Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski is one of the most prominent game developers in the business. He’s just a smart, talented, and quotable guy (though he whines like a little girl when you hit him…more on that later). Whether he’s talking about digital distribution, what games he’s been digging lately, used-game sales, or bars in San Francisco Chinatown, the man always has something interesting to say. Here’s my interview with one the main minds behind Unreal and Gears of War, the infamous Cliffy B.
Raymond Padilla: With games like Shadow Complex and systems like the Sony PSPgo, digital distribution is becoming a bigger part of the gaming business. How does digital distribution impact you as a game designer?
Cliff Bleszinski: A couple weekends ago, I was up in East Village at “Videogames New York”, a combination new/retro game store. On the front counter, they had Borderlands and in the back aisles, they had the Vectrex and Game & Watch. My feelings went from initially geeking out to immense nostalgia to overwhelming pride for how far this business has come in my lifetime alone. We go digital and that physical history starts drying up and eventually vanishes. Older games become the same as a 45 record.
Digital distribution has the potential to end the used game debate that’s currently raging across the business. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On one hand, I love having that pipeline into my house: Look, a new game is up on Live; download the title right to your hard drive and fire it up. At the same time, I love having games, movies, and books on my shelves at my home. It feels like an IRL representation of the facets of your personality and tastes whenever people come over to visit. The Kindle and other devices are equally fascinating. I fear not leafing through a book ever again but at the same time I cringe at the thought of having to deal with a CD and a jewel case in a world of digital music.
Finally, as far as the kinds of games I’d like to design and contribute to? Digital frees up some risk. You can make that little dream game you’ve always wanted to make and take more chances, which is incredibly appealing as a creative.
Yesterday, you read Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski’s thoughts on OnLive. Today you get the renowned game designer’s opinion on Project Natal. In my recent interview with Cliff, I asked him what he saw in Microsoft’s motion-sensing wonder. He said:
I see an amazingly fun system that will expand the Xbox user base in a direction previously untapped by Microsoft and currently owned by Nintendo. When all is said and done, there are probably going to be “Wii Fit”-like games, more “hardcore experience”-based games as well as some that lie somewhere between the two.
I don’t believe that motion or gesture-based controls of any sort will replace the controller any time soon. They will merely enable yet another way to interact with your console, and Natal could potentially enhance classic controller-based games in many, many different and exciting ways. (None of which I’m ready to talk about at this time, so Internet, don’t go reading into this too much and start drawing random conclusions.)
What do you think of Cliffy B’s opinions on Project Natal? Agree? Disagree? What do you make of him addressing the Internet as if it were a person or a group of people? Is it a mental disorder that he developed while working so hard on Gears of War?
OnLive’s streaming games service has been getting a lot of buzz since it debuted at Game Developers Conference 2009. While millions of gamers love the idea of games-on-demand, many are skeptical about cloud-based gaming. This is new, uncharted territory for gaming. With that in mind, I decided to ask the most dashing game designer east of the Mississippi a prominent game developer what he thought of OnLive. Here’s what Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski (Unreal, Gears of War) had to say:
I was skeptical about OnLive until I had a chance to be hands on with it at GDC, and it does appear to be the “real deal.” I think the PC space will benefit the most initially from this technology, however, I doubt Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are ready to yield to an on-demand cloud console quite yet.
What do you make of his comments? Does getting praise from a respected game designer like Cliffy B change your opinion of OnLive? I want to know what you’re thinking (pure energy)!
At a recent roundtable discussion, legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto discussed a wide variety of topics. One interesting tidbit was his view on Xbox 360 game achievements. Miyamoto said:
I’m not particularly well versed in the Xbox 360 achievement system. I spend most of my time working on my own games, and don’t have a lot of time to look at what other people are doing.
The idea of playing the game in a particular way and having it unlock a special prize that rewards you… it feels like something we’ve been doing for the last 15-20 years.
Miyamoto has a point, but he’s also missing one. It’s true that many of his Nintendo games were designed to reward gamers for playing in a particular way, but people like points, trophies, etc. It reminds me of when my friends at 1Up started the site; I had no idea what my “score” was for, but I wanted more points, which made me keep visiting.
