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Game Designer Cliff Bleszinski Departs from Epic Games

By - Source: Epic Games | B 16 comments

Epic Games' lead designer is taking a much needed break after serving up console and PC games for the last 20 years.

Given that we're well into October, this bit of news can't be brushed off as an April Fools joke: Cliff Bleszinski is leaving Epic Games. The announcement was made on the Epic Games forums, reporting that the company's famed design director is ready for a break.

"I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager, and outside of my sabbatical last year, I have been going non-stop," he said in a note to colleagues. "I literally grew up in this business, as Mike likes to say. And now that I’m grown up, it’s time for a much needed break."

Bleszinski has been in the gaming business for 20 years, creating hits like Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, and Gears of War. His first title was 1991's The Palace of Deceit: Dragon's Plight, self-published under the name Game Syndicate Productions when he was just 17. He submitted it to Epic MegaGames and was asked to create another title. Twenty years later, he's now ready to move on.

"I will miss the projects, the playtests, the debates, and most importantly, the people," he said. "Epic only hires the best of the best, and it has been a joy working with each and every one of you on a daily basis, whether you were hired weeks ago or decades ago."

"I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, from code to art to marketing and PR – it’s been one big, rewarding learning experience," he concluded. "I’m confident that each project that is being built, whether at Epic, Chair, PCF, or Impossible will be top notch and will please gamers and critics alike."

Tim Sweeney, Epic’s founder, CEO and technical director, says it best: Bleszinski has grown into a true design luminary. "His contributions to the 'Unreal' and 'Gears' series have helped shape the game industry into what it is today," he said. "Cliff leaves Epic with our gratitude for his many contributions, and our wishes for continued success in the next chapter of his life!"

"Cliff has been my friend and business associate for the past 20 years and, while it is sad to see him move on from Epic, I know that everyone here has benefited greatly from his passion for gaming and the depth of his expertise and experience," said Mark Rein, vice president of Epic. "I’ll miss watching his star shine from such a close vantage point but I’ll still look forward to watching his continued success."

The full blog post can be read here.

Bleszinski's departure from Epic Games arrives after BioWare co-founders Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk announced that they were retiring from the long-standing, AAA game development studio. Muzyka said that after serving nearly twenty years in the gaming business, he felt it was time to pursue an entirely different career. Zeschuk said something similar, that after nearly twenty years working at BioWare, he decided it was time to move on and pursue something new too.

"I’ve reached an unexpected point in my life where I no longer have the passion that I once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation," Zeschuk said. "For the people I have had the privilege of working with, however, my passion burns as brightly as it did the day we started. The people I work with now, and that I have worked with in the past, have inspired me and really made all of the challenges we’ve collectively faced over the years worthwhile."

Thanks for all that you've done for the PC gaming business, Cliff. I'll always remember you as CliffyB storming the #unreal IRC Undernet channel, pumping us up with talk of the now-classic shooter. Man, time flies...

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  • 10 Hide
    mousseng , October 5, 2012 3:25 AM
    pocketdrummerAnd not a single F*** was given that day...

    I care: I like Cliffy B, Epic Games, and a lot of the games that were created because of the two (which is a lot, because Unreal Engine is hugely prolific). I'm actually interested in what he'll be doing next.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    ttg_Avenged , October 5, 2012 3:20 AM
    pocketdrummerAnd not a single F*** was given that day...


    I bet you have not played Gears of War, Red Orchestra, so many good games especially the engine itself is/are glorious.
  • 10 Hide
    mousseng , October 5, 2012 3:25 AM
    pocketdrummerAnd not a single F*** was given that day...

    I care: I like Cliffy B, Epic Games, and a lot of the games that were created because of the two (which is a lot, because Unreal Engine is hugely prolific). I'm actually interested in what he'll be doing next.
  • 2 Hide
    master_chen , October 5, 2012 3:25 AM
    Cliffy left the building...
  • 7 Hide
    matt_b , October 5, 2012 4:03 AM
    Wow, there seems to be a lot of innovators and founders leaving lately that have left a large impact in their industry over time - what's going on here?

    pocketdrummerAnd not a single F*** was given that day...

    I don't know if you're too young to realize or who this man is and what he's brought to the table in his twenty years. If there's one guy in the industry that any true gamer new, it was Cliffy_B. Some may argue that GOW was crap or Unreal 3 ruined the series, but like him or hate him this is a big deal as he was one of the founders of the gaming market and innovator of many things/ideas gaming - that's big. Combine this with the huge blow to Bioware with who's leaving them, and you have a dark week in game development, moment of silence........
  • 7 Hide
    myromance123 , October 5, 2012 4:59 AM
    matt_bWow, there seems to be a lot of innovators and founders leaving lately that have left a large impact in their industry over time - what's going on here?

    They've probably been inspired by the indie developer's market success. They may have great ideas and simply want the freedom to express those ideas, outside of Publisher's restrictive money-oriented bounds.
  • -1 Hide
    alidan , October 5, 2012 5:06 AM
    good news epic, you got rid of the person who said everyone on the pc is a pirate, congratulations, i will now look at all games you release from this day forward so long as he doesn't come back.

    seriously, cliff may have been good way back when, but what has he done lately?
    every game of his looks like meat mountains hitting eachother
    the engine, while i will give it credit for begin good, i don't believe was ever under his care, but the engine itself, unless you do some heavy tweaking always looks like statues that move. which is annoying.

    i also credit him with the complete deficit of color in current games, and the whole to look real you need to look bland approach.

    everything he did post 360 launch i do not like one bit.

    and sense his view started going more and more toward all people who play on the pc are pirates, i will not miss im in the least.
  • 5 Hide
    Kami3k , October 5, 2012 5:54 AM
    matt_bWow, there seems to be a lot of innovators and founders leaving lately that have left a large impact in their industry over time - what's going on here?


