In the media industry, “Development Hell” is jargon which refers to a project that is stuck in a long period of production and also refers to projects which went through a strenuous and/or difficult development.

As a part of the media industry, video games are no exception to the clutches of Development Hell themselves. An idea which begins with great potential 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, success of the finished product could not be guaranteed.

This list is dedicated to the games which went through long and/or troublesome development cycles but were eventually released.

This Top Ten is the sequel to the original “Top Ten games which went through Development Hell” list. To see part 1, look for it at the “Features” tab and click on “Top Ten lists”. Alternatively, you may also look at my profile and search it through my contributions roster.

In 1990, Sega ordered its AM-8 team to create a mascot for the company in order to rival Sega’s competitive giant, Nintendo. After a hedgehog had been chosen as the mascot character, the team’s name was changed to “Team Sonic” and developed the first installment of “Sonic the Hedgehog”. Sonic the Hedgehog was released in 1991 bundled with the Sega Genesis, and the rest was history as the inception of Sonic the Hedgehog brought Sega up to competitive speed in the industry.

More than a decade later, Sega wanted to create a tribute to the original installment of the series with a new installment for the seventh generation of consoles. Aimed at release in 2006, the team aimed to create the game as if they were working on the original Sonic the Hedgehog again. This time, they wanted to stay true to the series’ roots while introducing newer concepts to the series.
While Sega did want to make this game as an honorable tribute to the original, they didn’t expect what was to come during its development.

The previews:

The first demonstration of the game was shown through a private screening in May 2005 where a select few players got to see the game in its early stages. The tech demo showcased a particular scene during the game and despite the showing being behind closed doors, the footage was leaked onto the internet.

Later in September, Yuji Naka, then president of the Sonic Team had announced that Sega would treat the new game as if they were working on the original installment that started the series. He implied that the team was going to introduce a new world and new concepts, but retain classic gameplay. A brief demo of the actual gameplay was shown and it was of a very early version of the “Kingdom Valley” level. Sonic The Hedgehog was planned for release in 2006 in time for the series’ 15th anniversary.

Sonic rushes to meet the deadline:

Shortly following the announcement of the game, Yuji Naka had decided to depart Sega after many years of employment in the company. His justification which was later revealed in an interview mentioned that he was sick of managing instead of making games, and he wanted to have more direct contact with the games he makes. With that being said, he founded his own company named “PROPE”.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 was originally planned for release on all three consoles for the 7th generation.

The producer for the Wii version, Yojiro Ogawa, wanted to utilize the capabilities of the Wii system, but he wanted to make a completely new Sonic for the Wii instead. He then carved a portion of the Sonic 2006 team for himself so that he and his division could work on “Sonic and the Secret Rings”. The rest of the Sonic Team was divided up even further to work on separate versions for the Xbox360 and the PS3.

The teams had an issue with the pressure that was being placed onto them during development. Simultaneously developing the game for both systems proved to be burdensome, but they had to finish the game by the holiday season. The teams were excruciatingly behind schedule and it cost the team the time they needed to test the game for programming errors.

Aftermath:

Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 was released for the Xbox360 on November 14, 2006 and the PS3 on December 21, 2006.

Even though Sega had intended this game to be a grand celebratory piece for the series’ 15th anniversary, the reception for this game was scornfully negative. Many have cited that the game felt unfinished and perhaps it was due to the pressure on the teams to rush for competition. There were numerous glitches, a bothersome camera, and frustrating gameplay among other complaints. So far, Sonic 2006 has been regarded by most fans to be an insulting and disappointing installment of the main series.

Vince Perri, one of the founders of Active Enterprises, had an idea for a business venture. His son had acquired a pirated Nintendo cartridge off of the black market that contained 52 games which were rip-offs of copyrighted material. When Perri saw the cartridge, it inspired him to make a game cartridge of his own which contained 52 original games to create a legitimate product. The idea for Action 52 was born, and its history set the company in stone as the creators of an infamous game.

Perri recruits the team :

It was 1991 when Mario Gonzales, an audio engineer who was working in the same building as Perri, heard about Perrio’s business venture. Mario got Perri’s attention when he mentioned that he had experience with game design.

When Perri asked for a demonstration of Mario’s skills, Mario recruited some of his friends to be a part of a team to put together a demo for Perri: Javier, who was experienced with art and design; and Albert, who was a programmer. There was a fourth unnamed member of the team as well. Granted, the developers didn’t have that much experience in working with games, but they were willing to give the game a try.