Hideo Kojima has promised a Zone of the Enders sequel, but due to everyone at Kojima Productions being busy on various Metal Gear Solid titles, it might be a while until the next Anubis: Zoe of the Enders (the game’s Japanese name) is created. Andriasang translated Kojima’s blog entry on the matter:
We’d like to make an Anubis sequel at some point. Also, we feel that if we do it, we’d like to make Anubis succeed this time. I already have a game plan and method for sales in my head. However, we don’t know if it will be green lighted. The production lines within Kojima Productions are currently full.
I cannot make a promise about time. However, I can promise a sequel.
Kojima also explained why Zoe of the Enders 2 wasn’t the success it should have been. He chalks it all up to timing and blames himself.
I have the utmost respect for game developers. They work so hard to craft the fantastic experiences that we all enjoy. The art of making games, to use some of Queen’s lyrics, “It’s a kind of magic.” According to Gearbox Software co-founder Randy Pitchford (Borderlands), game making and magic have a lot in common. The former professional magician (as opposed to the amateurs that cast spells in the Olympics) told Gamasutra:
A magician can create wonder by creating a set of logic, and then proving that the logic is impossible and false. Now if I repeat the same trick over and over again, as long as it’s still surprising, it’s fine. I’ve got you. But as soon as you start understanding how the trick works, you get bored and you lose interest. So, I’ve got to create a new trick. I’ve got to hit you with new magic.
I’ve always pegged Pitchford as some sort of sorcerer. I’m pretty sure he just admitted it in the quote above. I wonder what house he belonged to. Gryffindor? Hufflepuff maybe?
Legendary Nintendo game creator Shigeru Miyamoto addressed a crowd of Japanese retailers to assuage any fears that New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be anything but a blockbuster hit. According to a Games Maya manager, Miyamoto said:
It’s a Mario that will continue selling even after one year has passed.
It’s interesting that Nintendo felt that trotting out Miyamoto was necessary. I can’t imagine the game doing anything but ridiculous numbers, but Andriasang’s Anoop Gantayat (hi Anoop!) feels that some retailers might be concerned with Super Mario Galaxy not selling as well as previous Mario games. I think those retailers should have their heads examined — New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be a fun game that appeals to gamers of all ages and skill levels. I will stand on my head if it doesn’t sell millions of copies.
Are you dudes and dudettes looking forward to this game? Or do you think it’s a case of Nintendo selling the same title over and over again?
Gamasutra has an excellent write up of Jordan Mechner’s keynote from GDC China. The Prince of Persia creator covers a wide range of topics. One of the tidbits I found interesting was him talking about his mindset going into Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Mechner said:
You really couldn’t find a better example of what not do than the first 10 years of Prince of Persia. The franchise was like a garden that I was neglecting. By 2001 Prince of Persia was really a dead franchise — completely and totally dead.
We really felt we were underdogs, because it was a dead franchise. We really felt we had to make an original game, as if nobody had heard of it.
And take a look at the franchise now, with Jake Gyllenhaal flashing his pecs as the prince. My, we’ve come a long way.
Seriously though, The Sands of Time was an excellent game and really brought the franchise back to life. While some of its sequels were not quite as good, the whole reboot is a fine of example of how to modernize a classic franchise. Hopefully someone will reboot a franchise so that Jake’s sister will bare her chest in a movie (again).
Apparently Hideo Kojima is working out again. While he’s at the gym, the Metal Gear Solid master likes to comment on world affairs, including American President Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. While Kojima’s eccentricities are well known (though certainly embellished), pumping iron appears to have taken his thoughts to a new power level. His comments on Obama are interesting and confusing…and maybe a little scary. Andriasang translated his words:
“President Obama, who declared ‘A World Without Nuclear Weapons’ in Prague, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Has the era at last started shifting?
The start of the Peace Walker plan? I hope that comes to be.
‘Peace will not walk to you’
‘You must both walk towards one another.’
From the gym.”
It’s possible that something was lost in translation. It’s also possible the Kojima’s brilliance completely flew over my head. My personal theory is that the Stairmaster has made him a bit wacky. What do you guys and gals think?