Troubled Production: Video Games
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- 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 title out of Patrice's hands. Patrice is now pursuing legal action to force Ubisoft to release the property.
- 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. This video was 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 buggy, unfinished 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.
- Beast's Fury, a 2-D fighting game with a cast of anthropomorphic characters, has been plagued with tons of problems in its production, on account of the development team's financial incompetence, lack of experience and organization, and animosity towards critics. It's gotten to the point that the whole thing's been described by one critic as a "sideshow circus", and for good reasons.
- Work on the project began in 2013 by Evil Dog Productions, led by Ryhan Stevens. Inspired by the crowdfunding success of 2-D fighter Skullgirls, Stevens started his own Indiegogo campaign for the game. After two back-to-back failed campaigns, he decided to create a third one, but inserted promises of guest characters voiced by popular YouTube personalities - Maximilian Dood and Egoraptor - in an attempt to get more donations to the project (both of which, though initially promoting the game, eventually going on to distance themselves from it altogether as things snowballed out of control, their characters remaining unfinished).
- The campaign raised over $20,000, but Evil Dog publicly admitted that they had poorly managed and budgeted their money, realizing after the campaign that the funds raised weren't even enough to finish the animations of the first two characters (along with other things like the planned finishing moves, which had specific animations for every character in the cast). With a lack of support elsewhere, the team turned to the fighting game community with a fourth campaign, claiming that any contributions would only go towards creating something presentable for potential investors and publishers, rather than a final product. Since no publisher ever picked the game up, Evil Dog had to keep relying on its backers. They ended up raking in over $47,000 in the campaign.
- Evil Dog had only two part-time animators working on the game, lending to the fact that progress on the animation was very tedious. The team returned to the public with yet another Kickstarter campaign, dedicated to expanding their small roster and getting more animators who could work full-time on the game. Their 9 month schedule would be broken down to 2 to 3 months, promising for way more progress on the animation than before. At the end of the day, the campaign made twice its goal, and yet many of the animations were still unfinished.
- The team quickly became notorious among the fighting game community for constantly spending most of the money raised from their campaigns on the aesthetic of the game, which included things like the expensive finishing moves, rather than on developing and refining the gameplay. There was even money spent on cinematics, versus splash art and idle animations for characters that hadn't even been started yet, and, given the game's troubled state, were unlikely of ever being finished. Talks of an animated short film were ended as quickly as they started when the game's financial struggles didn't improve.
- The much-delayed demo of the game made a very poor first impression. Things like bugs, wonky controls, unbalanced characters and exploitable moves made it apparent to seasoned fighting game players that Evil Dog had little knowledge and experience in fighting game development (despite the fact that the team had been assuring everyone the opposite). Although Evil Dog took feedback and offered updating the demo, it became obvious that their priorities of fixing the gameplay were not in order, going on to dedicate one full update just to add in a character's finisher, for instance.
- Evil Dog took to Skullheart, the official Skullgirls forum, to promote the game and its campaigns, in the hopes that those who supported Skullgirls' crowdfunding effort would be able to do the same for theirs. Stevens and the lead programmer of the game, Marco Arsenault, were present in two different threads addressing feedback,, but tended to lash out at those who offered criticisms to the game and its development, including a certain Mike Z, the developer of Skullgirls, which essentially dashed the team's hopes of getting any support from the site's community whatsoever.
- According to one user from the above threads, the horrid PR from Evil Dog wasn't exclusive to Skullheart. On sites including Facebook and Twitter, those who made some sort of negative comment or criticism about the game were often sent confrontational, scathing messages from Evil Dog, accusing people as being "haters" and shutting them up out of fear that their negative comments could potentially hurt the game's image. The team even went out of its way to do so, to the point where they were following people across multiple sites just to harass them with said messages.
