of Duty, Skyrim, or Gears, or it seems like you're a "campaign rental" or a used game. When we get to a digitally delivered world I'd wager that there will be room for, say, a 20 dollar short and fun and scary experience to emerge.
As a Raleigh native, I was a bit surprised to find that Epic had an office in the Triangle area. What is it about NC that is attractive to a company like Epic?
EDIT: I have realized the answer on my own. It's because of all the bacon isn't it.
The cost of living is really reasonable, the city continues to grow, the weather is nice, and the food/entertainment scene is exploding, and the schools are good. What's not to like?
(Plus we're like one of four things in town people seem to like to talk about.)
How do you keep your teeth so damn white?
Crest Whitestrips. Also, floss.
Who was responsible for Dom's death? We want justice!
I'll claim that one. I was eating brunch one day and I texted Rod Fergusson "Dom's got to die." I think the seed was put in my head by a Gears fan that I met at a tweetup in NYC at Union Square months prior. I asked the folks "What do you think is going to happen in Gears 3?" and one guy said "Dom's gotta die dude" and I replied "Why?" and he said "Stuff's gotta happen."
The more tangible rationale that I have for killing Dom comes from a fun story. I remember one time I was chatting with Joss Whedon about Buffy and he said that they realized that "Buffy Suffer = Show Good." I suppose that I helped facilitate that for Marcus.
What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Pralines and Dick.
What is it like drinking with Hideo Kojima?
Do you ever say "BEER ME KOJI" too?
It's kind of surreal, actually. I usually wind up getting somewhat sloshed and wind up telling him and his guys how everything that influenced me growing up came from Japan. (Nintendo, Shogun Warriors, Star Blazers, Transformers, Godzilla, etc...)
He seems to favor bloody marys, whereas I go for vodka soda.
At PAX there was a 25th anniversary party for Metal Gear and I somehow wound up being recruited to give a toast to Kojima. I was shaking afterwards. I remember seeing the first ads for "Ultra's" Metal Gear in the Nintendo Fun club and here I am, toasting Kojima at one of his career milestones. It was humbling and amazing.
Did you ever find out if this Kojima comment was targeted towards you? http://i.imgur.com/ezGhW.png
Yes. Throughout the years the press has taken quotes out of context to try to turn it into some Real Housewives of New Jersey drama between us but we've remained friends throughout it all.
Is there going to be another make something unreal contest when UE4 comes out?
While at PAX this year, I saw a super hot chick walking around the floor and thought "what guy can get a smoking hot girl like that". And then I saw you next to her.
When will we see Unreal Tournament 4?ANSWERED ABOVE
WHY IS THE LOCUST QUEEN HUMAN? (Or looks human)
Are you guys hiring?ANSWERED Have you gotten a chance to check out the WiiU? Thoughts?ANSWERED ABOVE
There has been some interesting posts here on Reddit as of late about piracy, and praise for developers for being civil when they find out their games are up on piratebay. Do you think piracy is as serious a problem as some people make it out to be?
What is the environment like, working at Epic? Do you use that giant slide?
WHY ARE YOUR COMPANY PICNICS SO MUCH BETTER THAN MINE? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wizCtU-J40Q&feature=youtu.be&hd=1
Edit: *looks down, "CLIFF YOU SKIPPED ME! COME BACK!"
Edit2: I will starve through my lunch, staring at this like a goat until it gets answered!
Seconded on the locust queen question. It was the one thing I was disappointed in with the Gears franchise
You can find the answer to this by digging online. The Gears community has basically solved this as well as the origins of the Locust. Also, Karen's books delve into some of this a bit more.
How did you meet your wife?
She won the "miss video game" competition a few years back. I saw her pop up on all of the videogame blogs and said "That's going to be my new girlfriend."
What's the one genre of gaming you'd like to make a game in that you haven't done yet?
I've always wanted to make a game about a lost dog who has to find his way home.
Loved you on Joe Rogan's podcast. Doing another one anytime soon?
For those interested.
Joe's in town at the end of the month. Tweet him at @joerogan and remind him to get up with me.
Hey CliffyB, will we be seeing a resurgence of cat-scan.com ?
