Last time: I braved the artic tundra in a quest to witness the warmth of Bioware’s ice palace up in Edmonton. This time, I travel to the wilds of North Carolina, and visit Cliff Bleszinski and the Epic Games crew, hard at work on Unreal Tournament 2004. Yes, this was before the Gears of War money flooded in.
Part 9: An Epic Office
Back when PC guides were black and white, I was sent to spend a couple of weeks with the good folks over at Epic Games in their North Carolina offices. This wasn’t the first Carolina I’d been to; I’d had to find a small hotel somewhere in South Carolina and interview the band P.O.D. about their love for Sega Rally. Don’t ask. Actually, do; that was for a magazine where celebrities were valued as highly as video games. It lasted seven issues. Go figure. Anyway, as exciting as the nearby waffle house had been, I wasn’t itching to get back to the Carolinas, but Epic’s office changed all of that. Partly because it was in the middle of the flattest backwoods around (but still within spittin’ distance of a Red Lobster), and I love my own backwoods at my Pacific Northwest Doombase, but mainly because Epic had amenities even EA would have been excited to show off.
Yes, they had a large black room decked out in foam, where they stuck ping-pong balls on actors and forced them to play-fight as if they’d been gibbed. And that was before you wandered around the developers’ office space. Back in 2003, everyone in the Epic office had one of those big CRT monitors with a SONY logo that weighed as much as Forrest Griffin’s head, and was just as difficult to hold onto. But Cliffy B (as he was known back then) had not one, but two of those brand-new 24-inch flatscreens, back when they cost $2,999 each. His office was pimptabulous, if you’re a fan of Optimus Prime and Dodge Vipers (in which a rode to a luncheon where we talked about Seanbaby). Although the office was shared with others, Epic had their own luxury level, with views across deciduous woodland, high ceilings, thick, executive wood doors, and (because I’d descended right in the middle of crunch time; a tendency that really leaves a developer wanting to string you up by your gaming thumbs) a mass of white DELL keyboards, a mess of chunky computers plus wiring, and great camaraderie.
Cliffy B’s office was Epic, is Epic — and after they changed gears and garnered giant success with Marcus Fenix’s excellent adventure — is probably festooned with giant plastic and metal versions of everything thick and sinewy that appeared in the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Field Marshall Bleszinski now rides to work in a life-size Optimus Prime truck. He’s earned it.
Next time, Santa Monica calls, as I shake Naughty Dog off my leg.
Just finished: Nope, no finish in sight for me.
Currently: Touring the Wasteland and noting down interesting locations.
About to: Cross-reference items, going slightly doo-lally in the process.