Change course: games that have changed greatly in the course of development


Fallout about cyberpunk with dinosaurs, Thief about zombie communists, 3D-fighting Quake and Batman, inspired by rhythm games.

It happens that the final result of the development of a video game is almost one hundred percent identical to the original vision of the studio. An example of this – Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar , which was made a record twenty years, but during the development has not really changed.

But, as a rule, the output game is different from the original idea. Ellie from The Last of Us is no longer like Ellen Page . From Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic cut out a bunch of content because of burning deadlines. Id Software in almost every shooter I wanted to add a little stealth – but in the end, each time I rejected this idea. In Ultima: Online, there used to be an ecosystem that was destroyed after a total war of beta testers with brutal killer rabbits .

And it happens that in the course of development something happens that puts everything upside down. Just such an incredible metamorphosis of video games and this material is dedicated.

Super Mario Bros.

In its original form Super Mario Bros. It was not a purebred platformer, but run ‘n’ gun– Mario had a gun. And in the course of the game you could get a rocket launcher . Button “A” was responsible for shooting, “B” for run, and button “up” for jumps.

At first, the bullets transformed into fireballs, which could be fired one at a time. But constant shooting gave a strong advantage to the player, so then the developers somewhat limited the ability to start fireballs.

On some levels, Mario flew on a rocket, shooting enemies, as in classic shuts. Then the rocket was replaced with a cloud, and in the end it resulted in bonus levels with the collection of coins.

In the end, the developers decided to concentrate on platforming. Jumping has become the main way of killing enemies. The button “A” was now responsible for them, instead of shooting.

Metal gear

First, Hideo Kojima wanted to make an action game about a secret operation in one of the third world countries out of Metal Gear. According to the original idea, she was with a top view and intensive shooting at crowds of enemies.Metal Gear in many ways could be like the Heavy Barrel

But the MSX2 capabilities that Metal Gear was designed for were severely limited. This computer simply would not draw so many opponents and many dozen bullets on one screen.

Then Kojima recalled one of his favorite films – “The Great Escape” of 1963. Being inspired by them, he thought: since it is impossible to arrange a shootout in the game – let the goal of the players themselves be to avoid them. So Metal Gear has become the third stealth game in history after Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein.

Metal Gear, 1987

Super Mario Bros. 2

Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in 1987 on the Famicom Disk System exclusively for the Japanese market. Graphically, there was no difference between it and the first part. In fact, it was Super Mario Bros. with a bit more complex level design and content from Vs. Super Mario Bros. for arcade machines. Now in the West it is known as Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels.

At that time, the NES prefix was actively promoted in the USA and Europe. So Nintendo decided not to spoil the reputation of the Mario brand and not to release Super Mario Bros. 2 in this form in the West. They wanted something really new as a second part.

Future Super Mario Bros. 2, 1986

In 1987, Kensuke Tanabe developed a prototype game where two players could throw objects at each other. Including blocks, with the help of which it was possible to climb on previously inaccessible platforms. All this happened on two-dimensional levels with vertical scrolling.

The combination of all these mechanics was then considered beyond the capabilities of the NES. Nintendo bosses were impressed with the gameplay shown and instructed Kensuke Tanabe and Shigeru Miyamoto to develop a project about the mascot of the Fuji Television media exhibition on the basis of the demo.

The game was called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic and released only in Japan for Famicom. In addition to the innovative gameplay for platformers, it was distinguished by a design inspired by the Thousand and One Nights.

Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, 1987

In Nintendo, they sued what Super Mario Bros. should look like. 2 for Europe and the USA. Since Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was not officially published in the West and almost nobody knew about it, it was simply used as a beta version of Super Mario Bros. 2

Sprites of the main characters and some enemies were changed to Super Mario Bros characters. Also changed the music, added secret levels, coins and improved level design. The result was Super Mario Bros. 2 – she’s Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Japanese market.

Super Mario Bros. 2, 1988

Sonic the hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog was born from the idea of ​​Sega to make the mascot for his console, capable of competing with Nintendo’s Mario. Designers have tried a huge number of options: there were parrots, crocodiles, foxes, armadillos, wolves, flying squirrels – and even Theodore Roosevelt in his pajamas.

The idea to make a rabbit a Sega mascot was liked by many. Under this concept, they even invented a gameplay where the rabbit would grab the enemies and various objects with its ears – and threw them aside with great force.

But when the first prototypes of the game engine appeared, the rabbit was quickly abandoned: some more impetuous character was needed, able to instantly break various obstacles. And in rivalry with the battleship won the Sonic hedgehog.

Early concept art

After Sonic was approved as a mascot, the development of his character and environment began. Designers thought that since this hedgehog loves speed, then his character should be quite aggressive. Therefore, Sonic had fangs , like a saber-toothed tiger. And in order to emphasize his bright character and connection with the American audience, the developers made Sonic the leader of a rock band.

Early concept art

And he had a sultry girl named Madonna. And she was an ordinary person. The designers were inspired by Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

An old man in an egg-shaped suit of a bumblebee was planned as an antagonist.

Sonic and Madonna. Early concept art

With this vision of the character, the Japanese turned to the marketing department of the American branch of Sega. They replied that they needed a more friendly mascot. So from the fangs, rock bands and Madonna had to be abandoned.

Instead, the developers decided to show in the game the opposition of nature and machines, where Sonic would represent nature. The machines were driven by Dr. Eggman – a cross between that egg-shaped old bumblebee and the cartoonish Theodore Roosevelt in his pajamas.

Sonic the Hedgehog, 1991

The craziest thing is that, despite the tremendous success of the updated version of Sonic, Sega did not forget the ideas about the girlfriend of the main character, who was an ordinary person. Fifteen years later, Sonic had such a girlfriend .

Mortal kombat

1991 John Tobias got the idea to make a ninja fight game. However, instead, Midway Games needed a game about Jean-Claude Van Damme for the release of the film “Universal Soldier”. The authors were given only ten months to develop this project.

