Top 10 Lists : The Top 10 Games Which Went Through Development Hell
In the media industry, “Development Hell” is a jargon which refers to a project that is stuck in a long period of production where it may or may not ever see the light of day; it also refers to projects which went through a strenuous and difficult development.
As a part of the media industry, video game developers are no exception to the clutches of Development Hell themselves. What may start off as a potential and welcoming idea could be met with unexpected ordeals for undertaking the project. The project may go through many reiterations, be delayed countless times, and even start feuds between once trusted associates and friends. In the end, the project may come out successfully or come out as an abomination of a once great idea.
This list is dedicated to the games which went through the ordeals of Development Hell by having a prolonged and/or troublesome development cycle.
The game Super Smash Brothers: Melee made its debut back in 2001 as the second installment of the Nintendo crossover fighting series, Super Smash Brothers. The game boasts noticeable changes from the original with newer features such as a much larger cast of characters and new game modes. However, the development for this game was a grueling one which tested Sakurai and his team's endurance.
An exhausting development:
After the success of the original Super Smash Brothers for the Nintendo 64, Sakurai wanted to bring the second installment to the Gamecube as part of the system's roster of debut releases. Sakurai and his team wanted to highlight the changes from its predecessor with the new advancements in technology, and it was Sakurai's biggest project at that point. It was the first game of his that was going to be on a disc, the first of which he used orchestrated music for, and the first with real "polygon" graphics. His staff was ready to hit the ground running with the project because of their excitement to work on this game.
The team underwent an exhausting development experience as they endured through 13 months of straight work without a single holiday or Sunday off during that whole time. To quote Sakurai: "I was living a really destructive lifestyle -- I'd work for over 40 hours in a row, then go back home to sleep for four". Their hardship was challenging, but Sakurai endured through it because he felt like a "man on a mission" and wanted to see the game come through. The game was finally released on Nov 21, 2001 in Japan after a difficult 13 month development cycle.
Looking back on the game, Sakurai considered Melee to be the sharpest game in the series and he was proud of it overall. He praised the speed of the game and the demand of the game for the player's coordination skills; as well as how accessible it was for fans of the original Super Smash Brothers to get into the game. However, he did regret not making Melee more accessible for casual players because Super Smash Bros was his response to the hardcore scene in fighting games. He mentioned that Melee was "too difficult" to get into except for those who are already familiar with video games and/or Super Smash Bros itself. In the development of Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, he designed it in mind to satisfy the balance between hardcore and casual gamers.
After the success of the 1982 hit movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" from director Steven Spielberg, Atari had the idea to design a video game adaptation of the movie from within the same year. The lead designer, Howard Scott Warshaw, had intended the game to be an innovative adaptation of the movie. Little did he know that he was going to make one of the most notorious games ever in the history of video games.
Riding on the movie's success:
It started with Atari purchasing the rights to make the video game based off of the film for $25-30 million dollars from Spielberg and Universal Pictures. The CEO of Atari, Ray Kassar, commissioned Warshaw to design the game. The commission was done in July 27 but Warshaw had only till September 1 to complete the game in order to meet the Christmas production schedule. The development time frame was ridiculously short, but Warshaw accepted it anyway.
Warshaw envisioned the game to be incorporated with various elements from the movie. When he met with Spielberg and presented the idea to him, though, Spielberg rejected it and advised him that it would be better if he were to incorporate a game that's similar to Pac Man instead. Warshaw dismissed Spielberg's suggestion and went with his original idea throughout the rest of the development time. The rushed development schedule gave Warshaw only five weeks to create the game, and Atari gambled with the game's outcome as they poured their money into a maelstrom of mass production and promotion. Atari expected huge sales to occur because of the ties to the box hit movie itself.
The final product was released on December of 1982 and was met with initial success. The game sold 1.5 million cartridges, but it incurred a much more significant loss for the company because of 2.5-3.5 million cartridges which went unsold.
Many sold cartridges were even returned because of dissatisfaction, and some of the prices were slashed down dramatically because of poor reception. The critics severely criticized the game for the primitive graphics, dull story, and convoluted gameplay.
The game was confusing to many who had trouble figuring out what was going on with no help from the game itself with its myriad of confusing layouts. In the end, the game became notorious as the main cause for Atari's downfall as one of the largest financial disasters to ever happen in the industry. Atari's reputation plummets as the game caused Atari to incur mountainous debt and irreversibly caused Atair to collapse under the weight of debt. A year later in September 1983, there were reports of Atari supposedly burying most of the unsold copies of the game in landfills.
The game adaptation of E.T was one of the earliest attempts to make a game adaptation of a movie, but it resulted in colossal failure for the company because of perhaps the severe lack of time that was given to develop this game. This entry is an exception to the "prolonged" part of the criteria for this Top Ten but rather it is here because the developer was given too little time for his work, but nevertheless made it here because of the production troubles.
Resident Evil 4 was the sixth installment in the Resident Evil series. The game went through development troubles as it went through several different revisions before it became the final product.
