CliffyB on Battleborn: “I don’t find a sentient mushroom aspirational”; character shooters are “trying to out-wacky each other” | PCGamesN

CliffyB on Battleborn: “I don’t find a sentient mushroom aspirational”; character shooters are “trying to out-wacky each other”

There’s a lot of MOBA-style, character-driven, class-based objective shooters out there. Cliff Bleszinski, also known - to his mock-chagrin - as CliffyB, is making one of them: Lawbreakers. To do that he’s been playing the others, and he has some thoughts on how character design differs between his game and the efforts of Blizzard, Gearbox et al.

For more of the happenings at E3 2016, check our homepage for the latest PC gaming news.

“It’s completely subjective, right? Like who is your favourite superhero? Are you a DC or a Marvel person? What’s your favourite dinner? It’s the ultimate subjective thing,” he clarifies. “I think they’re great but there’s this look that’s come through. These games are so colourful and filled with such ridiculous craziness in the characters that it’s like ‘look, let’s dial that back a little bit’, y’know?

“I always joked with Randy [Pitchford] about Battleborn - I don’t find a sentient mushroom aspirational. As much as Winston’s an interesting character, he’s a gorilla? Okay, I’ll be over here as Tracer, cause I think Tracer’s awesome. There’s almost this thing that’s happened where a lot of these character shooters are trying to out-wacky each other.”

The Gears of War creator thinks he’s worked out the source too. “I think that’s the MOBA-influence, where League of Legends went full crazy and introduced, what was it, a catfish in a top hat? It’s to the point where it’s like they’re challenging the cosplayers to see if they can match the crazy ideas they come up with.”

As for how Bleszinski will play it different, his plan is to be a little darker, and a little more straight forward. “So my goal is to be the Quentin Tarantino version of that. When you look at our characters you have the assassin, Hellion, has that yellowness implied like Kill Bill’s The Bride. We have the DEA agent who’s essentially the cop who’s reluctant to fight this way. Then you have the ex-con who they tried to execute, who kept the mask on as a sign of him being a part of that gang. Those are the things I went for in regards to the characters and their designs and their kind of aspirational elements.

“My main thing when I talk about characters and level design, I go back to the old show Friends - The One With The Leather Pants is how they would name the episodes. So it’s like, what’s that? That’s the guy with the creepy iron mask that looks like dreads but it turns out it’s just plugs with scarification on them. This is the dude with the spherical magazines and the kind’ve electrical sidearm. There’s the girl with the jewel in her forehead who’s happy and has robo-legs.”

Lawbreakers definitely has a more grounded feel to it across the board. Characters are mostly human, maps are realistic environments, guns are, well, actual guns rather than sound-blasters and laser staves. Whether that key difference is what some will want to see over Overwatch and Battleborn’s outlandish cartoon remains to be seen.

Sign in to Commentlogin to comment
Jenks avatarNathSB avatarAnAuldWolf avatar
Jenks Avatar
1 Year ago

I couldn't agree with him more. Not only are they ultra wacky but not coherent at all. You can do ultra wacky and still be coherent: see Plants vs Zombies - a game predictably about plants fighting zombies. But Overwatch sets up a good guys vs bad guys plot, and then just devolves into a gorilla scientist vs mega fat biker vs robot vs dwarf FFA and it feels like it's just throwing shit at the wall.

Also, character based shooter is just a new word for class based shooter, but makes it easier for them to sell you things.

NathSB Avatar
1 Year ago

I definitely agree with your point about Overwatch's lore clashing with its gameplay (one of the main reasons I haven't bought the game.) I don't agree with CliffyB in that his characters are somehow more aspirational/original/unique than his competitors.

Funny how he also complains about making the same shit as everyone else, then makes a character/class-based team shooter.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
1 Year ago

I agree with you on Overwatch because it's not internally consistent. In fact, it has no lore. It has people fighting each other that contradicts what little story it does have.

