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Cliff Bleszinski talks VR’s struggles, paying for DLC, and gaming’s Hollywood envy

On paying for mods

On the topic of paying for mods, Bleszinski was clear. After discussing his desire to bring mod functionality to the game after its release he leant in to speak clearly into our dictaphone. 

“I’m not going to charge for them by the way. Note that please, because it’s bullshit.”

This view contrasts with recent moves taken by Bethesda, who last year enabled paid mods for Skyrim. After a massive outcry from the community, the company reversed the decision within the week.

We asked what exactly his objections to charging for mods were. 

“What you’re doing is you’re walling off your community. By curating it you’re getting rid of the entire reason why we have mods in the first place. I just think monetizing it is a slippery slope. I just think it’s dirty and I’m just not a fan of it,” he explained. 

In essence, he suggests that charging for mods limits their potential reach, which is a shame when some of the biggest games of all time (Counter Strike and DOTA 2 being the prime examples) started out as freely released modifications to existing games. 

On single-player games

Bleszinski’s focus is now aimed squarely at multiplayer gaming with LawBreakers, but Gears of War featured a lengthy campaign in addition to its multiplayer modes. 

We asked him whether he’d ever return to making that style of game. 

“Campaigns are only going to get more and more expensive,” he stated. “If I were to do something with a narrative basis it would be a lot more procedural. A lot of these survival games are generating the world upon spawn, which I actually really respect.” 

When we asked whether he plays story-based games anymore, Bleszinski talked about how being in the business for too long had made him very weary around those sorts of games, causing him to fixate on little elements like the anti-aliasing or fetch quests being used to pad the game out. 

“Lately seeing the man behind the curtain too much in this business has made me a bit jaded.”

On cross-platform play 

There was a lot of talk at this year’s show about cross-platform play, or the ability of gamers on one platform being able to play multiplayer against those on another platform. 

Microsoft confirmed that every version of Minecraft would be cross compatible in the future, and Rocket League developer Psyonix talked more about how the game allows players on its various platforms to come together. 

But although Bleszinski thought that cross-platform play worked well for those two games, he was less convinced that it could work with a first-person shooter because in his words, “99% of the time a keyboard and mouse player that’s good is going to dumpster a controller player”.

“Lately seeing the man behind the curtain too much in this business has made me a bit jaded.”

Cliff Bleszinski

However, he wasn’t completely closed off to the idea, and outlined how he’d design a game if he wanted to have mouse and keyboard and controller players in the same match.

“If you were to do it I would back up and I would make a game where the people on the PC only get a certain amount of characters, they only play these characters, and the console players only play these characters. I’d make it completely asymetrical, and that might work.”

However, while he thought that although aim-assists could help level the playing field, he thought that the result would be far too frustrating for mouse and keyboard players to make it worthwhile. He explains, “even if the controller player wins the keyboard and mouse player is going to be mad at the game because he’s going to see what the aim assist did for him or her.”

But with increasing amounts of PC games relying almost entirely on a controller, the potential for cross-platform play has never been greater, even if a shooter like LawBreakers could never take advantage of it. 

When Bleszinski bowed out of the games industry back in 2012 it looked like we were about to lose an irreplaceable figure. Few within the industry have the wealth of knowledge, or the confidence to express their opinions, as the veteran developer - and it's great to have him back in the public eye.