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 Gears of War  designer Cliff Bleszinski leaves Epic
Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski leaves Epic
October 3, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

October 3, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    46 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Cliff Bleszinski, the Epic Games design director behind the blockbuster Gears of War franchise, has stepped down from his position after 20 years at the company.

While Epic did not reveal exactly why Bleszinski has stepped down, the company announced on its official blog that he is moving on to begin the "next stage of his career."

While working at Epic, Bleszinski led development on the first three Gears of War titles, helped create the 1990s PC platformer Jazz Jackrabbit, and contributed to many other Epic franchises such as Unreal Tournament, Infinity Blade, and more.

"I've been doing this since I was a teenager, and outside of my sabbatical last year, I have been going non-stop. I literally grew up in this business, as [Epic Games president Mike Capps] likes to say. And now that I’m grown up, it’s time for a much needed break," Bleszinski wrote in a letter to his colleagues.

"I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, from code to art to marketing and PR -- it’s been one big, rewarding learning experience."

Bleszinski first joined Epic (then known as Epic MegaGames) in the early 1990s, and worked on PC games like The Palace of Deceit: Dragon's Plight and Dare to Dream before moving on to create the cult classic Jazz Jackrabbit titles.

When Bleszinski later stepped forward to helm the Gears of War series, he took a much more prominent role at Epic Games, and often served as one of the faces of the company alongside executives Mark Rein and Mike Capps.


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Comments


Lyon Medina
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As much as I do not like Epic games, I really saw Cliff as a positive force in the gaming industry. Where he really loved games, and he really loved the industry. That is something I always respected about him. I will personally miss the enthusiam he gave whenever he was interviewed, but I wish him well in his next venture.

Robert Horvat
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What is there not to like???

"They made Thriller"
lol

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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I like Epic, mainly for stepping into the void Id has left in the engine licensing dept. Not as huge a fan of their recent output, but I totally get why people love games like Gears.

I love Cliffy-He's brash, outspoken, and clearly speaks before thinks sometimes, but it gives you the sense that he's actually genuine and enthusiastic about this industry.

David Holland
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Man.. kind of a bummer, really. His influence was so positive and focused. He's almost become synonymous with Epic games. I'd like to spend a few hours in his brain trying to figure out how he thinks. Hope to see you pop up in the gaming world soon!

Kenneth Bruton
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It looks like a lot of top talent has left, like the founders of BIOWARE, to move on to other things...while I wish them well, it makes me wonder about the industry and where it is heading...

William Johnson
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Oh there will always be some new blood to replace the old. Your Markus Persons, Christine Loves, and Edmund McMillens of the world are always there to help usher in a new era. So I wouldn't worry too much about the future of the games industry.

Robert Schmidt
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"that he is moving on to begin the "next stage of his career."", he was fired.

Frank Cifaldi
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Yes, that is obviously what that means. There is literally no other way to interpret that.

Robert Schmidt
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Ok, I admit it, was a major leap. Perhaps Epic didn't meet his demands and they split. Still given the statement, "often served as one of the faces of the company alongside executives Mark Rein and Mike Capps" Do you really work yourself into that position and then decide, I need to take a break. Also, it wasn't a joint announcement. They weren't handing him a gold watch saying tearfully, we wish you could stay. He wasn't helping the company transition. He was gone so he either suddenly walked or they suddenly show him the door. Sorry for the speculation but I think Epic is an important company to the industry so I'm interested to know what's going on when such a senior employee leaves.

Morgan Ramsay
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"Cliff, I owe this amazing job to you, and I'll never forget your faith in me."
—Mike Capps, president, Epic Games (http://j.mp/VxPihY)

That doesn't sound like someone who just said, "You're fired."

Jakub Majewski
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Robert. "Do you really work yourself into that position and then decide, I need to take a break"?

Well, good question. Cliff Bleszinski, who *did* work himself into that position claims to have decided just that. What's the counter-argument? I mean, anyone can speculate, but in order for speculation to be worthwhile, it needs to have some basis in reality. Do you have some insights into Cliff Bleszinski's mind, something to indicate that he doesn't actually want to take a break?

Robert Schmidt
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@jakub, Do you have some insights into Cliff Bleszinski's mind, no so I guess I'm screwed because clearly the only way humans understand each other is through either believing without question what someone says or mind reading. I guess working in management gave me a false sense of familiarity with how these kinds of things are handled. As other posters have mentioned, statements he has made recently have hinted that he was perhaps frustrated. What's more, as I posted, when you are "taking a break", there is no urgency to move on so you tend to wrap things up with the company, you make a joint release so nobs like me don't jump to conclusions and you put a nice bow on it, especially in such a senior position. You don't tend to decide, hey I'm taking a break from the industry of which I've worked my way to the top starting right now. I'll let my boss do the explaining. Would that hold up in a court of law? no but this isn't a court of law, its a comments section where people throw around ideas. So, ya, as surprising as it seems I didn't just take a couple of PR quotes to be the gospel truth they usually are. Wow, I must be evil.