- Things escalated to a whole new level for Evil Dog when there was backlash after the revelation that Adam Wan, a furry artist accused of being a bully and a sexual predator, was tied to the project. In response, Evil Dog quietly dropped his name from the newer crowdfunding campaigns, but there was no official word if Wan was actually removed from the team. This led to speculation among fans that Evil Dog was deliberately hiding this information from them. His involvement was later confirmed by one of Evil Dog's game designers on an Internet chat log, but the whole outrage was already enough to strike a blow to the game's image and contribute more to the discontent of its would-be fans, especially those who were a part of the Furry Fandom.
- May of 2015 saw Evil Dog's return to Indiegogo, and it was no surprise among the public that the team once again started a new campaign, which, this time, was aimed at funding "the full game", along with a Patreon that Stevens had created. Needless to day, both campaigns saw very little backer turnout and ended becoming total failures, with the Indiegogo campaign in particular raising only $1,620 of its massive $185,000 goal (though the team still received the money due to "flexible funding"). Shortly after, it was revealed that, before the campaign's end, Stevens had already bailed on the project to focus on his personal life, in anticipation of the its eventual failure.
- Although new activity from the Beast's Fury Facebook page suggests that the team is still working on the game and trying to get support (making other YouTube users promote it and explicitly give viewers links to places where they could make donations to the project), the game, nonetheless the whole debacle has already gone down in infamy among the fighting game community, who have used it as a prime example of what developers should not do when making a fighting game.
- 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 in the near 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 DeMaria'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 Bureau: XCOM Declassified, as chronicled in the Polygon article "The Many Faces of The Bureau", spent seven years in Development Hell and faced long periods of uncertainty, not helped by constant criticism and bad PR:
- During 2005-06, Take-Two Interactive bought up a number of developers and rebranded them as a singular entity called 2K Games. Take-Two bought the rights to the X-COM franchise from Atari and planned to kick things into high gear with a new installment of the franchise. Irrational Games was renamed "2K Boston" and, together with another Irrational regional studio renamed "2K Australia", began to draw up concepts for a new game. However, none of the concepts got past the drawing board with the exception of a multiplayer prototype (which was later scrapped).
- After the success of BioShock, 2K Boston gave up interest on the proposed X-COM title and development became a joint venture between 2K Australia and 2K Marin in California. After BioShock 2 (which had been farmed out to 2K Marin) shipped in 2010, the two studios still hadn't come up with a workable pitch for the next X-COM, but they were helped by 2K Australia creative director Jonathan Pelling, who got some traction with a pitch titled "X-COM: Enemy Unknown" (after the international name for the very first game in the series) that was intended to take place in the 1950s. 2K decided to rush into production and use the Marin staff as support so the game could be finished and ready for release by 2011.
- What followed was a communication breakdown between Marin and Australia. The Marin team was already divided into teams working on DLC for BioShock 2 and development of a new IP in addition to the X-COM project, while 2K Australia was working on the single-player campaign while Marin worked on the multiplayer component. The two studios were merged into a single unit (as Marin) and the game was officially announced (as "XCOM" without the hyphen), but this didn't ease tensions between the two studios.
- Once it became clear that the game wouldn't meet its original ship date, the multiplayer component was scrapped yet again and the teams were forced to rush to get a prototype ready for E3 2010. The Marin team took the lead on development of the single-player campaign, but the directives from the Australia branch were confusing and vague. The teams attempted to work out their differences by swapping small groups of programmers between the studios, but many staff quit in response.
- A hastily thrown-together vertical slice shown at E3 2010 was met with mixed reactions from the press. In the months after, several high-profile employees departed the studio and the project was rebooted. Also, Firaxis had begun work on what would eventually become XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was more traditional and grounded in the franchise's strategy roots.
