You haven’t seen a gaming article quite like this before: A seven-page inside look from the New Yorker at Cliffy B’s rich-and-famous lifestyle, with a history of Epic Games and its “Bachelor Futurist” headquarters, a review of Gears of War, and a preview of Gears 2 all thrown in for good measure.
It’s an “Epic” article worthy of its subject. On the following page, we’ve placed a few choice examples of New Yorker’s hoity-toity descriptions of the life of Cliff Bleszinski, a designer known by nearly every Xbox owner.
On Cliffy B’s Lamborghini:
Bleszinski suggested that we go to a local diner. He professes an aversion to mornings, and to Monday mornings especially, but he seemed dauntingly alert. “This car’s like a wakeup call,” he said. “By the time I get to work, my heart’s pumping and I’m ready to crank.” Before we were even out of the parking lot, we were traveling at forty-five miles an hour. At a stoplight, Bleszinski exchanged waves with the driver of an adjacent red Ferrari—another Epic employee. When we hit a hundred miles per hour on a highway entrance ramp, Bleszinski announced, “Never got one ticket!” On the highway, he slowed to seventy-five. “One of my jobs in life,” Bleszinski said, cutting over to an exit, “is to make this look a little cooler.” By “this,” he meant his job.
Nice to know those sixty-dollar game markups are going directly to Epic’s hotrod fund.
On the surreal Super Mario Bros. experience:
Issued in 1985, Super Mario Brothers was a game of summer-vacation-consuming scope and unprecedented inventiveness. It was among the first video games to suggest that it might contain a world. It was also hallucinogenically strange. Why did mushrooms make Mario grow larger? Why did flowers give Mario the ability to spit fire? Why did bashing Mario’s head against bricks sometimes produce coins? And why was Mario’s enemy, Bowser, a saurian, spiky-shelled turtle?
Keep in mind, the average New Yorker reader is 108 years old and still thinks Nintendo makes playing cards.
From the mini-review of Gears of War contained in the profile:
The story line and the narrative dilemmas of Gears are not very sophisticated. What is sophisticated about Gears is its mood. The world in which the action takes place is a kind of destroyed utopia; its architecture, weapons, and characters are chunky and oversized but, somehow, never cartoonish. Most video-game worlds, however well conceived, are essenceless. Gears felt dirty and inhabited, and everything from the mechanics of its gameplay to its elliptical backstory was forcefully conceived, giving it an experiential depth rare in the genre.
Hey, New Yorker! 2006 called, they want their review back.
On the design of Epic’s offices:
If one were to commission a very bright and unusually tasteful adolescent to design his ideal workplace, Epic’s headquarters would probably be the result. Its many blacks, grays, and corrugated-metal surfaces might best be labelled Bachelor Futurist, even though, by now, most of Epic’s male employees wear wedding rings. The office furnishings come in three styles: Neo-Living Room (easy-rocking, lever-activated recliners), Casual Satanist (black leather couches), and Romper Room Gothic (beanbag chairs). The aroma of lingering adolescence carries over into the mementos, knickknacks, and emblems that Epic’s employees use to decorate their offices. Tim Sweeney, with the earnestness of a teen-age boy, has a prominent Ferrari flag hanging in his office—though Sweeney, unlike most teen-age boys, actually owns a Ferrari. Chris Perna, the art director of Gears 2, displays on one of the shelves in his office a foot-high silver-cast Darth Vader Pez dispenser. Bleszinski’s office resembles a toy-store yard sale. These are boyish affectations, certainly, but boyishness is the realm in which these men seek inspiration, not a code by which they live.
This is an extremely polite way of calling the entire Epic staff “man-children”.
And finally, a look at Gears 2 through a developer discussion on balancing weapons:
Discussion at Epic is collegial and to the point; modern game design is too complex and collaborative for any individual to feel proprietary about his own ideas. At one meeting I attended, a disagreement about weaponry was swiftly resolved. “There’s no direct counter to the flamethrower,” Ray Davis, the game’s lead programmer, pointed out, with exasperation. A colleague, who had obviously heard this before, sighed. “I don’t know. I think it’s a superweapon,” he said. Then someone else observed that the boomshot, another devastatingly fatal weapon, had no direct counter, either, and Davis recognized with a grin that his argument had been destroyed. Bleszinski took the opportunity to raise a singular annoyance of the boomshot, familiar to anyone with experience of the multiplayer version of Gears: the impossibility of knowing whether someone you are charging toward happens to be carrying it. “The boomshot needs something to warn you your opponent’s got it,” Bleszinski said. He suggested adding small glowing lights around its four barrels, which everyone agreed was a fine solution. Davis, who works most directly with the programmers and was therefore most familiar with what remained janky, brought up the “inconsistent, unfun lethality” of a certain kind of grenade. This segued into Gears 2’s inclusion of ink grenades, which create a highly damaging toxic cloud—the proper gameplay use of which no one, so far, had been able to decide.
Wow! Reading this sure feels like a step above Game Informer, doesn’t it? We hope this isn’t the last of New Yorker’s in-depth dissertations on gaming culture and business. Can we expect the same fancy treatment for Fallout 3, Resistance 2, or Shaun White Snowboarding?
It’s doubtful, but if you want to read only the finest in gaming journalism on a regular basis, bookmark Ripten and check us daily (if not hourly). Unlike the New Yorker, we’re always on the gaming beat.
Source: New Yorker