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Interview with CliffyB

Epic's Cliff Bleszinski, aka CliffyB, is putting the final touches to his shooting epic Geas of War. He talks to Next-Gen about working with Microsoft, game length, a possible sequel and his thoughts on Resistance: Fall of Man.

Next-Gen: Whatís the mood like for you when you get this close to the end of a project?

Image Cliff Bleszinski: Itís a combination of feelings, really. You put everything you can into a project for a couple years; you work with all the talented people on a day-to-day basis; everybody bleeds for the project an then all of a sudden - poofólet it go. You let the publisher put it out there. You let the gamers get their hands on with it and you hope and pray that they just love the hell out of it.

Are you satisfied that youíve been able to put everything into the game that you wanted to in the time that you had?

As a designer I donít know if itís ever possible to be fully satisfied but my gut tells me, Ďyesí. I sit down and I play the game and I have a blast with it, whether it be single player versus or co-op. I mean, co-opís especially bad. I feel like Iím seeing the whole experience completely new. Itís like, if you ever see a cool movie and you bring a friend to see it who hadnít seen the movie yet, right? Itís that shared experience, that makes co-op so great.

We were talking in the office the other day about the potential for four-player co-op. Just from a technical standpoint, is four-player co-op something that could possibly have been produced as a micro-transaction? As something you could purchase on Xbox Live, maybe?

I think that would be pretty cheesy, and would piss gamers off if we shipped it as a two player and then charged them for four player, right? I mean, I can see the forum threads about that right now. Thatíd be pretty lame of us. It was a matter of balancing the story and balancing elements of potentially having four live human players versus the Locust as well as making sure each active human player is able to play through the game story wise. That was the main issue.

Do you have any ideas right now for any additional tweaks or downloadable content, or things, new life that you want to breathe into the game even after itís shipped?

Weíve kicked some ideas around as far as to what weíd like to do and generally speaking if we do something it might be some new versus arenas that you could play in and against. But those of you who are familiar with Mark Rein our VP and his opinions about episodic content will know that itís really not our bag.

Let me put it to you this way, if you could get a full season of the Sopranos on DVD or wait for it week by week, what would you rather do? Youíd rather have the option of just watching it all on your own instead of having to wait for network to spoon feed it to you, right? Thatís kind of our angle, coming from that.

Why do you think Microsoft has gotten so heavily behind this game?

Itís an extremely solid, fun shooter; everything feels tight and snug and heavy and badass. Thatís exactly what we were going for. Plus it looks great and it plays great over live. Itís the kind of game that I think your average Xbox gamer or console gamer wants to play. Itís not a goofy little platform game, itís something that you would like to show of on your nice plasma screen TV and youíre like, Ďcheck this shit out, maní.

Weíve heard a lot from developers in recent years about just how difficult it is to get original IP off the ground. Is Gears of War an object lesson in how to successfully launch a new IP from scratch.

Developers generally try to make their properties way too generic or way too unique. Itís ray guns and aliens and invaders from space and that same shit weíve seen over and over again, right? And as much as Gears has the big badass marine-looking guy in the armor, theyíre not shooting laser guns across from each other, thereís not like, giant ID4 spaceships and stuff like that. As well as, at the same time itís not so strange looking that your average person couldnít, kind of latch onto it and get it, right? And I think that thereís a sweet spot that weíre hitting right in the middle of that.

Letís talk about the gameí length, which has been a matter of debate recentlyÖ

I donít think you can ever win by admitting what the length of your game is before it ships. If you say itís twelve hours, then gamers will say Ďthereís no way, thatís not enoughí. If you say itís twenty to thirty hours then gamers are going to say ĎIím sure itís filled with lots of padding and bullshit.í So thatís a lose-lose situation.

If you are a hardcore gamer and youíre playing on the easy setting you can probably get through the game quicker than others. If youíre not that good of a gamer and youíre playing on a harder setting itís going to take you longer.

The length of the game depends on the player. The bottom line is, we know we are making a game that is worth your sixty dollars. Shooters generally fit into this nice twelve, thirteen, fourteen hour category, whereas RPG players want it to be forty hours of random combat. And then when you play a game like Warcraft, you want hundreds of hours to the point where you have a little arm brace on you and youíre getting morbidly obese little pimples, as South Park did such a good job of pointing out. So I think itís largely based on genre, itís based on gamer ability, and gamer expectation.

It seems increasingly difficult right now to read about Gears of War without this other title Resistance Fall of Man popping into the conversation. When youíre looking at competition like that, is that a game that you keep an eye on or do you just not, you just keep your head down and do your own thing?

Iíd be a liar if I didnít say I was searching through forums on occasion and you know looking at what the other companies are up to. Iím a big fan of Ratchet and Clank and what the guys over at Insomniac are doing but I think if you really take a good look at Gears and take a good look at Resistance, the main similarity is that you are shooting stuff and from there both products actually deviate in twenty different directions.

I played Resistance at Digital Life last week but looking at the way the game is played with your backpedaling shooting at lots of these little spider guys and youíre, you know, youíre running around all crazy and rushing right up to these guys and going through these kind of concrete pike filled tunnels; thatís itís own game.

Gears is just not that game. Gears is much more about hide and go kill and flanking your foe and dealing with the scenario that weíve proposed of enemies bursting forth from beneath you all the time, and they really feel like drastically different games. So, I mean, to play fair and be honest, I think that thereís plenty of room for both products.

Weíre guessing that Gears of War is going to be a hit. Do you have any plans for where youíll go next with this franchise?

I mean, anybody who develops an initial game in any sort of franchise always has ideas about where it could go and where it could lead, but I really donít like talking about that. Let Gears come out, letís just see how it does, and then weíll figure it out after that, right? Because I think thereís no better way to jinx your trilogy than announcing it as a trilogy.

Posted by Ed, courtesy of Next-Gen. on October 25.

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