main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Troubled Production: Video Games
"40% or more of the screen text was nuked...there just wasn’t space in the ROM. That means lots of story elements, nuance, personality, etc. also had to be stripped out. It was hard to do that, especially after I’d finished a translation, and then was told it was way over. ...I loved that game, but am probably most dissatisfied with the final result. Certainly tried my best, but that thing nearly killed me."
Ted Woosley on cramming a 32-bit DVD into a 16-bit cartridge

    open/close all folders 

    0- 9 
  • The much-anticipated mystery game 1666, that was being developed by Patrice Desilets of Assassin's Creed and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time fame, has been delayed due to conflicts between Patrice and Ubisoft due to Ubisoft acquiring the rights to the game after THQ's bankruptcy. Since Patrice had left Ubisoft for THQ due to creative differences, Ubisoft wasted no time in firing Patrice over "creative differences". However, as one final act of spite, Ubisoft did not outright cancel 1666, since that would revert ownership of the rights back to Patrice. Instead, they put development "on hold" indefinitely just so they can keep the IP out of Patrice's hands. Patrice is now pursuing legal action to force Ubisoft to release the IP.

  • Aliens: Colonial Marines spent six years in Development Hell, and it shows in the finished product. Reportedly, the game's sorry state involved a clusterfrak of epic proportions on the part of publisher Sega and developer Gearbox Software alike.
    • 20th Century Fox had tried to get production rolling for many years, beginning with an aborted attempt by Check Six Games (which was intended to be released for the PS2 at one point) in 2001, and culminating in their hiring of Gearbox Software in 2006.
    • However, production was very slow for the first four years, and there were a lot of "cooks in the kitchen" with different ideas about where to take the franchise. Allegedly, Gearbox was using money Sega paid them to work on other projects, including Borderlands 2 after the first game became a surprise hit. They eventually farmed out the game to TimeGate Studios (makers of Section 8 and the non-canon F.E.A.R. expansion packs) so that they could meet their obligations to Sega.
    • The first indication that something was wrong happened when TimeGate got their hands on Gearbox's assets for the game. What they found was a hodgepodge of barely functional code that clearly wasn't the result of four years worth of work, forcing TimeGate to scrap most of it and rebuild the game from scratch. Complicating this was the fact that the script had not been finalized yet, so content was continually being scrapped or changed due to last minute story changes. The creative process was also hampered since TimeGate had to pass all decisions through both Sega and Gearbox, leading to multiple conflicts. Finally, Gearbox and TimeGate had wildly different design philosophies, with Gearbox being more content with delaying games to ensure quality, while TimeGate being more concerned with shipping games as quickly as possible.
    • During this time, an amazing-looking teaser reel was released at E3 2011 showcasing sections from the Hadley's Hope stages, helping to get people pumped for when the game came out. It was also made of nothing but lies. The demo was cut together using pre-release code running at a higher framerate than the finished game, polished to a greater extent, and featured gameplay elements and setpieces that were not present in the final product. Furthermore, the demo was a prelude to another series of delays, as the release was eventually pushed to February 2013.
    • By 2012, most of their replacement assets were still incomplete, and Sega was becoming impatient with progress to the point that they could threaten legal action for contract breaching. Gearbox had to step up, try again from an incomplete product, and rush the game out the door despite knowing it was in no condition to hit the market in order to get their contract fulfilled.
    • After the game's critical drubbing, a planned Wii U port was scrapped, and Sega and Gearbox were hit with a class-action lawsuit for knowingly misrepresenting the levels, graphics, and AI in previews and press demos, as well as restricting reviews until after the game's release. Sega agreed to a $1.25 million settlement, but not before accusing Gearbox of lying to them as well by presenting the demo as indicative of their progress.

  • Battlecruiser 3000 A.D.. In 1989, Derek Smart had the idea for a grand, sweeping game set on a large ship cruising a realistically large galaxy. Players could choose how they wanted to experience it, from either the strategic level commanding fleets of ships in interstellar campaigns, to just shooting it out on a planetary surface with a blaster. Three years later it was a gaming magazine's cover story as "the last game you'll ever want."
    • Smart posted regular, lengthy updates on multiple online fora. These got him in the first trouble. He claimed at one point that he'd figured out how to make the opposing AIs use neural nets, a potential quantum leap in not only gaming but computing as a whole. Many developers and programmers were skeptical, and Smart's updates soon engendered one of the longest-running flame wars in Usenet history (which some people say might as well have been the real game, since at least most people could play it) due to his penchant for writing lengthy and confrontational replies, then lengthy and confrontational rebuttals to the lengthy and confrontational responses those replies got.
    • Offline, his personality was having the same effect on his backers. He went through several before landing at a small, relatively new company called Take Two Interactive. They got tired of his antics and, in 1996, called one of Smart's frequent bluffs by actually releasing the game. The poor-quality, buggy result of seven years of hype, development and online acrimony got the expected horrible reviews.
    • Smart immediately went online blaming Take Two. He was just as incorrigible with the company's executives. During one of the fights he had with management there, he started trashing the company's office, reportedly completely destroying a Coke machine at one point (an account he denies).
    • Smart has released some later versions as freeware. The flame wars are probably still going on somewhere on the Internet.
  • The partnership between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics (with Activision involved on Crystal Dynamics' side) on the development of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and a proposed, canceled sequel degenerated into a pileup of legal screwovers and Executive Meddling on ownership and content of the IP — with Crystal Dynamics winning and bridges burned. Because of this, don't expect to see a re-release of the first Blood Omen for the nearby future.
  • Body Harvest was originally slated to be a launch title for the Nintendo 64. However, during development, publisher Nintendo took issue with the game's violent themes and thus dropped out of the project altogether. The game was presumed vaporware until a small third party publisher picked it up and released it in October, 1998... more than two years after it was originally slated to be released!
    • According to Rusel De Maria's video game history book, the real reason Body Harvest fell through was because of DMA Design's and Nintendo's different ideas (DMA's free-form/mission play similar to GTA vs. role-playing elements that Nintendo wanted), and the game ended up being not as great as could have been after Nintendo didn't decide to publish it.
  • The game that became The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Announced a year before XCOM: Enemy Unknown (which was in development at the same time, but was announced a year later), but Internet Backlash, the success of Enemy Unknown, and development delays resulted in a complete change of genre, from First-Person Shooter to a more tactical third person shooter.


