Cliff Bleszinski recalls his ’90s FPS beef with John Romero was so intense he wanted to ‘take that guy down’

The ’90s were weird, man. Nowadays our celebrity game devs leave the beef and drama to streamers, but things could get heated back in the day. One of PC Gamer’s very own “Game Gods” from the class of 2000, Cliff Bleszinski, recently dished a little on that heady time in an interview with IGN, particularly on how hard the former Epic developer was gunning for id and Ion Storm co-founder John Romero.

“I saw Romero as my enemy,” Bleszinski said flatly of the Doom co-creator, recalling a jealousy of id’s success and Romero’s “rock and roll” persona: “‘I’m going to take that guy down’. It goes back to, again, the whole ‘I had nothing and I wanted it, you had everything and you flaunted it.’ So we were gunning to try and defeat [Quake].”

(Image credit: Future)

At the time, Bleszinski was a game design wunderkind at Tim Sweeny’s Epic MegaGames (bring the old name back if you ask me). Bleszinski cut his teeth on the likes of Dare to Dream and Jazz Jackrabbit, but it was with the release of Unreal in 1998 that Epic and the artist formerly known as CliffyB stepped up as a major competitor to id and Ion Storm.

Bleszinski described Unreal as being deliberately “counter-programmed” to id’s Quake series in the IGN interview: “Yes, we were making a multiplayer first person shooter, but we wanted to have bright colours, not make it kind of dark and dreary. Same thing with the first Unreal. Unreal had the bright coloured lighting, it had sky castles, it had all these beautiful environments, whereas Quake was deep, dark, Trent Reznor fuelled, Cthulhu dungeons.”

Nowadays, Bleszinski seems a bit chagrined at the intensity of it all in hindsight, and IGN notes that he and Romero are now good friends. Maybe this can all serve as good conversation fodder for that new podcast Romero’s starting with fellow Doom co-creator, John Carmack. 

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