Conception and first attempt:
The game was first hinted at December of 1999 and it was initially aimed to be developed for the PS2. The first attempt of the game was directed by Hideki Kamiya at the request of producer Shinji Mikami to create a new entry in the Resident Evil series around the turn of the millennium. Noboru Sugimura, who is the regular series writer, created the scenario for the title based around Kamiya's ideas to make it a "cool" and "stylish" action game.
The story of the first attempt starred Tony, an invincible man with unmatched skills and intellect thanks to biotechnology. The game was originally going to have a fixed camera angle and pre-rendered backgrounds, but Kamiya dropped that plan in favor of a new and dynamic camera system because he thought that the hero did not look brave and heroic enough from a fixed angle. As a result of that decision, Kamiya sent the team to the United Kingdom and Spain in order to take some photos of the scenery for the use of the game's textures.
Mikami disapproved of the new direction because of how he perceived the changes to be too deviant from the roots of the series, and so he convinced the team to make a separate independent game based off of the new direction that Kamiya had planned for. That independent game was eventually developed as "Devil May Cry" when Kamiya rewrote the story and the world as well as renaming the main character to Dante. Resident Evil 4's first attempt didn't make it as the final product, but development of it started over again in 2001.
The "Fog" version:
The next revision that was commonly dubbed as the "Fog" version was officially announced in 2002. The revision was directed by Hiroshi Shibata and it was 40 percent finished at that time.
The second revision had Leon Kennedy infiltrating the Umbrella Headquarters at Europe. During the course of the new story, Leon became infected with the Progenitor Virus and possessed a hidden power in his left hand. There was even a plan to kill off Leon altogether at a point in the story. Ashley also did not make an appearance back then and there was also a girl whose presence in the game was never revealed. Nonetheless, the second revision was scrapped and development began anew once more.
The "Hooked Man" version:
The third revision of the game was introduced in a trailer at E3 2003 as "Hallucination Biohazard 4", and it was commonly dubbed as the "Hooked Man version".
This time, the story was set in a haunted building where Leon contracted a bizarre disease and fought paranormal enemies, such as medieval suits of armor, living dolls, and a ghostlike man armed with a large hook. The third revision had many mechanics which were carried onto the final version, but the version was ultimately scrapped again. Although the third version never made it as the final version, Japanese players had the chance to see five minutes of gameplay footage through the Biohazard 4 Secret DVD which came as a preorder bonus back in 2005.
The unnamed version:
In 2004, there was a version which was deemed "too formulaic" and the fourth revision for the game was never heard about much after the developers have discarded the idea once again.
The final version:
After the 2004 version, however, it was decided that it was time to reinvent the series and change the genre.
Mikami took over directional duties and motivated the development team to transition the series from horror to action. Mikami wrote a story for the game that's different from its predecessors that it was not centered on the Umbrella Company at all.
The camera settings also changed to be placed behind the main character, and it was inspired by Mikami's liking for "Omnimusha 3: Demon Siege". To go along with the new gameplay and story, a new type of enemy called "Ganado" was created, as opposed to using the undead creatures from previous Resident Evil games.
The producers have also expended additional detail to modify and update characters that had previously appeared in the series. In a documentary explaining the conception of the game's characters, a game designer stated that he intended to make Leon Kennedy "look tougher, but also cool". The game's designer also detailed each cinematic sequence so that the face expressions matched the tone of their voice actor.
The game was finally released for the Gamecube in North America at January 11, 2005. The game had since been ported to different platforms with slight modifications in each version over time. Resident Evil 4 went on to win many accolades including "Game of the year" and "Best video game of all time" from multiple sources.
Team Bondi was established when ex-Soho employee Brendan McNamara left his Soho position at England to start his own studio in Australia. McNamera recruited a handful of his former co-workers from Soho to come work at Team Bondi with him. Initially, there were only five staff members including McNamera from within the newly founded company, but the number grew to 30 after a year.
In 2004, they studio underwent their project when they have made an agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment of America to make this game with Sony's support. The game was announced as "L.A Noire" later during development and it was to be a Playstation 3 exclusive.
The project was a huge undertaking for the young company and McNamera wanted to make a game which rivals the Grand Theft Auto series from Rockstar. The game was a neo-noir crime detective game that was set in Los Angeles during the 1940's. The production value for this game was sky high as the team wanted to create an in game version of the actual city with excruciating detail from its historical past. The sheer size of the game was initially going to take one entire Blu-ray disc, but ultimately some content were withheld from appearing in the final product.
After some bad blood between McNamara and Sony, Sony had dropped Team Bondi as its publisher in 2008 and L.A Noire was no longer a PS3 exclusive. Rockstar picked up from where Team Bondi left off and had decided to become its publisher instead.
Rockstar was said to be very influential to the development of the game over its development cycle, and its producers have worked closely with some of Team Bondi's employees as well as overriding ridiculous decisions from Bondi's management.
The game kept being pushed back from its original projected 2009 date and through several other scheduled deadlines due to troubled production. Rockstar originally had intended to incorporate Bondi as a subsidary company to be named "Rockstar Sydney", but the idea became less appealing as development went on and Rockstar eventually swore off of Bondi and never intends to work with them again. Part of the reason was the differences between the two companies' management: Rockstar had a problem with Bondi's direction, and in turn Bondi had a problem with Rockstar's restriction on their creative control.