Jakub Majewski
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Don't be so hard on yourself, Robert - you're not evil, just naive :).

Yes, it is naive of you to assume there *must* be more than meets the eye to everything.

What I'd really like to know is how do you reconcile the idea that he was frustrated with your suggestion that there's more to this than him being tired. Because to me, frustration is something that plays together with tiredness and the desire to take a break. But what do I know? I obviously don't have the managerial insight you have, since I didn't start off by making the brilliant suggestion that he was fired ;).

And we can waffle all we like about how this was announced to the public, but the truth is, every form this announcement would take, some people would find reasons to doubt them. Cliff Bleszinski makes his announcement separately? Oh, then things must have been bad. Cliff Bleszinski makes a conference together with the others? Oh, they must be trying to cover up for the public.

There's always reasons to question the official version. But what is the point? Still, I'm sure I can't change your mind. It's a free world, you'll think whatever you want.

Bob Johnson
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Let me guess. He is going to make small mobile games. Anyway good luck on whatever comes next.

Benjamin Quintero
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I get the feeling that Cliff has been burned out since Gears 1. After the grinder that he was put through in releasing Gears 1, marriage, having to take a sabbatical, tweeting subtle frustrations, and a changing landscape in the new generation; I'm guessing that he's just over it. There just too many factors and certainly after 20 years anyone would be ready for a new chair. I've been sitting in my chair for over 6 years and I get pretty damned itchy sometimes =).

I don't see him NOT making games so it's possible that he'll get picked up by Bethesda or someone who might let him create something in his own style, and not at a break-neck pace.

Jakub Majewski
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Ah, come on, Benjamin, burnt out? Surely, working on *three* identical games in a row couldn't possibly burn out anyone...

;)

Ron Dippold
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From the actual page it sounds like maybe he's really taking a break as in not working for a while. Maybe spend some of those hard-earned millions on traveling the world. Maybe not making/managing another Gears of War game. And then when you're tan, rested, and ready (going crazy from not doing anything), it's time to look for a job again. Maybe as a celebrity chef!

Rick Kolesar
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I use to follow his "ownage" map page where he highlighter user maps for Unreal Tournament. He's made some awesome games and is one of the few "stars" in the game industry (people know his name, his games, and he's great on stage/on the mic). Looking forward to see what he plans to do next. Good luck!

Jeremy Alessi
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Saw this coming from a mile away. Read his last interview here on Gama or note the article (his first) on developer flash cards. He was projecting his punches in both pieces.

Jonathan Murphy
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I just saw him on Gametrailers talking about next gen games. He seemed like something was eating at him. Still wow! When I got to talk to him at GDC 2011 it was a great ending to my last day at the convention. Then the nightmarish plane trip back with a cold. Never fly with a cold!

Alex Nichiporchik
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Join Mojang, make indie AAA games, profit?

I really hope that's the truth.

Jorge Molinari
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I remember before the first Gears came out, Cliff was very excited about his “pop-and-shoot” gameplay and how it had not been done before. He said in a real battle people don’t go jumping up and shooting (a criticism to all FPS) but instead go from cover to cover, popping up to take shots and maneuver tactically. By giving a shotgun and the dive/roll ability as default to ALL players, the multiplayer Gears quickly devolved into 8 players rolling around the battlefield with shotguns, and it looked even sillier that your typical FPS multiplayer. They apparently didn’t have time to properly test the multiplayer. That mistake turned out to be irreparable.

They made slight tweaks in both sequels to make machine guns more powerful and better compete with shotguns. It is interesting to note that they never dared to make the shotguns less powerful, all the tweaks were done to the weapons that compete with the shotgun. Every tweak was met with a legion of angry fans. Cliff may have wanted tactical firefights with people maneuvering into flanking positions, but the mob just wanted to watch soldiers explode into bloody pulps from shotgun blasts. How dare the developers try to make the cover system relevant! And frankly, the art style and level of gore in the Gears games is more suited to shotgun blasts than well thought-out tactics. Oh and I didn’t even touch on how you become an “elite” player in the Gears games. It involves exploiting a glitch in which you trigger an animation that is supposed to be used for getting into cover. This glitch has also made it onto all the Gears sequels, because although it is clearly a glitch, it requires “gamepad skill” to pull off consistently so the community sees it as a “skill” rather than a glitch. It was another flawed “feature” of the original game and therefore it cannot be changed without a huge backlash from the fans.

And that is the current state of the industry; developers can’t even fix glitches in their games without an outcry from the “fans”. You need a new IP to fix your first game, so you can’t recycle any art assets. This is obviously too expensive so you have people like Cliff who have to work on their franchise and are not even allowed to fix it.

The next time Cliff gets involved in a AAA title, (whenever that may be) my money is on him creating another “cover shooter”. But this time the focus will be on tactics, not chainsaws and gore.

[User Banned]
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Eric Schwarz
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I would imagine so, but at the very least he has more than enough talent as a level designer (plus the portfolio) to get hired by just about any studio.