  • Daikatana, as chronicled in "Knee Deep in a Dream".
    • Despite the success he'd enjoyed with Doom and its progeny at id Software, John Romero was unhappy with his job because he felt his vision as a designer took a back seat to the company's technological considerations. When his idea to split the company into separate divisions devoted to design and technology was nixed by the founders, he threatened to leave and start his own company instead, and was eventually let go.
    • Carrying out his threat, he and id cofounder Tom Hall started what became Ion Storm at the end of 1996, where "Design is Law." On the strength of their names and accomplishments, the company was able to raise millions. Some of this was spent on high-cost real estate, renting office space in the top floors of a Dallas skyscraper, featuring the Ion Storm logo carved into terrazzo in the lobby because, Romero said, he had always wanted to work in flashier offices at id. But all did not go well from that auspicious start.
    • Romero's dream game, Daikatana, would be the sort of First-Person Shooter he had pioneered, but with two sidekicks and multiple levels in four different time periods across a 4,000-year period. He told the media it would be available within a year, since the plan was to build it on the Quake engine. As you might expect, such an optimistic prospect was just asking for trouble.
    • First, Ion Storm had some internal warring because the Daikatana team felt the development of Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 was stealing resources and staff, which utlimately hurt that game and forced the abandonment of the other early titles Ion Storm meant to bring out.
    • Then, they tried to move from the old Quake engine to the Quake II one, a process much more complicated and time-consuming than they thought. In June of 1997, they made it official—Daikatana would not be shipping that year. That didn't stop the company from taking out ads that cheekily promised "John Romero's about to make you his bitch"-alienating some gamers and ramping up expectations for others. Romero has since apologized for the campaign and tried to distance himself from it; others involved say he was much more enthusiastic at the time.
    • Romero's prowess as a designer and programmer, despite his experience at well-managed id, did not transfer to management or leadership skills. His entire development team quit on him en masse to start their own company because they were so fed up with the lack of direction they were getting. To maintain goodwill with potential competitors, Romero avoided hiring away any of their programmers, instead hiring amateur programmers whose homebrewed levels for id's games had been the most downloaded—a fact which, another Ion Storm executive admitted later, told them nothing about what it was like to work with this person or what their work habits were. During the development of the game, the staff changed completely three times.
    • This turnover had a chaotic impact on the game code, with fragments inserted here and there by totally different people who had never communicated. Demos made from this increasingly buggy mess failed to impress at industry events. Communications between all the people working on the game did not get any better: one artist submitted the infamous "1,300-pixel arrow", a texture file for a crossbow bolt that was inexplicably 1300 pixels by 960 pixels. For reference, that's about the size of your monitor, twice as large as the game's actual resolution, and a hell of a lot larger than the space a crossbow bolt actually takes up. When Romero hired his then-girlfriend, Stevie Case, to work on level design, he nearly triggered another full-staff walkout.
    • The programmers who were working had some unexpected physical problems with the skyscraper office space. Some of them were under skylights where, around midday in the Texas sun, they would get too hot to work, and even if they didn't the light was too distracting. People were covering their cubicles in blankets to get their work done.
    • Ion Storm missed Daikatana's 1997 ship date, and its 1998 ship date, and its 1999 ship date. It became a punchline within the industry, as one webcomic memorably demonstrated. Eidos, Ion Storm's parent company, finally had to step in and straighten things out. And as things were finally turning out, id released the Quake III game engine. Recalling how much fun they had had three years earlier upgrading to its predecessor, Ion Storm understandably opted not to do it again, meaning the game they had poured so much design effort into would be technologically behind from the moment it was released.
    • The game ended up delayed so much that, by the time it came out in 2000, it was seriously outclassed by competing games like Half-Life, System Shock 2, and the soon-to-be-released Deus Ex. The resulting product ended up being a complete bust and pretty much ended the fame and career of John Romero, who, before Daikatana, was a superstar developer on a par with Sid Meier and Tim Schafer thanks to his work on Doom and Quake.
  • Duke Nukem Forever's infamous development. Instead of ruining a single man's career, the issues demolished DNF's development staff. The game's development was so troubled, in fact, that it has its own work page on This Very Wiki. The fourteen-year Development Hell that ensued was due to switching engines, 3D Realms founder George Broussard publicly insulting DNF's publisher, tons of changes beyond engine switches that would necessitate restarting the entire project, and more. DNF is truly spectacular, in that its production was so troubled that the staff had nothing worth publicly showing aside from a couple of screenshots. In the end, Gearbox Software took over production, and suddenly revealed the game would come out. Gearbox took the code and levels that 3D Realms had "finished" — which were largely conceptual and unrelated — and, in one year, completed the project that 3D Realms couldn't in fourteen.

