Games that Changed Shape Over Time

There are, of course, plenty of games that, in the course of development, have changed shape and become something other than what was originally planned. Petter writes about five of them...

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Games that Changed Shape Over Time

Grand Theft Auto (1997)

What if... What if a nasty stubborn bug hadn't made Scottish game house DMA Design completely change their minds? Then we would most likely never have seen the smoke of Grand Theft Auto as a game series and who knows where the open world genre would be today. Because it was first intended that Grand Theft Auto (PC / Playstation - 1997) would be called Race 'n' Chase and it would be a traditional racing game with an isometric 2.5 perspective. But some way into development, producer David Jones came across a bug that suddenly made the cops who were supposed to be chasing the player (as in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit) super aggressive and when they deliberately tried to kill the player, and the whole thing made Race 'n' Chase a lot more fun to play, the small development team in Edinburgh started brainstorming more ideas that would fit into a game where the cops were completely nuts. A week later, the team had hatched, designed and tested a couple of bank robberies, run-over civilians and everything in between and GTA was born. Out of sheer coincidence.

Games that Changed Shape Over Time
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Halo (2001)

When Halo development tentatively began, Bungie had not yet completed the strategy sequel Myth (1996). In its infancy, Halo went under the project name "War Game" or "Giant Bloody War Game" and the inspiration had been sought out by Jason Jones via System Shock and Quake, but the game was put on hold when the small four-man team working on the technology behind it got stuck. Instead, Bungie focused on Myth II, which was released in early 1998, and it was only after it was completed that Jones, with the help of Joseph Staten and Jaime Griesemer, began working on another strategy game in the same style as Myth and Myth II, but based on a new game engine that could render larger 3D environments and vehicles, in particular. The idea of the ring planet and the moon-scented gravity, the Mjolnir armour, the Covenant enemies and the Warthog fighters was born here, and for a little over a year Halo was developed as a proper RTS. However, money was running out for Bungie, who approached Microsoft's Ed Fries, head of the upcoming Direct X-Box console venture, about buying the studio and making them a console-exclusive Microsoft developer, which Fries agreed to. Over the course of exactly 13 months, a small 15-person team managed to turn an unfinished, loosely planned, and technically ramshackle strategy game into a first-person action game, and the rest, as we say, is... History.

Games that Changed Shape Over Time

Golden Eye 007 (1997)

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Out of the most chaotically troubled development periods, most of the greatest titles in gaming history have been born. The process of trying to make a game out of the RPG-tinged sludge that was Quake some six months before its release is, of course, a shining example, as was the making of Halo, or when a small, underrated mini-team on the outskirts of Uppsala built the best licensed game of all time (Riddick) in a year. Out of the frying pan, so to speak, and so is the process that led to Rare releasing Golden Eye 007, the second greatest movie licence game ever made. But it certainly didn't start out as an action game from a first-person PC perspective for its time, no. It actually began as a side-scrolling platform adventure based on the same game engine used in Donkey Kong Country 3. After three months of developing that project, the focus shifted to a James Bond-themed light gun game, which was also of course scrapped in favour of the game we later got.

Games that Changed Shape Over Time

Conker's Bad Fur Day (2001)

It was immediately after finishing development of the first Banjo Kazooie that Rare embarked on yet another platformer drenched in Super Mario-scented cuteness factor and general family-friendly cosiness. But the small demo of Conker's debut game that was tested on a small group of gamers outside the British studio was seen at the ankles for its straightforward and concentrated boredom, which prompted Rare to shift focus instead, developing the sequel Banjo-Tooie. For years Rare argued internally about what Conker should be and the game Twelve Tales: Conker 64, shown in unfinished form at E3 1998, was cancelled and instead the studio changed direction and made Conker the least Disney-like hero the gaming world had ever seen. Violence, sex jokes, booze, poo... And everything in between was the focus of the platformer, which at release was the exact opposite of what it was first intended to be.

Games that Changed Shape Over Time

Devil May Cry (2001)

Hideki Kamiya was the creator of Resident Evil along with horror king Shinji Mikami, and the idea of the game that would later be named Devil May Cry (and become a new game series) was to try to revive Resident Evil, which after the third game and Code Veronica was criticised in some places for having "stagnated. Both Kamiya and Mikami wanted to try to put in more explosive game mechanics where the player could move faster and more freely to build a more action-oriented horror experience, but Capcom's bosses thought that their prototype was too different from the concept on which Resident Evil had always been based. Instead, they built a new world with a new hero, and just like that, Capcom had a new best-selling game series in its portfolio. Devil May Cry, however, would initially be Resident Evil 4.

What's your favourite story of a game changing during development?

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