The team put together a demo for the Amiga500 named “Mega-Tres” which was a clone of Tetris. The demo impressed Perri because of its graphics and sound, and Perri later demonstrated it to investors who then were impressed with it as well.
After the success of the demo, Perri had the three of them sign contracts for working on Action 52. The deadline that Perri had set for the completion of the game was only a mere three months away. That was the beginning of troubled production for the inexperienced development team.

Working on Action 52:

The development team had no set schedule, and they were working around the clock from inconsistent time frames during each day.
At the start of the development, the team created a list of possible game ideas on paper.

Not all of the original concepts have made it onto the final version, and some were changed so much that they were nothing like their original ideas. Throughout the game’s development process, the games were horrendously thrown together and some were indistinguishable from others. Mario did compose some original scores for the game, but many other scores were taken from copyrighted material.

The game’s notoriety also came from the inadequate quality of programming that was put into the games. Some of the games contain game breaking glitches which cause the games to become almost impossible to play due to crashing and inconsistencies with design. The development team had no time to set aside for testing and so most glitches remained there without being found.

Cheetahmen:

Another selling point of the entire game was the featured game, “Cheetahmen”, which was an attempt to rival the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game was originally designed as “Game Master”, but it was changed to Cheetahmen.

The game had relatively superior graphics and sound quality than the others. It was also the only game included in the cartridge to have an actual plot. The Cheetahmen game was originally planned to spawn a franchise which included comic books, action figures, and even a T.V show. Animated Cheetahmen were also the spokespersons for the game’s commercial.

Aftermath:

Action 52 was advertised at an astonishing cost of $199. Active justified it by saying that it was only $4 or so per game.

The game was met with negative reception from players and reviews. The plans for Cheetahmen as a franchise were dropped as a result. Active tried to stimulate sales by hosting a contest for playing the game. The contest was for contestants to play through one of the contained games, “Ooze”, and make it to level 5. The contest was impossible because the game crashes at level 2.
In 1993, Active created a new version of the game for the Genesis with the same name. The new version had changed some of its game roster and several improvements were made. The game was again met with bad reception.

In August 2012, one of the original developers of the game unveiled a prototype copy of the game. The developer who had named himself as “Developer #4” chronicled the story of the development process for the game.

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Mother 3 (or “Earthbound 2”) was a 2006 release for the GBA as the third installment in the Mother series. Although we have it today on the GBA, the game wasn’t originally meant to be for the system. Instead, the game was once known as a project named “Earthbound 64”.

The game was originally announced in 1996 as the sequel to Earthbound (Mother 2) for the Super Famicom. It was in 1997 that the game was moved to the Nintendo 64DD instead.

Earthbound 64:

Shigesato Itoi is known for his game design work on the Mother series. He was responsible for leading a development team for the work of Earthbound 64, and they were expecting the project to be crucial in the leap from 2D to 3D.

The original game was designed to have 12 chapters, each from the point of view of a specific character. The battle sequences in the game would have utilized Rumble Paks for battles. Itoi also included a feature for allowing players to choose from several character faces or create their own.

The game’s original story was not known to have been too connected to the story of the final product, but some elements have remained. The story involved an old-western family who lived in a small rural setting. The main character was a cowboy named Flint and he lived with his two sons, "Ryuka" and "Kraus", along with a dog named Boney. There were also familiar places and ideas from the world which made it to the final product.

It was during the development phase that the team encountered some hindrances because the development team was inexperienced with the hardware and with working in 3D design. The game was eventually scrapped when the N64DD proved to be a commercial failure, and the team moved the project to the N64. After working with the N64 some more, the project for the N64 was completely scrapped in 2000.

Revival:

In 2003, news about Mother 3 surfaced when the commercials for the Mother 1+2 port had aired.

From the debut of the news from the commercials, the development process had been secretive. Itoi had kept quiet about Mother 3 until he officially revealed its development for the GBA in 2003. Throughout the span of 2004-2006, the team had kept quiet about the news in regards to Mother 3 with only a tiny snippet of information revealed at sporadic intervals.

On January 26, 2006, Mother 3’s official release date was announced to be April 20th of the same year. Itoi opened up a “World of Mother 3” website in which details about the game were posted periodically as development was finishing up. Some of the reveals included screenshots, character and world information, and even a download of the featured song for the game titled “Theme of love”.