  • In a partnership with Nintendo, Silicon Knights' Eternal Darkness started development on the Nintendo 64 — and neared completion before Silicon Knights were asked to throw away everything and rebuild the game from scratch on the GameCube for launchnote . Additionally in its GameCube incarnation, there were some internal concerns on the Middle Eastern areas due to 9/11, causing a delay. Altogether though, the development of the GameCube version (as well as that of The Twin Snakes) were far less catastrophic due to the constant supervision of none other than Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata (no word if Silicon Knights' workplace conditions under Nintendo were as difficult as those of Retro Studios' concurrently).
  • The infamous E.T. the Extraterrestrial for the Atari 2600, which was so rushed that it ended up being made just in six weeks. Considering that it was made basically by a single person, Howard Scott Warsaw, and that programming for 2600 was notoriously idiosyncratic, it's actually a minor miracle that the game is playable at all. The game was enormously hyped by the Atari's marketing department and failed to meet expectations (They made more carts than there were Ataris, expecting the game to be so popular it'd create a console sale boom), with many people calling it one of the worst games ever made, as a result nearly every single one of the sold copies of the game was returned to stores, the game's failure almost singlehandedly caused The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. It led to the Atari secretly burying tons of unsold cartridges in a secure New Mexico landfill, which were later excavated in 2014.

  • Firefall, a team-based hybrid of an MMORPG and a First-Person Shooter, was announced in 2010 as a potential e-Sports contender with a heavy focus on PvP. However, as explained in this GameFront article, over the course of its development things went downhill fast. As of this writing, the game is still in development, but studio Red 5 has laid off a sizable chunk of its workforce, putting its future in doubt.
    • Frequent changes in direction from Red 5 studio founder Mark Kern, the studio's horizontal structure making it hard to coordinate efforts, and Kern's hot temper, absenteeism, and attempts to dictate the production all led to wasted work and what former employees described as a once-pleasant, tight-knit work environment slowly turning toxic. The original focus on PvP also faded as Kern lost interest in e-Sports, culminating in the game's beta dropping PvP altogether in 2014, despite all the work that had been put into the PvP side of the game.
    • There was also Stage 5 TV, a YouTube channel designed to promote Firefall. Kern and Red 5 spent lavishly on Stage 5, with highly-produced short films and reality-style shows shot with very expensive (over $40,000 each) 4k-resolution video cameras, along with a studio, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, and other equipment.note  Kern would greenlight short films left and right, throwing money at projects that often turned out to be either very low quality or having little to do with games at all, and not the sort of thing that Red 5 wanted to showcase. Stage 5 quickly became a money sink that diverted resources away from Firefall, before being scaled back drastically in 2013.

  • Gex, as discussed by programmer Gregg Tavares here. The development team was inexperienced, overworked to the point of doing 12 to 16 hours a day, understaffed and rushed to finish the game for Christmas. A lot of content was cut due to time and manpower constraints, and lead designer Justin Knorr was fired after hiding an insulting message that included Crystal Dynamics co-founder Madeline Canepa's actual phone number.

  • Valve Software's Half-Life 2 spent five years in development, and had a number of setbacks and challenges that impeded work. Aside from spending close to a year on a single gameplay trailer (which had to be reworked over and over because Gabe Newell and Jay Stelly were unimpressed by it), the project was originally given a release date of September 30, 2003, despite the dev team knowing that there was no way they would be able to make the deadline because near-final maps and minor storylines had been thrown out. The problems were then compounded by a delay announced on the day the game was to be released and the source code for the Source engine being leaked online a week afterwards, along with an incomplete alpha of the game. It took another year before the game was released, though it was met with resounding critical and commercial praise. The original storyline and scrapped gameplay elements can be seen here.