I wish. I just stopped updating that site one day because I didn't want it to be my legacy, I wanted the games I worked on to be what I was known for. I guess I was way ahead of the "cats take over the internet" trend in hindsight!
What was your inspiration for the Gears of War series?
In hindsight the failure of my first marriage was a big influence, to be honest.
Care to elaborate?
Don't marry the first girl you ever seriously date.
Can you help me settle a 5 year old dispute?!?
Me and my buddies used to play Call of Duty 3 (terrible game, we know) with someone who claimed to be you. The game sucked so bad we made up game types like hide and seek...
Your username had the word 'garnet' in it. Was that you?!
We've debated it...well rather infrequently to be honest... For years!
No, that wasn't me.
FUNFACT: I used to play Quake 3 online with the nickname "GAYPRIDE" in rainbow colors. Used to drive the folks insane online, because I was rather good and would kick their butts.
What person in the game industry have you learned the most from and what was the most important thing you learned from them?
Tricky one. I can cite one lesson that I learned from Miyamoto by way of Ken Lobb. Ken taught me that Miyamoto always praises the idea of an "upwards sine curve" of challenge in games. They're easy at first, then they ramp up the challenge, then once you've mastered the goal they should dip down and get easy for a bit before repeating. I try to apply that to most everything I work on.
p.s. I'm available to return to your show any time you'll have me. ;)
As "CliffyB" you've been put up by the video game press as some kind of "rock star" of the video game making community. Are you comfortable with that persona, or do you just put up with it to sell games? Would you rather be seen as a serious (if a bit boring) designer like Will Wright, Sid Meier or Shigeru Miyamoto?
I'm comfortable with the "persona" aspect of what I do. The one thing that bothers me sometimes is the random hatred from people I've never met. I have a blast doing what I do and I like sharing a lot of it.
It blows my mind when someone tweets me "I HATE YOU YOU SUCK" and I click on their profile and the name is something like "GearsFan214" and their profile picture is showing a kid in a Gears hoodie.
How do you manage to be so dreamy?
I bathe on a regular basis.
What do you think is your biggest industry related failure, and why?
The online launch of Gears 2 and the fact that it barely worked upon launch. It broke my heart.
I've been playing Halo since the original Xbox and have played every iteration of it. If you put aside just being a gamer for a moment it's important to see what other games and studios are doing in order to remain relevant with your feature set.
I was only able to be hands on with Halo 4 for a little bit but from what I saw BELIEVE. 343 is going to deliver with this one. Controls are as snug as ever and the visuals are clean and lush. Also, my team kicked ass at CTF.
What's your favorite beer?
I like Gaffel.
Where's the bike form american chopper now?
Microsoft has it. I'm trying to pry it out of their campus with a spork.
Do you remember when I drove your S63 AMG for valet at The Oxford in downtown Raleigh? That was great, thanks for that!
Thanks for taking all of the change out of the cupholder.
Why didn't you kill off more characters in Gears of War 3? The tag line was a somber "Brothers to the End" but the end wasn't the super somber people were expecting.
btw: Gears 2 = best xbox game ever
Because I'm not George R Martin? ;)
What do you think of the Oculus? Do you think it is a good idea to immerse gamers like this? Does it really enhance games that much? Will Epic be making games on it?
Oculus is GREAT. Once you try it you'll become a believer. Mark my words, VR is coming back in a BIG way.
Let's be straight with each other right now Cliff Bleszinski: Favorite Transformer. Right now, and why.
Optimus Fucking Prime because he's the kind of leader that doesn't sit in a control room and bark orders. He transforms, rolls out, and drives right over those pesky Decepticreeps like a BOSS. YOU GOT THE TOUCH! YOU GOT THE POWERRRRRR YEAHHHHH.
Cliff, what drives you? What is it that keeps you pumped and delivering these awesome games to us the public?
I got into this business for three reasons:
- To make great games.
- To make a living making said games.
- To be visible doing it.
When are we getting a return to the PC FPS glory that was Unreal? Hell I would like a return to Unreal Tournament too. One that is developed for PC first, and consoles second.
Edit: Thanks for the reply Cliff. You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
View HistoryShare Link