“Universal Soldier”, 1992

Despite the tight deadlines, the publisher did not provide additional employees – there were only four people in the development team. John Tobias was responsible for the history and style of the game. John Vogel created most of the graphics. Dan Forden wrote music. He programmed the game Ed Boon, who also led the project.

The authors did not want to completely abandon the idea of ​​the game about ninjas and dedicated the project to martial arts. Under the influence of Street Fighter II, fighting game was chosen as a genre. The second source of inspiration was the film “Bloody Sport” with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“Bloody Sport”, 1988

In the story, Jean-Claude Van Damme would fall on a similar movie underground World Martial Arts Championship. But, unlike Street Fighter II, everything would have looked much more cruel and realistic.

The developers have already chosen to digitize real actors for character animation, when Midway found out: no one will give them rights to use the image of Van Damme. But, since the development has already begun, the studio continued to do the fighting game.

Now the main source of inspiration was John Carpenter ’s Big Trouble in Little China . Thanks to this, in Mortal Kombat, gods and characters with supernormal powers, Americans and Asians, fought with each other. Moving further from the realism towards the grotesque, Midway relied on cruelty in promoting the game.

“Big Trouble in Little China”, 1986

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s character turned eventually into Johnny Cage.

Mortal Kombat, 1992

Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger

Secret of Mana was originally developed specifically for the SNES-CD peripheral. Due to the large volumes of media, in comparison with cartridges, the game was planned to do more of the same Final Fantasy V in everything: in map size, in history, in the number of quests, in the number of characters. The game had a rather dark tone, and much of the plot was based on time travel.

But when the creators of the future PlayStation refused to continue developing the SNES-CD, Secret of Mana had to be greatly curtailed.

The studio removed so much from the game that, on the basis of the cut-out designs, Chrono Trigger was eventually made.

Chrono Trigger, 1995

Rise of triad

First, the studio Apogee developed a continuation of Wolfenstein 3D – Wolfenstein 3D: Rise of the Triad . The engine used is the same. From the new were only enemies, weapons, levels and plot.

According to the string, after the fall of the Third Reich, the remnants of the remaining Nazis established three trans-corporations. Together they formed the Triad — an organization that, in secret from everyone, is trying to unleash the Third World War and seize power. The Triad was going to crank all this with nuclear weapons and V-3 missiles.

BJ Blaskowitz sought to declassify the plans of the Triad and save the world from the Nazis. To do this, he had to go through an ancient mountain monastery, an underground necropolis, catacombs and a bunker with a supercomputer.

Six months after starting work on the project, John Romero called Scott Miller and announced that he was stopping development without giving any reasons. Perhaps in order not to distract id Software’s attention from the future Doom.

At the same time in id, Tom Hall quarreled with Carmack and Romero about Doom’s game design. He, unlike his teammates, wanted to make the Doom design more mundane, so that the enemies and the levels looked more realistic. He also wanted to prescribe the game a full story with characters. And although almost all of his achievements can now be read only in the Doom Bible, it was he who forced Carmack to add at least a couple of paragraphs of the plot to the game.

Despite some concessions, Tom Hall still left id Software and took over as chief game designer of Rise of Triad. Under his leadership, the game completely remade. So he implemented everything he wanted to see in Doom: realistic design, plot and even platforming. From Wolfenstein remained only the engine and style of the form of enemies.

Rise of the Triad: Dark War, 1994

The Elder Scrolls: Arena

In 1992, Bethesda Game Studios began developing the Arena game, inspired by Ultima Underworld, Legends of Valor, Might & Magic, Wizardry and D & D.

The process of creating pictures for Arena. As decorations – parts of Warhammer Fantasy sets.

A team of gladiators was in control, fighting with other teams in the arenas of several cities for the right to take the throne of the kingdom. In addition, the heroes had to fight with the mysterious demonic forces, preparing to take over the world.

First of all, the gladiators were preparing for battle, exploring the city and talking with different NPCs. At times they were given quests, the reward for which was gold and artifacts. Without them, pumping characters was much harder.

The fighting took place in real time. Between the characters it was possible to instantly switch – although it was possible to simply ask them a certain tactic.

Release Arena planned in October 1993. However, during the September beta test, one curious detail came to light: cleaning testers from side quests seemed to testers a hundred times more interesting than fighting in arenas.

They decided to postpone the release until 1994 in order to remake the game. Now it was an open world RPG with a focus on dungeon battles. The party was removed, as it simply interfered in narrow spaces.

Early screenshots of The Elder Scrolls: Arena

The game was renamed The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Ironically, there were no ancient scrolls per se, but the arena was only one – the planet Nirn, whose name was translated as “arena”.

The Elder Scrolls: Arena, 1994


For the first time in id Software we thought about creating a game called Quake during the time of the development of Commander Keen. The full original title is Quake: The Fight For Justice .

The main character was a character named Quake – the name was taken from one of John Carmack’s D & D campaigns . Quake became famous as the strongest and most dangerous man: he had the Lightning Hammer, the Ring of Regeneration, and another artifact that allowed him to travel between measurements. Fought Quake in the ranks of a secret organization that set out to defeat evil in the name of justice.

Promo Quake inside Commander Keen

Genre Quake: The Fight For Justice was a real-time RPG with side views. Among other features: fully animated backgrounds, challenging puzzles, plot variability and deeply written characters.

Commander Keen, 1990

In id, we managed to make several prototypes until we decided that it should be a game in full 3D. However, they did not have the necessary technologies for this, and therefore the idea was put off indefinitely.

The project was remembered again in 1993. Then John Romero first saw the breakthrough for his time, Virtua Fighter, the first fighting game with honest 3D graphics. He set about trying to do the same thing in Quake.