  • This trope can affect gaming hardware as well as software. The best known example goes back to the early days of home video gaming: the Keyboard Component to Mattel's Intellivision.
    • Starting in 1980, the back of the Intellivision box had given a third of its space to a large promotion for the Keyboard Component. The console itself was really the Master Component of what was to be fully-functional home computer with a secondary processor, 64K of RAM, a built-in cassette drive and a connection for a thermal-printer cable (all of which would have sounded impressive at that time). Just buy it, play the games, and wait. This could have easily justified buying an Intellivision over the cheaper Atari 2600, especially for parents not wanting the expense of buying both a video-game console and a home computer.
    • However, behind the scenes the engineers responsible weren't as confident as the marketing departmentnote . Their prototypes were neither reliable nor reasonably cost-efficient to make. The ship date of the KC kept getting pushed back, to the point that Jay Leno got his biggest laugh at the company's 1981 Christmas party when he said that the three biggest lies were "the check is in the mail, I'll still respect you in the morning, and the Keyboard will be out in the spring".
    • By that time, the executives had grown concerned enough that they secretly established another group of programmers within the company to come up with a more scaled-down version of the KC, perhaps limited to the function of teaching kids BASIC programming. It was codenamed the LUCKI, or Low User-Cost Keyboard Interface, and its creators kept their work a secret out of (justifiable) fear that the main KC group would use their influence in the company to kill the LUCKI project if they learned of its existence.
    • Mattel's executives weren't the only ones having concerns, and acting on them. Customers who'd waited almost two years for the KC began to complain to the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Mattel of defrauding them. After enough of these complaints, and further stalling from Mattel, the FTC said that if they didn't make their latest promised ship date with the KC they would be fined $10,000 a day until they did.
    • It was still nowhere near ready. To appease the FTC, the company put about 4,000 of the latest prototype on shelves in selected test markets. Some sold, but the overall results were not encouraging.
    • After almost three years, the Keyboard Component was officially cancelled late in 1982. The FTC dropped the mounting fines when Mattel agreed to offer a full refund to anyone who had purchased one of the limited production runs. Those who wanted to keep them had to sign a full waiver promising not to seek any support or later refund from Mattel (in-house, the KC saw some limited later use when modified versions proved to be ideal development boards). A few are still out there somewhere.
    • As a consolation prize, the company brought out LUCKI, now formally named the Entertainment Computer System. While you could write and save programs to its (much-simpler) cassette drive (at a time when floppy disks were displacing tapes as the preferred storage medium), making it technically a computer, it only offered an additional 2K of RAM, putting it far behind any real PC on the market at that time. It was further the ECS's bad luck to hit the market in the spring, as the The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 was becoming an undeniable reality. Mattel went from aggressively hiring programmers to laying them off in one two-week period that spring; it further decided to switch its Intellivision focus from hardware to software, leaving the ECS with little marketing push behind it. The entire KC-ECS debacle played no small part in Mattel's decision to discontinue Intellivision a year later.

  • Jurassic Park: Trespasser: As explained in an online feature or this video about this infamous botched 1996 FPS, Trespasser had a host of design and logistical problems that caused its design team to severely scale it back from their initial goals. An ambitious plan to have friendly and hostile dinosaurs that reacted to you through a groundbreaking AI system was largely abandoned because the creatures couldn't decide what mood to pick (the AI was set to maximum hostility as a quick fix). The melee weapons didn't work (so they had all their mass removed, making almost all of them useless), textures were largely scaled back because of compatibility issues and there were serious issues with the game's physics system. A botched licensing deal (they couldn't use John Williams' iconic music in the game, so they had to create their own), mismanagement between the game's design team, and a continuously-delayed release caused the game to be dead on arrival, and it was quickly forgotten.

  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a particularly extreme example. The game as it was showed great promise, and in fact ended up selling over a million copies, but due to either extreme overconfidence or extreme shortsightedness, developer 38 Studios borrowed money left and right from the state of Rhode Island, ultimately racking up a 75 million dollar debt. They were apparently confident that they would be able to pay back all the loans with the game's sales, as well as the sales of the then-in planning MMO, but it then turned out that the game would have had to sell 3 million just to break even. Long story short, 38's financial situation imploded, they went bankrupt, and all their assets, including the Amalur IP, were seized by the State of Rhode Island.
    • Note also that the head of that company was famous Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who traded heavily on his celebrity in convincing Rhode Island to suspend their own funding rules to loan his company more money. Not that RI necessarily needed convincing; to the state that, at the time (and possibly still today), had one of the five highest unemployment rate in America, the promise of a major high-tech firm bolstering their economy must have been very easy to get excited about. (RI's long rivalry with Massachusetts may also have played a role: here was one of Boston's star sons offering to bring his business to Providence instead.)
    • The New York Times did a long story about this. In addition to the above points, there's the fact that RI governor Lincoln Chafee had not endeared himself to Schilling when, as a candidate while the state was doing the deal, he dared to repeat insinuations that the Schilling had put red paint on his sock himself rather than actually bleeding during the most famous game of his career. While he tried to make up after he was elected, Schilling still resents that.
    • Schilling was probably out of his depth with his ambitious plans for the game. A complex multilevel PVE game is challenging to develop even for an established game maker with a success of exactly that type. He hired R.A. Salvatore to create a 10,000-year backstory for the game, for which Salvatore has yet to get paid any of the $2 million he's owed. One of 38's original executives said he had tried to convince Schilling to develop and release the game in stages, rather than "trying to build a skyscraper on the side and then stand it up."
    • Schilling paid very generous salaries ... by his estimate, the average pay at 38 was $86,000. The company went so far as to pick up the mortgage payments on its employees' unsold Boston-area homes if they moved closer to Providence. And since the state had made the investment to create jobs, 38 ultimately hired 400 people—a lot for a new game developer with only one title out.
    • In the end, everybody got hurt. Over three hundred people were let go from the jobs Rhode Island wanted so badly. Schilling claims to have lost his entire fortune from his baseball career, and had to auction the bloody sock. Chafee has a very low popularity rating and announced he would not run for another term. The state is suing Schilling, claiming he knew the game was unlikely to succeed (not hard to have seen that coming, since he couldn't get financing in Boston, where there are tons of venture capitalists focused on tech companies) and was attempting to defraud the state.

