Bulletstorm: 'We're secretly hoping that you start seeing people influenced by the skillshot system'
15th Apr 2011 | 18:30
Critical response to Bulletstorm has been mostly positive, which is somewhat of a rarity for shooters these days that aren't called Call of Duty, Halo, Killzone or some other recognisable title.
We sat down with Gears of War King Cliff Bleszinski and People Can Fly founder Adrian Chmielarz about the exciting new shooter Bulletstorm, what makes it unique and working in the industry.
Why did Bulletstorm need to be made now? Why is it crying out to be made?
AC: I have a theory on that - in the seventies or eighties this industry was all about fun. Fun first, you know? But then we were considered geeks. I remember when I was picking up chicks in the discothèque in Poland - I wasn't presenting myself as a guy who was making videogames; I was working in multimedia.
Videogames were perceived as for kids, or stupid. There was this dark time. And I think the industry wanted so much to be mature that it started to be all about 'we are serious, we are all about emotions, we want to show you the new world', and it's all very mature and it's all for adults.
And that's great but we started to forget about how it all started. What was the main reason we all fell in love with games in the first place? And we finally reached a point where we are bigger than the box office and we are bigger than books. So maybe a sign of maturity is when you actually stopped desperately wanting to be mature and you realise you can have everything.
Like movies - you can have your Black Swan, but you can also have your Tarantino movies, which are not life-changing experiences but they are a highest quality entertainment.
CB: It's nice to not have to apologise for your job. If you were to take your average kid right now, and ask him "do you want to be a football player, or do you want to be an astronaut, or a musician, or game designer?", I would wager that the majority of them would say game designer. Work in videogames. It's not so bad to say in the disco any more.
Have you found yourself apologising for your job to your family and to girls in the disco, Cliff?
CB: I basically didn't bother with the discothèque until we were starting to come around the curve of games being cool because I spent the majority of my twenties either working or being unhappily married. I luckily came around at the end of that curve where it was not really a bad thing to say you work in videogames, and it was actually like, "Oh really? Cool." It's no longer this weird thing. I'm actually pretty god damned proud of it.
Do you feel that Bulletstorm is a culture clash kind of game - a fresh blend of Eastern European and American design?
CB: I like to use the comparison in regards to cooking. We talk about Asian fusion (to describe) a restaurant, right? And the consensus thus far from the demo or talking to the reviewers here is that it works and that's actually a very tasty dish, as opposed to orange juice and toothpaste. You have two very complimentary flavours that you did not expect would work well together, surprisingly.
You've said you'll be seeing a lot more of the multiplayer where you can compete with your friends who aren't online and so on, Cliff. EA are doing it with Need For Speed's Autolog and you're doing it with Bulletstorm. Where do you see that going?
CB: I think the sky is the limit. I think that any developer who's smart now will take a look at classic games such as Animal Crossing, Demon's Souls... they'll look at Cityville. In many ways it all goes back to play by mail if you think about it - all those old games that people play, manually mail their moves to each other. It fascinates me lately. It's something I really want to experiment with in the future.
Everyone is going to see the scores on the screen and the unique weapons, but how does introducing those systems affect your designers' jobs?
AC: It was extremely challenging because on one hand you have this idea of a system, the less control you have over the system the better. You can change weapons any time, and we don't place the rocket launcher right before the sequence with a helicopter, for example.
We worked very hard to lose control over the system but on the other hand, of course, when you have a single-player campaign and you want to direct it right, you want direction and you want focus. So it was like trying to marry fire and water; it was very hard to do.
CB: It affected your level designers also - they had to start thinking about where can I position all the stuff that you can impale guys off, or ledges. You're looking at it like a pool game - your gun is your cue stick, your enemy is your cue ball, and then the bumpers or the sides of the pool table are the level. Suddenly they have to start thinking differently about where they place things with regards to giving the player this fun playground.
What features from Bulletstorm do you want other developers to steal?
CB: I'm deep down secretly hoping that you start seeing people influenced by the skillshot system. Adrian keeps bringing up this amazing fact that if you kill someone and only get ten points you're disappointed, as opposed to being like "yay, I vanquished him." It re-arranges your thinking about how you play a shooter, which is what cover did, and it's great in my opinion.
AC: That's what I'm hoping for. You play another game after Bulletstorm and you realise that the only reason you're killing these people is to see what's next. But is what you're doing really fun? Are you really owning this?
Are you just playing somebody else's dream or is this you? Do you own that battlefield? You can use a better narrative to cover that fact, or you can maybe use a gameplay solution like a skillshot system. I'm hoping we're pushing this genre forward.