- The Marin team dropped development of their new IP and continued tossing out more pitches and ideas for XCOM while development continued. The game slowly morphed from a first-person shooter to a third-person tactical game, and Marin took over lead development duties. It was given another ship date — March 6, 2012, the date that Mass Effect 3 was set to launch. The Marin team continued to rework the game and had voice actors come in to record lines (only to re-record it a year later with new actors). In October 2011, the main branch of 2K (reeling from the long development cycles being taken for XCOM and Bioshock Infinite) pulled 2K Australia from the project and instituted a mandatory "crunch" development period for the Marin team. This caused morale to drop and the March 6 release date to be scrapped.
- 2012 saw more setbacks for the team, including the departure of creative director Jordan Thomas (to work on Infinite), the official announcement of Enemy Unknown (which received far more praise) and screens from the game that leaked online. However, the Marin team pulled together under the direction of design director Zak McClendon and started including classic enemies from the earlier games after the critical success of Enemy Unknown (and after 2K had previously told the team not to use said enemies like the Sectoids). It finally hit its development deadlines and was rebranded as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified before being released in August 2013.
- Shortly after the release of the critically-disappointing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 in 2014, several anonymous sources came forward to shed light on the game's troubled production. Said sources ended up being from various employees of the game's developer, MercurySteam, claiming that development on the game had been a "degree of 'hell'".
- Most of the blame was placed on MercurySteam's leader, Enric Álvarez. Outside of his seemingly friendly demeanor in the public media, in actuality his ego had grown since the success of the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and he completely undermined and overlooked his programmers, designers and artists, running development based off of his own personal criteria.
- There was also a great degree of distrust between him and his employees, with the communication so poor that they were only informed about the game's features not from Álvarez himself, but rather from the press. This treatment was the final straw for José Luis Vaello, the Art Director for the first game, who ended up leaving MercurySteam to join another developer. Once work on the game had finished, MercurySteam laid off over 35 people- and more were to be expected.
- MercurySteam's primary game engine was coded by only two people, and since Álvarez was prone to hovering over and monitoring his employees, killing ideas that he didn't like left and right, it was never updated, reducing the development down to a very sluggish pace. Employees were also forced to include game features and mechanics into the final game that they didn't even like (such as the stealth sequences). In response to the game's poor reception, Álvarez claimed that the reviewers's gripes had no merits and that they weren't doing their jobs properly. Additionally, he seemed to deny the complaints of his employees, as a post on his Twitter page showed.
- Crash Twinsanity suffered through this. Deadlines not being met, scrapped concepts, the pressure of Universal needing the game out, and too many ambitious ideas led to about a third of the game's original ideas being cut. The final product, while still regarded as a good game, shows the lamented development cycle in many areas. However, the dev team have been kind enough over the years to explain and show off various parts of the game that got cut, even supplying cut voiced dialogue and storyboards, all of which can be found online.
- 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 ultimately 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.
- The development of Doom itself went generally smoothly, but its infamous 3DO port was something else. It was produced by a company called Art Data Interactive that reportedly believed that all one had to do to port a game to another platform was to recompile its code, and that new weapons could be added just by importing new art assets. This ultimately led to the port being developed by one programmer in ten weeks, which forced her to live in her office to complete it in time. This alongside the difficulties she ran into with the 3DO explains why the result was such a Porting Disaster. Nine years later, the programmer, Rebecca Heineman, released the source code alongside her story of its production and a wish that she had time to polish her work before release.
- 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 launch.note 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 ET 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 — they actually made more carts than there were Ataris, expecting the game to be so popular it'd create a console sale boom. Instead, it catastrophically failed to live up to expectations, with many people calling it one of the worst games ever made, and as a result nearly every single one of the sold copies of the game was returned to stores. The game's failure played a huge role in triggering The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. It led to 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.
- In 2006, Square Enix announced Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which was planned to be a PS3 exclusive game. The game's development didn't really go anywhere for years to come, and the title was still in Pre-Production phase by 2011. News of its progress was sparse as Versus XIII consistently abstains from the game exhibitions, and rumours of its cancellation began to spread. In 2013, the production team announced that the game would be released in PS4 and Xbox One (rather than the intended PS3), and it is retitled to Final Fantasy XV. A year later, it was announced that Tetsuya Nomura has stepped down as the game's director and was replaced by Hajime Tabata, who has since announced a number of large changes to the game's established story, characters and gameplay. Now, almost 10 years after the game was announced, we still don't have a scheduled release date.