McNamera was also infuriated when Rockstar changed the game's logo from "Rockstar Games Presents A Team Bondi Production: L.A. Noire" to "Rockstar Games Presents L.A. Noire". McNamera had famously said in an email that he will "never forget being treated like an absolute **** by these people".
McNamera's poor management:
The development cycle of L.A Noire's notoriety for being in development hell wasn't just because of its production troubles on the game itself, but more so due to the troubling conflicts between McNomara and his employees. The studio was known for its high employee turnover rate brought by hiring junior developers with whom McNomara hired because they were cheaper and more expendable.
The company made employees work longer and faster and actually accepts high turnover as an expectation for doing so. McNamara didn't take Human Resources concerns too seriously because he had expected the turnover rate to be the same, and some employees who have quit have recalled that he was quite verbally abusive and judgmental to his employees, as well as trying to enforce unrealistic deadlines and goals. One programmer expressed his opinion on McNamara as "the angriest person" that he's ever met.
The working hours were horrible for the employees as the company experienced a period of seemingly perpetual "crunch time". Crunch time is when a company tries to catch up on the development of their project in order to match up with scheduled deadlines by putting in long hours at work; and for the inexperienced employees who worked at Bondi, crunch time was strenuous and difficult for them. Employees who have expected the usual 9 to 5 work hours were surprised to find themselves working more than 8 hours a day, through weekends, and with no overtime compensation. One artist was reported to have his workload been for 80 to 110 hours per week and for a period of one or two weeks during crunch time.
Perhaps the biggest offender was the demo of which the employees have worked on for several weeks straight, but was later told on that their work was for naught as the demo was scrapped. Despite all of their efforts, management had not given the employees a cost of living increase because the company couldn't afford it.
L.A Noire was finally released for both the PS3 and the Xbox360 on May 17, 2011. After the game was done, many former employees at Bondi became whistleblowers as they revealed the horrid conditions of which they have worked in during the development of this game. A group of former Bondi employees who have been incorrectly listed or left off completely on L.A Noire's credits have created a site named "lanoirecredits.com". The relationship between Rockstar and Bondi was revealed in a string of leaked emails from within the company. Team Bondi finally was liquidated and closed down 2011.
Andrew McMillan later wrote the original article entitled "Why did L.A Noire take 7 years to make?" for IGN which detailed the prospective from both the employees and from McNamara.
Final Fantasy XIII was the first installment of the Final Fantasy series to be brought into the seventh generation of consoles. The development time for the game had spanned from its conception in 2004 till the released product in 2009, and it had its share of troubles during the time that the game was in development.
The idea for the game first arrived back in 2004 when the team was finished with Final Fantasy X-2 International. The game was originally planned to be made for the PS2, and in the earliest phases of development the team had worked on creating the story and the world. It was from a positive reception of the demo for the PS3 graphical demo of Final Fantasy VII that captured the team's attention to the potential of the system, and so the development of the game went from designing the game for the PS2 to designing it for the PS3 instead.
Along with the decision to move to the new console, the team also started developing their own engine named "Crystal Tools" to accommodate the game and future games for the next console generation.
A lack of shared vision and issues between teams:
Final Fantasy XIII was first revealed in 2006 with a trailer being shown at E3. The trailer gave everyone first impressions about the game, but the trailer was still based off of the conceptual ideas of the game itself and did not reflect the actual finished product. The trailer created abrasion from within the team because of a lack of shared vision, and only a few members have felt that the trailer was a representation of the actual finished product.
Some developers wanted the final product to emulate the trailer, others wanted the game to be catered to the complaints about JRPGs which came from the western audience, and some of the developers wanted it as a showcase for a crossplatform engine.
To expand on the complaints part, the company realized that the most complained about features in JRPGs from the western audience are linearity and command-based battles. The development team wanted the game to succeed worldwide, and to do so they must recognize the western audience. Despite some time constraints for the development schedule and the fact that the game was already so far into development, they called in some international testers in anyway. They were successfully able to conduct some tests and gathered some insight on what players wanted in the game, but the results created further conflict from within the team in regards to redesigning features of the game.
The demo which brought the team together:
The conflicting sides didn't reach an agreement until the demo which was included with the Final Fantasy: Advent Complete Blu Ray set. Even then, it came at a late time during development and schedule adjustments had to be made in order to accommodate the new agreed upon vision for the final product. With a better understanding of the shared final vision, the team was finally able to optimize their production accordingly to their schedules.
The Crystal Tools problem:
The decision to also develop the multiplatform Crystal Tools engine also leads to a delay in the game's development because of the company's mistake for trying to accommodate each of their projects. It was impossible to fulfill all of the needs from the different projects and the company had to resort to prioritizing requests. The specs requirements for each game caused strife among the engine and the games' teams because of the lack of knowledge about finalizing specs. If the engine's specs couldn't be finalized then neither could the game's specs, and time trickled away as they had feverishly tried to resolute the problem.
