Cliff Bleszinski almost turned Gears 3 into Battlestar Galactica


I love you, Dr. Zaius

[Spoilers for the end of the 2004 television series Battlestar Galactica, I guess.]

Cliff Bleszinski is one of the strongest arguments for the "game developer" to "rock star" comparison. He's one of the minds behind Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal Tournament, and the upcoming Lawbreakers, but you most likely know him as the original face of the Gears of War franchise. He's the man wearing the red shirt and holding the Lancer replica. 

Bleszinski has since left the Gears of War series in the hands of Microsoft-owned studio The Coalition, headed by Gears lifer Rod Fergusson. Although he got to bring his iconic franchise to some level of closure with Gears of War 3, his original idea for Gears 3's ending would have left the eventual Gears 4 in a very different place.

"I can't remember the specifics, I think the Locust winded up burrowing back underground, and Sera [the planet from Gears of War] exploded. The core of Sera, over many many years, wound up solidifying. And then all of a sudden you see a spaceman boot land on it, and you hear 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' It turns out their moon was Earth, it was always like the Moon and the Earth in the past, and our Moon is the remnants of Sera," Bleszinski said. "And the Locusts in Gears 4 would've been on Earth. It was kind of a really far out there idea, but Rod thought it was too extreme. So I respected his opinion."

If you haven't finished Battlestar Galactica, well, spoilers: that is pretty much how that series ends. Not so much the Planet of the Apes-style "It was Earth all along," more Superman: Red Son-style "We were [sci-fi planet] the whole time."

I played Bleszinski's new game LawBreakers (it's pretty enjoyable, but I am not a mouse and keyboard man and I only got to play a single match), so I was more than prepared to run through the now-traditional preview cycle questions and see what I could piece together. But when a man starts reciting the ending to BSG despite not having actually seen the show, you stop everything and focus on that.

Bleszinski, who had only seen a handful of Battlestar episodes, was a little confused when I brought up the comparison. I then found myself in the position of having to explain the ending to Battlestar Galactica with no preparation and even less sleep. Here is what I said, word-for-word: "They have to leave the colonies, they have to go find Earth, but Earth is like a myth, they find the Cylon homeworld, there are Human/Cylon hybrids...it got kind of confusing at the end. Then they end up on our Earth, fly all their technology into the Sun, and inhabit the Earth we know. And then the show ends with two characters who may or may not be angels sit in Times Square and look at ASIMO while All Along the Watchtower plays."

"Nice," Bleszinski said, which is about the only thing you could honestly expect a man to say after being subjected to that paragraph.

"Ending anything is always really hard. Like, go back to the ending to The Sopranos and that smash cut," Bleszinski said. "I was getting tired of Gears. Wanting to blow up the entire planet was probably my frustration of having worked on that for ten years with all the crunch hours and stuff like that. It was probably too much."

If I learned anything from my half-hour with Cliff Bleszinski, it's that he's always looking to work on something new. It's the reason why he turned down an informal offer from Kojima to join the Silent Hills dream team, and why he left the Gears of War series in the hands of the Coalition. "When it comes to games and IP, I'm a rolling stone. I have to move on to the next. What gets me out of bed in the morning is creating a new series," Bleszinski said.

"I had this moment on the [PAX East] show floor, where I'm standing in the LawBreakers booth, I'm looking over and seeing Bulletstorm Remastered across the way, and I look over to the left and I see the Gears 4 photo booth setup, and I'm thinking to myself 'How many more franchises do I need to give this industry?' That was pretty funny."

We're thankfully a few hundred yards away from the cacophonous and crowded PAX East expo hall, instead sitting in one of the five-odd restaurants located in the nearby Westin hotel. It's unreasonably cold and windy outside, and I'm wearing a winter coat that's just a bit too large for me over similarly ill-fitting clothing. Bleszinski is wearing LawBreakers gear that fits him perfectly. He looks great. I think he's been working out.

For those of you who don't know, LawBreakers is the game we're ostensibly there to discuss, a former free-to-play shooter and current [anything that isn't $60] shooter. Lawbreakers has different hero classes and plenty of verticality, because it's a multiplayer shooter being released in 2017. Although there are plenty of hero-based shooters out right now, it's just one of those White House Down & Olympus Has Fallen coincidences. LawBreakers has been in development in some form for around three years, well before Boss Key was exposed to games like Overwatch.

"We knew Blizzard was doing something in first-person, but I had no chance of knowing what they were working on. I remember, we had already started working on LawBreakers and I was sitting at the Raleigh Times with some of my programmers on a Thursday," Bleszinski recalled. "The debut trailer for Overwatch came out, and [gameplay programmer] Matt was like 'Oh fuck.' I told him not to be afraid, that Blizzard is wonderful and this game's gonna be great, but now we know what not to do. I'm always a big fan of zigging where other people zag."

LawBreakers reminds me more of Black Ops III than Overwatch, which is partly by design. Boss Key is aiming to pull from the aesthetics of "Call of Duty and Battlefield" rather than Blizzard's colorful . That's a good call; there's no beating Overwatch on its own terms, it's much easier to go up against the less successful modern Call of Duty games.

And even though LawBreakers may be evocative of games you might recognize, it only generally resembles the franchise most people associate with Cliff Bleszinski. When the man tells you he likes to work on new things, you believe him in the same way you believe Quentin Tarantino likes to pick apart different genres. That comparison is high praise for any creative, to be sure, but the feeling you get from The Hateful Eight is a far cry from how you might feel watching Pulp Fiction -- even if there's plenty of violence, cracking dialogue, and expert tone control in both films. 

You can shoot the people real good in LawBreakers, and that certainly reminded me of the times when I shot the people real good in Gears of War 2 (the best one). But flying around with the greatest of ease and keeping your eye on an ult meter cooldown doesn't exactly fit with the last "Cliff Bleszinski game" -- even if it does currently resemble the game industry's vision of a competitive first-person-shooter. If innovation really was Bleszinski's goal, he's at least halfway there.

We'll have more from LawBreakers, Cliff Bleszinski, and PAX East running over the next few days.

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Mike Cosimano
Mike CosimanoSenior Reporter   gamer profile

It takes a lot to make a stew. more + disclosures



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