In the gaming industry, there is such a thing as «production hell» (Development hell). Most often it is applied to those games whose development dragged on for many years or was so intense that it is remembered as a nightmare.
2016 turned out to be very rich in announcements and releases of just such industry dinosaurs. See for yourself: the new Doom is 8 years old, The Last Guardian is 9 years old, Prey 2 and Final Fantasy XV are 10 years old. Now Ubisoft is also promising to release Beyond Good and Evil 2 soon.
On the one hand, these projects immediately evoke joyful anticipation and nostalgia, but it is enough to look at history to understand that projects that fall into “industrial hell” usually do not reach their potential, despite a monstrous amount of effort.
Resident Evil 4 — 6 лет
Resident Evil 4 is a non-standard example of a game development that, as a result of an incredible mess and ambiguity, did not come out with a sad result, but, on the contrary, set a new standard, and not only within its series.
In addition to the fact that the mechanics of one of the characters inspired Capcom’s entire line of Devil May Cry, RE4 itself has gone through at least five different forms. And all because the designer of the first two parts, Hideki Kamiya, considered that the series had already shown itself enough in 2D, and if an evolutionary breakthrough is not made in the fourth part, then there is a risk of losing the attention of fans and leaving the pedestal of the king of horror. Capcom itself confirmed his doubts, promising to cover up the production of the series if sales of RE4 were not high.
By making DMC into a standalone game, RE4 began a long series of trial and error.
No Spanish villages, Ganado, and no Ashley. In the «foggy» version, Leon was sent to the European headquarters of the Umbrella corporation and infected with some kind of Progenitor virus. The virus endowed Leon’s right hand with supernatural abilities, around which a solid part of the gameplay should have been built. Moreover, they planned to kill Leon, and I must say, the fans were close to losing the main character — the “foggy” version managed to finish 40% before the developers decided to start all over again.
Hooked man version
Leon was once again infected with some kind of disease and sent to a haunted house to fight with animated dolls, ghosts, and antique armor. This version was even announced at E3 2003, and several game mechanics were developed for it, which migrated to the final release. At some point, the developers nevertheless realized that they had run too far from the original and once again started from scratch.
Before the final version, an attempt was made to make some kind of Zombie version. Details are unknown, except that the team considered this version too stereotypical already at the start.
Thus, after four versions, RE4 still found the right guise and became one of the few happy endings of the «production hell».
Alan Wake — 6 years old
It is not necessary for all shooters to progress into the open world over time. And not every developer studio should try to conquer this attractive genre. Some are much better at immersing the player in a linear, gripping story where you don’t want any exploration and free driving. Remedy Entertainment is just one of those. The amazing two Max Payne showed the maximum potential of the studio, and the Finns wanted to try their hand at another genre.
In 2004, a draft of what Alan Wake would not become was developed. An open world in which the player had to observe the life of the citizens of Bright Falls, conduct their own investigation, and plunge into chaos at night, as we see in the final version.
Such a game was announced at E3 2005, but soon this version had to be rejected. According to the developers, the open world made it difficult to set the players to the desired rhythm of the story, which is especially important for Remedy. In addition, Remedy made an exclusive deal with Microsoft to release Alan Wake for the Xbox 360, thereby depriving fans of a potential PC version.
According to Remedy, all this kept the team in turmoil for some time. They felt they were moving the project in the wrong direction. But in the end, everything ended not so sadly. Two years after the release of Alan Wake on Xbox 360, Remedy managed to sort out the license and release the game on PC in 2012.
LA Noire — 7 лет
After releasing a rather successful action game The Getaway, game designer Brendan McNamara got a portion of fame and decided to consolidate his success by presenting a risky original project — a noir detective in the setting of Los Angeles of the 40s. One of the key features of the game was the need to determine by the facial expressions of the character whether the suspect is lying or not. In order for the whole thing not to look like a pixel clowning, McNamara decided to develop his own program for scanning faces and transferring facial expressions to the screens of MotionScan players. Needless to say, such a task turned out to be laborious and time-consuming?
But if the need for realistic facial expressions justified the original gameplay, then a believable environment was already superfluous. McNamara found it necessary to recreate a historically faithful Los Angeles, a task of extraordinary difficulty with no apparent payback, on which the team spent an unthinkable amount of time.
If you think that all these ambitions are the faults of an inexperienced but ambitious development team, then you are wrong. Most studio employees did not share McNamara’s ideas, not to mention the fact that sometimes they were forced to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. And all this without any monetary compensation, because the studio simply did not have money for them. Also, according to the stories of employees, McNakamara did not skimp on swearing and mistreated the team, literally giving all their free time to LA Noire.
Big ideas with small possibilities. Not surprisingly, after the release of LA Noire, the company soon closed down, while quarreling with the publisher. As for the game, as you might expect, it looked better in theory than in practice. Still, LA Noire was acclaimed on a number of counts, and the rights are still in the hands of Take-Two Interactive. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a sequel in the future.