The game finally was released on December 17th, 2009 in Japan; March 9, 2010 in North America and the PAL region; and finally an International release at December 21, 2010. After the game's release, Game Developer magazine posted a full postmorterm of the game which featured Square Enix's Motomu Toriyama and Akihiko Maeda revealing the ordeals of developing the game.
Too Human was an action role playing game designed by the independent studio, Silicon Knights. The game was initially planned for release back in 1999, but numerous ports and an eventual dispute made the game development cycle stretch over a span of 9 years.
Changing around publishers:
The game originally premiered at E3 1999 as a Playstation exclusive. The original version of the game was set in the distant future and the plot revolved around a cop named John Franks whose goal was to kill a cyborg that killed his old partner. The alternative sci fi take on Norse mythology that was in the final release was not present in the original version, and instead the original version contained themes of cybernetic enhancements. Silicon Knights had planned for the Playstation release of the game to be four disks that are bundled together as the finished product.
A year later, Nintendo announced an exclusive partnership with Silicon Knights and the development of the game was being transferred to the Gamecube instead in 2000. Prototyping of the game began to develop on the Gamecube but it was hindered when Silicon Knights have decided to leave development of the game in favor of developing two other games: "Eternal Darkness" and "Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes". News of the development for Too Human became silent until 2005 when the game's development resurfaced again under a new contract with Microsoft. Along with the new contract were the plans of making Too Human being the first game in a trilogy.
The company released promotional material under their contract with Microsoft. There were many promotional videos as well as a three part fictional documentary titled "The Goblin Man of Norway". A demo for the game was also released for Xbox live on July 14, 2008 as part of the "Bringing it Home" E3 Marketplace content. The single player demo of the game had the availability of the Champion class to play as throughout the one level that was provided, and later the demo included the Berserker and the Commando classes as well.
Clashing with Epic over the Unreal III engine:
Silicon Knights had originally used Epic Games' Unreal 3 engine for Too Human. At E3 2006's showing, Too Human was criticized for having technical problems and an unpolished appearance. On the other hand, Epic's own Gears of War won best of show and the press was all over the game. In response to E3, Silicon Knights raised questions about the authenticity of Epic's engine, and speculated Epic Games had deliberatingly gave others an inferior version in order to have an advantage with their own games.
In 2007, Silicon Knights sued Epic Games on the basis of Epic's "failure to provide a proper working engine". Silicon Knights claimed that Epic didn't promise the complete, working engine as agreed upon between the two parties when Epic licensed the engine to Silicon Knights. Silicon Knights said that working with the Unreal engine that Epic had gave them caused them to suffer through developmental issues and damaged the game's quality as Silicon Knights had to be forced to write an engine of its own.
Epic Games countersued Silicon Knights in August 2007 with the statement of "copyright infringement, breach of contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets". Epic's vice president, Mark Rein, read a statement to the court which claimed that Silicon Knights had developed their own engine using much of Epic's own code; as well as not paying for the licensed Unreal III engine in the first place.
On May 2012, Silicon Knights finally lost the case because Epic had revealed that Silicon Knights did indeed deliberately and repeatedly copied countless lines from Epic's own coding, and then tried to disguise the new engine as their own. The court then sided with Epic games and ordered all of the unsold copies of Too Human which contained the original code from Epic to be destroyed. The court also rewarded Epic games $4.45 million in damages.
Too Human was released August 19, 2008 for the Xbox 360 and the game sold 700 thousand copies since its release.
In total, Silicon Knights had faced $4.45 million in damages, $4.678 million in court and lawyer fees, $4 million debt from Federal Loans borrowed from 2010, $2.5 million dollars in waiting, and additional costs for the recalling and destroying of their unsold copies. Later on, Microsoft ordered Too Human and its related content to be removed from the Xbox Live marketplace. The court also ordered Silicon Knights to destroy any future games which contained Epic's engine.
Ultima IX: Ascension was the tenth installment of the main Ultima series and the last installment of the "Age of Armageddon" saga in the series' story. After the release of Ultima VII, Electronic Arts had bought out Origin. Origin from that point on started going downhill from Ultima VII: part II and up (with the exception of Ultima Online) because of strict deadlines that were set from EA. The final game which shut the doors to Origin's coffin was Ultima IX, a game which took the company on a last ride through development hell.
The first and the second draft:
The idea for Ultima IX was first thought of by Richard Garriot while the team was working on the "Age of Armageddon" era installments which started with Ultima VII. The game was planned to be the end for the "Age of Armageddon" era where the Avatar will face off with the Guardian in one last encounter at the Guardian's own home world.
A first draft was initiated before Ultima VIII was finished, but the draft was ultimately scrapped when Ultima VIII had bad reception. In the final patch (v2.12) for Ultima VIII, there was a file included from within the patch named "FANS.txt" in which cited that the team had begun to develop Ultima IX already and the development of this game relies heavily on feedback.
