Former Epic Games developer and director Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski took public shots at his former employer on Friday in what appears to be a hiring dispute.
“Hey @epicgames, could you please stop trying to hire away my team?” Bleszinski, who currently runs a studio called Boss Key Productions, wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon. “We just launched @Radical_Heights on #UE4 and are really happy with how it’s going.” The tweet included a GIF of the phrase “not cool.”
Bleszinski followed this up with an insinuation that this alleged employee poaching has to do with his studio’s new “X-Treme Early Access” game Radical Heights, which bears a striking resemblance to Epic’s hugely popular Fortnite Battle Royale. “There’s room at this genre for more than a few games SMH [shaking my head],” he wrote in one Tweet, while in another, he added, “We have plenty of ways to make [Radical Heights] our own but they may never see the light of day if [Epic] keeps doing this.”
Missing from Bleszinski’s public HR allegation is the fact that the two studios have already been down this road before. Boss Key co-founder Arjan Brussee left the company in December to return to his old employers at Epic. Brussee and Bleszinski began working together at Epic in the ’90s as collaborators on the PC platforming game Jazz Jackrabbit. When Bleszinski confirmed the departure in December, he “wished him well” but phrased it as “we’ve parted ways,” as opposed to Brussee leaving specifically for a new “secret project” (which the former Boss Key chief later confirmed as the reason).
Bleszinski’s Friday allegation didn’t include any allusion to Brussee being involved, nor did it clarify whether Epic’s hiring eyes might be targeting staffers who’d flexed their muscles on Boss Key’s last game, the troubled shooter Lawbreakers. That 2017 game had its share of issues, but its combination of polish, high-speed action, and Unreal Engine 4 optimizations have not been close to matched in the current, unoptimized version of Radical Heights. Before Boss Key launched its new game this week, the studio confirmed last week that it would cost too much to continue actively supporting Lawbreakers or convert it to a free-to-play model.
Bleszinski has long courted controversy by lambasting specific camps of game fans and creators. When Lawbreakers was announced as a PlayStation 4 console exclusive, Bleszinski described Xbox fans as “salty” in one interview. He once described Marcus “Notch” Persson as “pouty” over that developer’s decision to not support Oculus Rift, and in 2008, he blamed slow development of major PC games on fans who are “savvy enough to know BitTorrent to know all the elements so they can pirate software.”
Epic Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.