  • L.A. Noire competely destroyed Team Bondi due to the lead designer having serious rage issues and treating it like his Magnum Opus. In order to get the game back on budget, they hired and chewed up nearly every budding game programmer and artist in Sydney and they were so hostile that publisher Rockstar publicly swore off ever working with them again. Said lead designer is now creating another game, titled The Whore Of The Orient. Team Bondi has been since bought out by the company that produced Mad Max, Happy Feet, and Babe, so there may now be a change in their working conditions...
  • Two developers claim this happened to the infamous Last Action Hero licensed game. After the planning stage, word from a lawyer came that Arnold Schwarzenegger did not want to be "associated with violence" due to his then-recent involvement in family-friendly comedies, and that the game could not feature him using firearms, completely ruining the original concept. This led to the game being hastily retooled as the deadline was fixed with no chance for extension. Communication with the legal department was exceptionally slow, leading to the developers being clueless on even basic questions such as whether or not Arnold's character could punch, and the development of the PC version ground to an halt after the graphic artist refused to do work because of an unrelated payment issue with the publisher.

  • The Sega Saturn game for Magic Knight Rayearth was initially listed as one of the first games for the system. It didn't show up in the U.S. until three years after the Japanese release and six months after support for the system came to an end, effectively being the last North American Saturn game. What caused this game from Working Designs to fall this far down? Numerous problems, including:
    • The usual need to translate and dub the voice bits from Japanese to English.
    • The computer holding the data for the game crashing, forcing them to rebuild pieces of it.
    • A fight between WD and Sega over what to name the main heroines (Sega had realized Rayearth was a good enough series to franchise to the States. However, as it was common at the time, they wanted to give them English names. Both Sega and WD had different names for the girls before they both threw their arms into the air and left them Hikaru, Umi and Fuu.)
    • And after it was all done, then-current Sega head honcho Bernie Stolar's draconian policy against third party developers kicked in, leaving them high and dry until the Saturn was dead in the water.
  • Believe it or not, a freaking baseball game fell victim to this trope! Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., a spiritual successor to Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run on the Super NES, was supposed to be released in late-1996. However, the game was delayed left and right before finally being released in May of 1998. By which time its graphics and gameplay were ultimately surpassed by Acclaim's All Star Baseball 99.
  • Metroid Prime. Not counting that producer Shigeru Miyamoto asked to throw out basically everything during early stages, at a certain point, the Japanese crew was spending most of their year in America overseeing the game and Retro Studios' staff was pulling all-nighters, working 80-100 hours a week neglecting family and nourishing on atomic fireball candy (a total of 72 gallons of them among the staff).
  • The Nintendo 64 adaptation of the 1996 Mission: Impossible film. The game was originally slated to be released in late-1996. However, constant Executive Meddling (resulting in the game switching development teams mid way through development) and problems fitting such an at-the-time ambitious game onto a small cartridge resulted in the game not seeing release until mid-1998. The final game actually wasn't half bad. However, its long development history definitely showed with its dated (even for 1998) graphics, buggy programming, and somewhat underdeveloped gameplay. The impending release of the competing Metal Gear Solid that same year certainly didn't help matters.

  • Neverwinter Nights 2's premium module Mysteries of Westgate didn't take long to develop. However, Atari wanted the DLC shipped with a DRM scheme. This delayed the release of the game. Adding to this, Obsidian patches constantly broke down the Adventure Pack, pushing the game's release even further, much to gamers frustration.


  • Atari's home port of Pac-Man was supposedly the demo version, made with great difficulty over six weeks due to the differences in underlying hardware. When the developer showed it to the suits, they said "OK, we're shipping this." It did well on the strength of the title but took a pounding in the media.
  • Another 3D Realms game with development issues was Prey. The first attempt (1995-1996) of the developers failed because the creative director left the company to join his friend's new business and pretty much the rest of the team did not stay in the project, either. The second attempt (1996-1998) failed due to technological problems the team could not solve. In the third time (circa 1999), there was only one person working on the game, the tech programmer. This attempt, too, was unsuccessful because of technology-related issues. The project was eventually transferred in 2001 to Human Head Studios, which then developed the game. It was finally released in 2006.



