LawBreakers Partially Failed Because It Was Too ‘Woke’, According To CliffyB

LawBreakers Partially Failed Because It Was Too ‘Woke’, According To CliffyB
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Remember LawBreakers, the Quake-like hero shooter that lived a short half-life before the studio made an ill-fated pivot to a battle royale? Well, apparently LawBreakers could have been successful – partially if the game was supposedly less “woke”.

That’s a claim made by CliffyB on Instagram, where he talked about “what I could have done differently” to prevent the closure of his studio, Boss Key. It’s not the only factor, and an edit to the Instagram posted cited other reasons – timing, the games’ marketing, and choosing to be on PlayStation instead of Xbox.

But in the original post, the former Gears of War director said pushing his “own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided” was one reason behind the game’s failure. “Instead of “these characters seem fun” it was “this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier.” Instead of “who am I going to choose” it became “white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews” instead of just letting the product … speak for itself,” the veteran designer wrote.

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EDIT: In case I didn't make it clear I mean that this was *A* factor, not THE. Marketing, timing, being on ps over xbox, and more were also factors. Stupid clickbait headlines I hope you the hits you wanted. ???????? Hung it in the garage. Ironic the sign got kinda messed up in transport, ain't it? Ever since the studio closed I've been wracking my brain what I could have done differently. Pivot HARD when the juggernaut of Overwatch was announced. Been less nice with my design ideas and more of a dictator with them. One big epiphany I had was that I pushed my own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided. Instead of the story being "this game looks neat" it became "this is the game with the 'woke bro' trying to push his hackey politics on us with gender neutral bathrooms." Instead of "these characters seem fun" it was "this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier." Instead of "who am I going to choose" it became "white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews" instead of just letting the product … speak for itself. It's okay to be political when your company or studio is established for great product FIRST. But we were unproven and I regret doing it. (This will be quite the doozy of a chapter in the upcoming memoir.)

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For the short time it was around, I genuinely enjoyed LawBreakers. It was a mechanically solid game, with some robust flying and movement that felt very Unreal Tournament. But the game’s presentation never really stuck with fans, with no iconic heroes or villains with identities that people really bought into. The game’s graphics also didn’t fit streams and YouTube quite as well as the stylised pastels of Overwatch, which is always a factor for content creators.

“It’s okay to be political when your company or studio is established for great product FIRST. But we were unproven and I regret doing it,” CliffyB wrote, mentioning that he’d focus further on Boss Key in an upcoming book.

There’s many questions and decisions that could have been made. What if LawBreakers went free-to-play from the start? CliffyB admitted to GameSpot that the game’s onboarding experience wasn’t that great, and not having some of the same archetypes as other games might have confused players.

“That ultimately proved to be very confusing for a lot of core players who were getting into it, in regards to, are they gonna watch the tutorial video,” CliffyB said in an interview. “What happens if people like to go online and then they hit all the buttons or all the keys and they just want to figure out, kind of in a vacuum, what they can do with that?”

Maybe there’s no way LawBreakers could have succeeded in the current environment. My gut feeling hasn’t changed from three years ago though: the game needed more of a personality, one that was something people could embrace and buy into. But games also don’t fail for any one reason. It’s always a combination of things, from the aesthetic, optimisation, timing, mechanics, design and, often most crucially, a lack of luck.


  • I had no idea the game had any ‘woke’ politics in it, I just thought it was an average hero shooter which another, bigger company had done better.

  • Yeah, all that wokeness was certainly responsible for killing off Overwatch before its time…


  • In all my years on the interwebs I have yet to hear a single person say “this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier.”

    • Oddly enough I do remember the people behind the Tomb Raider remake saying they dialed back the sexuality with Lara, preferring to give her more realistic proportions.

      That may be the *single* time in gaming history I’ve heard of that happening…

      • At the risk of turning a throw-away joke into a serious thread, existing long term franchises do get that kind of hyperventilating self-entitled anti-‘woke’ hysteria. Same thing happened recently with Street Fighter.

        The spin I was reacting to was the claim that people were avoiding the developer because they refused to make exaggerated sexy characters, as opposed to people bitching about developers toning down a franchise with an established, much loved existing tone.

        In any case, claims of dev boycotts over anything, wokeness, microtransactions or otherwise have consistently proven to be nothing more than people blowing smoke out of their own arses.

      • They tried that with DoA5, then came the fan backlash against the changing of the proportions, so they went for a middle ground.

        Then with DoA6 they said they were taking out the cheesecake outfits from the base game. So they included them as DLC instead.

