The new game and company
GamesBeat: Give us an idea of what we can expect from Blue Streak.
Bleszinski: I’m so tired of shooting tiny characters through iron sights when they’re so far away. You never get to see them. Part of it, we have things like big vehicles and mechs to blame, but part of it is the success of the modern military shooter.
I look at my multipage design documents for weapons and maneuverability, and there are still so many things that people either haven’t done recently in a first-person shooter or haven’t done at all. They date back to mechanics in Genesis and Super Nintendo games, relating to weaponry and player movement and things like that. They’d make for an absolutely fascinating take on a first-person shooter.
I’m not saying everything needs to go all crazy like Serious Sam or Ratchet & Clank, but there is absolutely a lot of room for some compelling stuff that can allow for some really cool trick shooting in a first-person shooter environment.
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GamesBeat: For example?
Bleszinski: From what I’ve gathered from Destiny and Titanfall, they’ve started to scratch the surface of that. Destiny has a bit of a ground-pound move. You look at the double jumping and the wall-running in Titanfall. There’s so much more you can do with that. Things like the way certain platforming characters could dash. They could burst upwards or sideways. All these omnidirectional movements. Teleportation.
When you look at an arena shooter, movement can be so much more than just running and hopping. You look at the skiing from Tribes or the teleporting and rocket jumping in Quake and UT. I want the players to not be afraid of verticality in a first-person shooter.
One of the things Halo did well, especially in the early years, was stay relatively horizontal. Gears was almost completely horizontal. On a PC, though, I have a keyboard and a mouse, and things are going to get a little more Jumping Flash. That feeling of flying through the air and then falling down, the sensation of movement. It’s one-third of your arsenal at the very least: how you float through the world.
In Gears, cover helped the game as much as it hurt it. We wanted to go for the stop-and-pop thing, but players’ instincts to flow through that 3D world took over. They would roll, roll, roll. I don’t want to fight that. I want to embrace that sense of the first-person shooter zen flow of movement.
GamesBeat: If you weren’t Cliff Bleszinski, how would you like working with Cliff Bleszinski the game designer?
Bleszinski: First thing would be to get used to food and pop-culture metaphors when I try to explain what I want to see.
I can be a bit of a shotgun game designer. I just spray ideas out there. Figuring out what I want and how to make it the most fun — being a hands-on game designer as opposed to a system designer — is a fun but challenging thing.
GamesBeat: What’s it going to be like working for Cliff the CEO, then? The businessman?
Bleszinski: One of our company pillars is “no bullshit.” We’re serious when it comes to making games and being straightforward. We’ve been around the block enough to see corporate bullshit and call it when we see it. I’m going to make every effort to make sure that there’s none of that corporate crap at the company. It just gets in the way of making a great product.
As much as we know how to make great games and love making them, we also want to last. That’s important, as a studio and as a culture, to not forget. It’s a business, but it’s also the business of fun.
Case in point, some people I was getting close to hiring, I wasn’t able to work out something with them, or they went somewhere else. That’s OK. A lot of them I’m still friends with. Being able to separate that is something that I’ve had to learn from being the one who’s in charge.
But I already learned some of that from my partner in the restaurant business. We can go back and forth and have a heated discussion, and next thing we go back to friend mode. Not everyone can make that transition. I’ve learned more about business and finance in the last few years than I had in my entire adult life to that point.
GamesBeat: You’ve worked with big publishers before, so I’m curious as to what’s different this time. Before going with Nexon, why did you get feedback on all these different companies when you have so much experience yourself?
Bleszinski: It depends on the era. The Activision of the PS2 era is not the Activision of today’s consoles. Especially in the console business, when you look at the cost of making a disc-based game that people see as a campaign rental, your risk tolerance goes so far down. You get more and more of the traditional console executives treating their video game portfolio like they do their stock portfolio. Mitigate risk and diversify.
Nexon is very much a creative-first company. Give the creative people the ball and let them run with it. Check in occasionally and hope it makes that magic. When the time comes, we’ll see if we can make it on free-to-play and continue to roll out internationally. They’ll be there.
Some of the people I talked with in regards to working with Nexon, they said, “They funded us, and we didn’t hear from them for a year.” Tell me if any of the traditional old guard would act that way. Inevitably, at the old guard you’d have these mid-level executives who want to get involved. They want to tell you what genres they think will well. “MOBAs are big. We need one of those.”
GamesBeat: Blue Streak is going to be your first free-to-play game. I assume you’ve been doing your homework. What free-to-play games have you been studying?
Bleszinski: I started playing Dirty Bomb. I was playing Hearthstone. I don’t really like Facebook free-to-play or mobile free-to-play. I want to see if we can do pay-for-variety. One of the reasons people love League of Legends is that you pay for the heroes and pay for the skins. Or Team Fortress, or Counter-Strike: Go, which is fascinating with the gun skins. That’s still an airtight game, by the way.
It’s one of those things like calling something “open world.” What kind of open world? Are we talking about Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, Skyrim? Free-to-play for Candy Crush is completely different from free-to-play in Dota 2, which is different from Counter-Strike’s gun skin model.
What model we’re going to wind up with remains to be seen, but we’re looking at what the players care about that has the least amount of direct impact on player victory. My goal is to make it so that someone who hasn’t dropped a dime on this game will have a weapon that could kill someone who has spent $100 on the game.
GamesBeat: You mentioned that you wanted to work with the people at Nexon because they’re going to leave you alone on the creative side, and you can lean on them to learn how to monetize free-to-play. Don’t those two go hand in hand, though? At some point don’t you have to design to monetize?
Bleszinski: I’m with you. The key is to have the hooks in regards to what the game’s design is. The game can potentially be deep enough to not only be good but allow for free-to-play hooks. In regards to systems that can allow for a tremendous amount of variety in regards to weapon packs, things that can attach to them, cosmetics in player skins or weapon skins … if you have enough areas that you can silo into, they could later potentially have hooks, and you could start tuning that toward a monetization model.
Again, for each game it’s completely different. You can do it step-by-step on the PC, where you can issue an update every week and do A-B testing. I’m going to be straightforward and get a lot of feedback from the community.
I’ve never shipped a free-to-play game. I have a lot to learn in this area.
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