  • Skullgirls was hit with a litany of production problems, mostly after its release in April 2012:
    • In May 2012, Autumn Games and Konami, the publishers of Skullgirls, got hit with one heck of a lawsuit involving the game Def Jam Rapstar. This led to the development staff for the game being laid off by the original developer Reverge Labs. The game's development team was able to form a new studio called Lab Zero, and were allowed to maintain the game and release the planned Downloadable Content because Autumn Games owned the Skullgirls IP. The legal and financial hurdles in the formation of the new team is what caused the six month delay.
    • The first patch for the game arrived in November 2012, but only for Playstation users (and from an entirely different developer) — Xbox LIVE Arcade size limits prevented the patch from being released on the 360.
    • After a Japanese localization was released and the developers used crowdfunding campaigns to raise enough money to realize the first four DLC characters (as well as the Xbox patch), Konami wouldn't respond to any contact from Lab Zero, meaning the DLC couldn't be released on consoles. Lab Zero decided to cut their ties to Konami and seek publishing from Marvelous AQL, who published the PC version. In response, Konami requested the game be delisted from both Xbox Live and PSN in December 2013. Lab Zero was only notified of this after Microsoft and Sony approved the delisting. Thankfully, due to the transfer of publishing rights from Konami to Marvelous AQL, the game was re-released as Skullgirls Encore in January 2014, and included the long-awaited console release of DLC character Squigly (for free, no less!).
    • Not long after the announcement of Encore, Cyberfront, the game's Japanese publisher, closed up shop, and the game's future in Japan is now uncertain.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2's own history can be chronicled by the various Alphas, Betas and Deltas made along the way. Rumor had it that 2 was supposed to utilize Time Travel, but it proved way too complicated for the simplistic Sega Genesis. Many Zones were planned and removed, including a curiously-named stage called Genocide City and the legendary Hidden Palace Zone (which was much later restored as a secret level in the iOS remake). Sega gave Nickelodeon a very early version of 2 for Nick Arcade.
      • An HD Fan Remake of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was cancelled in 2012 when the lead programmer, LOst, had Creative Differences with the rest of the team and provided a build of the game with DRM protection. Since he had not released the source code for the game's engine, the game could not be updated. Production resumed in 2014 when a fan of the project developed a replacement engine.
    • Sonic & Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were once planned to be one big game, just the basic Sonic the Hedgehog 3. However, time restraints forced Sega to split the game in two in time for 3's release, leaving many fans to wonder what these other stages were once they put in the insanely difficult Stage Select code. When Sonic & Knuckles was being made, the initial plan was that it could hook up to Sonic The Hedgehog 1, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for new playing adventures. However, complications with the code in Sonic the Hedgehog forced them to scrap it and replace it with the Blue Spheres mini game collection. It was initially said that Knuckles gliding onto a treadmill in Scrap Brain Zone caused the game to crash. However, it was revealed later on that it was because most of the game's graphics was built around Sonic's color palette, and introducing Knuckles would end up changing every other graphic in the game. A fan did a hack years later by reducing Knuckles' color scheme to match the games' limited palette. Due to the introduction of Super Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, that game did not suffer such problems.
      • And then Michael Jackson's rumored involvement in the game's music is a whole story of its own, which ranges from anonymous credits and dropped finished tracks because of his child molestation allegations, to him being dissatisfied with the Genesis sound hardware.
      • According to the PixN'Love History of Sonic the Hedgehog book, the "Time Restraints" problem turned out to be a business deal with McDonalds - McDonalds had set up a deal for Sonic 3-related Happy Meal toys, expecting a Christmas release. However, when that didn't happen, Sega was forced to rush Sonic 3 out with just the six stages. With as big as Sonic 3 was, stage-wise, it wasn't too bad of a strike.
    • The Sega Saturn game Sonic X-treme is perhaps the most tragic example of all as, unlike the other examples here, the game was never finished. Many things went wrong with the development of what was supposed to be Sonic's Video Game 3D Leap-the development staff comprised of two teams practically ended up building two different engines —one for the main levels, the other for the boss fights— for the same game, a lack of communication (thus leading to high tensions) across the board, and antagonism by the main programmer against the rest of the team with his antisocial attitude, problems porting the game to the Saturn, and constant incidents of a development team's work being scrapped, among others. It ultimately led up to a botched presentation of the main gameplay engine to Sega of Japan's President Hayao Nakamura, who after seeing the boss engine ordered for the entire game to be created around that engine and be completed for the 1996 year's holiday season. An attempt to base the game off of NiGHTS Into Dreams... (or based on alternative reports, ask for and was granted use of the NiGHTS engine) to hasten development so the game would be finished on time was derailed by disapproval of the inspired levels/engine's use by ''NiGHTS's creator Yuji Naka, sending the team back to square one. All of this resulted in Chris Senn doing most of the work himself, tirelessly working 20 hours a day until he came down with pneumonia. When doctors told him he had only 6 months to live if he kept working as he did, he then realized that there was no chance of finishing the game before the holiday season, so there was no choice but to pull the plug on the game.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) also ended up as a victim of this — although the game, unlike X-treme, was released, the final product was likewise far from finished. After Yuji Naka — one of the founding members of the Sonic franchise — resigned from Sega and consequently left ongoing development of the game, massive pressure was then put on the game's director Shun Nakamura and the rest of the development team to have the game (which was supposed to be another great Sonic game that would be used to help re-launch the franchise on next-gen consoles) finished in time for that year's Christmas season as well as be released before year's end to qualify as the 15th anniversary title. And then if that wasn't enough, the development team was split so that a new team could work on a new Sonic game for the Wii console, the result of Sega discovering that a Wii version of the game (which was in development along with the PS3 and 360 versions) was unfeasible due to the Wii's technical limitations. The fact that they had to develop two remaining console versions of the game at the same time during the short development process did not help matters.
    • Sonic Heroes was meant to be Xbox and GameCube only from the beginning, but midway through production, Sony apparantly gave Sega a deal to port to PlayStation 2 or be denied any favors from the company forever. Sonic Team's inexperience with the PS2 engine, as well as eventually being ported onto the PC as well, ended in a highly laggy, even boring (un)finished product.
  • Sega went through a lot of grief in producing a CD add-on for the Genesis/Mega Drive. Technical hurdles to getting the Sega CD to work with the Genesis, as well as paranoia about the capabilities of competing hardware, pressed the development team into continually beefing up the add-on’s specs to the point where it became ridiculously expensive. Adding to the mess was the lack of cooperation and coordination between Sega’s Japanese and American branches (which would go on the derail the Sega Saturn), with Sega of Japan refusing to send prototypes to the West, rendering Sega of America and Sega of Europe unable to promote the add-on to consumers and developers before its release. When systems finally arrived at Sega of America, they found them plagued with manufacturing defects up to and including spontaneous combustion. All of this scramble to simply get the hardware out the door meant that Sega couldn't properly solicit game developers for the system, causing the Sega CD's library to fill up with FMV shovelware, rather than good games that actually made innovative use of the system's specs.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction: It took almost four years from the time the game was announced (via an internal leak of images from the game in mid-2006) to its release because of several major gameplay shifts, including a halfway-finished product that was essentially thrown out midway through production. The original game, helmed by Ubisoft Montreal, featured Sam Fisher (now on the run from Third Echelon) as some type of homeless drifter sporting a beard, hoodie and makeshift weapons and devices, and the gameplay was intended to be a sandbox-type shooter where Sam would investigate various locales to get information (and memories) about his daughter. The game was seen as a serious departure from the franchise, and Ubisoft canned it midway through development over negative fan reaction and claims that its gameplay was too similar to the original Assassins Creed (also made by Ubisoft Montreal). Several features were unceremoniously thrown out (including several abilities that enabled Sam to blend into his environment, move objects around and fight hand-to-hand against enemies), and the game's entire structure was revamped. Conviction would eventually be released in early 2010.
  • Star Trek Online started out being owned by Perpetual Entertainment and was given a set schedule for launch. However, two years into development, they had plenty of pretty conception work, but no actual gameplay and it's been said that Perpetual was only doing this for shadier reasons. Either way, CBS was angry at the waste and gave the license to Atari and Cryptic, who forced the companies to rush out the game (though it was thankful that Cryptic had the easily compatible engine from Champions Online to use). However, even that wasn't enough as the game was bleeding players as Atari used the money the game brought to pay off their massive debts. It wasn't until Perfect World Entertainment bought Cryptic that the game would flourish.
  • One would think that, as bad as Superman 64 was, it was solely developer Titus' fault. However, in an interview with Eric Caen, one of the founders of Titus, with ProtonJon, it's revealed a lot of the reasons for the game's poorness was politics with Warner Bros. and DC Comics towards Titus (the virtual reality world? They didn't want Superman kicking real people). In fact, Caen mentions that the game was only "10% of what they envisioned" and that while it was a money-maker, it hurt them in the long run because they were forced to cancel the PlayStation version of the game.
  • An odd one - Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 was actually held back a few months because of a music problem: JAM Project just couldn't hit a specific high note for the game's theme, GONG. Even now, they'll still sing the song in their shows, but they will not attempt to hit that high note.