        And I believe Ed Boon is on the record about the recent Mortal Kombat game about de-sexualising the female characters in it. Or at least changing their outfits.

        Meanwhile, Soul Calibur just goes OTT with Ivy and the other female characters in the ‘sex appeal’ department. Funnily enough its the only one of them that got into EVO this year.

        • Im in the middle ground on it. Some games, it’s a drawcard for the game. DOA has *always* sold itself on boobs, it’s the T&A fighting game. It always has been, it always will be. People who deny it, are in the same league as those who pretend they read Playboy for the articles.

          MK though, I actually don’t mind the different costumes. I do hope they keep alternate variants for the klassic kostumes though. Soul Calibur never truly worried me, I always just saw Ivy as an incredibly buxom lady. Some women in it didn’t have large chests, it wasn’t exactly in DOA’s league.

          Then again, I guess we could also have it argued that crotch size for guys in DOA, SC and MK should’ve been varying moreso, why no banana swing or shifting O_O

  • I think the bigger issue with the game was that no one seemed to care about it or be excited about it at all, I honestly forgot this even released.

    If there had been some truly “woke” politics in the game it would have made it at least interesting from a discussion point of view and probably driven some players to it, instead from what i can gather it was technically competent and enjoyable but not exciting enough for streamers or the community to build a wave of hype for it.

  • Or maybe don’t build an arena shooter 10 years after arena shooters went extinct? As soon as they announced it it was pretty clear that they were trying to sell to a dead market. Multiplayer only games are a huge risk, because if you don’t maintain a minimum critical player count, then your game is dead in the water.

    Also doesn’t help that CliffyB’s interviews felt a little like Romero’s Dikatana marketing.

    • Oh MAN I remember the Daikatana stuff. We had a bigass poster in our shop, “George Romero’s about to make you his bitch”. Originally a magazine article, they let out a few of those as promo stuff.

      When the game hit and the reviews came out, booooyyyyy that came down quicksmart lol

      • To be fair apparently that poster/line was apparently the idea of an idiot marketing dude who thought the whole edgey thing would boost sales…. yeah he got fired pretty quickly xD

        • I don’t doubt that one bit. A few years ago now, I got to interview John and his wife when he and his kid made a little game, quite a fun one tbh, called “Gunman TacoTruck” for a little FB Game page I helped run at the time called “All Age Gaming” which folded since (turns out it was just a scam for the guys running it to get free codes, of which admittedly, I got *plenty* of codes for both indie and AAA games, seems MS loves to hand out Xbox codes huh?). Anyhow, I really have to say Romero was an AWESOME dude to interview and a really nice guy in general from what I could tell. I’m betting his time with stuff like that humbled him a bit for sure.

  • Played the Beta. Didn’t “get” what the characters were supposed to do or how they were supposed to support or interact each other. Lot of “cool” ideas but no cohesiveness

  • The game launched into a crowded market, and had a skill curve that discouraged those who did.

    Its actually quite a good game (even better than Overwatch). But yeah, launch into a market dominated by Blizzard (see WoW), and few will survive.

  • “Developer Blames Social Climate For Studio’s Failure, Neglects To Acknowledge Game Was Mechanically and Stylistically Unmemorable In A Crowded Market”

  • A game that specifically advertised that it was just like the hardcore shooters I grew up on turned me right off.

    I’m 36. I have responsibilities and a job. Why would I buy a game that looks just like several others but promises I will never have the time to be good at?

    • “just like the hardcore shooters I grew up on”

      so offline and LAN capabilities for when you don’t have internet, a range of AI difficulties so I can casually mess around with derpy bots after a rough day, and a huge modding community so I can always check it out after official support is finished and it’ll still be updated and full of cool extra content?

      …no? nevermind then. For some of us the point of those “hardcore shooters I grew up on” was not about getting relentlessly crapped on by people with superior reflexes.

  • I found Lawbreakers boring and difficult to connect with.

    It lacked the back story, depth and polish of its competitors. Matchmaking was long and unsatisfying.

    The timing was bizarre. It went head to head with Overwatch, having given them time to get established, and lost. Badly.

    • You misunderstand. Wokeness involves picking a single character in your large character roster and cramming all your diversity into that one one black, female, lesbian, Muslim, with schizophrenia and a wheelchair. Obviously that’s where CliffyB went wrong.

  • All that dude managed was to expose himself as profoundly cynical. A humblebrag of an excuse that manages to place the blame outside of himself even when he’s trying to be insightful and take responsibility.

  • Chasing a trend has never been successful for follow ups unless it’s Fortnight and Epic sacrificed some virgins to the Dark Gods for that

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