When Neil Druckmann decided to change part of the plot and ending of The Last of Us, he knew that he was taking a serious risk. Many employees of Naught Dog itself considered this move unreasonable, but in the end, the non-standard ending, on the contrary, was liked by the players.
Situations like this are not uncommon in the gaming industry, where years of development often pile up as developers scrap different concepts one after the other and start over several times.
Sometimes at the last moment they make decisions that in some cases literally take games to a new level, and in others they put an end to projects.
Kratos’ sidekick in God of War
When it came time to restart the God of War series, Corey Barlog knew what he wanted to achieve in the next part, but doubted that his vision would appeal to the players and the publisher. Barlog considered the addition of an assistant character to the game, which was Atreus, the son of Kratos, to be the most dubious link in his concept.
The director of the game had high hopes for Atreus, because he had to significantly change the usual gameplay, but at the same time, Barlog was sure that this particular element could spoil the entire reboot of the franchise. Sony supported Barlog’s doubts, but in the end decided to trust the developer’s instincts.
“At the very beginning, I was given to understand that we are already facing difficult tasks that require a lot of money. Maybe you shouldn’t even think about Atreus. I answered: “Well, if not Atreus, then who? Without a companion, Kratos would talk to himself, like Robert Redford in Hope Never Fails,” Barlog recalls.
It was decided to leave Atreus, and, as it turned out, not in vain. Fans have loved the changes to the series, and the game itself has become one of the most successful titles of 2018, winning multiple awards and selling ten million copies.
Interestingly, the fans did not like the image of the son of a demigod in the first trailer so much that the developers made it less noticeable and significantly reduced the number of character lines.
Style change in Borderlands
Work on the first Borderlands began back in 2005, and then the artists built the concept of the game around the words “mechanical”, “realistic”, “retro”, “serious”, etc. In 2007, the title was first presented to the public, and in 2008 at E3, players saw the first demo. Then, unexpectedly, Borderlands disappeared from sight for almost a year.
Game artist Brian Martel understood that no matter how well-oiled shooter they got, it could easily get lost against the backdrop of the more popular Fallout 3 and Rage. The solution is to completely overhaul the visuals of a 75% finished title, even if that means throwing a huge amount of work into the trash can.
Despite the riskiness of the task, most of the employees were so impressed with the newly minted style, built on cel-shading, that they immediately agreed. However, this does not apply to the art director of the previous version of Borderlands, who was shocked that many months of work can evaporate at the snap of her fingers. After deciding to change her style, she left Gearbox and never got involved with video games again.
In 2009, Borderlands hit the industry in a completely different light, and within a month of its release, Gearbox sold two million copies of the game.
Resident Evil 1.5
Resident Evil 2 is still one of the most beloved survival horror games ever, with a remake last year that brought the entire series back into the spotlight. However, the history of Resident Evil could have turned out differently if Capcom still released the original version of the second part, which is now roaming the Internet under the name Resident Evil 1.5.
RE2 was originally supposed to be released in March 1997, but game director Hideki Kamiya was so dissatisfied with the result that, after conferring with the team, he decided to remake most of the title, getting rid of many characters and locations.
In version 1.5, Leon Kennedy was also waiting for us, but the second character was no longer Claire Redfield, but student Elsa Walker, who was returning to Raccoon City after the holidays. There were more types of monsters in the game, and ordinary zombies were stronger and more active.
It’s really hard to argue that RE 1.5 would have failed, especially if it had been perfected. When version 1.5 was restored by Team IGAS, the players found it useful.
“RE 1.5 has a more flexible storyline, which makes it more replayable. There is a desire to open all the secrets and variations of the cut-scenes,” said one of the members of Team IGAS. — RE2 is much better. She’s like a polished diamond, but to be honest, I’m more attracted to the 1.5 concept.»
Micropayments Mankind Divided
In the original Deus Ex, Warren Spector wanted to make players feel free to do as they please as they progress through the game’s story. However, even he would by no means add to the game what players, to their surprise, found in Deus Ex — microtransactions.
Eidos Montreal already had a tense relationship with Square Enix, but never expected the publisher to require microtransactions to be included in Mankind Divided shortly before the game was finished.
Mankind Divided is not at all like a game where it would be appropriate to offer benefits for real money, because it does not even have multiplayer. The title, like the whole series, implies that the player will want to immerse himself in the setting, studying every detail of it. As a result, for an additional fee, you can “save” yourself time by replenishing the supply of credits.
By the way, Spector himself commented on the situation as follows:
«The situation is not enviable, but sometimes developers have to compromise.»
Max Payne voice
The successful formula of the legendary Max Payne consists of many elements that complement each other perfectly. Maybe the game will not fall apart if any of them are removed, but in this case we would definitely not get that holistic memorable adventure that is in the top even among players who prefer completely different genres.