Virtua Fighter, 1993

However, during the development of the Quake engine, John Carmack refused the idea of ​​a hand-to-hand 3D-boev, considering it too complicated. Romero did not like it, but he still somewhat corrected his vision of the project. Now Quake seemed to him like a fantasy RPG about a guy with a giant hammer, like Thor. In general, something like Hexen, which Romero then produced – only in true 3D.

Hexen, 1995

Development of one of the first truly three-dimensional games terribly exhausted id Software. First, the design was dominated by Aztec style, there were dragons and besieged castles – but everything went under the knife for various reasons.

In the end, American McGee, who originally wanted to do something futuristic instead of dark fantasy, suggested making Quake gameplay like Doom. Since it was easier and faster to create a shooter without any RPG elements, his proposal was accepted almost unanimously.

Only Romero disappointed such a decision. However, he managed to push into the final version of the game most of the design in the style of dark fantasy.

Quake 1996


The first was the name of the game: David Brevik, the lead programmer, remembered the name of the mountain Diablo, which is near San Francisco. This, together with the developers’ love for D & D, determined the style of the project: fantasy with demons and other creatures, as if from hell. An isometric perspective was borrowed from X-COM: UFO Defense. The way the characters are depicted is in Primal Rage.

The gameplay was created with an eye on the genre of rogue like . Diablo was conceived as a kind of analogue of Rogue, Moria, NetHack or Angband about clearing dungeons with randomness in battles and loot, but with real graphics.

Battles, which is typical for the genre, were step by step. According to the developers, it was the anticipation of the outcome of the move that brought the necessary share of the suspense into battle.

However, Blizzard Entertainment believed that it was better to do battles in real time. David Brevik, however, continued to insist on a turn-based strike.

As a result, everyone in the studio, except for Brevik, voted for real time battles. Almost immediately after the vote, the developers in a few hours turned the fights into something similar to the Diablo we know.

I remember picking up the mouse, clicking on the screen. The warrior approached the skeleton and hit him on the head with a sword. Oh god, that was beautiful! The sun shone on my face through the window, the angels sang and all that. At that moment, the ARPG genre was born.

David Breviklead development programmer Diablo

In Blizzard, this decision was delighted and allocated an additional budget for the refinement of Diablo. Thus was born the famous series.

Diablo, 1996

GoldenEye 007

In November 1993, Nintendo commissioned Rare to develop a game for SNES based on the “Golden Eye” coming out in a year and a half, the next James Bond movie. At that time, Rare was planning to make something like its platform, Donkey Kong Country, under this license .

However, everyone who had experience developing platformers was already busy creating Donkey Kong Country, Project Dream and Killer Instinct. In addition, in Rare for the development of GoldenEye 007 took quite a small team – only ten people. Therefore, now the game was presented in the form of a three-dimensional rail shooter like Virtua Cop.

Nintendo 64 was chosen as the platform, although at the beginning of the development the authors had no idea what this console was capable of. For tests, they generally used controllers from Sega Saturn, since they simply did not have gamepads from N64.

In this form, the game existed until 1996 — by that time, the authors even managed to recreate almost all the locations from the film from photographs from the set. But after the release of the revolutionary Super Mario 64, they thought : why not make free movement in this three-dimensional game?

A few months later, Rare finally abandoned the “rail”. In addition, the free movement finally allowed to create a truly working version of multiplayer.


After the release of Donkey Kong Country, Rare employees wanted to make an RPG for SNES, as many of them were long-time fans of the genre. Inspired by the developers of LucasArts adventure games and classic JRPG. Technology Advanced Computer Modeling, already run-in in Donkey Kong Country, would allow the game to provide advanced graphics at the time. The working title of the new RPG chosen Project Dream .

Project Dream told the story of an adventurer boy named Edison, traveling with his girlfriend Madeleine and dog Dinger around a fairy-tale world. Once they stumbled upon the pirates, control ships, airships. At that moment, the pirates built a special flying ship, with which it was possible to gain supremacy over a vast territory. Edison set out to prevent them from collecting enough special substance to build this vessel.

According to the original concept, the boy would often have to fight evil trolls and dinosaurs. The latter often hid in the foliage of the jungle, so their presence sometimes had to be guessed by the foliage movement. And Edison could send his dog to dig useful items from the ground.

Over time, the authors decided that Project Dream is too ambitious a project for SNES cartridges. The development was transferred to another console – Nintendo 64. Especially since in December 95th they showed Ocarina of Time, demonstrating the impressive capabilities of the new console.

The name was changed to Dream: Land of Giants, and the game turned into full 3D. Gradually, the authors abandoned unnecessary fantasy elements in favor of pirated themes. If before Project Dream in many ways resembled a classic adventure game, now RPG-component has become dominant in it.

The boy Edison in the role of the protagonist stopped arranging Rare. First, they replaced the guy with a more unusual protagonist – the rabbit. Then a bear was put in place of the rabbit with a huge sword, in which the features of the future Banjo are easily guessed.

Development was delayed. The technologies used have already become very obsolete, and the concept of a pirated RPG for teenagers now seemed overwhelming to Rare.

Under the influence of the mega successful Super Mario 64 in 1997, Project Dream was canceled. Based on all the developments, it was decided to create a three-dimensional platformer Banjo-Kazooie, designed for a more childish audience – yet the authors had a great experience in this genre. And written for Project Dream one hundred and seven musical compositions were transferred to other Rare projects.

Thief: The Dark Project

In early 1996, Looking Glass Studios, known for Ultima Underworld and System Shock, began developing its new game. Great hopes were pinned on it, since past developer projects had not sold out too successfully. It was called Better Red Than Undead and was supposed to start a new franchise.

The main hero there was an American spy, leading intelligence in the USSR of the 50s. But not everything is so simple: because of the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the country began a zombie apocalypse. The main character had to destroy the threat, and had to use the sword – the bullets of Chernobyl zombies were not taken.

A poster on the theme of the zombie apocalypse in the USSR by Jeff McComsey

Genrely it was an isometric action-RPG in real time with a camera fixed on the main character in the center of the screen. It was also assumed that the spy along the plot would have to maneuver between several factions.