The Last Guardian — 9 лет
The Last Guardian is the only title on the list that is currently still awaiting release. In 2001, Japanese game designer Fumito Ueda broke into the top tier of the industry with the title Ico and later cemented the success with Shadow of the Colossus. Not surprisingly, after the announcement of The Last Guardian, everyone drooled, especially after the statement that the game shares a universe with the designer’s past titles.
Fans’ first fears began when Ueda left Sony in 2011 after four years of development. The reason was the decision of the company once again to postpone the release of the game. The thing is, Ueda’s small studio couldn’t keep up with his vision on the PlayStation 3 hardware. As a result, Sony set its sights on the PS4, which meant pushing back the release date by a few more years.
After leaving Sony, Fumito set up a new studio, but was never able to release his project. He ended up signing a contract with Sony, whereby his genDESIGN studio would help create content for The Last Guardian, with Ueda himself acting as a consultant.
Nine years ago, no one suspected that while waiting for the release of the game, many gamers would have time to grow up and start a family. So it turns out that now The Last Guardian will be primarily evaluated by modern players, many of whom are completely unfamiliar with Ueda’s past works.
Too Human — 9 years old
The original concept of Too Human by Silicon Knights sounds enticing even now. A cyberpunk world, a cop is looking for a cyborg to avenge his partner. The game was supposed to have been announced back in 1999, but the further development went, the more the theme of the game shifted towards Norse mythology, which somewhat upset the fans. But that was the smallest of the problems. Over the nine years of development, Too Human managed to visit exclusives on almost all platforms. Initially developed for the PlayStation, Too Human later switched to a collaboration with Nintendo. Then the baton was intercepted by the Xbox 360.
Including, therefore, during the development of the company, uncertainty constantly reigned. At some point, Silicon Knights left the project without hesitation and switched to the development of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and the remake of Metal Gear Solid — MGS: Twin Snakes.
But the most interesting thing about this story is the ending. Silicon Knights took it into their heads to compete in court with Epic Games, whose Unreal Engine 3 they have been using since 2005. The complaint was that, according to the company, EG was given a degraded version of the engine, which caused SK to end up developing their own. In response, EG filed a counterclaim in which they accused SK of plagiarism.
The result of conflicts is discouraging. Silicon Knights was not only ordered to pay about $10 million, but was also forced to recall and destroy all physical copies of Too Human released at that time containing the code for the new engine.
Duke Nukem Forever — 15 years
The real devil in today’s «hell», Duke Nukem Forever with fifteen years of development. During this gigantic period, Duke managed to become morally obsolete and after the release he could no longer impress anyone either with his once provocative design, or even more so with dirty humor. Interestingly, in the final product, the developers were going to realize their most immodest ambitions. At least in 1997 they seemed to be just that.
After the successful release of Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms said they were going to rock the industry with more action and more action. Most likely, I would have shocked if the game came out on time. But in 2011, the long-awaited release failed to shake the industry. For fifteen years, the public has become so sophisticated that almost every aspect of Duke Nukem’s gameplay has been taken with a grain of salt.
There were enough reasons for such a colossal delay. At least the fact that the game managed to change five engines already says a lot. For fifteen years, DNF has been attracting problems and throughout the entire period of development was accompanied by conflicts with the publisher Take-Two. The case went to court more than once, not to mention the dissolution of part of 3D Realms due to lack of funding. Eventually, after fourteen years of development, Gearbox Software took over the game and released the title the very next year.
It is clear that Take-Two held on to the project so tightly, because they hoped that the old man Duke, with his name, was still able to bring a piece of profit to the publisher. Actually, in this they did not lose. Although sales were half that expected, after fifteen years of development, Duke Nukem Forever brought in enough money for Take-Two to consider the whole undertaking profitable.
Super Smash Brothers: Melee — 1 год
The “production hell” that the developers of the Super Smash Brothers sequel fell into was not too long, quite the contrary. The whole process took a little over a year, which, compared to the examples above, may seem like a trifle. But these thirteen months have been so difficult for the employees of HAL Laboratory that they are unlikely to want to go through this again.
For game designer Masahiro Sakurai, Melee was the biggest project at the time, and he decided to give himself over to development, while simultaneously immersing the entire team in a stressful process. Throughout the year, the studio worked without holidays and with rare shortened days off. Sakurai remembers that time as a very destructive period in his life, in which he gave all his best, even when there was no strength left for it.
Whatever it was, but in the eyes of Sakurai, the sacrifice was justified. According to him, Melee not only overshadowed its predecessor, but also turned out to be better than the future sequel — Super Smash Brothers: Brawl.
No matter how strong ideas are at the start of development, time mercilessly devours them. Game designers are losing their original vision, and there is only one option left — to completely turn the picture of perception of a familiar setting, as it was in the same Resident Evil 4 or Fallout 3. So there is a chance that in the coming years we will still get a new batch of game diamonds.