Allen Brooks
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Dan, your arbitrary petty comments make you come across as a beleaguered former Epic staffer, or maybe someone who has been scarred by the name Cliff in general. Have you ever eaten a Clif bar? They're horrendous. As your doctor, I would recommend eating less Clif bars; you'll notice a decrease in crankiness right quick.

Eric Pobirs
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There is a huge difference between a recent college grad or some kid with a few shareware game in his portfolio, and somebody with a very lengthy track record as a major contributor to a collection of highly profitable titles. Money talks, all else walks.

'Having actually done the job successfully' is about as good as it gets on a resume. It means more than the loftiest academic credentials.

[User Banned]
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Eric Schwarz
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Cliffy B is about as close to a superstar the games industry has, as well as one of the earlier "rags to riches" stories. Whatever people think of his games, he's an inspiration to people like me and I wish him all the best.

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Dan Jones
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@Dan Eisenhower

Your mention of his 90's-era "blonde highlights" phase betrays just how outdated your opinion of Mr. Bleszinski is.

But, since you brought it up, even THEN he had already developed a great grasp of level design and rather than hoarding those secrets, shared them openly on his blog. To this day, I still keep in mind some of the valuable lessons I learned from "Cliffy B's OWNage," as he would dissect maps and break down what did (and didn't) work in each case.

Jonathan Jennings
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I think Eric means it in an " ability to crossover to mainstream media " way Dan . I think cliff presenting gears of war 3 on jimmy fallon live is one of the first real mainstream culture presentations of a developer showing a game i have seen. not saying Fallon is high on the food chain but a game developer on a late night show isa pretty big deal .

if nothing else he is justo ne of those industry faces who is synonymous with something in games culture. you mention hideo kojima and my mind instantly jumps to metal gear, or miyamoto and nintendo . i definitely think blezinski had that identity with epic.

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Ujn Hunter
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Why is everyone calling Cliffy B, Cliff Bleszinski?

Maria Jayne
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Never liked the guy, after the issues Gears Of War 1 went through on PC and his response of "fuck em then, we just won't port any more games to pc" when pc owners who bought the game started complaining it was losing save games (which it was). Whatever he does now, that's what I'll remember him for.

Pablo Simbana
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haven't been following epic in a while, they have shifted their udk focus mostly to ios... anyway I wish the best for Cliff B ^^

Vijay Srinivasan
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Whatever the reason may be, it does feel a little bad to see some one like Cliffy moving on !

Michael DeFazio
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Cliff, you always seem like a hard working and honest/positive guy (especially in an industry full with self-important primadonnas). I don't know for sure, but I think the reason Epic acquired some developers during their problem times (Big Huge Games) and worked with/invested in others (People Can Fly) was because of your influence and respect for their work, and that you actually care about developers and games (because you can commensurate being one yourself)

If you are ever in DC metro area I'd love to pick your brain and buy you a beer (or 8). Have a great time on your hiatus and whatever comes next (crossing my fingers its not another social game or mobile game... hey maybe get involved with a cool cutting edge product like Oculus Rift, I think your breath and depth of experience would be invaluable and it would be an interesting breath of fresh air to work on something new)

Rob Wright
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So in the last month, the BioWare doctors and Cliffy B have all left the industry (might only temporary, but who knows?). I don't take this a particularly positive sign, despite the small sample size.

Eric McConnell
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As someone who was originally from Raleigh NC, I always looked up to Cliffy B as an role model. He was one of the only game industry personalities that anyone could name and recognize. I remember him being interviewed on TechTV wearing his horrible "pimp" outfits. Good luck to you

Robert Alvord
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...or...perhaps...just consider for a minute...that just maybe...he just wanted to take a break and either not work for a while longer or do something different. Life is short.

Dave Ingram
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Please tell me CliffyB takes a short break, then comes back to found his own indie studio to create whatever he wants. I'll pre-order without even looking. This guy's name is attached to almost every game franchise I have ever obsessed over, especially throughout the 90's and early turn of the century.

Michael Alexander
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He has definitely earned a break. I can't wait until he comes back, refreshed, and ready to dive in again.

Another there at Epic who's overlooked is Maury Mountain. I was friends with his brother for a while, but lost touch. Maury has a pretty good hand in the art that's gone on there.
http://www.linkedin.com/in/maurymountain
Maybe Cliff will steal him away when he comes back, and form his own indie studio like I've seen mentioned in the comments already.
Enjoy your break Cliff! We'll wait for you.

Terry Matthes
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At a loss for words......

A W
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Maybe his reasons for retiring early are personal and medical.

Michael Pianta
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I think he's just burned out. He'll be back, sooner or later. He loves games too much to stay away forever. He's probably just tired of all the compromising and focus testing you have to do with big budget titles. I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up making indie games before long. Naturally I have no data to support that, but it's just a vibe I'm getting.

Vincent Hyne
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Moving onto some BIGGER, BADDER, AND MORE BADASS things, huh Cliffy?


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