'LawBreakers' Was a Throwback to an Era That Might Never Have Existed


Cliff Bleszinski's struggling new arena shooter is trying to reach a competitive audience that might always have been more theory than reality.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a3kvvg/lawbreakers-was-a-throwback-to-an-era-that-might-never-have-existed

Demo of “project OCTOPATH TRAVELER” is out. What’s your opinion on demos?

It almost seemed like a cosmic certainty that Lawbreakers was gonna do poorly considering the Hubris of Cliff leading up the release, but I don’t think anyone could have expected this.


Using the word “was” in this headline is a devastating burn for a game that came out a month ago


It a good game that came out at the wrong time with Overwatch & Paladins take the top spot for classbase / Hero shooter. There also the fact that Cliff is too much of a ass to really bring good light to his game after Gears, dude need to take a step back.


I do think LawBreakers is a weird and fascinating item in terms of its pitch. I’m sure this was the product that Bleszinski wanted to make, but rooting your emotional appeal in a moment of time that was twenty years ago seems a little misguided to me. A lot of my friends who have played online shooters (e.g. Overwatch) are young people who have never played DOOM or Unreal Tournament. I’m sure those games have had fine audiences and are well-loved, but I think betting it all on nostalgia for a fraction of people isn’t the path to capturing folks’ imaginations.


I’m the guy that Cliff targeted. I was playing Q][, Q]|[, a little bit of UT and some other games in computer clubs competitively. Not that seriously, mostly in a friendly environment, but there were clans, rivalries, couple of tournaments. So, no, Rob, “Quake 2” wasn’t a single-player shooter for everyone.

Problem is, it was almost 20 years ago. I don’t want to play new competitive shooter. I don’t want to play Cliff Bleszinski’s “LawBreakers”, David Jaffe’s “Drawn to Death”, or new “Quake Champions”.

Also, all those people are wrong people. Who do you think about, when you think about “old good days” of fast first person shooters? I know he worked on old “Unreal” games, but Cliff is a chainsaw+gun guy, you know, slow, cover shooter guy. David is a “Twisted Metal” and “God of War” guy. We need Johns, but Carmack is a lawsuit guy now and Romero is still suffers from “Daikatana”, so, I’m not even sure if we have anyone from those times in this genre.


The most successful multiplayer games seem to have some core conceit that opens them up for non-serious players. TF2 and Overwatch are both about exuberant, colorful styles with low-intensity gameplay. PUBG is more about tapping into a survival fantasy than mechanical skill. Even the old arena shooters of the UT era had fairly laid-back atmospheres because nobody had any preconceptions about being an eSports Superstar.

Stuff like LawBreakers (and Quake Champions to a lesser extent) doesn’t have any of that, and is laser-focused on the uber competitive format where it’s all serious, all the time. There was a lot I liked about it mechanically, but the complete lack of any chill, or concern for casual player experience, spelled its doom right away.


The statement that the competitive arena environment “didn’t exist” because the casual market did is completely baffling considering you can literally go onto a website right now and look at the $1.2m prize money collected by Q3A players since 1999. It doesn’t really make sense to argue that people don’t take these games seriously when it’s pretty obvious they do - try telling someone that Street Fighter isn’t a competitive game because you specifically remember just playing for fun.

Also the problem isn’t with the audience Lawbreakers is targeting, the problem is that the game sucks. Zero-gravity in a competitive game is infuriating and bad, the obnoxious Roiland ball thing is annoying and tiring, the aesthetic is bad at making things instantly readable, the level design sucks etc. etc.


Disagree about the zero-g mechanic, I thought it was a cool idea that put a huge emphasis on movement in a way that most online shooters don’t. The issue, like a lot of stuff in the game, is that the teaching is just very poor.

A few of the heavyweight classes like Titan and Juggernaut can only move around quickly in zero-g by using the blindfire mechanic, but because that functionality isn’t signposted well, anyone who tries to play those classes will be a big easy target if they’re not using blindfire movement.

Everything genuinely cool and fun about the game is obscured by awful/nonexistent tutorials and a heavily outdated style.


This is an interesting perspective and probably true for the majority of the population, but you’d think that there would still be some core group of players to latch onto this game. I think the problem is basically twofold: there are sooooooo many games out that any multiplayer game has to highlight what makes it different and why that is better than what is already out there, and nostalgia just doesn’t work outside of entrenched brands. Lawbreakers fails at both of these, it is not the modern followup to Quake, that’s champions so whoever is nostalgic for Quake will go there. And all I’ve heard that sets it apart from other shooters is zero-g, but I’ve yet to hear why that is so great and revolutionary.


High-level play doesn’t sell. It’s a fact that upsets me as much as I’m sure it does Cliff Bleszinski, but it’s the truth.


I think, even for someone like myself who still has UT2004 installed and still enjoys it. The concept of LawBreakers might have been a sell even if the art style wasn’t exactly attractive (Actually, it looks like a latter day COD Map Pack if you ask me). But when you delve deeper. There’s a lot of concessions and they all contradict and work against each other. Arena shooters work when all the classes are fun and have a role. The magical period before Hi-Rez ruined Tribes Ascend is a huge example because everyone on the team could take a role, and it would still be fun. Even a defense class like Juggernaut was like playing a linebacker trying to slam the Pathfinders while defending the generator room. You weren’t going fast. But it was still fun to stop someone from going fast.

