Unreal Cliffy B.
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
liff Bleszinski, aside from having one of the harder names to spell in the gaming industry, is somewhat of an oddball. In the last year, two games he worked on were released: one you all know as the uber-first person shooter that is Unreal. The other…well, believe it or not, was the cuddly side scroller known as Jazz Jackrabbit 2, which actually has a lot in common with the other game, believe it or not. We decided to find out just who the heck could possibly put out two games like that…hence this interview. Enjoy!
Just who the heck are you, and what do you do?
Cliff Bleszinski, of Epic Games. I do lotsa stuff here, but my main focus is on level and game design. I also assist with producing, recruiting, PR, dabble in art, produce sound effects and voice with outside studios, etc...I spend the majority of my time either designing levels, playing other level designers' work, or assisting with the design and direction of our products.
How’d you come to work at Epic, anyway?
Everyone who has come to work with Epic and has done well has done one thing- make something cool. For me it was a little Windows graphic adventure I put together (programming, art, etc.) I sent it to Tim years ago and he liked it and hooked me up with Arjan Brussee and we did Jazz Jackrabbit 1.
Hey…waitasecond…aren’t you a bit young to be that successful?
I'll be 24 very shortly. I've been doing this since I was 17. You're never too young to get started in this biz.
How early on were you brought onboard? (For those who don’t remember, Unreal was in production for a loooong time)
After 6-12 months or so, I worked on Unreal for appx. 3 of the 4 years. If I recall correctly, the first 6-8 months it was just James Schmalz, and then Tim and Dave Carter, and then myself.
Were you at all intimidated by the concept of working on a major game over the Internet? How strange an experience was that?
I had done it somewhat before; Jazz Jackrabbit was developed in the crappy "virtual office" situation. The entire experience wasn't really anything strange or odd, I had already known these people for several years and trusted them and their abilities.
Working on games via virtual office sucks beyond all comprehension. There is no substitute for walking into someone's office and saying "Yo, my bots aren't using the Redeemer. Come take a look."
How close to your original vision did the final version of Unreal turn out to be?
Unreal was a mix of many different visions, really. James' initial vision of Unreal was a mech game that took place on rolling landscapes and in dingy caverns. Tim didn't care, he just wanted to make cool shit. I wanted to make something fun that scared the hell out of the player.
If you could go back and change something about Unreal, what would you revise?
I'd push for better sounding guns with recoil animations that looked more like guns!
Do you play any of the user-made Unreal maps?
Hell yeah! There are some cool ones out there. I jump on servers all the time and beat down our loyal customers.
Got any strange tales of Unreal’s development to share?
Yeah, two of Myscha's dogs gave their lives so that you could enjoy Unreal. So go buy it dammit!
So let’s get this straight…you were working on Jazz Jackrabbit and Unreal at the same time? How’d that come about?
Well, each game was taking so friggin' long that I had a bit of idle time on each, so it worked out rather well. My work for Jazz 2 was actually finished 1.5 years before it ever hit the shelf, so it really didn't get in the way of Unreal's development.
Did you find the two projects to mesh in some bizarre way?
There are similarities with all games, such as resource management, offensive and defensive skills, and player movement and physics, but other than those generalities the games really are drastically different.
Would you say that Unreal influenced Jazz Jackrabbit in any way?
Each product was being developed by entirely separate teams; I was the only common link between the two. I can't really say that one influenced the other.
In my review, I commented that Jazz Jackrabbit is the, "Unreal of side scrollers" when referring to its incredible number of engine effects and gameplay modes (that are usually expected from a first person shooter…not a platform game!) Would you agree with this statement?
Sure! I love gratuitous and obvious engine effects, and these are things that most users notice first and appreciate, so we use them all over the place. Regarding gameplay modes, I know that I love variety and simple variations such as CTF or Darkmatch really add a lot of value to a product.
There’s a sign in Jazz Jackrabbit that reads, "Mark wears briefs. Hoo hah!" Care to explain that one?
A certain Marketing fellow I know of tends to enjoy walking around in his underwear often and I felt the need to let the world know of the Tighty Whiteyness of it all.
Are there other strange little easter eggs in Jazz 2?
There are oodles of hidden messages throughout Jazz2, as well as some fantastic idle animations from both characters.
Let’s get this one right out in the open. First id makes their announcement that Quake 3: Arena is going to focus on multiplayer, with a deathmatch style single player mode. Then a short bit later, you guys announce Unreal Tournament. Coincidence?
Great minds think alike, I suppose. When you see Tournament you're going to see piles of fantastic levels, oodles of new art, awesome new player meshes/animations, and rocking new weaponry. We made the decision to do UT at E3 last year at an internal development meeting. Even if id were not doing Q3 with a deathmatch focus we'd still do Tournament because the time is right for a product like this.
|Credits: Illustration © 1999 Michael Krahulik. The Unreal Cliffy B is © 1999 Jason Bergman and Cliff Bleszinski. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...or you'll pay. Oh, how you'll pay.|