I don't agree with your viewpoint though that wackiness is inherently a bad thing. If you're internally consistent and you have a narrative, then you can be as out there and bananas as you want. There are plenty of authors who revel in this. Even the beloved Terry Pratchett, whose works are legendary.

It's all about internal consistency and narrative. If you have an ongoing story and your world has rules which are always obeyed, then nothing else matters. All of the great authors have always known this. This is why I don't like Overwatch, because it has no narrative, nor any rules for its world. So the 'wacky' elements lose any meaning because they don't have any history.

That's why I prefer one of its recent relatives -- Battleborn. Battleborn has a story for each of its characters, it has a narrative, and that's internally consistent throughout all of its lore, missions, and dialogue. That's why I don't respect CliffyB. To dismiss the notion of a sentient mushroom just because it's a sentient mushroom is to have all the imagination and romance of Margaret bloody Thatcher.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
1 Year ago

I can't believe I missed this, what a prat. And a prat with the most dull, uninspired hero shooter I've seen yet.

The idea behind Battleborn is that it's imaginative. It's a word that Cliff's been unfamiliar with for the past decade, now. It's also inclusive, yet another word that isn't really in Cliff's vocabulary. There are a lot of very different people out there and they have a lot of different escapist fantasies. Just because one boring prat (with an equally boring game, which one can only assume is targeted at bean counters) can't appreciate the escapist fantasies of other people, it doesn't mean that they don't exist.

Am I salty about this? You bet! I'm absolutely sick and tired of the campaign to shame the strange, the over-the-top, the unusual, the unexpected, and the unfamiliar. It's made pariahs out of people who even just enjoy creating strange science-fantasy art. It's turned into dim-witted, anti-intellectual thuggery of the most toxic kind. It's cancerous.

Yes, let's all be accountants with no dreams, let's all just want beautified human beings killing each other without any rhyme or reason. And that's the height of one's aspirations, is it? I suppose that without an ounce of romance to your soul, if you're just this empty, dried out, hollow, faceless husk then you're not going to find anything aspirational other than the most dreadfully dull of things. And that's what's happening here.

It's like... after the '06 Shitfall, most people grew up, stuck a girder in their arse, and allowed it to hollow them out into these lifeless husks. No romance, no appreciation, no ART. Just empty. Empty, blank-eyed drones who'll eat and sleep the same thing, day in, day out. Well on the road to abolishing independent thought and any semblance of individual perspective in favour of becoming just another drone.

And all drones like the same things. Which means that, hey, that's easier to market to! If everyone's this lifeless drone that consumes the same slop, no one ever has to put any effort in! You can just make the most characterless, devoid of personality, one-dimensional, badly written slop and people will just pour it in.

glug glug glug

I actually might find a being that was once part of a fungal network that spread across an entire planet aspirational. I might even think that's clever. That's because, basically, I have the mind to appreciate that on a romantic, artistic level. I can be inspired by a concept that cool. I'll want to think about it, dream about it, even write about it rather than just spending another day drooling for the schadenfreude and drama of reality television and the Internet, as though that were the be all and end all.

CliffyB's Lawbreakers is basically just Reality TV, the game. Not unlike Overwatch. It has no story, no soul, and no character of its own. It's designed purely with mass-market appeal in mind. By a man that has no personality, no character, and no identity of his own. And hasn't had for years.

He can't appreciate an idea as cool as Miko because there's just nothing there with which to appreciate it with. Like I said, he's a hollow person. A walking husk. And I'm really glad I don't share that in common with him.

I'll just say one more time, that, yes. I'm sick of the shaming that occurs regarding the imaginative, the creative, the clever, the out there, the over-the-top, the novel, and the unfamiliar.

Where the hell is our species going? Five hundred years down the line, will people be shamed for wanting to play a military shooter instead of playing the latest Counting the Rings of a Tree Stump?

Good grief. I really do wonder about humanity, sometimes. Too much reality television, probably. Far too much.