In fact, what eventually turned into Thief was Diablo in the STALKER Diablo setting , 1996

Eidos Interactive simply did not know how to adequately advertise such a game, so they refused from the communist zombies. But the idea of ​​fighting with swords intrigued them. Then Looking Glass completely changed the concept of the game and called it Dark Camelot.

The basis of the game’s world is the distorted story of King Arthur. He, in the version of the developers, was not a noble king, but an evil tyrant. Merlin is a psychopath. The Knights of the Round Table, in fact, differed little from the gang of bandits. They ruled in a gloomy anti-utopic Steampunk state. In which, however, did not invent gunpowder.

Camelot, ruined by Arthur’s reign, was full of guards, “hung” with the logos of various corporations. And right on the streets of the city one could meet various monsters: from zombies to snake-like mutants with rat snouts.

The main hero of Dark Camelot was Mordred – the illegitimate son of Arthur, who almost single-handedly fought against his father’s regime. At the very beginning, Mordred recognized the mystery of the Holy Grail: in fact, it was just a myth, designed to control the masses.

The game was first-person. Although Mordred had a bow, the authors wanted to focus on a complex system of fencing. Also in Dark Camelot was supposed to be leveling, non-linear missions and multiplayer. At first, they thought of adding a stealth mission to the game, but they decided to abandon them in favor of the speakers.

The studio was already working hard on the Dark Camelot engine, when there was a serious problem: the developers could not manage the main feature of the project – sword fighting. And the dates have already begun to tighten. Then they decided to focus on stealth, which would punish the player for direct encounters with the enemy. In this situation, clumsy fencing would not be a problem, but mechanics, stimulating the covert passage.

At the same time, the developers considered that arturian myths were too hackneyed to get a successful project based on them. Looking Glass took up inventing a more original, but the same dark and gloomy setting. Project renamed The Dark Project.

As a result, the rebel Mordred turned into a thief, Garrett, and dystopian Camelot – into a no less gloomy City. Before the release, the game was called Thief: The Dark Project.

Thief: The Dark Project, 1998

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

At first, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to make Ocarina of Time a first-person game in order to take full advantage of 3D graphics.

How about showing what Link never saw?

Shigeru miyamotoLead Of Zelda Development Manager: Ocarina of Time

According to his idea, most of the time Ocarina of Time would have been first-person, and when enemies appeared before Link, the camera would switch to the side view. The fighting in many respects should have reminded Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, 1987

But when the concept as a whole had already been worked out, Yoshiaki Koizumi, who worked on Link’s model, said that visually this boeing would look uninteresting.

Much had to be redone: from the device locations to the combat system, which eventually served as the basis for a huge number of subsequent console games, from Devil May Cry to Dark Souls.

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, 1998


When the staff at Black Isle Studios set about developing their first game, they didn’t really understand what it would be like in the end. They had only the role-playing system GURPS , and a couple of parting words from Steve Jackson, her creator.

Black Isle Studios: What do you think about the blood and violence in the game?

Steve Jackson: The more – the better! 

Difficulties in finding the desired setting were aggravated by the fact that GURPS, unlike D & D, was an extremely versatile system. With it, you could create virtually anyrole-playing adventure.

Developers about a week thinking about the first outline of the plot. And then they came to the conclusion: in the scenario you need to combine the maximum possible number of different settings. What they did .

The main character of their game was the most ordinary guy named Joe. His girlfriend was dragged to a gloomy spooky mansion by a group of god cultists, remotely resembling Cthulhu. Joe went to save her, but unsuccessfully: the hero was caught and thrown into a dark deep hole.

Resident evil 7

The guy got out of the pit and found himself in some unknown jungle. Soon he realized that he was in the past: raptors and triceratops roamed around. Joe had to survive in the prehistoric world.

In the course of his wanderings, the hero stumbled upon a wrecked alien spacecraft. A monkey was sitting beside him, who kept teasing Joe. Tom got sick of it, and he killed her with an accurate throw of a stone.

Inside the ship, Joe met hostile robots and aggressive monsters. With the help of the found universal translator, he found out that this ship was a time machine, whose crew collected creatures from different places and times for its zoo.

System Shock remake

Joe more or less figured out the controls and tried to go to his era. But failure awaited him: the ship crashed in the center of a huge futuristic metropolis.

There has never been humanity in this timeline: the butterfly effect has worked because of the monkey’s killing in the past. The place of people was taken by rational dinosaurs. They built a society that lives according to all the laws of cyberpunk. High-tech corporations ruled the world, and most of the planet lived in slums where gangs ruled. The rebels tried to fight corporations with hacker attacks.

Theodore Rex, 1995

Together with the rebels, Joe went to storm the building of the corporation, which conducted experiments on the spacecraft surviving apparatus for traveling in space-time. During the shootout, the device was destroyed, and the main character fell into some unknown ruins.

There he was attacked by a man who looked like an evil sorcerer. He called lightning on Joe several times with the help of magic – but to no avail, because Joe had “Superconducting underwear” to protect against electric weapons. The hero killed the magician with one blow.

Comic by El Mercenario

Locals immediately declared Joe a hero: that magician was the dark lord of these lands. To celebrate, they returned to their usual business – the enslavement of fairies.

As a currency in this world were quests. So for the right to return home, Joe was forced to perform the tasks of the witch. He saved the dragon from the princess, defended the peaceful orcs from the attacks of the heroes, and delivered a cute bouquet of flowers to the underworld.

For this, the witch gave Joe three potions. With the help of the first, he returned in time to the crashed ship in the jungle. The second potion Joe revived the monkey. And the third one has built a giant crystal around the main character and brought it into anabiosis.

Inside the crystal, he stayed for many millions of years. The hero was lucky: after all this time, the same mansion was built over him, into which they took his girlfriend. In the final, Joe climbed out of the crystal, shot all the cultists and saved his beloved.