  • Tattoo Assassins, Data East's Mortal Kombat clone is definitely this. This site very much tells the story behind the troubled development of the game.
  • Thief (2014) was in various states of Development Hell for nearly six years, and the results showed greatly in the final product.
    • Prior to Eidos Montreal overseeing development of what would eventually become the final game, ION Storm Austin (producers of Thief: Deadly Shadows) apparently planned to create a modern reboot, which would take place in the present day and feature Garrett working in an urban city. The concept was only worked on for a short time before ION Storm closed its doors.
    • Eidos began development on Thief 4 in 2008, and intended for it to be a sequel to the original series. After a teaser website and logo appeared in 2009, there was no word for years on the status of the project or where development was at, and various reports and rumors claimed that it had already been worked on for a long time prior to its announcement, that work was being outsourced to another studio, and that Eidos Montreal still hadn't decided on whether it would be a sequel or not.
    • Work went on for so long that an incomplete leak of a CGI trailer from the game's prologue mission made news in 2012, and after the game's release, it was revealed that Stephen Russell, the original voice actor for Garrett, had provided dialogue for the unused trailer, but he was replaced for the final version.
    • In March 2013, a damning report came out stating that the development team was completely fractured. Designers were coming and going constantly, and all of them had differing visions on where to take the game. Screenshots released around this time also showed a third-person gameplay perspective. The same month a Game Informer cover story came out, lead designer Dominic Fleury left the team.
    • The dev team then spent nearly a year working on press demos instead of the game proper, with heavily modified code being shown to media outlets (which was not released to the public because the team was unhappy with the end result). That also coincided with Eidos being forced to secure additional funding for the game from a German investment firm.
    • During the development of the press demos, the animators were tasked with animating sex scenes for the House of Blossoms level, which they were reportedly very uncomfortable with.
    • The game was eventually released in February 2014 to middling reviews, but reportedly sold well for Eidos.
  • The Tomb of the TaskMaker, the sequel to the mid-1990s Apple Macintosh RPG TaskMaker, ended up being the undoing of its publishers, Storm Impact. After the success of Storm Impact's first two products (the first TaskMaker and a skiing game called MacSki), the company's next two products (a debug program called Technical Snapshot and a space game called Asterbamm) both failed to catch on. A publisher who kept losing money orders didn't help, neither did the rush to get Tomb out on time — the game has a huge number of cut corners, and version 1.0 just barely got out before Storm Impact went under. See more information here (Wayback Machine archive). The deciding factors were undercapitalization (Storm Impact was mostly just two guys), an inability to get the product out on time, a declining Mac market at the time, and considerable advances in computer gaming since the first TaskMaker came out.
  • Silicon Knights (as documented in the Blood Omen and Eternal Darkness entries above) hit its creative nadir with CEO Denis Dyack's pet project and self-considered magnum opus Too Human. It took second place to Duke Nukem Forever as the king of Vaporware: announced in 1999 and released in 2008, having effectively existed in three incarnations on three console generations (PlayStation/Sega Saturn, GameCube, and the final released product on Xbox 360). It was cancelled the first time around by the original publishers (a partnership between Electronic Arts and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) for reasons unknown to even the developers, and sidelined the second time around due to too much workload with Nintendo. The reason why the Xbox 360 was ultimately chosen? Because Dyack, a man of graphics and technology, was utterly disgusted by the Wii hardware's lack of horsepower and immediately burned bridges with Nintendo.
    • This proved to be a fatal mistake, for without Miyamoto and Iwata to keep watch over him and his work, Dyack's ego spiraled out of control and he grew progressively more hostile towards virtually everyone, including his own staff (as will be made clear by the below bullet point). Development on the game suffered dearly for it. This resulted in mediocre sales and reviews, a bunch of projects left in the garbage bin over the next few years and most importantly of all, a disastrous lawsuit against Epic Games. Silicon Knights paid a license to use the Unreal Engine 3 for Too Human, didn't like it, and began reverse-engineering it until they decided the engine was now 100% Silicon Knights and 0% Epic. They stopped payments to Epic and demanded refunds for the money they already paid to them. Problem was, the "new" engine used in the final product still contained portions of Epic code... Needless to say, Silicon Knights lost big time and paid the ultimate price in 2013.
    • ...but not before Dyack reached his nadir with the company's last game, X-Men: Destiny, which (along with the management of Silicon Knights itself before the lawsuit landed the killing blow) was completely destroyed by his final descent into power tripping and corporate mismanagement. This article tells the tales of the sheer shenanigans he caused behind the scenes.
  • The Typing Of The Dead Overkill was developed under constant threat of cancellation: It began development with a deadline of four months at Blitz Games Studios, which went bankrupt before the game was completed, taking down Sega's original contract from the game with them. Afterwards, the developers negotiated for a new contract to release the game, which they got... with a measly deadline of six weeks. Also, due to not being employed, the staff had no choice but to become bedroom coders in a crowded apartment; fortunately for that one, Sega saw the location situation and granted the staff temporary office space at one of their subsidiaries. That it sold well with this history is a complete miracle.