Due to the feedback that Origin had received from Ultima VIII, the team once again started from scratch on a second version. The game's development team planned to have Ultima IX in the form of a classic role playing game, and some changes were made to the original plans for Ultima IX including the game being relocated in Britannia, and the game having a completely new plot. The plot was written by a collaboration of the following people: Bob White, Richard Garriott, John Watson, Brian Martin, and Chuck Zoch. The written plot was known as the "Bob White Plot", and it was much longer and more complex than the final product's plot.
By late 1995 and early 1996, the software-rendered 3D engine that powered Ultima IX was demonstrated through some screenshots. The camera appeared locked into an overhead view that approximated the isometric point of view of Ultima VIII, but could be rotated about its vertical axis and zoomed in or out. The screenshots also displayed the pre-rendered cinematic scenes that were going to be featured on this reiteration. The development for Ultima IX was going along as planned until the advent of Ultima Online distracted it.
The success of Ultima Online takes its toll on Ultima IX:
When the beta phase of Ultima Online was met was great success, EA ordered Origin to devote all of the company's time into finishing Ultima Online and getting it ready for its final release.
The development time for Ultima Online took longer than what they have expected it; when the game was finally released in 1997 Origin already have had a year's worth of dedication to it. Work on Ultima Online had left Ultima IX in a bad shape as the game's graphics was already outdated and there was a lack of interest in developing the game further. However, it was with the debut of new 3D hardware accelerator cards that revived the interest in this game and cause the company to scrap it yet again for a third reiteration.
The third reiteration:
Origin hired producer Ed del Castillo, who was responsible for many hits such as "Command and Conquer", to be the producer for this reiteration.
There were some major changes again from the second reiteration as a new direction was taken. It was decided that the game would be created with the third person over the shoulder camera perspective using the new engine's capabilities. The game was again a single player experience and the Avatar's companions were gone; only to be replaced with the ability to inhabit other characters' bodies in return. There was a substantial amount of voice and art work to be done on this game, and as a result there was no female Avatar option available. The plot remained mostly unchanged except for the Guardian having tighter control over Britannia. As Origin poured out more previews of the third reiteration that showed progress, the reactions from fans of the series were mixed.
Things went sour for the company as many conflicts between personnel were had during the development of Ultima IX. Bob White, the lead designer for the game, and a few other designers left Origin for Ion Storm. Ed del Castillo left Origin in that same year due to "philosophical differences" with Garriott, blaming the reason for his departure on his strained relationship with Garriott over changes in gameplay.
In the aftermath of the departures, Garriott himself took over the producer role again for the first time since Ultima VII. Him and the newly hired lead designer Seth Mendelson collaborated together and wrote a fresh new story for the game.
The final product:
In 1999, EA gave Origin a mandate that the game had to be finished and shipped by Christmas of the same year. The news caused panic among the team members as they faced the challenges they had with numerous bugs that was present in the game as well as not having enough time to implement the grand scale of the intended story and world that they have had in mind.
The team had to redesign Britannia by decimating much of the world's content as well as trying to make the world work with a newly simplified story. The redesigning had caused some of the gameplay aspects and the cutscenes to be used in ways that they were not originally intended. With an inadequate time to fix several features of the game, the result was a plethora of bugs and problems which caused engine performance to suffer.
By 1999, their own graphics card lost its relevance with the emergence of Direct3D and they were not prepared for the situation. While the game ran fine under the Glide API, it suffered burdenous performance issues due to the lack of support with the new Direct3D. Regardless of the amount of work that was left to do to fix the problems, the shipping date was due and Origin shipped the game to retailers.
The release of the game caused many fans to be disappointed with the final version of Ultima IX. The game was almost unplayable because of the inconsistency of Direct3D and the numerous unfixed bugs which were left in the game.
The story of Ultima IX felt very lackluster, and it alienated many longtime fans of the series who were upset that many facts and events from the previous installments were disregarded. As a result of the bad reception to the game's story, many fans disregarded it and considered it canon. There were many post release patches that were released in order to fix the game's bug problems, but those did not change any of the core game itself.
The poor reception and sales of Ultima IX effectively killed the Ultima franchise. EA officially shut down all of the future projects related to Ultima, and Origin became solely existent for the sake of continuing Ultima Online until 2004. In 2000, Garriott left the company himself and started another company named Destination Games.
Team Fortress originally started out as a team and class based gameplay mod that was made for the game named "Quake". The mod quickly enticed a following of fans and it caught the attention of software developer, Valve. Valve eventually hired the development team who was responsible for it to make a port under Valve's Goldsrc engine in the form of "Team Fortress Classic".
When Valve set out to make the standalone sequel for the game, “Team Fortress 2", the development process became tangled in the widely acknowledged expression that is attributed to the company known as "Valve Time". Valve Time is the expression which is the embodiment of Valve's business model in regards to their games: it comes out whenever Valve feels like it's ready to come out. That means Valve will meticulously work and rework their games until they feel that the game is absolutely perfect to them in their own eyes. Team Fortress 2 fell hard into Valve Time when it took 9 years for Valve to develop.
