Former Epic Games Design Director Cliff Bleszinski is speaking on two panels this weekend at the Escapist Expo in North Carolina. The game developer has been laying low since his keynote speech at the East Coast Games Conference in March. Speaking with [a]list daily he explains why he’s more excited about Valve’s Steam Box and Oculus VR’s Oculus Rift than Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One in this exclusive interview.
[a]list daily: A big topic at the Escapist Expo will be next gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One. What do you feel will define next gen gaming?
Cliff Blezinski: Things like the Steam Box and the Oculus Rift, honestly. I’m friends with a lot of folks in Microsoft. Microsoft has been very good to me throughout my career. I’m friends with the folks at Sony. But when I think about my gamer instincts and where I’m going to see a lot of the most disruptive and innovative gaming I don’t see it in the $250 million budgeted game that cost $100 million to market. Because when you have that high of a budget the amount of risk being taken decreases exponentially. I was more excited about playing games like Gone Home than any console release. I am thoroughly excited to dive into Grand Theft Auto V, but it’s sitting on my desk looking like War and Peace to me right now. I’m going to have to clear out a good two weeks of doing nothing in order to just deep dive into it. In the meantime I’m on my Nintendo DS and I’m on my laptop playing Steam games. I got to fire up Two Brothers and I finished Thomas Was Alone and Gone Home. I don’t know if it’s because I’m rubber banding and rebelling against my AAA background, but I will buy a Playstation 4 and an Xbox One. Am I more excited for that than the Rift and Steam? I think Sony and Microsoft are going to do just fine and it’s a known entity. A known entity is not that exciting to me. It’s the disruptive things that are exciting to me.
[a]list daily: I was able to check out the Oculus Rift in HD at Gamescom.
Cliff Blezinski: The thing is, it’s not perfect yet. There are so many things that need to be solved with VR in order to truly make it work. And with each issue that they solve, whether it’s latency or the angle at which it rotates, it gets better. The amount of people who can’t experience VR and get in reduces it quite a bit. They know what they’re doing over there (at Oculus) and I think Rift could eventually be its own platform. Putting Team Fortress 2 and Half Life on it is a mistake. The experiences that are going to be the best ones are the ones that are custom made for the pacing of that kind of experience. I got more excited by the trailer for EVE Valkyrie on the Rift than anything I saw at E3 this year.
[a]list daily: That’s a cool game to play. Have you had a chance to play Valkyrie?
Cliff Blezinski: No. I don’t just tweet just to build the community and to talk sh*t. I also hope that somebody will contact me and say, “Hey, we saw your tweet, you want to come in and see us.”
[a]list daily: What do you think of the Virtuix Omni full body accessory for the Oculus that you checked out at San Diego Comic Con?
Cliff Blezinski: It’s not the experience I want right now. I think VR is new enough that just a straight VR experience like sitting in a cockpit needs to be solved first. They’re somewhat putting the cart a little bit before the horse. It’s comfortable if you’re walking and when you’re turning. To their credit, it largely works. But I think showing Half-Life 2 is a mistake because the pacing means that you can clear two rooms and you’re exhausted and you can’t even go on because you had to run so much. The kind of experience that you want for that, and for the Rift in general, is something more like Myst or Dear Esther, where you’re just exploring and where the gameplay isn’t very intense. I know it’s sacrilegious to say, but even a deer hunter game where you’re creeping through the woods and slowly turning around and trying to find your prey, will make a lot more sense for something like the Omni. It largely works, but I believe it’s still a ways off for really being viable for the majority of the population.
[a]list daily: What has crowd funding opened up for game developers today?
Cliff Blezinski: What Chris Roberts is doing with Star Citizen is amazing to me. That’s him bucking the system in not going to a traditional publisher. He wants to make his game and publisher say traditionally that genre hasn’t sold for years, therefore it’s not going to sell, therefore we’re not going to market it, therefore you have a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are thousands of PC gamers that are so hungry for that kind of experience that they’re throwing money at the idea that they can run around in their hanger and see multiple ships before the game’s even released. That’s the new order. No offense to my friends at Game Informer, but the old model of be quiet with your game for two years and then boom! the game is on the cover is over. You should build your community while you build your game now. That way from Day One they feel like they’ve had a hand in the development and you’re building almost a religion, you’re building zealots and an evangelizer experience. That’s the new world order.