- 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.
- Halo 2. As detailed here, Bungie did not want to just retread on Halo: Combat Evolved and would indulge in Sequel Escalation. They built a new engine that pushed the Xbox to the limits, created an impressive trailer, and then discovered the console couldn't actually handle the tech, meaning they had to restart from scratch after 18 months of work. The planned sprawling levels had to be scaled down considerably, the storyline was cut down (leading to a rushed ending that served as a shameless Sequel Hook) and trying to reach the November 2004 deadline meant the developers had to discard almost everything planned along the way. It became a Killer App, particularly for groundbreaking online console multiplayer, but everyone agreed the single player campaign required more polish, and Bungie felt the game was not as good as they planned (leading to much more effort put into Halo 3).
- Homefront was the subject of a very lengthy and excruciating production for its developer, Kaos Studios. This article, appropriately named “Death March”, goes into more details, for those interested.
- Publisher THQ was exercising a new greenlighting policy, scrutinizing prototypes and giving feedback before authorizing development on games. Impressed with the pitch demo, THQ requested that Kaos prepare a demo for E3 2009. In a frenzy of pressure, the development team worked for over 18 months on the demo – which was only about five minutes long- eating up tons of resources. Coupled with the fact that the publisher constantly requested new features to be added in the game, there was tons of doubt regarding the future of Kaos, along with the headship of new development lead Dave Schulman, who was convincing his team to continue adding more into the game per THQ’s request. There was no clear direction on where the game would go- multiple people on the team were throwing all sorts of unrelated ideas into the game, making things such as the vehicle and weapon designs very inconsistent.
- THQ and Kaos undertook an audit of Homefront to see how long it would take to get every feature into the game. They realized that it would be next to impossible to create what they envisioned. All the while, Kaos had been seizing millions of dollars to pay off development on the game and had little to show for it. Schulman fought with THQ executives over how he was managing the company and responding to publisher directives. He wasn’t off the hook yet- a change in workers at THQ resulted in Kaos dealing with new, stricter executives who were protective over control on the publisher’s properties. Schulman refused demands for more transparency, and he ended up leaving Kaos.
- Creative director Dave Votypka became the general manager, but struggled with doing both jobs at once, so THQ’s vice president of core games, Danny Bilson, stepped forth in an effort to get the game back on track. Despite his past experience, Bilson’s arrogance and inconsistency at times threw a lot of Kaos employees off. His ideas were suddenly pitching the game as one that would rival the Call of Duty series, which was a task that was deemed too large for Kaos and THQ to undertake. But the team would press forward doing so anyway, which clashed with their original ideas for the game’s story and environments; they made tons of last-minute revisions in the hopes of surpassing what Call of Duty offered.
- When, by late 2009 and early 2010, Kaos seemed like it was going to struggle with shipping the game, they brought in several veteran shooter developers to help, including some from EA. They also got a new production lead: David Broadhurst, who was rather controversial in his efforts to get Kaos to finish the game on time, riding several employees hard to ensure that progress would be made, and publicly rebuking employees in front of the rest of the studio. Despite the fact that Broadhurst was the person credited for making sure that Homefront would be finished, many employees have since bemoaned his hostile leadership over Kaos.
- The final year of work on the game proved to be a nightmare. Most of Kaos’ employees at this point were emotionally and physically weathered, feeling that their labor was being wasted through mismanagement. This was exemplified when a speech from Votypka at the 2010 Kaos holiday party got a bitter response. A comment from Bilson on Twitter fueled a complaint towards THQ and Kaos by a developer, and Votypka had to defend Kaos and deny several allegations. Other studios took the opportunity to “poach” several of Kaos’ employees, who, needless to say, were more than happy to work on something else and escape this troubled development. With moral at Kaos drastically lowering, many personnel quietly left the studio, having lost all faith on its future.
