Recently at a Gamasutra-attended event, Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski came to San Francisco to showcase Epic's latest title. Developed by its People Can Fly studio in Poland, Bulletstorm [YouTube trailer] is clearly the latest evolution of the fast-action, adrenaline-pumping shooters that the company -- and the studio -- is known for.
As the game is published by EA under its EA Partners program, it marks another major publisher collaboration for the studio, which currently works with Microsoft on the Gears of War series, which has been tremendously successful; Bleszinski is currently working on Gears of War 3 for an April 2011 release.
Tammy Schachter, senior director of corporate communications at EA, participated in the meeting as well, in which Bleszinski discusses the rise and evolution of the shooter genre, how best to work with talent, and the essential elements of shooter design.
I guess this is the first major project you guys have done with this studio since the acquisition.
Cliff Bleszinski: Mm-hm. Well, to be fair, PCF [People Can Fly] did greatly assist in the shipping of Gears PC.
Is this a concept that came through you guys? Is it a concept that came through them? Did you work collaboratively?
CB: Yeah. This wasn't a situation where I flew in in like a helicopter, like, [adopts gravelly voice] "It's called Bulletstorm, and it's about this." [meekly] "Oh, okay!"
No, it was not like that at all. One thing I've learned over the years is let the creatives do what they do, and this is very much driven creatively by PCF.
Given the background of the studio and the fact that you guys had acquired them, I had that sense. Epic is tactical about business but not in a mercenary way.
CB: You know, it's the whole thing where you try and make a business that's good and profitable, and then you don't want to become evil. We let PCF do what they do. We don't try and re-arrange their DNA on the project, right?
The shooter space, over the course of this generation, has become the predominant genre for core gamers. Is that a surprise to you? Is that what you were anticipating?
CB: I welcome it, because I'm primarily a shooter type of designer, as far as the kind of games that I do. I just think, I don't know if this is an American thing or if it's a global thing, there's just [adopts hick accent] somethin' about shooting things that's fun.
If you can nail that 30 seconds of gameplay -- Halo nailed it with, you know, throw a grenade at an enemy to soften him up, pepper him with shots, come in and finish with the melee, right. And I think that's what Bulletstorm is doing with their kick, slide, leash, and weaponry. I think we're nailing that, and I think we're on to something special there.
I think there are a lot of reasons it's popular, but I think one of the reasons is popular is because it's something that video games can do very well, right?
It's something that the toolsets that we have and the skill sets that designers have are well suited to. It comes together very well.
CB: Absolutely. Is that a question?
CB: Well, to be fair, I played through Heavy Rain and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm glad that they're taking those types of narrative risks over at Quantic Dream, because I'm probably going to be making shooters for the next couple of years.
It's definitely great to see things like Heavy Rain, but at the same time, it's still great to see people explore existing things. Do you think that the genre still has room to really grow, expand, keep fresh?
CB: I've gone on record before, and I said the future of shooters are RPGs, and the shooters that I've liked the most lately are ones like BioShock, which had some light RPG elements, as well as Borderlands, which I continue to gush about, not only because it's our engine of course, but because Randy's a good friend of mine, and it's the kind of game I believe in.
Moving on from there, game developers have a way of cross-pollinating an immense amount. Gears was influenced by Resident Evil, then Resident Evil 5 was influenced by Gears. So, maybe you'll see elements from more RPGs, or Heavy Rain narrative style elements, start bleeding into the genre.