The Kickstarter campaign for the indie shooter Superhot had a single backer who paid $2,000 for the privilege of designing a level in the game. And it's none other than Cliff Bleszinski, the designer of the Gears of War series.
I donated at the Superhot tier whereas I get to co-design an arena stage. :)— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) May 14, 2014
Bleszinski says that prior to launching his new game studio, Boss Key Productions, he had quite a bit of free time on his hands.
"I finished Reddit every day," Bleszinski wrote Polygon in an email interview. "I'd get to the end and the little alien was looking back at me shrugging like 'What, I got nothing else, go outside and play kickball or some shit.'"
That's when he found Superhot, the product of a team of independent game developers from Lodz, Poland. In the game players control time simply by moving. When enemies fire their weapons the bullets don't move until the player does lending the FPS game a puzzle-like quality and a gritty edge at the same time. The quirky FPS raised over $250 thousand in their Kickstarter, which ended in June.
"I thought it was brilliant and I tweeted to them to get the game out already before the next Call of Duty steals the idea for a time attack mode.
"It's the most innovative shooter idea since Bullet Time."
Is it any shock that the most innovative FPS feature in years has come out of a place where devs are willing to take risks? I'm not surprised.
Since backing the project, Bleszinski says that the team behind Superhot has been a pleasure to work with.
"I don't really have any [criticisms]. Coming from years in AAA there's a perception that we don't like indie guys, but people forget that studios like Epic started the exact same way, so I'm on their side. And if I can use my social networking reach to evangelize something that I think deserves a shot you're darned right I'm going to!"
Bleszinski himself is of Polish descent. He says he's been impressed by the work coming out of the country, including Gears of War: Judgement, which was made by the Warsaw-based studio People Can Fly.
"You know my last name. Clearly Poland produces a great lineage of talented developers," Bleszinski wrote. "There's some great talent out there and the more power to them.
"Is it any shock that the most innovative FPS feature in years has come out of a place where devs are willing to take the risks that those in the West aren't able to? I'm not surprised. Event the name has some of that weirdness and edge that an American studio wouldn't use."
Superhot should be available to backers by this time next year. Boss Key's first effort will be a free-to-play arena shooter published by Nexon. A release date has not been announced.
Full disclosure: Cliff Bleszinski's brother, Tyler Bleszinski, is the founder of Polygon sister site and Vox Media progenitor SB Nation.
Polygon's features team traveled to Poland in the first half of 2014. Our goal was not just to profile a single person or game. We wanted to go deeper.
Over two weeks we covered more than 300 miles. We visited some of the largest and oldest cities in Poland. We met with nearly two dozen teams, and spent time in the homes and workplaces of the individuals making games in the heartland of Central Europe.
This article is just the beginning.
Polygon's feature set, Polygon Goes To Poland, contains six feature stories and two short documentary films.