- The game itself received mixed reviews, but did not perform as well as Kaos hoped. The most frustrating thing was that the game had a very good multiplayer mode, but the single-player experience alone was weighing down the entire experience, and was subject to the most criticism. March 2011, after Kaos had released Homefront, marked a large stock drop, and shortly after in June THQ had already announced the developer’s closure. A sequel was announced, Homefront: The Revolution, which is set to be released in 2016 by Deep Silver Dambuster.
- 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.
- Kings Quest Maskof Eternity: Right out of the starting gate, the game was to become a hack-and-slash RPG, similar to Sierra's own Quest for Glory series, in an attempt to compete with games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While stories tend to shift on who made this decision, either Roberta herself, wanting to evolve the series, or higher-ups at Sierra forcing her to, this confused many longtime fans when trailers for the game were released.
- Another big problem came from sister company Davidson and Associates, creators of the Math Blaster series. Founder Jan Davidson, a devout Christian, was appalled at how the game was straying from it's "Thou Shalt Not Kill method of puzzle solving" roots. Along with her displeasure that Roberta could make the controversial gore-fest Phantasmagoria become one of Sierra's best selling games, this was plenty to make Davidson coerce CUC Software, the company that owned both Sierra and Davidson at the time, into giving Davidson permission to make their own Christian friendly version of Mask of Eternity, which would remove any and all violence and combat, ironically making it more like a standard King's Quest game.
- Upon hearing this news, Roberta felt like she was losing control over her game. She became adamant to work on it, and almost threatened to quit the game altogether. However, a few months later, Davidson and Associates would go defunct, meaning their version of the game was canceled. With their deadline steadily approaching, Roberta bounced back full force and helped salvage what was left of their game, but it wasn't good enough as it ended up being the last game she would ever work on, and would be one of the last adventure games made by Sierra.
- During this period, several aspects of the game were cut. The main character would have been a statue that had come to life rather than a village tanner, the swamp witch would have a larger role, first appearing as a beautiful woman and trying to seduce Connor, instead of immediately attacking in her real, hideous form. A redcap goblin was scrapped that would have stalked Connor around.
- 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 reportedly went to work on another project afterward, 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.
- LucasArts's fall from grace and eventual dissolution has been covered in multiple feature stories, and showed a company that was equal parts mismanaged and directionless.
- According to various sources, promising projects like Star Wars 1313 and the multiplayer shooter Star Wars: First Assault were prone to delays and shifts mid-development because of George Lucas, who was unfamiliar with the game design process and constantly asked for revisions or major gameplay additions in the middle of production. A hiring freeze in late 2012 killed LucasArts' momentum, and planned marketing initiatives for the in-house projects were shunted to the sidelines. A month later, the studio was shut down due to Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm, and the in-development projects were all canceled.
- Many sources blamed the studio's former president, Micheline Chau, for causing strife and distrust between the various staffers by forcing them to rehearse what they would say to Lucas and not give any unscripted feedback of their own. Other staffers alleged that Lucas would give them bizarre or confusing design requests, including nonsensical character names and bizarre gameplay motivations, which fueled the animosity between the staff and executives.
- Coupling with What Could Have Been, LucasArts' dissolution caused many promising projects to be scrapped in mid-development. These scrapped games included (in addition to 1313 and First Assault) a complex open-world game designed by Far Cry 2 developer Clint Hocking, a proposed third installment of Knights of the Old Republic by Obsidian Entertainment, a remastered version of Day Of The Tentacle and more. They were also several completed projects, including a mobile game where you could control the Death Star and another mobile game called Outpost where the player could create their own Empire, that were scrapped just before their release for no discernible reason.
- 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.
