The Summer That Launched My Career

One day Tim Sweeney of Epic sent me a download of a prototype that looked like the old Amiga game “Turrican“. It moved at an amazingly smooth frame rate and more importantly, had a super slick editing program that allowed someone non-technical (me!) to implement features, graphics and animations. I immediately took to the tools like a fish to water and began crafting what I originally called “Rambo Rabbit”, because nothing seemed cooler than a rabbit with a gun (later: a gun with a chainsaw, who’d have thought?!). This is the character that would later emerge as “Jazz Jackrabbit,” and was originally purple. Through iteration, we found the right shade of green for him as well as an animator that could properly bring him to life, Nick Stadler (who now does stand-up comedy and comedy writing in Los Angeles).

Tim’s body odor

It must have been summer of 1994 when we wrapped up Jazz. We spent an extensive amount of time in a town-home located in Potomac Maryland, which included Arjan Brussee (co-creator), Rob Elam, creator of One Must Fall 2097 and myself. Next door was James Schmalz (co-creator, Unreal series) who was working on the very first pass of what would later become Unreal (fun fact: that game and world was originally a cave game with mechs, which in hindsight, made very little sense). Towards the end Arjan would fix bugs, I’d find them and polish levels, and Tim Sweeney would act as Executive Producer. It was a hot summer, and Tim liked walking a lot. The smell of Tim’s body odor was something that was seared into my memory of shipping that game. It’s almost like a metaphor for the blood, sweat and tears that it took to get a game out, I suppose.

Lifelong dream

During that summer, I learned about crunch time and I was more than happy to dive in, roll up my sleeves, and do whatever it took to get the game out the door. Beyond the notion of making money and being known for creating Jazz, the thirst of designing a whole new virtual world drove me to get out of bed, sit at that PC and hammer out the game. My lifelong dream of finally making videogames was coming true and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. The game came out on July 30, 1994, and it went on to make me enough money to finally get my first apartment and car, and move on to bigger, better, and more badass game experiences.

Cut to over 20 years later and I’m back in an office with Arjan and a team of more than 30 talented developers, making something brand new for a whole new generation of gamers at our studio Boss Key Productions.


Cliff Bleszinski (Boss Key)
Cliff Bleszinski (Boss Key)
Co-founder of Boss Key Productions. Co-created Jazz Jackrabbit, the Unreal (Tournament) franchise and the Gears of War franchise.

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