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Cliff Bleszinski: Interview

The Gears of War producer talks Gears, survival horror and being a giant douchebag...

Some know him as CliffyB. Others call him Cliff Bleszinski. Few refuse to acknowledge him as another other than 'that giant douchebag'.

Whatever you want to call him, there's no denying the meteoric rise to fame that the Gears of War Lead Designer has experienced since the cover shooter was released.

It's a fame that has put him at crest of the Gears of War wave and at the mercy of the internet, who ridicule his love of the spotlight.

All said and done, how happy are you with Gears of War 2?
I remain extraordinarily proud of the work that I do as well as the gifted team I work with. But that said, nothing's perfect and hindsight is 20/20. Matchmaking was very flawed out of the box; the game did ship with exploits, and it's an unfortunate reality when you make a product that is played by millions of players on day one.

That said, Horde was really a resounding success, and this really seems to be the era of co-op really and truly emerging as its own thing, much like versus did years ago in the Quake and Doom era. But we'll continue with DLC and keep that long tail as long as possible.

I think we did a far better job with the story this time around - I think Josh Ortega is a fantastic writer, the game had a tighter story, made a lot more sense, had some nice twists and turns, a little bit darker. That said, of course it's not Shakespeare; it's still a popcorn blockbuster.

But people love to beat up on us about story for some reason, and they focus on the buff characters and the chainsaws, and they fail to see any of the nuance in the game.

But how the Maria resolution wound up panning out was so interesting - if you go to YouTube right now and look up that spoiler scene, there are 780 comments on there and two-thirds are people saying things like "this made me cry," "this is the saddest moment I've ever seen in a video game," "oh my god that was horrible." Sometimes you've gotta trust your gut and make the kind of game you want to play and believe in yourself.

You hint at these ideas that you have not explored. What are the game ideas that have gotten away while you've been focusing on Gears?
Well, this is getting a bit much, but there was a rumor about me doing a survival horror game, which I have absolutely no idea how that hit.

Somebody wanted you to make a survival horror game.
I know! And that's a genre that's very near and dear to me. I love Silent Hill 1, 2 and 3. The other ones didn't happen; it's like Highlander sequels. I'm sorry, I know that's dickish.

I'm a huge fan of Condemned; I think it's one of the most underrated franchises and one of the most poorly marketed franchises. I thoroughly enjoy Resident Evil 5; yes, people have their crits, but they should f*** off because it's a stellar game. Fatal Frame - Jesus, I had to stop playing Fatal Frame 2 because it scared me too much. Maybe I'm just a big p****.

But that's a genre that's near and dear to me and I would love to somewhere down the line get around to doing something like that. But it's a tough sell when you start making something psychological, single-player oriented, very nuance-based.

And that will be a challenge, because in case you haven't noticed, at Epic, we're not always that good at nuance. We tend to paint with large brushstrokes. So no, I'm not making a horror game next. Gears is very much near and dear to me.

Do you feel shackled by the franchise at this point?
No. There's only been two Gears games, man. There's still plenty of opportunities for things you can do in a cover-based shooter and there's still a lot of stories to tell in the Gears universe. I'm not burned out on that at all.

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