What do you talk about with "Gears Of War" lead creator Cliff Bleszinski when he's got nothing official to announce?
You talk about life, as he and I did last week at the DICE gaming summit in Las Vegas.
And you learn something(s).
You learn that there's a whole new Cliffy B, that the game designer, who has a birthday this week, is looking at gaming and non-gaming in a whole new way: "I'll turn 33 next week and I kind of had the same realization strangely enough when that silly movie 'The Bucket List' came out. There are things you check off in life. Work hard and play hard. I've had to work hard to put the hours in, but to be a better person and a better designer you need the real life experience… I think that's one of the problems with the business. It's very very insular. Developers only ever hang with other developers. A lot of developers I know don't really do anything outside of work. It's an unhealthy pattern."
That's why, three weeks ago, Cliffy was taking a Zero-G flight over Florida. And the dreams he's had of flying every night since then may inspire him to new game developments.
But is the new Cliffy B -- the one refreshed for 2008 -- not the kind of guy who would put his name on a "Gears of War" or an "Unreal Tournament" anymore?
Folks, he was raving to me about beating "Super Mario Galaxy" and really likes "Zack & Wiki." Has he changed?
Read on to learn how he thinks this will affect his game development habits. (And catch some interesting PC vs Console talk in the process)
Now, let's not get too carried away. Bleszinski's favorite game of last year was "BioShock." He dug "Portal" -- even though it reminded him of an ex. (Quick tangent from Cliffy B: "[I liked] the fact that I wanted to get to the next room just to hear what GLaDOS had to say. We've all known a girl like that who is doing the whole… I dated this girl once and she texted me and said 'Hey what are you up to?' And I was taking a shower and didn't respond immediately. And 30 seconds later she was saying 'Hey, you a--hole, you're not that f---ing cool. You can rot in hell.' And then 30 seconds later, 'Hey, I didn’t mean that, what are you doing tonight?')
But understand this. The Wii-playing Cliffy B is not going to make soft games. He's at peace with that. " My girlfriend brought me to this metalcore show -- Killswitch Engage was phenomenal and All That Remains. I realized, you know what? That's the target audience for what I do. And I'm okay with that. I don't want to win over their little college sister, because that's not the kind of game I do. I'm not going to make "Zack & Wiki." I'm not going to make f---ing 'Cooking Mama.' But that's okay."
What he's saying is that he's in his groove and not getting out. Although… "Sometimes you do need to step back a little and take a break. If I was tasked with creating a new universe I might just step back and say, "Okay, maybe no marines in this one. Let's make it cops or pirates or something."
Were you wondering ifBleszinski was going to address the development rumors of "Gears of War 2"? We talked around the speculation. Look for more in a post later this week, but rest assured he didn't say anything official.
He and I did chat about PC development of games in general, though. It's an important topic for the Cliff's PC-borne development company Epic. And it's notable how the company's top people feel about PC game-making now, given rumors of softer-than-hoped sales for Epic's "Unreal Tournament 3" on PC.
Here's what he had to say: "I think people would rather make a game that sells 4.5 million copies than a million and "Gears" is at 4.5 million right now on the 360. I think the PC is just in disarray… what's driving the PC right now is 'Sims'-type games and 'WoW' and a lot of stuff that's in a web-based interface. You just click on it and play it. That's the direction PC is evolving into So for me, the PC is kind of the secondary part of what we're doing. It's important for us, but right now making AAA games on consoles is where we're at."
That's a Cliffy B update. That's the state of the man who brought you "Gears of War" and will, this year, bring you… what exactly? If we've learned anything, it would be on console. It wouldn't star Zack.