Team Fortress Classic and the original draft for Team Fortress 2:
When Valve contracted Robin Walker and John Cook, the original developers of the mod, they released Team Fortress Classic as a port of the mod in order to tide fans over. Walker and Cook were then full Valve employees after the release of TFC because of their aspirations to work on Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress 2 was originally planned as an expansion to Half Life and was planned for release at the end of 1998. It was delayed for the first time and it resurfaced again at E3 1999 under the name of "Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms". That version was shown to be a modern war game which featured bases, team commanders, vehicles, and much more. The original Brotherhood of Arms version was delayed around the mid 2000's when Valve announced that the transition to the Source engine had begun, and the development of Team Fortress 2 went silent.
From 2000 to July 2006, Team Fortress 2 was under the surface and was devoid of any news of its progress to the outside world. From the timespan between those years, Valve had already released Half Life 2 and Half Life 2: Episode one, while news of Team Fortress 2 was dry except for Valve reassuring their fans that the game was definitely being worked on. People have assumed that Valve had forgotten about Team Fortress 2 and it was placed alongside with "Duke Nukem Forever" as a game that was possibly never going to come out.
A completely new game:
After much waiting, Team Fortress 2 was finally unveiled at E3 2006. The trailer showed a much different Team Fortress 2 which went through a complete metamorphosis from its original version. The new version featured stylized cartoony graphics as opposed to the realistic graphics from the original. The gameplay only have retained the original idea of two teams battling with each other in multiplayer matches, and the militaristic gameplay approach was completely abandoned.
It was revealed later by Walker that Valve had reworked Team Fortress 2 possibly 3 or 4 times as entirely different games before arriving at the final version today. The game took advantage of the Source engine by employing many new technologies from the Source engine such as facial animation and dynamic shading.
Team Fortress 2 was released in October 2007 as both a standalone game and packaged with "The Orange Box" game set.
The game became free to play in 2011 and the core game could still be enjoyed for free while premium members could trade and craft items as well as having a bigger inventory. Ongoing development is still happening for the game as the developers are adding more content from themselves and from the players such as maps, items, game modes, and more into the game as the game progresses through the years.
Daikatana was a first person shooter that was developed by Ion Storm and was released in the year 2000. The Dallas based game development company once had ex-Id Software developer John Romero from within its ranks who was made famous with his work on several successful titles including: "Doom", "Quake" and Wolfenstein 3D". John Romero was said to have popularized the first person shooter genre and even have coined the now widely used multiplayer mode,"Deathmatch".
Romero left Id Software because of creative differences with the other staff members. He went on to co-found Ion Storm with his longtime friend, Tom Hall, in order to build the "Anti-ID" like company where he could freely flex his creative muscle without much restriction or frustration. The company took on a courageous new start with the initial undertaking of three separate projects at once. One of the projects was Romero's own "Daikatana", a game that notoriously caused Romero more trouble than what he had expected.
A deadline that was too optimistic :
The game lets you assume the role of swordsman Hiro Miyamoto who is on a mission to travel through time using the "Daikatana" in order to set history straight. Romero intended this game to have a rich story and dynamic worlds, all of which are original and not overlapping each other. Romero's final submitted design for Daikatana included plans for four time periods, 24 levels, 25 weapons, and 64 monsters, in addition to a whole secret level for each episode. He was dead set on finishing the game in its entirety in just seven months for release on Christmas of 1997.
Romero might have had the ambition, but he severely lacked the resources needed to actually start working on the game because his company still needed some time to get up on its feet. The company promoted themselves and eventually enticed a flux of developers who applied to the company just to work with Romero himself. The applicants that Romero had picked were chosen because of their experience with extensive engine editing tools and also with some having experience designing maps for Quake. The lead programmer, Kee Kimbrell, was one of the new hires and he was given the Quake source code to work with on this game. Still, with the company being fairly new, it wasn't long before they were already behind the production schedule for Daikatana while they were recruiting employees.
Weeks after the game started being developed, Ion Storm aggressively promoted the game, and as a result lead many developers outside of the company to doubt the game's release due to its ridiculous allotted time for development. John Carmack at id Software said that Romero's goal of completing and releasing the game at December was "patently ludicrous".
There was an early advertisement poster for the game which only had the words "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" with the tag line of "suck it down" on it. The infamous poster garnered some complaints from the gaming community at large and Romero personally apologized for the advertisement.
Shutdown by the showcase of Quake II at E3:
The game finally made its debut at the 1997 E3 conference in Atlanta following much excitement and anticipation.
When the game debuted for the first time, it paled in comparison to what the spectators have expected. The bigger problem was seeing Romero's old associate at Id Software showcase Quake II, which had a much more impressive presentation. Romero's game looked dated and unimpressive mostly because it was still in software mode, while Quake II employed 3D acceleration to up the visual ante with colored lighting and millions of colors onscreen at the same time.
Romero saw the technological advancement from his competitor and reflects back on his own game, realizing that Daikatana was now falling behind in the technological aspect with the advent of the Quake II engine. The team regrouped to work on the game's content in order to transition the game to the Quake II engine. As a result, the Christmas 1997 deadline was dropped and it was rescheduled for a 1998 release.
Development team rivalries and disbandment:
The team hoped to transition to the Quake II engine by March of 1998, but the goal wasn't as easy as it was planned to be.
Without a distinct company culture, the team that was assembled overnight began to clash with each other as development continued. The art staff and the level design team began to form rivalries with each other and the abrasiveness split the development team. The level design team had experience working with the Quake engine, while the art staff had to resort to working with only 64 colors at a low resolution because of technological limitations. One famous accident which occurred during the production time was when an artist made a small arrow out of control with 1300x960 pixels, and the level design team jumped at that mistake and threw ridicule at the art team because of it.
During the course of 1998, Romero started to feel the pressures of taking on a managerial role as much of the development time was taken away from the game to resolve issues among the developers. He was frequently questioned about his faith in the project and it lead to many arguments between him and the ones who have questioned him. To add to that, Ion Storm was spending an abysmal amount of money with hardly any potential for return, a matter that concerned many of its employees.
When Eidos announced a plan for the multiplayer demo of Daikatana without knowledge from the Ion Storm development team, a critical chunk of Romero's team decided to quit their jobs because of the lack of communication and the hazardous environment of the company. The abandonment left Romero with no team and a game that was already behind schedule, with no hopes now of making the December 1998 deadline.
A new regrouping for the Daikatana team was formed when Andrew Welch(Lead programmer for Dominion), Kelly Hoerner(Producer), Stevie Case(Level Designer), Chris Klie(Former employee of LucasArts), and a host of leftover developers from Dominion was brought to the development project for Daikatana. In January 5, 1999, the team finally transitioned the game to the Quake II engine. Kelly Hoerner claimed that: "Come hell or high water, the game will be done on February 15, 1999.”But the game missed its deadline again because of still some internal issues.
After more failures, the game saw life on the shelves:
When the multiplayer demo launched, the team was met with negative reception as players criticized the game for having only multiplayer and being only available on the Mplayer.
The team was drowning in a sea of negative press about the company, and some company emails were even leaked out to the public. Nonetheless, the team had decided that it will make a turnaround for the company and the game at E3 1999 where they will showcase a demo for the game. The team worked feverishly on the demo as the weeks leading up to E3 soared by. The final result was an unfortunate build which only ran at 12 frames per second which was unacceptable as first person shooters ran at a minimum of 30 frames per second. The team coined a phrase "you can’t polish a turd" as a result of their overwhelming disappointment.
Another negative consequence for Ion Storm at E3 was that Eidos, who had been funding them up to that point, decided to buy a majority ownership in the company thus making Ion Storm not a "developer based company" anymore but a corporate one instead. Romero decided to have a more hands on approach on managing the team as well as hiring a new lead developer. Romero was confident enough that the game was going to be released on the December 1999, so they threw a release party before realizing that they have missed another release deadline. The team scheduled bug testing sessions which initially was planned to take only weeks, but it resulted in months of work.
Daikatana was finally released on April 21, 2000 and achieved gold status.
In the end, despite the negative press still about Daikatana and Ion Storm, Romero was proud of the work that he had accomplished because he stayed persistent enough to bring his vision to life. The game sold 200,000 copies, which Romero said that it covered production costs. The game later on was ported to the N64 and the Game Boy Color. Four and a half years later, Ion Storm's Dallas office closed down to open another office in Austin, but that too closed down as well soon after and thus marked the end for Ion Storm.
In 2000, Geoff Keighley wrote an article about the history of this game titled "Knee deep in a dream". The article went into extensive detail about all of the events which occurred during and after development.
The action star Duke Nukem muscled his way through the 90's with the release of several games for his series. After the success of Duke Nukem 3D back in 1996, one of the co-founders of the series named George Broussard announced a groundbreaking sequel that would be named "Duke Nukem Forever".
There was much excitement after the announcement of Duke Nukem Forever, and fans eagerly waited in anticipation for the next installment of the series. Little did they know that the fans will be in for the long haul as they waited for perhaps the most notorious example of development hell in the history of the gaming industry.
The initial Quake II engine build and the switch to the Unreal engine:
3D realms first decided to license the Quake II engine from ID Software to use for Duke Nukem Forever as it was a superior engine at the time. With the promise of GT Interactive to publish the game, the development cycle began its trek through 1997 and 1998 and everything was set on course for the game's development cycle. The team also released a demo at May 1998's E3 conference to show off the game with the Quake II engine, and it was well received by critics.
However, the team suddenly decided to switch from the Quake II engine over to Epic's Unreal engine in June of the same year. The project was considered a big overhaul as they would have to scrap most of the work that they have done with the Quake II engine, and start over with the newly released Unreal engine instead. The justification for the switch was that the Unreal engine was more proficient in providing the developers with the tools needed to produce open spaces, and that the developers wanted Duke Nukem Forever to be a distinguishable shooter that was not like the rest at that time. Broussard was quoted as saying: "We don't feel there will be a significant development delay” and the new scheduled release date was for 1999.
By Nov of 1999, Duke Nukem was not officially released as a full game but rather some new screenshots featuring the game with the Unreal engine was being presented to the public. The new version retained only a few of the original concepts from the initial Quake II build and a majority of the game was completely redone.