One of these elements is the voice of Max Payne himself, which was given to him by actor James McCaffrey. If in the first part of the series the appearance of the protagonist was written off from Remedy Entertainment scriptwriter Sam Lake, then in the sequel, the developers already took McCaffrey himself as a basis.
When Rockstar Vancouver launched the development of Max Payne 3, fans, to their regret, learned that the publisher decided to replace McCaffrey with another actor. The developers felt that the new version of Payne should be voiced by someone older. Later, they realized that McCaffrey was perfect for them and offered him not only to voice Payne, but also to play him in motion capture.
“It was great to hear James’ inner monologue of Max again, because it’s one of the hallmarks of the series. In addition, physically, he perfectly matched the Max we wanted to portray in the game, ”said one of the producers, Geronimo Barrera.
Although Max Payne 3 turned out to be a fairly successful game overall, many fans of the series complained about the lack of spirit of the first parts. It’s entirely possible that if Rockstar hadn’t brought McCaffrey back, they would have alienated fans even more.
Trailer for Dead Island
As you know, Dead Island from the Polish studio Techland did not become a serious hit, losing much in popularity to its other zombie sandbox Dying Light. True, the picture could have been even sadder if six months before the release, the developers had not released a fateful trailer.
The video rewinded to a heartbreaking scene in which a family who had come to rest at a resort fought off a zombie attack. The trailer impressed the audience so much that the phrase «Dead Island» became one of the most searched queries on Google, and in principle the whole industry started talking about the game.
Of course, critics pointed out that the animation studio Axis Animation was not responsible for creating the trailer, and it may not personify the game itself, especially since no gameplay elements were demonstrated in the video.
And so it turned out. In the finished Dead Island, the players did not see the magic of the trailer, but they found a million technical problems that Techland immediately began to fix with patches. It is worth noting that it was the work on Dead Island that helped the Poles to form a vision for Dying Light, which was received much warmer.
Flying in Anthem
Anthem is arguably one of the biggest disappointments of 2019, as despite being based on uninspired grinding and repetitive missions, the gameplay itself was a lot of fun. Actually, its main mechanics initially made the players pay attention to Anthem, because not every title allows you to fly in an exoskeleton, participating in epic battles. However, this same flight mechanic did not appear in the game right away.
By the end of 2016, BioWare had to finish the first demo so that the company’s employees could relax during the Christmas holidays. In order to be on time, the developers decided to remove the ability to fly from Anthem, because they could not make this mechanic “work” as it should.
When this demo fell into the hands of one of the leaders of Electronic Arts Patrick Soderland, he considered such a result unacceptable. According to him, BioWare promised a different level of quality, and they urgently needed to fix the situation with another promising build.
“What followed was six weeks of crazy crunch, during which we developed a demo specifically for Soderland,” recalls a BioWare employee.
The developers cleaned up the graphics, but understood that they needed to impress Soderland, and therefore decided to return flights to the game. As soon as Soderland saw the new Anthem gameplay, he immediately let the developers know that they were on the right track.
BioWare saved the project from cancellation, but the studio still had to push hard to finish the game as quickly as possible.
“Flying was the main feature, but the level design, the story and the game world were constantly being changed in order to simply bring the project to the end,” say the developers.
As a result, Anthem became BioWare’s second failure after Mass Effect: Andromeda, but perhaps the upcoming Dragon Age will restore the company’s reputation.
Multiplayer in Bionic Commando: Rearmed
The original Bionic Commando is an iconic 1988 NES platform game that revolves around the protagonist’s bionic arm. As for Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2008, the Grin studio tried to convey nostalgia for the original in it, which is far from always possible to do properly. But Grin was able to achieve its goal by presenting a worthy remake to the public.
Rearmed received high critical acclaim, praising its most impressive part, the multiplayer. As the producer of the game Ben Judd explained, initially the studio planned only to transfer the gameplay familiar to the players into a modern form, but towards the end of development, the studio’s programmers decided to experiment by adding a second player. Unfortunately, there was not much time left, and the developers managed to finish only the local multiplayer.
The industry was thrilled with the remake of the NES classic, now playable with friends, and bombarded the game with 9/10 ratings. Later, two sequels came out, but they did not achieve the same success.
Interestingly, very often the decision of developers or publishers to add multiplayer to the title plays a role. However, the consequences are always different. For example, in a Spec Ops shooter with a strong storyline, multiplayer turned out to be superfluous, but GoldenEye 007 helped to become a real hit. By the way, even in BioShock Infinite it was planned to include the game over the network, but at the last moment Irrational Games decided to focus on the single.