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was intended to be series creator Hideo Kojima's magnum opus, but it also marked the end of an era, as it was his final project for Konami due to a contentious production.
- Despite the game's auspicious reveal (with the main game being announced only by its subtitle and helmed by a "Moby Dick Studios", a fake name for Kojima Productions), the project faced controversy immediately when it came to light that long-time Solid Snake/Big Boss voice actor David Hayter was unceremoniously fired in favor of actor Kiefer Sutherland (who also provided facial capture for the Big Boss character). While it was suggested that Kojima did so in order to avoid paying a higher salary for Hayter, the latter contends that he was never approached about the issue and still harbors resentment.
- In March 2015, it came to light that Konami restructured their corporate offices, with Kojima apparently out of the company as a permanent employee and his production studio intended to be disbanded at the end of Phantom Pain's production. This was followed by Kojima's name and company being removed from all marketing materials, including the final cover art for the game and future releases of Ground Zeroes and The Legacy Collection. Over the next few months, several people (including voice actress/singer Donna Burke, composer Rika Muranaka and Snake's Japanese voice actor) publicly spoke out against Konami for their poor treatment of Kojima. This also resulted in the cancellation of Silent Hills (as detailed below).
- In April 2015, an online movement began to express questions about the likeness of a doctor featured in one of the trailers to real-life neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero, who was believed to be part of a viral marketing campaign for the game. In response, Canavero denied any involvement with the project and decided to sue Konami for an unauthorized use of his likeness.
- Several months later, a damning report from Japan's Nikkei news service came to light that exposed the circumstances behind the game's development. It was reported that Kojima became a pariah because Phantom Pain was delayed, leading to its production budget exceeding $80 million U.S. dollars by April 2015. It was also revealed that Konami executives (having restructured their efforts more towards mobile games and its ancillary divisions like pachinko machines and health spas) was overseeing Kojima Productions, now renamed "Number 8 Production Development", with an iron fist. Employees were reportedly monitored on social media and on emails, and publicly shamed if their lunch breaks went for too long. Additionally, it was suggested that making mistakes at Konami led some employees to be transferred to menial office tasks in other divisions until they quit the company.
- In the finished product now, all the signs are there - an abrupt and Disappointing Last Level, with several promised features not coming to fruition, the game's Twist Ending revealed suddenly and out of context, and the game's True Final Boss deleted and reduced to unfinished cutscene footage as a special edition Blu-Ray extra. An entire third chapter of the game appears to have been cut when it became apparent that the game was not going to break even for Konami. It's rumored now, that the game has become a Creator Killer for Konami's AAA game production, though the company has publicly denied this.
- Metroid: Other M had many issues pop up during development due to the game director, Yoshio Sakamoto, trying to assume total control over the game's development. Whatever issues the dev team had an issue with, Sakamoto either ignored it or told them to work with it. Sakamoto also demanded that the controls be mapped to the Wii Remote only, even though the dev team pointed out that it was more difficult to control Samus on the D-pad and would be way easier to use the Nunchuck's analog stick. Sakamoto also told Samus' voice actress, Jessica Martin, to deliver her lines in a repressed way to emulate someone with a troubled past, which made Samus sound extremely flat and monotone most of the time. The overall result was the game receiving massive backlash from critics and fans alike for making Samus look weak as a person, bad writing, and awkward controls. What makes it even more painful that Super Metroid was also handled by Sakamoto and that game is considered to be the best game in the Metroid franchise, making many people what happened between that and Other M.
- 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 in North America. 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.
- PlayStation Home, a virtual world created by Sony for the PlayStation 3, effectively existed in a state of limbo for its entire lifespan. This article on Kotaku UK lays out the whole story of "Sony's most successful failure".
