Long development can have drastic effects on a game
Developing games is a long process, during which a lot can change. It’s unlikely that a game will end the way its creators envisioned it when development began. But every once in a while, game makers reveal a game before it undergoes a major change. In these cases, we get a rare and short glimpse inside the development process, and how ideas and concepts manifest over time.
The most recent example of this is in Insomniac Games’s first multi-platform effort. After its initial reveal at E3 2011, Overstrike went dark. We saw a trailer (see below) that showcased unique characters, a playful and sarcastic sense of humor, and an almost Pixar-esque visual style. Fifteen months of silence and one E3 absence later, people began to wonder if the game was still in development. That is, until the game resurfaced as Fuse.
While the game has retained its four player co-op shooter foundation, it has also undergone a significant makeover. Absent were the cartoony characters and witty sense of humor. In their place was gritty realism, with which gamers have become rather acquainted over the past several years.
In an interview with Joystiq, Insomniac founder Ted Price explained the reasoning behind Overstrike’s transformation. He said, “We had some cool concepts on paper and in the video, but ultimately, when we started playing the game, the weapons lacked heft, they lacked impact, and they lacked that fun factor that we believe is at the core of every one of our games.”
Price also explained why the game’s original stealth focus was removed. He said, “You got Leroy Jenkinses out there all over the place. Most of the time, people are going to be out for themselves, and run right into the combat and screw up any advantage you had.”
Brothers in Arms: Furious Four is another example of a game changing direction after its initial announcement. Just like Overstrike, Furious Four was announced at E3 2011 and seemingly disappeared. At this year’s PAX Prime, developer Gearbox Software announced that the game has dropped the Brothers in Arms brand and it has spun off into its own IP. Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford said that as development progressed, the team “got into a place that got away from the core. It’s evolved even farther, and it needed to be unshackled.”
While not as recent, Borderlands, another Gearbox game, also underwent a major change during its development. The game’s original trailer (below again) depicts a dark, brutal world, with a realistic visual style. The game’s signature cel shaded art style only came to be late into the development cycle.
In an interview with IGN, Pitchford shed some light as to how such a drastic change could occur. He said, “There was sort of a mismatch between the style that the game was actually being built in and the style that the game was kind of supposed to be. We didn’t know what that style was supposed to look like. The design of the game, and the universe begged for a certain flavor that we just hadn’t discovered yet.”
There were also concerns with the game looking too similar to Bethesda’s Fallout 3 or id’s RAGE. Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel began working on a prototype for what is now considered one of the game’s most iconic features.
If games are so prone to drastic transformations, what does this mean for the other games that have gone dark for a while? We haven’t heard anything about The Last Guardian in years, other than news of people leaving the development team and reassurance that the game still exists. It’s entirely possible that the game will look entirely different when it eventually does resurface.
Numerous other games, including XCOM, Prey 2, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII have suffered development problems and lengthy delays. These games are all prone to major transformations. The question is, will they turn out for the better?
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