Aftermath:

Mother 3 was released only in Japan in April 20, 2006 for 4800 Yen and it sold 205,914 copies on the first three days of its release. The game was #1 on Famitsu’s most wanted games list and it also received a score of 35/40 from Weekly Famitsu.

There are no current plans for localization of Mother 3 outside of Japan, but fan made translations have been available. Itoi had announced that he does not plan on making a fourth installment in the Mother series after the ordeals that him and his team went through to develop Mother 3.

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Bethesda is known for developing the RPG series, “The Elder Scrolls”. Over the course of its history, the Elder Scrolls games have received numerous critical accolades after their releases. However, Bethesda Softworks back in the 90’s faced financial difficulties despite its success with the series. Players have largely ignored the games that the company had released because the company was highly notorious for producing unpolished games that are riddled with bugs.

The company was hemorrhaging money and it would have bled out completely if not for the idea of making one last hit in an attempt to save the company. That game was Morrowind.

First conception:

The idea for Morrowind was conceived after the development of Daggerfall. It was planned to be set on the whole province of Morrowind in the Elder Scrolls universe. The plan was considered to be too large of a task for the company back then because they did not have sufficient enough technology to incorporate such an expansive world into their games yet. Their plan was put on hold as they developed two other smaller games: Reguard and Battleshire.

The idea was picked up again after the completion of Redguard in 1998. Todd Howard borrowed a substantial amount of money from Bethesda Softworks’ parent company, ZeniMax, in order to fund the project. It was a colossal gamble from ZeniMax as they put their trust into the dying company at the request of Howard’s pitch, but Howard was not going to let them down.

A task too large:

In order to match the capacity and the scale of such an imagined world for Morrowind, Bethesda had to acquire the right engine for the task. Bethesda’s own engine, the XnGine, was becoming outdated and not suitable for the job. Bethesda had no choice but to license the NetImmerse engine from Numerical Design Limited in order to have a powerful enough engine for the game.

Even with the new engine in place, Bethesda ran into trouble during development when they found out that the world of Morrowind that they intended to create was too large. The team then decided to narrow the setting down to the subcontinent named Vvardenfell, but that was still a herculean undertaking for the team. On top of that, the development team had decided to craft every piece of the land by hand rather than having randomly generated algorithms like in the previous two installments of the main series, Arena and Daggerfall.

Extension to the Xbox:

Although the project had experienced a greatly reduced scale from their original concept, the development of the game went smoothly. In 2000, however, Microsoft came along and changed things for the company when it announced the Xbox.

Bethesda was excited when it heard about the Xbox, namely about the fact that it had its own hard drive. They figure that the hard drive could help the game reach its optimal levels of performance by having enough memory capacity to satisfy the demands for the world.
Bethesda quickly assembled a demo to present to Microsoft and Microsoft was impressed with it. Microsoft immediately agreed that they would allow Bethesda to develop an Xbox version of the game as part of its launch roster. The handling of two versions for the same game caused some delays, and the release date was pushed back to 2001 and then later 2002.

Aftermath:

Morrowind was released on May 1, 2002 for the PC. The Xbox version was delayed and was released on June 6, 2002. The success of the game allowed Bethesda to develop the expansion sets, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, as well as releasing a Game of the Year edition.

Yu Suzuki is considered to be Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto as the creator of many hit games and series. He joined Sega in the early 1980’s, and his career involved with the creation of hit titles such as Space Harrier, Hang On, and the popular fighting series Virtua Fighter. It was the success of Virtua Fighter 2 that helped him conceive the idea for a game that would later be known as “Shenmue”.

”Virtua Fighter RPG” to “Project Berkley”:

After Virtua Fighter 2, Yu Suzuki had the inspiration to create an RPG that was going to be based off of the Virtua Fighter universe after his visit to China. The game was going to be set in the Virtua Fighter universe with its characters featured as the game’s cast. The name of his proposed game was “Virtua Fighter RPG” at that time.

Suzuki started building the game for the Sega Saturn around 1994 and had conducted the development in secrecy. It was during the development of the Sega Saturn version of the game that Suzuki had used the character appearances from Virtua Fighter the most, and some may even see the resemblance of the game’s characters with characters from the Virtua Fighter universe in the final product. The game’s development unfortunately was near the end of the Sega Saturn’s lifespan and the production shifted to work on the Sega Dreamcast instead.

The game was announced to be in development during 1998, and it was given the nickname “Project Berkley”. The game’s proposed features were huge to Sega fans as Suzuki showcased promising features to be from within the game. The game featured full voice acting for each character, a night and day cycle, and a weather system. The most important of all would be the “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment (F.R.E.E)” feature. It was a quick time event feature which allowed the player to be fully interactive with the game during fights and exploration.