While in LB, Only a couple of the classes are actually fun, some are outright useless and one was so OP in the beta that even a nerf couldn’t stop them. They promised freedom of movement and a sense of verticality with the Zero-G movement. But that was limited to a choke point in the map or sections on the outside of the map. And going too vertical would put you out of bounds and almost instantly kill you. There was one game in the beta where I played assassin and managed to use grapple and use the anti grav to slingshot myself over a building and try sneak in the opponents cap point. Imagine my dismay when the game killed me for going out of bounds. The game wants you to play within it’s infastructure and maps. And when most of the maps are just tri-lanes. It gets tiring to see a Wraith player cop on and just patrol the choke points. For a game all about movement, it loves to limit it. And it quickly gets irritating when the one class completely suited to the map design gets the advantage.

You compare that to a game like Titanfall 2 which is incredibly vertical and fast where Respawn give you a lot of time in the air and don’t punish you for being creative with the map. You get seven seconds for OOB, but if you are creative with the grappling hook or phase shift and use that OOB for setups, they aren’t going to punish you for it. And TTF2 Multi is very welcoming to those who have just dropped in or veterans for the first. And the design philosophy from Single Player runs through Multi where you are free to be creative. Come up with strategies, create your pilot to be a team player or just jump around like a rabbit on LSD. (But then I really liked Tribes so no surprise I like TTF2). And it’s that sort of creativity and player freedom LawBreakers lacks. In a way. Arena shooters are about expressing yourself and your own style of play. There’s a meta, sure. Q3A and Q Champions has one. But like the article said. It’s a sandbox. Go play. And the best ones combine the elements of competition and creativity. LawBreakers didn’t land either. And that’s why even the hold outs who still will fire up UT99 and play a full botmatch on Deck from time to time didn’t bother.


Man, somebody get Thresh on the line, if only to make sure that he ever existed.

But yea, the era existed and can no longer exist. I’m not terribly interested in writing my rambling magnum opus on the matter at 4AM, but, some thoughts (likely of varying relevance,) at least:

Games from that era who are trying to make comebacks seem like they’re missing the “purity” of the originals, if that makes any sense. I played Quake competitively forrrrr, I dunno, 10 years? And I don’t really care about Champions. At all. In the 90s Champions would have been a mod for a Quake game. LawBreakers would’ve been a mod for something else with some server-side settings being messed with. If the community cared enough, they would have decided to see how these things worked in those older games and went and made it themselves. If it took at all, then it gained its own subsection within the larger community; if it didn’t, then it didn’t. Christ, we had a Counter-Strike-esque mod for Quake 3 that people played called Urban Terror–a much better way of doing things than having Id Software try to make a standalone Quake entry incorporating Counter-Strike.

But hey: money. Gotta try and cash in on trends. Nobody wants to pay to let you develop a game if it’s not going to make money, so here, class shooters are popular, make some of that. Except now your class shooter isn’t as good or shiny or friendly as those other class shooters, so those people don’t want it, and in the meantime the people who you thought wanted it changed the channel as soon as you said “class shooter.”

Something else worth considering is that the map/mod communities that had a major role in helping those older games reach the heights that they hit has long since reached the point of mere myth. Generally harder to develop from a technical perspective, but, more importantly, harder to make at all under the watchful eyes of far more protective IP holders who clearly don’t want you messing with their shit. Even at Quakecon nobody actually played Vanilla Quake 3. Ever. We played OSP, Rocket Arena, Threewave, Promode, whatever–all mods, all the time, and almost always on third party maps, or official maps that the community had altered in certain ways. Now we get Snapmap™ and some DLC instead.

Also, also, completely uncalled for shade: I don’t really remember Cliff being a part of said era anyways, outside of that one quote that was always in an IRC topic somewhere about how “the only time I like the movement in Unreal Tournament is when I move it to my recycle bin.”


yeah, i dunno, i don’t think it’s fair to say that this era existed. it probably didn’t exist everywhere, but it definitely kicked around for a while. here in lithuania pretty much everyone roughly the same age as me has put in at least a couple dozen hours playing counter-strike and various q3 mods in internet cafes. i could say that the fighting game community never existed, but that’d be based purely on the fact that arcades weren’t really a thing in my city and the only fighting games people had were various bootlegs of Mortal Kombat for the Dendy.

i think it’s less a case of “never existed” and more of a “cannot exist anymore”. modding is hard, dedicated servers are mostly a thing of the past. it’s very hard to convince someone to play a multiplayer game that doesn’t give you a new colour scheme for your character or some exp for your metagame rank at the end of a match, and all of those bells and whistles detract from the simplicity of old arena shooters (imo).

to me it feels kinda similar to the reason beat em ups faded away. the gameplay mechanics used to be really fun, but by today’s standards they’re too simple to hold your attention, so it’s kinda hard to try and make a new one of those, and the people who’d play a game in the genre would probably prefer one of the classics instead.