Steve Jackson came to the plot in complete delight. But in Interplay such stories were not welcome .

Strange as it may sound now, but then we seriously thought about using this script. One of the producers slapped me on the face and said: “You will never do a game about it. No matter how many years you have prescribed such a plot, no one will ever let you realize it. ”

Tim CaineFallout Development Manager

The search for the desired setting continued. Space fiction had to be immediately abandoned: Interplay was working on a Star Trek role-playing game at that moment and did not want to create a competitor for it.

Then the authors took advantage of the following logic: their scenario for time travel resembled Meantime – a game from Interplay that did not live to see its release. And they developed it on the Wasteland engine. Suddenly it dawned on all: why not make the spiritual heir to Wasteland? Moreover, at the same time, the GURPS rule book about post-apocalypse was published.

Wasteland, 1988

So, Tim Kane in 1994 almost single-handedly began work on Vault 13: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure, which would later be called Fallout. For Interplay, it was an insignificant project, and therefore the studios gave more freedom in development. How it all ended, we already know.

Fallout 1997

Grand Theft Auto

In 1995, the development of the Race’n’Chase game for PlayStation, Windows, DOS, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 started . It was a fun, addictive and fast-paced multiplayer racing game with a new engine. The authors wanted to follow the example of Elite : to create a huge game world and give the player more freedom of action.


So that several cities accessible to the player do not feel empty, they began to invent various additional content for them. So the idea was born to make two incompatible branches of quests: for the police and for the criminals.

However, tests showed that chasing after criminals was not as fun as trying to hide from the police himself. And because the studio DMA Design (the future Rockstar North) has thrown all its strength to work out the criminal part of the game. Soon it was renamed Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto, 1997


After the release of the Myth tactical game in 1997, Bungie Studio began developing its new exclusive for the Macintosh. At first the game was called Monkey Nuts . Then it was renamed Blam! – due to the fact that the project manager Jason Jones could not pronounce such an indecent name in front of his mother.

Myth II: Soulblighter, 1998

Blam! It was a three-dimensional strategy in real time, reminiscent of Myth, but on the space theme, in many developers were inspired by “the Star landing”. The main features were realistic physics and a full three-dimensional landscape.

The studio actively experimented with different mechanics. For example, the camera could be brought close to the battlefield, and the transport was given to be controlled manually in order to better feel what was happening during the battle.

The developers continued to develop these ideas until they realized that they no longer fit into the strategy format – everyone wanted to make a game in which it would be necessary to control one character. In the middle of the 98th one of the ordinary foot soldiers was made the main character, and Blam! turned into a shooter.

In 1999, when Steve Jobs personally announced the new Bungie project at MacWorld, the game was already called Halo. In general, she was pretty much like the final result – except that she was in the third person.

After the presentation of the shooter at E3 2000 Halo made a first-person game. And when in the same year the studio bought Microsoft, Halo turned into an exclusive Xbox and acquired the subtitle “Combat Evolved”. According to marketers, just “Halo” gave future players not enough information about what the game is all the same.

Halo: Combat Evolved, 2001

Conker’s bad fur day

At E3 in 1997, Rare showed off her new project – 3D platformer Conker’s Quest , inspired by Super Mario 64. It was a bright, childish little game about a little squirrel collecting nuts and fighting with giants. According to the assurances of journalists, Conker’s Quest strongly reminded Banjo-Kazooie from the same Rare – only it was worse.

After the exhibition, the game was renamed Twelve Tales: Conker 64 and sent to rework to make it look less like Banjo-Kazooie.

For a couple of years there was no news about the project until Rare announced the imminent release of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. It was a converted Twelve Tales: Conker 64, in which only the plot globally changed. A good platformer pro squirrel turned into a game full of vulgar adult humor. For example, one of the bosses in the game is a huge pile of crap, performing an opera aria in honor of itself.Song of the Great Mighty Shit

Devil May Cry and Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 development began in 1999. The project was led by Hideki Kamiyu. The main character of the game was Tony Redgrave – a character with supersize. The plot revolved around how he wandered through one mysterious castle, trying to understand the nature of his forces.

According to the gameplay, it was a classic Resident Evil – but thanks to the supernatural abilities Redgrave could easily come together with monsters in the melee

Early concept art Resident Evil 4

As development proceeded, an increasing role in the game was assigned to close combat: there was even an enemy throwing mechanic out of a buggy early version of Onimusha. Because of this, the camera had to be made dynamic.

Over time, the game has increasingly turned into a Gothic slasher, and not the traditional horror series for the Surwaival. As a result, Tony was renamed Dante, and the project itself was Devil May Cry.

Devil May Cry, 2001

But Capcom still needed Resident Evil 4. Hiroshi Shibatu was put in charge of the development: he eventually left the free camera and the lock as the main location, but decided to turn the game into a psychological horror about Leon Kennedy. Under the direction of Shibata, Capcom made several early versions of the game. In one of them, for example, Leon tried to escape from the mysterious mystical fog, trying to seize his mind.

In another demo, Leon began to see ghosts. And although they were only a figment of his imagination, they could still kill him.

Capcom did not like all these ideas, so the project director was appointed the creator of the series, Shinji Mikami. Using some of the work of his predecessors, he led Resident Evil 4 to a familiar look.

Resident Evil 4, 2004

Splinter cell

In 1999, Ubisoft began developing a futuristic third-person shooter called The Drift . In the story, the protagonist named Buster traveled through the flying fragments of the post-apocalyptic Earth. In this new world, people moved to huge metropolises floating in the sky. Everywhere reigned atmosphere of retro-futurism.

The hero could repel opponents, but battles were preferable to avoid: if you raise the alarm, a crowd of enemies ran to Buster. To avoid this, he used his universal gadget: something between a pistol, a cat hook, a visor with different surveillance modes and a gun shooting video cameras.