Suzuki had an ambitious plan for Shenmue as he planned to make it into a series rather than having the story in its entirety in a single game. The first Shenmue was in fact only the first few chapters out of the sixteen planned chapters.

Shenmue as the Dreamcast’s powerhouse title:

When the Dreamcast was released, the sales in Japan didn’t go as well as Sega had hoped because of a console shortage. However, it was massively successful in the North American markets with pre-orders up to 300 thousand. In just 2 weeks, the console even sold half a million units.

Sega had planned for Shenmue to be the killer application for the console and was proud to claim that Shenmue would be the pinnacle of the system by taking full advantage of its graphics capabilities and also feature breakthrough game features. In 1999, Sega packaged the Sega Dreamcast boxes with a copy of “What’s Shenmue”. It was a demo of Shenmue which included a chance to play a small demo of the game where Ryo had to chase down a Sega executive.

Aftermath:

Shenmue was finally released in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast. The game was met with critical acclaim for its presentation, but despite the reception the sales were lackluster.

Shenmue II was released shortly thereafter in 2001 to continue the story. The game was met with even lower sales than its predecessor because of the competition Sega faced against the other system giants in the sixth generation. It is currently unknown whether Sega will pursue ongoing development for the next installment in the series.

Shenmue went down in history as the game with the most expensive budget for its time. The total cost to develop the game was estimated to be up to $47 million.

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Prey is a first person shooter that was developed by Human Head Studios along with 3D Realms. The game follows a man named Tommy as he attempts to stop an extraterrestrial force from consuming all of the materials on Earth. The game has a heavy influence from Cherokee mythology and culture that is integrated into Tommy’s background.

Prey was first announced in 1995, but the development cycle took a prolonged eleven years to develop.

3D Realm’s work :

The game was originally announced by 3D Realms in 1995 and it was their attempt to create the first of many proposed games which featured cutting edge technology to rival the big names in the industry at that time, namely Epic.

The original outline was done by one of the founders of ID-Software, Tom Hall. Hall first came up with the idea for the alien abduction as part of the storyline, which was later adopted into the final version of the game. A year later, however, Tom Hall left the company to form Ion Storm along with John Romero, and he was replaced by Paul Schuytema.

Schuytema took Hall’s idea and his team came up with additional features for the storyline. The game was planned to take place on a massive, living spaceship that is populated with many different alien races. The team also came up with the name of the main character, who was at that time known as “Talon Brave”.

The team also designed the game with the prominent feature of being able to travel via portal technology. Players could be transported via portals both ways, but cannot create them without the use of mods. The game also featured destructible environments which the players could interact with. Both features were demonstrated at the E3 1997 and 1998 exhibitions and garnered positive reception from the spectators.

After the positive reception from the E3 exhibitions, 3D Realms was confident that they were on their way to create another hit just like Duke Nukem 3D. However, their confidence fell apart when catastrophic technical problems forced 3D Realms to abandon that version of the project. 3D Realms attempted to revive the project with the hiring of programmer Corrinne Yu, but once again the project failed after some time in development and it was put on hiatus in 1999.

Human Head Studios picks up the leftover work:

By 2001, 3D Realm’s portal technology was already being used in many other game titles. 3D Realms had decided to license the technology because they already had a stable and working component for game engines. 3D Realms chose to acquire the ID Tech 4 game engine from ID Software, and commissioned Human Head Studios to finish the game based off of existing designs. The new developers redesigned the main character and he became the main character for the final product named “Tommy”.
Some rumors of Prey being in development circulated in 2002, and 2K Games had confirmed it in 2005.

Aftermath:

Prey was finally released for Windows and Xbox360 on July 11, 2006. The game received mostly positive reception from the players.
The development of Prey 2 was confirmed just briefly after the release of the original. As of 2012 the game is still under development and there has been no news in regards to its release.

The 2005 game Perfect Dark Zero was the prequel to the Nintendo 64 First Person Shooter, Perfect Dark. The game was made with more features than the original, including Xbox live multiplayer and new gameplay mechanics.

Rare had been known as a developer that was largely owned by Nintendo and have made numerous Nintendo games in the past. During the development of Perfect Dark Zero, however, things have changed for the company.