    Could be they are sick of groups like EA having nearly complete control of the development.
  • 1 Hide
    aaron88_7 , October 5, 2012 6:03 AM
    It's amazing some people can have such strong feelings towards an individual they don't even know personally. For those incapable of saying anything positive, I think this is one of those perfect moments where a good STFU is appropriate.

    Good lock to Cliff Bleszinski, I know I'll certainly be curious to see what he decides to do in the future.
  • 0 Hide
    happyballz , October 5, 2012 1:42 PM
    I give him respect for all he helped envision and create up to Unreal Tournament(OG). Anything after was a cookie cutter approach game design more focused on selling more copies across as many platforms as possible and not quality.

    Gears of War like everyone is mentioning was a "revolution" for consoles not PC. It was mediocre on PC at best. IMO
    Since U/UT I have not seen any games that would really excite me from EPIC like the originals did.

    In any way, good time off to him.
  • 0 Hide
    Antimatter79 , October 5, 2012 1:52 PM
    matt_bWow, there seems to be a lot of innovators and founders leaving lately that have left a large impact in their industry over time - what's going on here?I don't know if you're too young to realize or who this man is and what he's brought to the table in his twenty years. If there's one guy in the industry that any true gamer new, it was Cliffy_B. Some may argue that GOW was crap or Unreal 3 ruined the series, but like him or hate him this is a big deal as he was one of the founders of the gaming market and innovator of many things/ideas gaming - that's big. Combine this with the huge blow to Bioware with who's leaving them, and you have a dark week in game development, moment of silence........



    The big publishers are trying to move their talent pools away from "creation" to "manufacturing" of games. Why sell a customer a porterhouse steak twice a year when you can sell them 20 hamburgers in the same time frame and be more profitable? That's where the industry is going, unfortunately, and that's why I'm loving that Steam showcases so many indie games whose developers are allowed to actually "create" content.
  • 3 Hide
    meatburglar , October 5, 2012 2:09 PM
    So my best friend was on the opposite coast for business when he got news that his father, whom he was close to, had passed. We're close to being old farts now and have been gamers, PC and otherwise for quite a long time. Spent countless hours with UT, HL, CS, all the LAN party greats. The game my buddy was playing at the time he got the news was Epic's Infinity Blade on iPad. He busied his mind with playing it so that he could put his mourning on hold till he could be with his mom and brothers.

    A few weeks after the funeral, he found an old email address for Cliffy_B on a message board and decided to send an email thanking him for making the game that took his mind off of his dad's death so he wouldn't have to grieve alone. He kind of did it message-in-a-bottle style, not anticipating that the email address still worked, let alone that he would get a reply. But he did get a reply from Cliff, wishing condolences for his loss and thanking him for liking the game and that he was glad it could help in a small way. He asked for his address and then sent him a nice Infinity Blade print and a shirt signed by the whole design team.

    If that isn't a class act, I don't know what else is.

    Good luck Cliff.
  • -1 Hide
    shloader , October 5, 2012 3:11 PM
    I'm also in the same camp with a lot who were irked when Cliff suggested anyone who can install a video card is intelligent enough to pirate. However, I'm not going to suggest that one comment trully defines a man. On the overall I've liked more than I didn't from Epic starting back as far as the first Unreal. I'll admit anything post Unreal Tournament is where the whole 'meat mountains' thing started and I certainly wasn't for that. That said it didn't detract from liking more recent titles... which I own legitimately.

    So thankyou Cliff. May fortune favour your future efforts.
  • 0 Hide
    bigdragon , October 5, 2012 3:33 PM
    I respect Cliffy B, although my appreciation for his work has significantly declined over the past decade. Game length and quality has slipped in favor of graphics and marketing in that time frame. Classic PC franchises like Unreal were watered down for consoles. Epic went from producing top-notch PC games to doing sloppy ports never to be fixed if they ported a game at all. Cliffy B could have stopped this slide. His views on piracy were also bothersome. He's a great personality, a real spokesperson for gaming, and person filled with fun ideas. He's been a positive force, although he hasn't moved the industry where I would have liked it to go. He will be missed.
  • 1 Hide
    dalethepcman , October 5, 2012 6:47 PM
    shloaderI'm also in the same camp with a lot who were irked when Cliff suggested anyone who can install a video card is intelligent enough to pirate.....


    I know lots of people that know how to pirate, and most of them don't know how to install a video card. If that is what he said is pretty much true.

    Monkey type "avatar movie torrent" into google, click the download button....
  • 0 Hide
    alextheblue , October 5, 2012 11:48 PM
    shloaderI'm also in the same camp with a lot who were irked when Cliff suggested anyone who can install a video card is intelligent enough to pirate.
    You're saying that people that can install graphics cards aren't smart enough to download a crack? Not every PC gamer is a pirate, but piracy on PCs is incredibly easy. I've known a lot of people that pirate games over the years, and some of them don't know what the guts of their PC even look like.