In November 2018, famed designer Cliff Bleszinski swore off making games forever: In response to a LawBreakers player who was unhappy about not receiving a refund after Bleszinski’s studio, Boss Key Productions, went out of business. “This kinda shit is another reason I am NEVER making another game,” he said at the time.
But as just about anyone who’s sworn an oath after a bad day can tell you, these pledges aren’t always quite as iron-clad as they’re made out to be. Bleszinski said in August 2019 that maybe he might think about possibly one day giving thought to conceptualizing another game (but not a battle royale!) and in a recent Facebook post reflecting on the fate of the studio, he once again teased the possibility of a return.
The post begins with a rumination on Boss Key’s downfall, which Bleszinski attributed to multiple “cascading issues,” including “lackluster” marketing of LawBreakers from publisher Nexon, putting the game on PlayStation 4 instead of Xbox One, too many showcase events with not enough to actually show, and flip-flopping between conventional pricing and free-to-play models.
He also repeated a complaint from earlier this year, saying that putting his “personal politics front and center certainly didn’t help,” and said that he initially wanted to start with a straightforward arena shooter like Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament, ‘but everyone in the studio was so obsessed with MOBAs at the time I had to throw my hands up and say ‘go for it, this might add some cool depth.'”
The Facebook post also touches on Radical Heights, the free-to-play battle royale that Boss Key hustled out after LawBreakers’ failure. Bleszinski said the game “had a ton of promise,” but there wasn’t enough time to differentiate it from other battle royale games on the market.
“Kinda hard to motivate a team that just saw their previous game crater and they know that this BR is the hail mary to possibly save the studio,” Bleszinski wrote. “Watching the bank account for the studio tick tick down knowing that these people had families to feed is a sinking feeling I’ll never quite forget.”
https://t.co/xJROGO9FHTLong, reflecting update on my public Facebook for anyone interested. pic.twitter.com/BYPzu8X5lLOctober 19, 2020
It obviously wasn’t a good time for Bleszinski or his employees—”the tail end was extremely difficult on everyone,” he wrote—but despite that, and the schadenfreude that followed in the wake Boss Key’s collapse, it sounds like the urge he mentioned last year isn’t going away.
“I am finding myself actually having a slight itch to scratch to maybe poke around and see about making a little game. I have some ideas kicking around, so we’ll see,” he wrote. “I’ve found myself madly in love with smaller games these days, and the success of Fall Guys and Among Us give me hope that not everything needs to be insane AAA that requires crazy crunch that ruins families and mental health on a 100m budget.”
“The other title I’m madly in love with is the Touryst on the Switch. So simple, yet deceptively tricky in parts, and just cute as heck with the art style. I’ll never forget when Minecraft blew up when I was at Epic and we were all befuddled by its success because the graphics were so simple. Clearly that was an asset for that phenomenon! Games like these give me hope that I may one day dip my toe back into the biz, ever so slowly and cautiously.”
Before any of that happens, though, he’ll probably want to finish working on his memoir: Bleszinski said that working on the Boss Key part of it has been “pretty rough,” but also therapeutic.