The plan for the Gamecube:

After Rare completed Perfect Dark in 2000, they immediately started promoting a sequel at the Spaceworld convention in 2000. After the show, reporters were speculating about potential names for the sequel and they had the ideas for several names: “Perfect Dark Evolution”, “After Dark” and “Shot in the Dark”.

Nintendo confirmed in 2001 that the sequel was in development for their upcoming console at that time, the Gamecube. Nintendo promoted the game on their website and also inserted some Easter Eggs into their game, Super Smash Brothers: Melee, with references to Perfect Dark Zero. However, Nintendo suddenly stopped promoting the game after dropping its first deadline from its 2002 release to a “possible 2004 release”. The reason behind this was that Rare had a change of ownership.

From Nintendo to Microsoft:

The UK developer Rare was founded by the brothers Time and Chris Stamper. In 1994, Nintendo bought a 49% stake in Rare and made them a second party developer for Nintendo.

Under Nintendo’s ownership, Rare had given Nintendo games such as the Donkey Kong series, Banjo Kajooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Goldeneye, and Perfect Dark. Rare was quite loyal to Nintendo, but Microsoft had enticed Rare to join Microsoft while Rare was still owned by Nintendo.

During the Nintendo 64 era, Rare enjoyed accumulated success as they pumped out games which were mostly well received and sold a considerable amount of copies. Nintendo, however, were not as satisfied with the N64’s turnout because they felt that it was lackluster compared to the success of the SNES. Rare was one of the most popular game developers at that time, but the company was having worries about continuing developing under Nintendo’s ownership.

There were rumors about a potential buyout of Rare in 1999, and there were big name candidates like EA, Activision, and Microsoft who were looking to seek ownership in Rare. Rare was visited by Ed Fries, the architect of Microsoft Game Studios, who came to discuss with Rare about the possibilities of developing for Microsoft’s upcoming game console. Rare had told Microsoft that while Nintendo only had a 50% stake in Rare, they were hesitant to buy the other half.

Rare had been seeking other big name publishers to buy the other half, and Microsoft was one of the main candidates. The offer from Microsoft didn’t succeed at first because Rare already had an agreement set with Activision before Microsoft had placed the offer. Later on, however, the deal with Activision fell through and Rare asked Microsoft if they were still interested in purchasing Rare. Microsoft quickly agreed to the deal, and after the 2002 release of Star Fox Adventures, Microsoft’s ownership of Rare was finalized. Microsoft bought Rare for the price of $375 million U.S Dollars and Rare became a first party developer for the Xbox.

Rare’s unfinished business and the game’s aftermath:

After Microsoft’s acquisition, the team started finishing Perfect Dark Zero for the Xbox. In 2005, Microsoft told Rare to finish the game for the 360 as part of the console’s startup roster. The development time was very rushed and the team had to take out several different features in order to make the deadline. Nonetheless, the game made the deadline as part of the console’s debut game roster along with Kameo: Elements of Power.

The game was released on November 17, 2005 for the Xbox360. The game was mostly praised for its weapons, visuals and multiplayer. The game was said to have made back four times the money that Rare had spent on developing it.

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After the original Half Life series was published, Valve had immediately gone to work on its sequel, Half Life 2. What they didn’t expect was an event where their work was shown to the public earlier than expected from an uninvited source.

The development cycle before the leak:

Valve’s own Source engine started development in 1999 as a heavily modified Havok Physics engine. Half Life 2 had also started development during that year and was developed to take advantage of the Source engine. The new Source engine would provide the game with numerous new technological advances, namely realistic facial expressions and physics.

The original concept for the story was much lengthier than the story present in the final product. The game’s setting was originally to be set in a location that is reminiscent of an East Coast city, but this was changed to include various styles from other eras while set in an East European style city instead. Numerous other parts during development were either scrapped entirely or reused again in another context.

Gabe Newell was originally the director who oversaw the project, but he left the team alone 2001 when he was busy focusing on developing Steam. At 2002 after unveiling Steam at the 2002 Game Developers Conference, the team that worked on Half Life 2 presented a trailer to Gabe to use for E3 2002. Gabe was unimpressed with it at first, but he later approved a reworked version of it by the team. Gabe told the team that the trailer was to be presented at E3 2003 and the game was planned to be released at the end of 2003.

The leaking fiasco:

On October 2nd, 2003, Gabe Newell awoke to find out that the source code for Half Life 2 had been leaked onto the internet. Newell admitted to the Valve community that it was indeed Half Life 2’s code that was leaked out to the internet, and the one who had leaked it wasn’t from within Valve but was from an outside source.