  • Ultima IX: Ascension spent 5 years in development - and it shows. As noted on Hackl's Ultima Page, "The Conquest of Origin" and its Executive Meddling entry, the game was fraught with problems behind-the-scenes:
    • Lead creator Richard Garriott originally planned to have IX pick up exactly where the previous game left off (the Avatar confronting the Guardian on the latter's homeworld). However, after realizing that the fanbase likely wanted a return to the series' roots, he scrapped the idea. Shortly afterwards, in 1997, the team came up with a new concept for the game, using an isometric 3D engine. However, this idea was scrapped when the rise of 3D accelerators forced the team to jettison their existing project and begin another new version of the game.
    • During this time, Don Mattrick (later of Microsoft's Xbox brand), who was president of EA Worldwide Studios at the time, assumed control of the division. Mattrick pushed the development teams to stick to their schedules, and began cancelling Origin's projects for unexplained reasons (or outright killing in-production titles). As a result, Origin began to move into the online gaming sector.
    • Garriot went to EA CEO Lawrence Probst to get funding for Ultima Online, and it was initially treated as near-irrelevant by the publisher. However, after said game's beta test drew 50,000 volunteers, EA insisted that Garriott shelve Ascension and work solely on Online...
    • ...and that's when everything fell apart. In the rush to finish Ascension for retail release (after EA set a firm deadline when Garriott wouldn't acquiesce to their original demand), many shortcuts were taken. As a result, the engine was bug-ridden, the team didn't have the time to fully implement the plot from the isometric version of the game into the 3D version, and cutscenes and dialogue were left unfinished.
    • Things finally came to a head afterwards, during pre-production on what was to become Ultima X: Odyssey. EA cancelled all of Origin's planned projects (including Ultima Online 2) and forced relocation of Odyssey's development from Austin, Texas to California, leaving developers who couldn't make the move due to family issues out of work. This subsequently led to the project being scrapped altogether, and Origin eventually being disbanded a short time later.





Theme ParksTroubled ProductionWeb Original

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy