Mod communities are encouraged to the point where they offer Garry's Mod, a mod for mucking about with physics objects in HL2, free on Steam. They also include the Source SDK with every Source game bought on Steam.
Valve happily hires people whom have shown promising work and projects. Portal's developers were originally students at Digipen, and Team Fortress 2's developers were originally struggling to maintain an indie company until Valve took them under their wing, much like Left 4 Dead's devs. They hired Adam Foster, the guy behind the Minerva: MetastasisHalf-Life 2 maps, who worked Portal 2, as well as Makani, who did a fanart of the Team Fortress 2 announcer that the company took a liking to, and have now made it canon with their update, which contains a comic she did.
The Orange Box was 5 games for a measly $30. This isn't one of those shovelware compilations or one of those that is just five old titles being repackaged for a lower price though, these were five fully-fledged, brand new AAA titles. Nowadays it's usually sold for $5.
The developers that made Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines stayed on for months after the company filed for bankruptcy without pay to release a patch that added a lot of content back into the game and fixed a whole host of bugs.
Black Mesa is a prime example for the modding community. All the effort of an officially licensed game, but entirely free to the community. Everything is polished and well done. The best words to describe it: "A labor of love by fans of Half-Life."
The Team Ico Series. Neither ICO or Shadow of the Colossus sold very well, but Sony continues to fund and support Team ICO because ICO and SOTC were met with universal acclaim from the press and gamers alike. They are considered two of the very best games on the PS2 and any conversation about "games as art" will inevitably include a discussion of these particular examples.
Telltale also provides an arguably negative example of this trope. Part of the reason they switched from the point-and-click interface to the much-maligned directional arrows found in Escape from Monkey Island and Grim Fandango is because it's very hard to do cinematic angles with the traditional point-and-click. They have worked on ways to incorporate the mouse into the control scheme, but not everyone is happy about it and this has led to accusations of them being more concerned with visuals than with gameplay.
They also get a lot of (perhaps deserved) flack for their puzzles being incredibly simple. It's pretty clear they care more about telling good stories than constructing challenging games. To be fair, they ARE pretty damn good at the former so many are willing to forgive them that.
Hideki Kamiya, formerly of Clover Studios and now of Platinum Games, with this tweet that says it all. If needing an example, Ōkami has often been cited as one of the most beautiful games visually out there.
Arc System Works seems to put a quite of attention to their fighting games. Both BlazBlue and Guilty Gear have high resolution 2D sprites with various animation, voice work, music that depends on character matchups. Blazblue and the most recent Guilty Gear Xrd deserve mention to the use of 3D technology as BlazBlue uses it as a model for hand painting their sprites while Xrd uses the models, but animated them slightly choppy and custom colored per frame to maintain the old animated sprite look.
Blazblue has idle animations for characters. Idle animations in a fighting game. In normal, serious gameplay, you would just never see them. Presumably, this is the only explanation for why ArcSys would include them.
Metal Slug. How many run and gun shooters were there back then—or even today that do as much random stuff as Metal Slug? Enemy conversations, animated chin movements, fifty different ways of watching the exact same tank explode? Nobody asked for all this: somebody just really wanted to make a detailed shooter.
If you have the chance, try going to the first stage of the first game. Early on, you get the Flame Shot and you can pass through a destroyed part of an airplane fuselage. Firing it will actually lighten up the area around you. This, in a fully 2D game with no added lighting effects of any kind, is just another mark of how incredibly detailed a game Metal Slug is.
Super Smash Bros. started out as a fun, but relatively simple brawler featuring Nintendo all-stars—a concept so inherently fun that messing around with it wasn't really necessary. The reason it's on this list is for its sequels, namely the trophies: both Melee and Brawl feature trophies of countless characters from Nintendo's past, all with descriptions of several sentences. It's a subset feature of the game which many people don't even look at. For those who do, it's hard to shake the feeling that somebody out there really, really admires Nintendo's history.
There's a video series on YouTube about The History Behind Smash Brothers (link, if anyone's curious), which reveals that nearly everything in the game, from random parts of the stages to every item to the characters' fighting moves is a reference to the games on which they are based. The music is filled with random bits from various games, the stages have multiple references to older stages from the original games, and the moves, even quickest and most random, are from older games. The sheer amount of it is staggering.
The best example of this might be Mr. Game & Watch's moveset. Every single attack he has is a reference to one of his games, including the moves that would usually be a generic punch or kick on a different character.
Project M. Why would fans spend years working (without pay) on such a massive mod of Brawl? Because they loveMelee and its community. Most mods fall under this.
Cave Story may not seem all that impressive to big brand name releases like Metroid and Castlevania, but consider this: the entire game, and the "Studio Pixel" responsible for it, consists entirely of one person. Who made all of it. Over the course of 5 years. During the time he graduated and started to work. The kicker? He wasn't even considering working in the game industry, he just did it for fun.
Team Shanghai Alice, which is one guy named "ZUN", made the Touhou Project, a whole series of Shoot Em Ups that has become perhaps the best known among the anime crowd. The one series alone spawned dozens, if not hundreds of doujin circles, creating music, videos, and manga. He's very generous with the copyright as he let's others make whatever they want, provided that they don't call it an "official" work. This may be the reason why he doesn't care so much about commercializing his series.
Xenosaga required loads and loads of manpower in order to pull off the technical feats it could—especially when you consider that it was a first-generation PS2 title. But man, did we really need that many cutscenes?
On the other hand, Xenogears,Xenosaga's predecessor, suffered from budgeting and timing problems, leading to the infamous second disc featuring the protagonists relating much of the story in walls of text. However, it says a great deal about the creator that the story continued to shine and grow even more detailed and complex.
The Monkey Island games feature an enormous amount of detail, especially impressive when we consider that the early games only had something like sixteen colors.
Nintendo says they put their top teams onto their casual video games—Wii Sports and the like. Most developers scoff at such an idea. Those games are inexpensive enough to be almost guaranteed a profit. Nintendo does have potboiler games, but they don't seem to think casual games are potboilers.
Given how many other companies have tried and failed to duplicate Nintendo's success with casual video games, this seems to be a case of Much Harder Than It Looks.
The MOTHER series. There's a good reason why only three MOTHER games have ever been made, and why they have such a devoted fanbase. All Shigesato Itoi wanted from this series was the chance to experiment with telling a good story in a new, different medium. All that's likely to bring him back to the series is feeling that he has a new story to tell for it. Actually, this extends to most things Itoi has ever done and the purpose of his current work, the Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun.
You want an example? In EarthBound, Welcome to Corneria is completely averted. Completely. Every single NPC in the game has at least one dialogue change, and often more. Never mind that most of these NPCs are in towns you'll never visit again once you're done with your business there. MOTHER 3 does the same thing.
And then there's Mother 4. Not to be deterred by Itoi's official statement that the Mother series is finished, some die hard fans have started work on what seems to be an incredibly professional sequel for no reason other than their passion towards the series.
Chrono Cross, meanwhile, ventured in a completely different direction for the sole reason that its creators felt Chrono Trigger was so good that trying to replicate it would merely be redundant. Both written and directed by Masato Kato, the head writer for Trigger, Cross features a more personal and ponderous narrative and explores the themes of its predecessor from very different perspectives; the game incorporates a number of incredibly ambitious ideas (such as an absolutely huge roster of playable characters, complex and branching storylines, and high-minded philosophical themes) that few, if any games have attempted since. By far the most done-for-the-art aspect of the game, however, is the soundtrack: even though he had just quit Square Soft, Yasunori Mitsuda was hired to score the game simply because Kato considered him an indispensible part of the Chrono formula. The decision to compose two different songs for each area—one for each dimension—was made at the last minutes, simply because Kato and Mitsuda thought it would be a good idea. The singer and lyricist for the ending theme, a relatively obscure artist by the name of Noriko Mitose, was chosen despite Square Soft PR's wishes for a more popular and marketable singer, simply because her style was deemed right for the game.
In most video games, incidental NPCs—even named ones—generally have no voice acting, two-dimensional personalities, and don't ever get up to much of anything. Not so in Psychonauts. Every single character in the game—and there's gobs of 'em, around 30 or so—is fully voiced, with their own quirky personality, and their own mini-story they follow through the course of the game—such as the Love Triangle between Nils, J.T., and Elka, Quentin and Phoebe's garage band, and Mikail's search for the camp's bear population, which somehow leads to him and Maloof becoming the camp's local mobsters. It must be seen to be believed.
This level of character detail is more or less a staple in Tim Schafer's games. In fact, rumor has it that he managed to flesh out each character in the game so well was by creating fake accounts for each character on a social networking site and playing out their lives through them.
Just one of the many examples from NetHack: There exists an enemy named the Quantum Mechanic. Upon death, it will sometimes drop a box. Inside the box is either a live cat or a cat corpse. If you check the source code, you'll find that the contents of a quantum mechanic's box, unlike all of the other boxes in the game, are not determined until you open it, just for the little extra joke that most people will never find. (Considering that the NetHack community is the one that coined the phrase The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, though, it's not that surprising.) And the game is free, people!
To elaborate: Nethack has been developed by computer nerds with too much time on their hands since the 80's, has been ported to pretty much every operating system known to man (yes, even the iOS). And even though Nethack has ceased active development, people are STILL MAKING PATCHES AND VARIANTS of the game.
Victor Ireland of Working Designs was clearly Doing It for the Art. Not everyone liked all of their art, but they put a phenomenal amount of effort into localizing relatively obscure Japanese RPGs, even in the days before Final Fantasy VII brought RPGs into the United States mainstream.
Working Designs's staff went out of their way to rewriteGratuitous English into more natural-sounding English. Furthermore, they lobbied to keep the PS1 port of Ray Crisis 100% intact, right down to a minigame for an accessory not released in North America.
Odin Sphere is an incredibly detailed game for the Playstation 2 that is made to have story book-fairy tale aesthetics. From background to foreground, it has tons of detail (every limb has its own animations) that only adds to the fantastical nature of it's setting. The entire design team consists of eleven people.
The whole backstory of Final Fantasy XII: imagining a whole functional world with dozens of ethnicities, political subplots, more than a thousand NPCs, secondary characters who are more detailed than main characters from other games, detailed work on the different countries' architecture, clothing fashions, it feels like Square was trying to say "Yes, we can make something else than milking fanboys with remakes and spinoffs." Even unfinished and compromised (Vaan was not the original main character) it's still impressive.
A lot of work went into the bestiary, especially how much information they provided about all the monsters, and the small articles about different areas of the game. A lot of time and effort obviously went into what a lot of games usually throw in as a basic monster list.
The DS Dinosaur King game looks like your average Pokémon clone, and is a licensed game. However, it has some of the best 3-D effects on the system (80+ dinosaurs in full 3D), puts effort into reconstructing the dinosaurs as accurately as possible (feathers on the ones which had them), uses many dinosaurs which otherwise would not be in a game, and has a Pokedex-clone which goes into depth in terms of dinosaur classification.
Dwarf Fortress: a world simulator/game written entirely by one guy that attempts to realistically simulate, among other things, the effects of hand-to-hand combat on individual layers of skin, but uses ASCII graphics. Additionally, it is impossible to win.
One joke on the Bay 12 forums held that Toady wouldn't be done with the game until it represented a perfect simulation of reality down to the quantum level. The next response to that involved dwarven nukes. The Bay 12 Forums are a fun place.
Primal: A tribute to old-school hard graphics problems.
Planescape: Torment featured an incredibly complex and detailed non-linear plot exploring existential themes. The dialogue is a few books worth and features superb voice acting. Many critics have compared Torment favorably to literary works, a stunning achievement for the ghettoized genre of video game fiction.
The Legacy of Kain series likewise featured a rich and complicated story fleshed out with hours of surprisingly eloquent dialogue that would not appear foreign in a work of Shakespeare's.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was in development for almost 2 years, just so developer Cing could make the comic book style character animations, which were done frame by frame.
Last Window was being developed while Cing was facing bankruptcy. While the game was being translated for an EU release, Cing did file for bankruptcy. The game is arguably even better than the first
The Conduit, a FPS for the Wii, started in development without a publisher (meaning they had nobody to actually sell the game to stores yet), because the developers were sick of what they felt was developers shafting the system (they were known for making licensed games for years, but that was more what's known as Paying Their Dues). From the interviews and the extensive soliciting of ideas and feedback, it's clear they were thrilled to finally get to do it for the art.
Too Human suffered from this, with years of prolonged development (and the issue that led to the lawsuit over the Unreal 3 Engine) making it one of the most expensive games ever made, possibly in the top three.
The Myst series, to varying degrees. Myst was a complete gamble: nobody had done anything like it before, Cyan didn't know whether the available tools were up to it, and they had no idea whether it would sell. They didn't even have work premises when they started on it. Myst II: Riven not only pushed the boundaries of rendering technology, but also featured a complete invented language with novel glyphs (which was entirely non-essential to the plot and gameplay). While being considerably less of a financial gamble, the following sequels have all followed the same philosophy of lavish and intricate design and production.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Nintendo delayed the game's release for six months to polish the graphics, when it knew full well that the game was likely to sell well as it was (assuming the graphics were all that was unfinished). In addition, there are tons of areas that the average player is never likely to go near; the "world map" is much, much bigger than they needed to make it.
Ocarina of Time was also famously delayed for about a year, with a major overhaul of the plot, so that it would be the best game ever made.
Eiji Aonuma, producer of the current Zelda games, stated that he doesn't look at sales when he makes a Zelda game, but rather, how to give a compelling package that provides the players with memorial and compelling experiences, meaning all the Zelda games he worked on fall under this trope.
The Metroid series in general goes to great lengths to make things atmospheric when they could have just given you a map and said "shoot this".
Metroid Prime: Rain droplets appearing for the briefest of seconds on Samus' visor, her involuntary jerking her hand to protect herself when she takes heavy fire, being able to see the bones of her arm when wearing the X-Ray visor, and that's without taking into account all of the fluff info you can find out by scanning, like what sort of rations the Space Pirates eat. These little details helped make Prime into one of the most atmospheric games ever.
Shenmue. Each and every character has their own personal schedule and voice acting, along with a lot of information about them you can't even find without the player's guide. There are tons of buildings you can enter that have no point in the game world other than to be entered and looked at (compare to Grand Theft Auto, where if a building can be entered it has to have a point). There's a mode which has completely authentic weather for the year. No wonder it was the most expensive video game of its time.
Shantae, was released near the extreme end of the Game Boy Color's lifetime (2001!), and was put out by the then-unknown WayForward Technologies. The main character was based on random sketches from the creator's wife. The game features crazily detailed and fluid 8-bit animation, using a truly insane number of sprites (in some areas, Shantae is built out of several sprites so she can utilize multiple color palettes), and was done up in classic, "hardcore" Metroidvania format despite its cutesy cover. Did the game sell well? No. Did critics adore it? Yeah! For years, WayForward had been trying to make a sequel, and couldn't find a publisher, so they published it themselves on DSiWare.
The English localization of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is said to be NIS America's biggest undertaking to date. To start, more than 70,000 lines of written dialogue and 10,000 voice samples had to be translated, which is far greater than any other localization in their history. A Wii port was commissioned to Idea Factory just for the North American release. To somewhat minimize the inevitable Subbing versus Dubbing debate, the game's first run shipped with two discs for the PS2 version, one containing the English dub and the other with the original Japanese audio (both otherwise containing the same game). Subsequent shippments, if any, will only contain the English audio disk; but given how large the voice data is that two dubs apparently couldn't be included on one disc, they could have easily left out one or the other entirely. In addition, some names were changed in the dub, but the original names are preserved in text in the Japanese version, rather than simply sharing the same script. It speaks to NIS America's faith in the American Sakura Taisen fanbase that all of this effort is for a five-year-old game that consists mostly of Dating Sim segments, a genre that has very little following in the Western market. Shame that Segacouldn't be bothered to bring it over themselves.
Super Meat Boy for WiiWare was canceled. Why was it axed, you ask? Nintendo would not increase the service's 40mb file limit and Team Meat—itself a two-man team—is not willing to stoop down to a file-size-induced Porting Disasternote The Steam version is around 230mb, for the record. that would have had, in their own Word of God, no Dark World (read: half of the game), no bosses, no leaderboards and a far smaller soundtrack.
The Xbox 360 version of DoDonPachi: DaiOuJou BLACK Label ended up being a Porting Disaster. Why? After an investigation at Arika at Cave's request, the source code was being held by a management company and 5pb., the company in charge of the 360 port, stole the source code from the PS2 version. Normally, a company would sue 5pb. into next week. What did Arika do instead? After an apology from 5pb.'s CEO, Arika's CEO, Ryo Mizutani, forgave them and Arika Vice President Ichiro Mihara is now helping 5pb. make a better port of DDP: DOJ.
Thunder Force VI utilizes two different languages for in-universe text and speech, neither of which are Japanese or English. One of these languages is Tangut, an ancient language somewhat related to Chinese, and the other is Mongolian, an uncommon language to employ as a Gratuitous Foreign Language. And the even better part? The omake material has translations into Japanese and transliterations into katakana and roman characters for the in-game speech.
Thunder Force Gold Pack 2's version of Thunder Force IV has the Styx from Thunder Force III available to use through a secret code. When you play as the Styx, look at the font for the HUD: it's the same style of Thunder Force III's HUD text.
Gran Turismo 5 appears to be invoking this trope. It has been in development since some time in 2005, and has apparently had every developer in the employ of Polyphony Digital working on it at the same time, during some of the development cycle anyway. The reason for that? It has one thousand individual cars. Extreme attention to detail is apparently the prime directive of Polyphony.
Most of the cars (labeled "standard cars" in-game) were copied from Gran Turismo 4 and the PSP Gran Turismo game, however, including such iconic cars as the Bugatti Veyron.
The Elder Scrolls series. While most of the developers are doing these games for the money, the enormous and detailed world and back story show that at least someone put a lot more effort in to the games than they had to.
There are in-game readable books, and they're not just one or two pages long but usually in the 10s. In fact, every book you pick up in that game almost always has a unique story/information in it. All the in-game-books and notes of Morrowind put together amount to 1241 pages!
"It will take 4 million sales at full price to recoup the development costs of Red Dead. The good news is they [Rockstar] are not expecting to make money with Red Dead Redemption. At this point, that project is just supposed to prove that the San Diego studio can make a great quality AAA title."
One thing that really stands out about Mabinogi is that every NPC with a name and a face has his or her own music. Every single one. And it's pretty good music, too. Someone must've really been feeling creative.
Katawa Shoujo is a Visual Novel done entirely by a worldwide group of amateurs being distributed for free, simply because the developers wanted to turn an idea and characters (a game where all the potential love interests were disabled schoolgirls) from an omake page from a doujinshi into reality.
What's even more staggering is the project was birthed on 4chan, yet the subject matter is handled with much more care, respect and dignity than many a Very Special Episode cares to afford.
Metal Gear. Hideo Kojima in general not only shows off his work quite a bit (even though some things turn up wrong) but put most of that info into the game. The amount of things found in the CODEC conversations is vast...to say the least. He also loves to play with the the engine even if the feature is absolutely useless. For example, you can find realistic melting ice in Metal Gear Solid 2.
Like the Pokémon example in the anime folder, Sonic Team took a trip to Central America to get inspiration for Sonic Adventure's storyline, which ended up having much Mayincatec influence.
Final Fantasy I. After several mediocre at best attempts to make profitable video games and losing money on all of them, the designers at Square decided they only had one more chance to make a game before being bankrupt, and instead of using the last chance to try and come up with something guaranteed to make money, they instead decided make a game they would want to play, leading to the most ironic title in video game history.
Super Robot Wars, especially in Z, where the artists gave the older shows some truly awesome Retraux effects simply to show that, yes, they still love the oldies that much.
Billy Vs SNAKEMAN is an anime Affectionate ParodyMMORPG almost entirely created by one guy (though some artwork is commissioned from independent artists) whose day job is owning an anime store. The game also has an elaborate backstory (above and beyond what comes with the plots getting parodied), and occasionally parodies some utterly obscure anime.
Alan Wake deserves its place here. Remedy, the developers, went out halfway across the world to sit down and take thousands of pictures of a small pacific town surrounded by forests and mountains just so they could capture the appropriate feel of it. As a result, they created one of the most atmospheric games out there.
Koji Kondo had to force Mahito Yokota to scrap all 28 musical pieces the latter had composed for the first game because Kondo didn't think they fit. Once they got the soundtrack's direction sorted out, though, Yokota soldiered on once again, and his extra efforts yielded what is generally considered one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.
Some of the fan-made mods for Civilization IV are hugely detailed with thousands of hours of work going into them. For free. Particular shout out goes to Rise of Mankind, which some have called the real Civilization V, and Fall from Heaven, a dark fantasy mod that takes the basic gameplay elements and changes everything else. Again, they did this all for free and don't even take donations.
Radiata Stories has over one hundred and fifty recruitable NPCs, each of which have their own unique back story. The game keeps a twenty-four hour clock mechanic, and every character has a schedule they keep to. Characters will spar, go shopping, visit the doctor's, go to the bathroom, get plastered at pubs, you name it. Every character has a unique schedule suited to their personality. One fun thing to notice is what time characters go to bed and rise: one dedicated monk checks in at 8 p.m. and wakes at 5 a.m.; another drinks his nights away until 2:30 and doesn't get up until noon.
Mortal Kombat really deserves a mention here. Not only because of little touches like the continuity references sprinkled throughout the game for the fans to enjoy but because of the dedicated team members who are as integral to each game's development as much as many of the characters are. Ed Boon, John Vogel and Steve Beran are just a few of the developers at Midway—now Netherrealm Studios—who give so much for their game series. It has to be said that, in spite of whatever mixed reactions people may have had to the MK games over the years, it takes a lot to do things like add six-hundred and seventy-six unlockable extras in Deadly Alliance, including a lot that are only there to make the player smile.
Spiderweb Software seems to be aiming for this, but getting tripped up by its perpetual financial difficulties. Geneforge is a very unusual series best described as a westernized Shin Megami Tensei, and it's never really sold all that well, but the people who like it like it a lot. Avernum......well, it's a popular series, but apart from its setting Beneath the Earth it's pretty obviously an Ultima clone minus the moral philosophy that made Ultima so different from other Role Playing Games. Even the chief developer seems to have qualms about having made a series where, in his words, you "look around for people who look different from you, break into their homes, kill them, take their stuff, sell it, and use the money to buy better weapons to kill a higher class of people who look different from you." Between 2005 and 2009 it alternated between releasing Avernum and Geneforge sequels, the latter of which became increasingly dark and, to a certain extent, artistic, and the former of which soured on the fans a bit, but still sold far better than Geneforge. (As of this writing, both series have been discontinued in favor of a new IP, Avadon, so it'll be interesting to see whether Spiderweb has finally managed to strike a balance between what the creators want to make and what the masses want to purchase.)
The background lore of Sword of the Stars is rich enough to put Role Playing Games to shame. Just check out the official forums, where writer Arinn "Erinys" Dembo addresses lots and lots of fan queries. Most developers would be content with short backstories, never mind actually building on the existing lore in response to fans.
Localization example: in 2010, XSEED Games formed a partnership with Falcom to localize some of the latter's games on the PlayStation Portable. Three of them are from Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky trilogy, which is known for having thousands of lines of text...per game. (Although no specific publishers were confirmed, that alone was apparently enough to have other publishers refuse to translate it.) Although the trilogy is popular in Japan, XSEED has to deal with a market in which gamers are either aren't familiar with the series or associate The Legend of Heroes name with Bandai's (later Namco Bandai) "Blind Idiot" Translations of the previous three installments. Needless to say, it takes balls for a game localizer, and a fairly new one at that, to localize that many games under such circumstances.
In 1997, Looking Glass Studios began work on System Shock 2, the sequel to the 1994 game (which sold decently, but wasn't much of a moneymaker). The team hired for the project only had a year to complete their project, working with an unfinished graphics engine (the Dark Engine, which would be used in the Thief series of games). They had to endure staff walkouts, which arguably made the remaining team members become closer as a result. The game also codified many elements of the action genre in one game—branching character paths, an open-ended gameplay experience, a constantly-changing environment, RPG elements and a extreme infusion of horror—something unheard of at the time. The game ended up being regarded as one of the scariest video games ever made, resulted in critical accolades and awards that continue to this day, received a Spiritual Successor in the form of Bioshock and Dead Space, and the creators still release materials related to the game (Ken Levine released design sketches and concept art, while composer Eric Brosius released the entire soundtrack to a fansite) more than a decade later.
Even after the game was released for Steam in 2013, the guys at Irrational thought it was about time to add support to Mac and Linux, as well as updating the game to contain extra content free of charge. The content in question was the game's soundtrack, concept art and original pitch, plus some additional documents.
Everything done by CyberConnect2. The .hack franchise is known for creating a fascinating world in its fictional MMO known as, well, The World. The Naruto games they make do their very best to capture the essence of the franchise in its action, art direction, overall style, and makes them legitimately good licensed games.
Then there's Asura's Wrath by the same people, of which the creative process was a painstakingly long one and a half years of world building and story creation, and that was before the game itself was developed to tech demo level. Plus there's the enriched, well-researched Asian mythology aspects of the game, mixed with Science Fiction and Space Opera, to craft a unique and interesting world, with similarly beautifully-designed characters and monsters. And the sheer scope of the game. All of this, combined with the above examples from CyberConnect2's other games, created just because the CEO of CyberConnect2 genuinely loves what he does: making games.
One must also count JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle. It is clear that it was made by the people that love the series. Nearly every animation references something from the manga, as do the movesets and the stages,and there is such a truly astounding attention to the mythos of the series that it gets it's own pages for The Dev Team thinks of everything, as well as mythology gags . The creators said that their main goal was to make a game that provides the best possible Fanservice for the fans of the series, and then make it a good game. Judging from the 40/40 from Famitsu and the 500,000 copies from pre-orders alone as well as rave reviews, they succeeded on both accounts.
After all development for Fallout: New Vegas was officially completed, including the patches and Downloadable Content, project director and lead designer Joshua Sawyer released a mod for the PC version that rebalanced the game and all of its expansions in many respects, making it more challenging overall. Changes included making the necessity meters in Hardcore Mode fill up faster, making healing items rarer and giving them weight, decreasing the rate at which the Player Character gains experience, and altering how much weight could be carried.
In a tangentially related instance, during the development of the original ''Fallout, many members of the QA team worked weekends for free as the game entered crunch, forgoing the extra pay that would come with working offhours and overtime.
Even after getting laid off, the dev team created a crowdfunding drive, managing to raise enough funds for five DLC characters, all offered for free for three months after their release. And despite the game's infamous Troubled Production, development for the game still progresses, with patches released frequently and developers communicating with fans. The game has been regularly called a "labor of love", and it shows.
The Resident Evil remake has a nice touch that has probably not been seen in the ten years since: Wesker's boots are detailed to the point where it's shown that the top holes are not laced through. Each character also wears a unique watch, and at the time of the game being made you could actually buy the watches.
It's astounding how much modeling work went into Resident Evil 4. One cutscene has Luis hand a bottle of pills to Leon and each one of the pills rolls around realistically; One cutscene has Salazar walk down a flight of stairs perfectly modeled; the game has highly detailed textures and environments for the Gamecube among other things, all because Shinji Mikami wanted to prove that the Gamecube could handle it all.
Nintendo wanted Rare to cancel Golden Eye 1997 after numerous delays. The choice was made not to inform the development team and allow them to continue working. The game's acclaimed multiplayer was also implemented within a month in secret: the team highly suspected that if they'd told management about it, they'd be forced to cut it from the game to get it out the door faster.
After a year of tweaking and a virtually total overhaul of game mechanics, Arcen Games decided they simply couldn't make the core components of A Valley Without Wind fit their vision. Their solution? Start working on the sequel. Oh, and so their paying customers don't get cheated out of what Arcen wanted to give them in the first place, everyone who owns a copy of AVWW with be given the sequel for free, and just so that new players won't be deprived of an entire first attempt that many current players like nonetheless, the first game will come free with the sequel. A blog post on the matter pretty much said it isn't the customer's fault they strayed during the first development process, so they shouldn't be punished for it.
Sumo Digital, the creators of (well, most of) the Sega Superstars crossover games. Tennis was meant to be a Sonic-only game, but Sumo managed to convince Sega to use various Sega franchises because they believed the variety would make for a more interesting game. And as their philosophy to recreating some games which haven't been seen in a long time is "what you remember most about them", this results in a TON of fanservice and attention to detail. It helps they're essentially Promoted fanboys of Sega. While they admit they do keep turning a profit in mind, they mainly consider what franchises can bring to the table to create a fun and memorable game.
And both fans and Sega have been impressed by their passion; it was reported that when the team showed their recreation track of Skies of Arcadia in Transformed to the game's original producer, she came close to tears due to how faithful and nostalgic the result was. They've even admitted if this convinces Sega to revive some of their games, they won't be complaining.
The creator of L.A. Noire was certainly convinced that it was his Magnum Opus. The work put into the game definitely shows, and the developers looked through thousands of photos of 1940's L.A. in order for it to be accurate. The open-world gameplay, from the L.A. landmarks to vehicles, was probably intended to show off their work. Most of said landmarks aren't even an integral part of the core storyline, but are re-created in loving detail. One example is how one player found his great grandfather's restaurant, a local landmark, accurately recreated in game. The developing team also utilized cutting-edge technology in order to recreate realistic facial expressions so as to enhance gameplay. Most inaccuracies found in game are actually done for Rule of Cool.
When Toys For Bob were creating Star Control 2, their bosses originally wanted to shove the game out the door still woefully incomplete to meet budget guidelines. The developers instead spent 6 months of unpaid work using their own resources to ensure the game would be properly complete.
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time was essentially born out of Sanzaru's want to make a new Sly game. They even went behind Sony's back and developed a demo of the game without their permission, putting their jobs on the line, only with a hope that Sony would greenlight the project. Luckily, they did.
Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel both dwell at length upon the major themes of Star Wars to a level that fans did not expect, with seemingly insignificant lines having major impact not only on the storyline, but upon the extended universe as a whole. This, despite The Problem with Licensed Games being already legendary — the creators could have phoned it in and still made a profit, but instead created legendary games.
At a time when computer Role-Playing Games meant Dungeon Crawling, the already-established Ultima series changed focus to dwell upon the nature of heroism being more about helping people than beating up goblins. The creators also insisted upon revamping the engine completely between each major installment, and making the world as interactive as possible.
SWERY, creator of Deadly Premonition, probably deserves an award for putting so much work into what most developers would consider a simple budget title. Like Remedy, Sweary and co. flew to Washington to gather research for the world of Greenvale. The game is filled with a lot of detail too, mostly with the citizens' schedules. For example, the sinner's sandwich scene is completely optional. When you beat the game once, you get to view a gallery filled with pictures they took while in Washington. Since food plays a big role in the game, one entire sub-gallery is nothing but Food Porn.
Opoona was conceived of by its creators of being a relaxing, fun RPG that anyone could enjoy. To that end, not only did they devise a unique one-handed control scheme with attacks performed purely through control stick combos—so the player could play while doing other things—they also decided to completely eschew the high fantasy style favored by most RPGs, to the point of designing abstract monsters based on parts and machinery rather than animals or mythical creatures. The level of detail that went into the game's world and history is also astounding: There are museums filled with real artworks designed by the game's staff, the dances and choreography performed in-game were mo-capped from real professional dancers, and the music was all performed live. The game itself is set within a fictional society where one's station in life is based off how much "work" one does, and explores both the pros and cons of the situation. The game is often compared to EarthBound for the sheer detail that went into every aspect of it.
Beyond Good & Evil was in development for nearly six years, because creator Michel Ancel wanted to get every aspect of it completely right. The game features an astoundingly detailed world, from a sky filled with fake constellations (which your camera will name for you) to the fact that the protagonist already has established relationships with most of the casual NPCs in the game, and even though they're just there for a few throwaway lines of dialogue, she chats them up like old friends. The game's music was also a notorious labor of love, with the composer recruiting his friends and family members to record vocals and sound effects for the game's eclectic tracks. Eight years after its initial release, when the game was released in HD, Jade's voice actress even reprized her role just for a new trailer, as if to prove it was the real deal.