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.