Despite the interesting idea, the development went awry. The team was inexperienced, and therefore could not turn the selected concept into an interesting game. To save the project, The Drift in a hurry remade the game under the license “bondiana.” Unfortunately, nobody liked the demo, so the team was dismissed.

A few months later, game designer Nathan Wolf returned to The Drift and added a new game mechanic: stealth, indirect combat, the use of video surveillance cameras. His studios liked the studio so much that Ubisoft said: “Make this the killer of Metal Gear Solid 2”.

The first image of Sam Fisher

At that time, Ubisft just had Tom Clancy’s license, so the plot of the reworked The Drift was quickly determined: a realistic spy thriller about the NSA’s secret operations officer.

Splinter Cell, 2002

Warcraft III

In February 1998, Blizzard canceled the exit of the almost finished Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans from the Petersburg studio Animation Magic. The game produced a rather typical adventure game for those times – and the company then wanted to release only games under its own name that satisfy their “high quality standards”.

However, the developed game was not abandoned until the end: the plot was novelized and used as a prehistory for future parts of the franchise.

Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, 1998

Blizzard decided to take the development of games in the Warcraft universe into their own hands and began to create two projects at once. The first team worked briefly on an MMORPG inspired by Ultima Online. The second – did Warcraft Legends . It was a classic real-time RPG with a view from behind the character’s shoulder. Sometimes a small detachment of warriors walked with the main character.

Some time later, Warcraft Legends was renamed Warcraft: Fog of War. The genre was changed to role-based RTS, and the strategic part was expanded. Now it was necessary to travel around the map in order to find and capture new buildings in order to develop the only possible resource – gold. The more leadership the character had, the more creatures he could take with him into the squad. Each unit had its own special abilities.

Externally, Warcraft: Fog of War resembled Sacrifice, released a couple of years later. For the rest, it resembled the 1998 Rally: Seal of Mystery.

Sacrifice 2000

Gradually, several heroes were added to Fog of War, and they needed to switch between them. And then, when the game was announced under the name of Warcraft III in the 1999th, Blizzard completely abandoned the third-person view in favor of a more habitual strategy camera from above with the ability to circle the troops. So it was much more convenient.

The style of the game has also changed. Previously, they tried to make it more realistic , which is why everything was made more proportional. However, later in Blizzard it was decided that in 3D graphics of those times such a style looks silly – so the artists turned to a more hyperbolic design, which we are familiar with today.

Early Concert Art

The studio then abandoned most of the RPG elements. At this stage of development, it was assumed that the player would travel around the vast living world, where he would have to complete various quests that would move the plot. You could play for six different factions, including the Burning Legion and the goblins.

The whole story line of Thrall resembled the one that hit the final version of the game. However, everything else was very different from how we now know Warcraft III. For example, Arthas was not in the game. Instead of a mysterious, terrible epidemic, Lordaeron was tormented by civil war, and one of the main characters was the blind, emaciated Uther with a black eye patch. The tauren suffered from a fever. The night elves were entirely retired from the drow of D & D. The naga barely restrained the onslaught of unimaginably dangerous and creepy murlocs.

And then Blizzard changed her mind again: destroyed the global map and almost completely broke up with RPG elements. The plot with each month of development, more and more turned into the story that we know now.

Warcraft III, 2002

Far cry

In the late 90s, Crytek led the development of three games at once to attract publishers. The first was Silent Space – a space simulator with elements of real-time strategy. The second is Engalus cybrank shooter , inspired by Deus Ex, Half-Life and Metal Gear Solid. They were soon frozen to make way for the third project, X-Isle: Dinosaur Island .

The game was set on a huge tropical island, where the main character had to fight dinosaurs. The authors did not have any other plot details.

But there was a super-modern CryEngine engine, without loadings, visualizing huge levels. It is thanks to him that the technical demo X-Isle, loaded into the network in November 2000, caught the attention of Ubisoft.

In May 2001, the French publisher signed a contract with Crytek for the development of Far Cry – so now was called X-Isle.

Around the same time, the developers decided to completely abandon the dinosaurs. The reasons are simple: they seemed to them of little interest as opponents. Their place was taken by ordinary people and mutants. All other developments X-Isle: Dinosaur Island moved to Far Cry without any changes.

Far Cry, 2004


According to Hideki Kamia, who led the development of разработкуkami, at first the game did not have any coherent concept. The authors just made a game about the “image of nature.” As a result, Kamiya, trying to come up with something interesting, made a minute video about a wolf running through a field, around which trees immediately grew.

Later, the game designer gave up, recognizing that the direction in which he developed the game was too boring. Although the idea to make the main character of the game wolf, he decided not to give up. Then Kamiya decided to turn to Japanese mythology and turn an ordinary wolf into the incarnation of the Japanese goddess Amaterasu .

The connection of the plot with Japanese mythology quickly led the developers to the idea of ​​how to get around the graphic limitations of the PlayStation 2. They stylized the game as sumi-e – the traditional direction of Japanese painting. This not only gave Ōkami a unique style, but also pushed the authors to another gameplay mechanics – creating spells by drawing with a black brush.

Okami, 2006

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

In 2000, at the time of the creation of the X-Ray engine, only one thing was known about the game – it would be a shooter . Only over time, the project has become overgrown with plot and other details.

By 2001, this nameless game from GSC Game World turned into Oblivion Lost – a story about a distant future in which people gained access to the interplanetary network of hyperspatial tunnels. The main character was one of the scouts – people who explored new unknown worlds.

Gameplay Oblivion Lost was a completely ordinary linear shooter. Although it had large locations that could be moved on a hoverboard, a military vehicle and a helicopter. In addition, several teammates could travel with the main character.

But in the process of development, the authors realized that they simply did not have enough strength to work with a dozen different locations each other equally well. And the Oblivion Lost setting did not stand out among the huge number of shooters about the future.

