'Gears of War' design director Cliff Bleszinski leaves Epic Games

Veteran video game designer Cliff "Cliffy B" Bleszinski has left his position as design director at Epic Games, according to the company.

Bleszinski, who is best known for his contributions to Epic's Gears of War and Unreal Tournament franchises, was a 20-year veteran of the company. He's departing the North Carolina-based game studio to "chart the next stage of his career," according to a release from Epic Games.

"I've been doing this since I was a teenager, and outside of my sabbatical last year, I have been going non-stop," Bleszinski wrote in a statement posted by Epic Games on its website. "I literally grew up in this business, as [Epic Games president] Mike [Capps] likes to say. And now that I'm grown up, it's time for a much needed break."

Bleszinski joined the company when he was just a teenager, when the company was known as Epic MegaGames. His first project with Epic was Dare to Dream, released in 1993, followed by multiple Jazz Jackrabbit titles.

"I will miss the projects, the playtests, the debates, and most importantly, the people," Bleszinski said in his farewell statement. "Epic only hires the best of the best, and it has been a joy working with each and every one of you on a daily basis, whether you were hired weeks ago or decades ago. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, from code to art to marketing and PR — it's been one big, rewarding learning experience. I'm confident that each project that is being built, whether at Epic, Chair, PCF, or Impossible will be top notch and will please gamers and critics alike."

The departure appears to be amicable, based on well wishes provided by Epic president Mike Capps, vice president Mark Rein, and CEO Tim Sweeney. Reached Wednesday, Bleszinski declined to comment further on his departure.

Bleszinski was attached to Epic Games' next project, Fortnite, the first game confirmed to use the developer's next-generation Unreal Engine 4.

In August, Gears of War series producer Rod Fergusson also left Epic Games, moving to BioShock Infinite developer Irrational Games. Days after Fergusson's departure, Epic announced that it had fully acquired Polish developer People Can Fly, who created first-person shooter Bulletstorm. People Can Fly's acquisition was tied to the departures of key studio members Adrian Chmielarz, Andrzej Poznanski and Michal Kosieradzki. People Can Fly is currently developing the next Gears of War game, Gears of War: Judgment.

Full disclosure: Cliff Bleszinski's brother, Tyler Bleszinski, is the founder of Polygon sister site and Vox Media progenitor SBNation.

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