A change of hands and longer development:
GT Interactive was later bought out by Infogrames and the publishing rights to Duke Nukem Forever were carried over to the new owners. Gathering of Developers then purchased the rights for Duke Nukem Forever from Infogrames. And then eventually the rights ended up in the hands of Take-Two Interactive when Gathering of Developers was absorbed into Take-Two.
At 2001, 3D Realms showed the public another trailer which was well received from the audience. But one remarkable thing about the trailer was the announced release date for the game which read "when it's done", and it certainly puzzled the audience. It was learned much later on that the development team had thrown the idea from the trailer almost completely out of the window again, and the trailer's content was made meaningless. It was believed that it the cause of it was that 3D Realms had adapted to the Unreal II engine after the trailer was being made. Take-Two CEO Jeffrey Lapin said that the game wouldn't be expected to come out in 2003 or 2004, and Broussard got into public quarrels with him due to this statement.
The game continued to underwent development but at this point it was considered a joke in the industry. By 2006, some of 3D Realm's staff members have left the company because they felt as if the game would never be done, and the size of the development team shrunk dramatically. In January of 2007, 3D Realms posted more screenshots and it reinvigorated life into the company with the hiring of new staff members. One noticeable new hire was Brian Hook who was known for the being the only person who pushed back when Broussard questioned about adding new features. A new trailer was being shown at December of 2007 and Broussard promised that the company would release more frequent media in regards to the game.
3D Realms started to feel the pain when the funding began to dry up after years of development without any gain except for being participants in the development of Max Payne and Prey. Even though 3D Realms had personally funded this project with the revenue that they received from Duke Nukem 3D, the development cost had already been up to $20 million at this point. 3D Realms seeked out funding from Take Two in the amount of $6 million, but when Take Two only offered $2.5 million up front, they declined the offer. On May of 2009, 3D Realms suspended all development due to lack of funding.
Gearbox finishing the game up:
The entire development team was being laid off from 3D Realms and the company started downsizing as well. Take Two Interactive filed a lawsuit against the company on the basis of "not completing Duke Nukem Forever". Take Two cited that they still have the publishing rights for the game from back in 2000 when they bought Infogrames, and 3D Realms breached the contract between it and Take Two by not completing the game. 3D Realms countered that development for the game had not stopped completely, but rather they are going to pass the baton to another external developer in hopes of finishing what they have left off.
3D Realms approached Gearbox software co-founder Randy Pitchford for help on finishing the game and porting it to consoles. Gearbox agreed to the project and then provided offices for the remainder of the members from the Duke Nukem Forever team to work in (which will soon be known as "Triptych Games"). Gearbox also reached out to 2K games and persuaded 2K games that both Gearbox and Triptych could finish the game in time for release.
The game was officially announced at the Penny Arcade Expo in 2010 and it was the first time that the players have gotten a chance to try the game. Gearbox purchased the intellectual property from 3D Realms while 2K games retained the publishing rights. Gearbox finally scheduled the game for a June 2011 release at last.
After what felt like forever:
Duke Nukem Forever came out of a 15 year long development cycle and was finally released on June 14, 2011. Since release, critics have heavily criticized the game for feeling archaic and out of place because of its prolonged development cycle.
Most noted that the technical problems of the game were that it had a severely long loading time, graphical issues, and a general lack of technical sophistication. There were complaints against the game's sense of humor with its outdated references which clearly showed its age as the game had progressed past their relevance. And there was even a complaint against the fact that Duke could only hold two guns at a given time. Over the course of the development, the game became notoriously known for its ridiculously long development cycle and it spawned a myriad of jokes about the game never being able to release.
Take Two have said in July 2011 that the game sales were half of their initial expectations. However, on August 8 of the same year they stated that the game would prove to be actually profitable. An interesting fact about the game was that a man named Bill ("Slash000") had a receipt for the $10 which he put down for the game back in 2001. Ten years later, he turned in that receipt and received a $10 reduction off of the game which he had preordered ten years ago.
Duke Nukem Forever finally came out, and despite the negative reception some old school fans of the series will believe that he still kicks ass and chews bubblegum---and he's all out of gum.
If there’s anything that I have learned from writing this piece was that it opened my eyes to the development cycles of games knowing now how much work and trouble most have to go through to develop one. In the end, nothing is really easy and you just have to expect the unexpected.
This Top Ten went through a little Development Hell itself as it took me from January 4 till now, January 22, to fully research and write it. I have worked on this Top Ten every day since I have created the document, and it was longer and difficult than what I have expected it to be.
Final Fantasy XII(01-06): Matsuno left half way through the production.
Fallout 3(2004-2008): The game was picked up by Bethesda from Interplay, and Bethesda started the game over from scratch.
Diablo III(2001-2012): The game went through three reiterations and there were intercompany conflicts.
Gran Turismo 5(2005-2010)
Prey(1995-2006): The game went through many different forms.
All Points Bullet (2005-2010)
Half Life 2(1999-2004): Valve time and data stolen from an infamous hacker.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2003-2010)
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind(1996-2002)
List by highwind07 (01/23/2013)
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