Cliff Bleszinski, the designer of the original Gears of War games, has reflected on the closure of his latest studio, Boss Key. Appearing on the Animal Talking show with Star Wars writer Gary Whitta, Bleszinski said the closure of his studio affected him personally in a serious and significant way.
“I was deeply, deeply depressed for about a year,” he said. “My doctor put me on Lexapro for a little bit. That messed me up, so I got off that. It was one of the hardest things to happen to me in my entire life. It was almost harder than losing my father when I was 15 years old.”
Bleszinski recalled that he had high hopes for Boss Key and their debut title, LawBreakers, but it did not all go to plan.
“I was cocky, I was brash, and I was just assuming if I faked it until I made it, even though I had already made it, that the game would be a hit. I’ll never forget, watching the concurrent users start to plummet,” he said. “We were trying to be AAA on a AA budget.”
Overall, Bleszinski pointed out that the failure of LawBreakers and Boss Key can’t be pinned down to one element or another. He’s spoken about how the game being “too woke” was one of the reasons why the game struggled. In his discussion with Whitta, Bleszinski said he wished he could have provided more backstory and lore for the game’s various characters.
After the closure of Boss Key, Bleszinski said he was unlikely to return to game development, but recently, he shared an idea for a new project involving dogs that could be a game, or something else. In his conversation with Whitta, Bleszinski said if he ever made a game again, it wouldn’t be a large-scale endeavor like LawBreakers or his previous titles. In his response, he also possibly teased the story of his dog game.
“If I were to make another video game ever again, it would be something small. The whole, kid-with-a-lost-dog thing. Where you’re the dog trying to get back to New Jersey from the Grand Canyon,” he said.
Overall, Bleszinski said he is feeling “a little bit disillusioned” and jaded about the gaming industry, adding that, the way he sees it, luck and virality is more of a factor than ever in terms of if a game is successful or not.
“This industry has been really, really good to me, but I also see the damage it can bring on game developers,” he said. “I’ve seen families ruined. I’ve seen people with substance abuse issues. I’ve seen people having to go to therapy.”
Bleszinski left Epic after 20 years in October 2012, prior to the release of Epic’s massively popular battle royale game Fortnite. He started Boss Key with former Killzone boss Arjan Brussee in 2014; the team shipped LawBreakers in 2017 and the early access PC game Radical Heights in 2018 before closing down later that year.
Bleszinski is now pursuing one of his other passions: theatre. He is an investor in the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Hadestown, which he is also co-producing. Hadestown earned a whopping 14 Tony award nominations, winning eight–including Best Musical.
Bleszinski is also writing a memoir with Simon & Schuster, and his pages are due in January 2021, he told Whitta on the show. In addition to the book, Bleszinski said he has ideas for new IP, but he’s not sure if it would be a game or a graphic novel or something else. He also said he’s writing a script for what could be a TV show or a movie, but he did not share any details about it.
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