Axel Gembe was a German fan of Valve’s work, and was among the others that were eagerly anticipating the release of Half Life 2. His interest in hacking came from taking apart a piece of malware which he had ignorantly opened and studied its contents. Since then he had learned how to code his own malware, and was using it to get illegal access into Valve’s games on Steam.

His confidence in his hacking abilities climaxed when he sought to hack into Valve itself. He hacked into Valve’s secured networks and found a channel where he cracked the code and dug into Valve’s data servers. It was there in an unguarded server that he discovered the source code for Half Life 2. His temptation got the best of him and he downloaded the code onto his computer. The source code was later uploaded from someone else onto Bit torrent, and then spread across the internet.

In the wake of the leak, Valve frantically searched for the one responsible for the illegal act. There were five months of fruitless searching and Valve’s employees were becoming too crestfallen to go on. To Gabe’s surprise, Gembe was regretful of what he had done and miraculously sent Gabe an email admitting that he was the one responsible for the leak. Instead of reporting Gembe to the government, Gabe managed to set up a deal with the FBI to trick him.

Gembe mentioned that he would like to be an employee for Valve. To Gembe’s surprise, Gabe accepted his offer and he was invited for an interview. The initial interview was over the phone, and Gembe spelled out the process of how he had acquired the game. After the first interview, Gembe and his family were granted visas from the FBI to come to the States in order to have a face to face interview. The in person interview was the FBI’s and Valve’s plan to ensnare him as soon as he got off the plane, but a change of plans had the German police arrest Gembe instead.

Gembe was caught and taken by the German police before he could even leave the country. He was interrogated by the police for three hours, and the police finally decided to keep him in custody for two weeks. He was released after those two weeks, but had to check in with the police three days a week for the next three years until his trial. During his trial, he was found not responsible for uploading the game, but still responsible for hacking into Valve. The court had given him two years of probation as punishment.

Aftermath:

The Half Life 2 team recovered from the setback by the hacking and resumed working on the game in 2004. It was released in Nov 16 of the same year, and the game was met with overwhelming positive reception.

In 2004, the book “Half Life 2: Raising the Bar” was published. The book detailed the events throughout the development cycle and even included many extras such as original concept art.

During the advent of the Nintendo 64, many series made the jump from 2D to 3D for the first time. The Zelda series was not an exception for making the monumental leap onto the Nintendo 64, and the rumors of an installment for the Nintendo 64 were soon confirmed by Shigeru Miyamoto. The world anxiously waited for Zelda 64, and the development team took many attempts at getting it right for the fans.

The demo and the Nintendo 64DD build:

Back in 1995 when Nintendo unveiled its next generation console, the Nintendo 64, both Super Mario 64 and “Zelda 64” were announced as the debut games for the system.

Nintendo released a technical demo trailer for Zelda 64 at the Space World trade show in 1995 to promote the system and the upcoming game. The technical demo showed Link fighting a Stalfos without any display of gameplay. The insubstantial trailer was only a demonstration of concept ideas, but it pleased the fans and raised hype for the game. Zelda 64 was originally planned for release on the Nintendo 64DD to utilize the system add-on’s ability for expanding game content.

In 1996, development had finally started with the game being worked on using the Mario 64 engine. When the game creation started, one of the directors named Yoshiaki Koizumi approached Miyamoto and asked for directions on how Miyamoto wanted the game to be created. Miyamoto suggested to him that the game would be created from a first person perspective for Link with the exception of battling in which the camera would switch to a third person view. Koizumi did not like the idea and continued to make the game from a third person perspective.

On Nov 24, 1996, Nintendo released a trailer for the game for the Nintendo 64DD which showcased the Nintendo64DD build of the game.

There were several key differences presented in the build that didn’t make it to the final product. First, Link could only equip two items at the time. Second, Hyrule Castle Town was more spacious than what is in the final product. Third, an unnamed character made several appearances in different screenshots (the fans later named her “Aria”). Fourth, Navi used to be just a placement marker for navigation, but would later become important for the story. And lastly, the Triforce was actually shown to be found by Link. There were also different models for the enemies in the build as well as different first builds of the dungeons present in the final build.
Miyamoto also suggested that Ocarina of Time was to follow Super Mario 64’s hub system for Ganon’s Castle. It was regarded by the development team as the “worst case scenario”.

The Nintendo64 builds—Initial:

News from the development of Ocarina of Time halted until 1997 when it was announced that the game was moved from the 64DD to the Nintendo 64.