Then someone in the team offered to make a game based on the Strugatsky ‘Roadside Picnic. Since the rights to the work could not be obtained, it was decided to transfer the action to a more original setting. Instead of exploring a large number of locations, GSC decided to focus on a small open world inspired by The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall and Morrowind. Well, then there was Chernobyl, the years of development and transfer, and cult status after release.


Assassin’s creed

In 2004, the development of the Prince of Persia – Prince of Persia: Assassins series spin-off began. The game was to be an assassin girl – a representative of the order of the Persian prince bodyguards. Together with the Prince of Persia acrobatics, one of the main features was the murder with a flicker blade. Also in the game was a cooperative.

However, in the same year, the first details of the upcoming generation of consoles appeared. The development of Prince of Persia: Assassins, it was decided to cancel – the game was created for the PlayStation 2 and the exit would be outdated. This partially provoked a rework of Prince of Persia: Kindred Blades in the Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.

Prince of Persia: Assassins early gameplay footage

After some time, a game designer Patrice Desilu read the story of Hassan Sabbah, the founder of the Order of the Assassins, and fired up the idea to make a game about the adventures of one of the Assassins during the Crusades.

He convinced Ubisoft bosses that the Prince of Persia: Assassins needed to be remade into an open world game in a medieval setting for a new generation of consoles. Thanks to Prince of Persia in this project, the concept of movement around the city using parkour appeared.

Assassin’s Creed, 2007


In 2002, after the release of Freedom Force, game designer Ken Levin and his studio Irrational Games decided to make the spiritual heir to System Shock 2.

In the same year, they quickly made a demo of the future project on the Unreal Engine 2 for the first Xbox. The action took place on an abandoned space station filled with genetic mutants. In the demo, the entire gameplay revolved around a vital resource. Three NPC types interacting with each other roamed through locations: drones-drones transporting this resource; defenders guarding drones; reapers trying to take a resource from drones.

Unfortunately, the demonstrators were not interested in the publishers: the action of the game took place in some gray dull corridors, and the enemies looked more like lumps of mucus on two legs. An ordinary-looking clone of a not particularly financially successful System Shock was not needed by anyone. The project is not covered, but sent for revision for a couple of years.

Early concept art

In 2004, the future BioShock acquired the beginnings of a plot . The main character was Carlos, the “deprogrammer,” an expert on rescuing people from religious sects. This time his goal was the daughter of an American senator, who fell into the cult of Silent Dawn.

When Carlos, infiltrating the ranks of the organization, flew on an airplane with other cultists, he was revealed. Started a shootout, during which the pilot was killed.

The plane fell near the island, where the headquarters of the cult. In the underground laboratory, where most of the game would take place, Carlos would meet strange mutants: people crossed with different sea creatures. These were unsuccessful attempts by the Quiet Dawn to bring out a new, perfect race of people. It all sounded like “Dr. Moreau’s Island.”

Early concept art

The ecosystem invented for the first demo was developed: cultist-protected NPCs now transferred DNA from various sea creatures. With their help, you could improve yourself. Crab genes would cover the protagonist with chitin shell, jellyfish genes would allow sting enemies with their hands. DNA also acted as currency. But these developments of the publishers are not impressed.

Early concept art

In 2005, Levin decided to change the concept of the game. The action is now unfolding in the near future. The plot began with a group of scientists on a mysterious tropical island stumbled upon a huge bunker. In the 60s, it carried out genetic studies of the Nazi cultists on the crossing of people and animals.

Early concept art

In the flooded corridors of the bunker, slugs pumped out plasmids from the dead bodies of dead enemies. They were guarded by clumsy Nazis in diving suits.

Levin was already tired that not a single publisher wanted to take on the spiritual successor of System Shock. Therefore, the studio for a couple of days made a demoabout the Nazi laboratory on the engine SWAT 4 and showed it to journalists. Despite the fact that in the video just showed thirty seconds of empty rooms, the demonstration had the desired effect.

Soon the developers became interested in the publishing house 2K Games, which took the project under its care. But as soon as 2K started financing, Ken Levin thought: the trash story about the Nazi-cult-mutants was still not very suitable for high-budget games. And the game designer himself is still not very well aware of what it will be about.

After much controversy, the scene was moved to an underwater city of the 60s with Art Deco architecture. This decision had two significant advantages at once: the environment looked unusual, moreover, it was no longer necessary to make locations in the jungle in the open air.

The plot is now more reminiscent of the “Heart of Darkness”, where the main character traveled deep into uncharted territories to see how primitive instincts completely absorbed seemingly civilized people. The way of life in the city was created on the basis of the libertarian ideas of the novel “Atlas Shrugged”.

Bioshock, 2007

Team fortress 2

After moving Team Fortress from the Quake engine to the Half-Life engine in 1999, Valve began developing a full-fledged continuation of the mod — Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms .

If the original Team Fortress was a bright and frivolous team shooter, the Brotherhood of Arms was turned into a realistic tactical multiplayer game. The studio wanted to show through it the horrors of war — like in Saving Private Ryan.

The Rocketjamps were the first to suffer – they were completely removed. From now on, all weapons were based on real prototypes, and it was important for enemies not only to fall, but to suppress them with fire. There were several huge maps in the game, on which military equipment traveled, from trucks to tanks.

There were 12 classes in the game, each with its own specialization. Medic, for example, now could not attack anyone at all. And the commander looked at the battlefield from a bird’s-eye view, coordinated the actions of other players via chat, caused artillery support and dumped cargo.

For the first time, the game was shown at E3 1999, where she won awards for Best Online Game and Best Action. The truth is that the development after this was somewhat delayed. Despite the success of the shown game among journalists, Valve was afraid to release Team Fortress 2 on the old engine. But on the Half-Life 2 engine, the game had to be redone entirely. Therefore, it was renamed Team Fortress: Invasion .

