Cliff Bleszinski on the Evolution of Franchises

Cliff Bleszinski

Like many franchises before it, Dead Space 3 has been coming under fire for its sudden shift in tone. Where the first two games were heavily geared toward survival horror, Dead Space 3’s added co-op partner and upgraded arsenal supposedly give players more ways to take down armies of necromorphs than ever before. Even though our very own Mitch insists that the game still has its own share of scary, there are others who disagree.

Naturally, there are pockets of gamers that are extremely upset over this change in mechanics to a game that they love dearly. To some, it’s “selling out.” But Gears of War honcho and former Epic Design Director Cliff Bleszinski has some different ideas about what’s happened to the Dead Space franchise. In a recent Dead Space 3 blog post, Bleszinski calls the game an evolution of the franchise, and uses that term endearingly. And according to him, “You can either fight it or embrace it.”

Even though there are dozens of opinions written about this all over the place, I find it fascinating to see it from the point of view of a game designer. Bleszinski (I still have to look that name up every time I write it) has some keen insight into the reasons that these decisions get made, including key demographics and what exactly makes survival horror games work:

I’m quite familiar with the controversy over Dead Space 3 and the issue of horror versus action. Generally speaking, the scarier a game is the less empowered a player feels. Controls are often clunky on purpose, and the pacing is quite different from an action movie. It feels as if Visceral consciously gravitated the franchise more towards the “action” elements over the “suspense/horror” ones, and I’m quite okay with that. We look at the target audience for your average console game and it’s often a cocky young male who doesn’t want to be scared, unfortunately, he’s the guy who wants to get in and “fuck shit up.”

He goes on to talking about the difficulty of crafting a horror experience, saying it’s akin to trying to tickle yourself. When you’ve been staring at a “scary” moment over and over, it’s hard to know if it’s truly horrifying until you try it out on someone else. This sort of makes the entire experience hit and miss, and a pain to develop for from a gamemaker’s perspective.

But the meat of the post happens near the end, when Bleszinski talks about the evolution of Dead Space. He views the franchise not as one that didn’t stick to its guns and abandoned its roots, but rather one that evolved from horror into something more. Despite any disagreements some might have with that statement, I do think it’s an interesting take on what happens to any franchise over time.

In terms of what else we can expect in the future from the horror genre, he has this to say at the end of the article:

In the 60$ disc based market horror doesn’t fly – it’s the ultimate “Campaign Rental” that’s played for 2 days and traded in and I’m sure EA knows this. When we’re fully digital we’ll see more true horror games coming back. (Look at Amnesia and Slenderman on PC.)

Anyway, it’s interesting stuff. But I’m curious how you guys feel about shifts like this? Whether it’s Counter-Strike to Source, Resident Evil’s PS days to its current format, Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2 and so on, are you generally OK with a franchise shifting its core experience to something else? Do you tend to embrace these changes or abandon them? Go!

Source – Dude Huge Speaks

Written by

I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “Cliff Bleszinski on the Evolution of Franchises”

  1. I embrace changes to franchises pretty much across the board. I don’t like the weapon crafting and universal ammo in the new Dead Space, but I like the addition of co-op. The shift to slightly more action is a non-factor to me. RE 4 is one of the greatest games of all time and is in my personal top 5. That game did much more different in the mainline series then anything Dead Space 3 has done differently in comparison to the previous titles.

    Hell, I want Zelda to evolve. I’ve been playing the same damn game for 20 years.

  2. I’m open to good change (ME1 to ME2), but I’m iffy when it comes to matters like Dead Space. Cliff Bleszinski has some great points, though, and I agree with him that once everyone goes full digital, we’ll see a return in many things like true horror games.

  3. re: Drell Assassin.

    What is good change to you might piss someone else off. Specifically what you refer to as a “good change (ME1 to ME2)”, many people did not like at all. It was decried as focusing too heavy on action compared to the more strategic elements of ME1, which is much the same argument people pose when they talk bad on DS3 while comparing it to DS1.

  4. @defteats

    It’s all a matter of opinion 🙂 But more seriously, the strategy of ME was not removed, its some of the clunky RPG elements that were. Now I do believe they simplified a bit too much (ME3 found a great medium for me) but it was definitely better. And although I liked the responsiveness and fluidity of DA2, it was nowhere near as strategic as the first, so in that I felt like the changes were a step back.

Comments are closed.