Another trailer was shown at E3 of that year for the Nintendo 64 build. There were still different animations for certain enemies, the camera still used Mario 64’s engine, and several areas looked completely different or didn’t make it to the final product. The build also featured the final product’s option for four equippable items. The Medallions that Link could collect from the Sages were first featured to be usable as magic, and there was once an option to even be able to combine them. The idea was later scrapped and the magic system was revamped.

It is interesting to note that the concept for Child Link wasn’t present at that moment. There was a screenshot which showed Adult Link with a Deku Tree that was still alive.

The Nintendo 64 builds—final:

One year before the game was to be finally released; there were more changes as the game approached finalization.

The first was the game’s camera. For Ocarina of Time, the team heavily modded the Super Mario 64 engine to accomplish a different camera setting for Ocarina of Time. While Mario 64 allowed the player to have full control over the camera, Ocarina of Time’s camera was mostly restricted to the game’s AI.

There were numerous changes to the game as well as dropped content. One famous picture depicts scenery that is like an early version of a Fairy Fountain with three unicorn statutes surrounding a pool of white, sparkling water. Another famous one was a dungeon that didn’t make it to the final product which looked similar to the Deku Tree.

Perhaps the most important change to the game was the introduction of “Child Link”. Link was originally only to be featured as an adult throughout the game, but Miyamoto stepped in and suggested the idea for a child version of Link during development. They came up with the time traveling feature present in the final build by having Link travel through time via the Master Sword.

Aftermath:

Ocarina of Time was released on November 21, 1998 for the N64. The game was critically acclaimed worldwide, and sealed a strong positive legacy of the Zelda series. The game was considered by many to be influential and one of the best installments in the series by fans.

Ocarina of Time was later adapted into two ports for the Gamecube: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest and as a part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition. Master Quest in particular has the same plot as the original, but the game is known for having altered dungeons. In 2012, a Nintendo 3DS version of the game with some changes to the original was released

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Blizzard North was responsible for developing the landmark RPG titles, Diablo I and II. Diablo II in particular gained mass critical acclaim and it cemented its developer’s legacy in the gaming world.

After the success of Diablo II in 2000, Blizzard North wanted to continue the Diablo saga with a third installment.

Heaven and Hell:

The same team who had worked on Diablo II initially did a first draft of Diablo III up until 2003. The original draft was made with an intention to transfer the game’s visual look from 2D to 3D. Heaven was the setting for the game’s world, and the visuals reflected the setting with bright celestial like environments.

The game’s story at that point was not very well exposed, but the overall premise back then was that Hell was going to take over Heaven. The initial phases included the design that the brightness of Heaven would be overtaken by the darkness of Hell, and the environment would be darkened as a direct consequence of the Hell’s takeover. The game also had a concept of weapons having the ability to visually change from “light” and “dark” without affecting the weapon’s stats.

It is also worth noting that Diablo III was originally intended to be made as an MMO. Blizzard North’s mindset during development was very MMO orientated, and eventually they did go down that path after they started development.

Blizzard North disbandment:

In 2003, news of Blizzard North’s sudden decision to disband caused a shockwave through the media and delivered a hurtful blow to Blizzard itself.

Financial troubles had struck Blizzard’s parent company, Vivendi, and the concerns about the corporation’s well-being had trickled down to Blizzard North. While Blizzard was considered mostly autonomous, Vivendi considered selling its game division.

Bill Roper who was one of the four founders of Blizzard North had troubles with Vivendi’s corporate directions. He had always tried to shield the development teams from the Corporation’s directions so that the teams could focus on making games. However, there was turmoil from within Blizzard North itself as they spent more time trying to manage its employees than they did making games. The company also had a lack of communication with Vivendi in regards to the sale of Vivendi’s gaming division, and Blizzard North wanted a better level of involvement in regards to the sale.

Blizzard North felt as if their futures were at risk because of the sale, and the uncertainties about Vivendi’s future buyer for Blizzard made it more anxious for Blizzard North to continue staying. Although the relationship between Blizzard North and Blizzard were stable, Blizzard North ultimately declared a resignation because of the lack of involvement in the Vivendi matter. Vivendi accepted their resignation, and the four founders left Blizzard North in 2003 in order to found their newest company, Flagship Studios.

Blizzard North was officially shut down in 2005. The remaining employees were dispersed to Blizzard or Flagship Studios, or joined another companies in the Bay Area. Castaway Entertainment was also created by Michael Scandizzo, the designer of Diablo II’s Battle.net functionality, as a result of the disbandment. Former head of Blizzard North Rick Seis also joined Castaway Entertainment after leaving Blizzard.