At first it was actually the Brotherhood of Arms, only with a different setting – now people fought with aliens. In the design of the characters, Roman motifs were clearly guessed. The developers liked them, so they decided to oppose the futuristic newcomers to someone from the past. As a result, they came to the option with diesel engine and soldiers of the First World War.

As the design became more and more caricatured, it began to lose in realism and gameplay. Gradually, the authors returned to the concept of a bright and frivolous team shooter.

In 2003, the 22-year-old hacker-fan of Valve games, Axel Djembe, hacked into the company’s internal network and got access to the documentation and source codes of the studio’s projects being developed. He decided to brag about his find to a friend, taking from his word that he would not tell anyone anything. That, of course, could not resist and posted the source code for Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress: Invasion to the network.

Because of this, Valve had to greatly change Half-Life 2. But Team Fortress: Invasion has changed even more. It was again decided to abandon the newcomers, and the visual style was inspired by the propaganda posters of the Second World War. So, albeit indirectly, one fan influenced two cult games.

Team Fortress 2, 2007


In 2005, Sucker Punch completed the development of Sly Cooper 3 and immediately conceived a new project – a game about a man who at one moment turned into a superhero. As the closest source of inspiration , unexpectedly, they chose the Animal Crossing series of games.

The superhero game from Sucker Punch then had a very childish cartoon style. In the story, for example, the main character fought with a gang of purple gorillas stealing balloons and defended the city divided into districts. There he fought crime, built bars, pet shops and other buildings — in general, he made the life of citizens better.

Animal Crossing, 2001

However, after six months of development and several different prototypes it was impossible to put the game together. Then in Sucker Punch decided to take the gameplay of GTA III as a guide. And the style was borrowed from the movie “Batman Beginning” and the DMZ comic , telling a realistic story about life in a destroyed New York demilitarized zone.

From the initial ideas to the final version, only ideas about the superpowers of the main character and the division of the city into districts survived. Perhaps it is for the better – it is still difficult to imagine Animal Crossing, but in the open world and about superheroes.

InFamous, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum

In 2007, Rocksteady Studios showed everyone its new engine, bragging that any game could be made on it and it would look good. Warner Bros., who owned the studio, and Eidos Interactive publisher offered them the idea of ​​a Batman game. The developers quickly came up with a couple of concepts, they all liked and the project gave the game a green light.

The Arkham Asylum team was relatively small – only forty people. But they really wanted to do something that would completely immerse the player in the life of Batman. Therefore, the game was conditionally divided into several parts: dialogues, detective investigations and battles.

At that time, such popular games as Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Rock Band were very popular. Therefore, Rocksteady seemed logical to borrow a couple of mechanics and make fights with similar gameplay.

Guitar Hero, 2007

According to the authors, when Batman met with enemies, one big QTE was turned on , in which you would need to rhythmically press certain buttons, like in some Guitar Hero. Later, the developers wanted to give players more freedom and modeled the fights in a two-dimensional plane – but at the core there were still QTE.

A little later, everything evolved into an already familiar to us combat system in a three-dimensional perspective, with dodging, several types of attacks and counterattacks. However, the influence of rhythm games in battles was still felt.

I adore scenes of fighting in Kung Fu films and their rhythm. And I wanted to convey the rhythm of such a battle during the game for Batman in his choreography.

Sefton hillHead of Batman Development: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum, 2009


From the start, Borderlands was a mixture of a diablo-like RPG with a shooter in a post-apocalyptic setting. But she kept a realistic style, similar, for example, to Rage from id Software.

However, in the later stages of development, Gearbox moved to a more insane and cartoon style, where all three-dimensional objects were circled in thick black lines. So the game looked more bright and attracted attention.

The developers were particularly influenced by the short film Codehunters 2007. It is so much like the final Borderlands style that now you can take it as a CGI trailer for the game or a fan clip based on the Borderlands.

Borderlands, 2009


In 2004, the development of the classic JRPG based on ” They ” – an unrealized script directed by Akira Kurosawa, began. It was a story about a white-haired foreign hero traveling around Japan in the Sengoku period. The release of the game was assigned to the 2006th exclusively for the PS3.

Early promo art

Some time later, the project’s concept was decided to be redone: the studio could not do anything worthwhile based on the Kurosawa script. Of the original designs left only the hair color and the origin of the main character. Now it was already a game in the style of the Dynasty Warriors, where the protagonist fought with entire armies alone.

Dynasty Warriors 6, 2007

The main character was made by William Adams – the real English navigator and the first European who received the title of samurai. Also, the developers were inspired by the novel “Shogun” about the adventures of a character similar to Adams.

Since the game was planned to be strongly promoted outside the Japanese market, the hero had to speak Japanese, while the Japanese – in English. However, they soon refused such an idea: she was too mad.

Nioh was originally supposed to be a dark and adult game, even with elements of light erotica. And its theme was the cycle of life and death. In the course of development, more and more mystics began to be added to history: from a certain point, many of William Adams’ enemies turned into monsters from Japanese mythology.

Mini-series “The Shogun”, 1980

The development continued, but even by 2012 the game still looked raw – because of this, they even wanted to cancel it. Team Studio Ninja, which previously helped a bit with development, helped: so that the game was not lost, they took control of it.

When thinking about the gameplay, the authors looked in the direction of Dark Souls – especially since it fit into the original concept of the cycle of life and death. Another source of inspiration is Diablo, from which they took attention to the loot falling out of their enemies. The mystical side of the setting was turned to the maximum: youkai Japanese monsters became the main type of opponents. So it turned out Nioh. And let nothing be left of her in the same script of Kurosawa as she is good as a souls-like.

Nioh, 2017

The fact that the original concept of the game can be very different from the final version is a familiar story. Not all ideas can be turned into interesting mechanics, some of them become obsolete, others just turn out to be too ambitious. Another thing is that most of the games on this list have become iconic, even having changed a lot. So perhaps it is for the best.

But if to dream: what games would you like to see in the form in which the authors originally intended them?

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