On August 1, 2005, Blizzard made an announcement that the company would centralize its operations. Blizzard had specifically said that the move would not cause the company to suffer any significant delays in regards to game development. The first draft of the game that was done by Blizzard North was mostly scrapped after the disbandment, and a new team was about to recreate the entire game from scratch.

Diablo III confirmed:

In 2006, Blizzard’s website tried to entice with job listings for applicants who were willing to work with the people who made Diablo I and II for an unannounced PC project. Gamespot wrote an article about the job listings and it helped spread the rumor that Diablo III was on its way.

Blizzard dropped more hints themselves to the public. In 2006, Blizzard CEO Paul Sams gave hints that the company was not going to ignore the Starcraft and Diablo series and that there were considerations to make multiplatform titles. In 2007, rumors of a “Project Hydra” were leaked out to the public. In the same year, Blizzard VP of product development Frank Pearce also dropped hints that “Team 3” was working on something “totally awesome”.

Blizzard officially confirmed the existence of Diablo III at the Blizzard Invitational 2008 demonstration. The company didn’t have an official release date at that moment and it was just mentioned that the game would “be done when it’s done”.

From announcement to release:

Blizzard slowly released information about the game over the years as it developed. The game went through numerous developmental changes in art, game mechanics, classes and more.

Probably the biggest change during the game’s development was the Skill Tree system that was to be implemented into the game. The first instance of the Skill Tree was designed much like Diablo II’s Skill Tree but with little in display for actual skills. The Skill Tree was being worked on until the 2010 reveal had announced that the Skill Tree idea was revamped completely, and was replaced by a Skill Runes system which modifies Skills as the characters levels up

There were also significant changes to the game involving the Artisans and the Auction Houses. Character classes were also revealed one by one as the sequential years went by during the development phase.

The game was also constantly held back from multiple release dates. The game was finally finalized for release on the 2012 second quarter.

Aftermath:

Diablo III was finally released on May 15, 2012. The game sold 3.5 million copies on its first day alone.

The game did sell plenty of copies, but the content itself was frowned upon by the community for both technical and content issues. The game’s launch at first was severely delayed because of issues with the Blizzard servers. Numerous complaints about the game being only playable when connected to the internet drew some dissatisfaction from fans. The endgame was admitted by Blizzard to lack content. There were also multiple account theft and Auction House concerns which arose over the span of just two months. Diablo III’s lead designer, Jay Wilson, had obscenely responded to the complaints of both the fans and the original people who have worked on Diablo II.

The game’s service is still ongoing and there has been talk of an expansion that the team is preparing for release.

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Special thanks to : Super Sonic 5 and Eesgooshee for volunteering to review and proofread this Top Ten.




Honorable Mentions:

Final Fantasy XII (01-06): Matsuno left during the production.
Fallout 3 (2004-2008): The game was picked up by Bethesda from Interplay, and Bethesda started the game over from scratch.
Gran Turismo 5(2005-2010)
Alan Wake (2004-2010)
All-Points Bulletin (2005-2010)
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2003-2010)
Dragon’s Lair II (1983-1991) [rec’ed by angeldeb82]
The Dig (1985-1995) [rec’ed by angeldeb82]
Limbo of the Lost (1990’s-2007): A constant shift from console to console.[rec’ed by Super Sonic 5]
Chulip (Est 1999-2002) [rec’ed by Aussie2B]
Fez (2007-2012) [rec’ed by SubliminalFunk]
Spore (2000-2008)

Not out yet but possible candidates for the future :

Final Fantasy Versus XIII (2006-whenever Nomura gets around to finishing it)
Half Life 2: Episode III (2006-only Valve knows when)
Timesplitters 4 (indefinite postponement until further notice) [rec’ed by ComradeVasili]
Pikmin 3 (2008-ongoing) [rec’ed pokemonfreak97, ComradeVasili, XRay2984]
Beyond Good & Evil 2 (Est 2008-ongoing) [rec’ed by Atalalama]
World of Darkness Online (2008-ongoing) [rec’ed SpyrotheDragon]
The Last Guardian (2007-ongoing) [rec’ed by Jag85 and Grendel Prime]
Starcraft: Ghost (2002-perhaps indefinite postponement) [rec’ed by xfpredator]

List by highwind07 (02/21/2013)

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