- Home began life as an online mode for the PlayStation 2 game The Getaway: Black Monday, but soon expanded once Phil Harrison, vice president of Sony Europe, had a look at it and decided that it could be something far more. Harrison envisioned the project, then known internally as 'the Hub', as a 'space between games' that would function as a lobby system of sorts for a whole slew of games. While Harrison was able to secure funding for what was becoming his dream project, many of Sony's other executives didn't understand his vision for the Hub, a problem that would plague Home for its entire lifespan. The Japanese executives especially couldn't get their heads around it — to them, multiplayer gaming was a social activity where friends get together in the same room, the antithesis of the Hub's Western model of playing with strangers through online matchmaking. (A similar philosophy was visible in Nintendo's much-maligned "friend code" system.)
- With the announcement of the PS3, what was now being called Home was soon positioned as a flagship title for the fledgling console. This led to a number of problematic design changes. The original animesque character style, for instance, was thrown out in favor of a more photo-realistic one designed to showcase the new console's power, but it soon turned out that having hundreds of such highly detailed, player-controlled characters in a virtual space (especially an online one) was incredibly taxing on the PS3's hardware; the number of avatars in any given space had to be capped at fifty. Furthermore, these more realistic models fell straight into the Uncanny Valley.
- The greater world's introduction to Home came at E3 2007, in the form of an incredibly awkward presentation featuring the digital avatars of Sony executives Jack Tretton and Kaz Hirai. It was a poor first impression, and it added to the woes that the PS3 suffered early in its life cycle. Furthermore, Home missed its planned autumn 2007 release date, being pushed back into the following year.
- Phil Harrison's departure from Sony at the beginning of 2008 produced a revolving door of producers, many of whom didn't understand the concept of Home and whose expertise came in widely disparate fields. Oscar Clark, the man brought in to sort out the disorganized project, remarked that, in early 2008, there essentially wasn't a Home, the project having been filed with all manner of half-formed ideas.
- When Home finally launched in December 2008 after more than a year of delays, it was an Obvious Beta. The massive amount of detail on the avatars and the worlds they inhabited produced outrageous load times of up to ten minutes, and there was a good chance players couldn't get into the areas they were trying to enter due to the strict, resource-mandated caps on the number of avatars in any given space. The team could do little to fix these problems, as they were small and underfunded and the bugs so numerous and deep-rooted; there's a reason the game never left its Perpetual Beta. There was little content to see either, and a number of features planned for later updates were scrapped. One such feature was the Hall of Fame, a personalized room where players could see physical, three-dimensional trophies corresponding to their achievements in various games; most studios, even Sony's second-party developers, saw designing dozens of unique trophies as a waste of time.
- Developers' skepticism extended to Home in general. Few of them saw any point in creating virtual spaces and other content in Home for their games, especially given how difficult the process of creating such content was, and as a result, most of Home's actual content had little to do with video games. While a few companies like nDreams and Veemee did create a number of unique original games for Home, shopping for clothes, houses, yachts, and other items for players to customize their avatars with became the main activity. Home had gone from a gaming hub to a bizarro version of Second Life...
- ...which actually allowed it to start turning a profit and develop a passionate fanbase. Commercially, it was a huge success in the long run, even if it was swiftly forgotten outside its cult following. In fact, it was precisely this financial success that caused Sony to wait until 2015, after the PS3 had become a Daddy System, to finally shut down its servers.
- 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.
- Silent Hills immediately emerged as one of the most anticipated horror games on the horizon after a demo called P.T. (for "Playable Teaser") was released at Gamescom 2014 and scared the pants off of nearly everybody who played it. It was to be a Silent Hill game made by a Dream Team of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, with Norman Reedus voicing the protagonist. Unfortunately, P.T. was all that ever came of the project, as production came to a halt several months later thanks to a bitter feud and falling out between Kojima and publisher Konami (described in the section above on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), with both Del Toro and Reedus confirming that the game was delayed indefinitely, if not outright canceled. Rumors briefly swirled that Microsoft was looking to buy the rights and restart production as an Xbox One exclusive, but those hopes turned out to be little more than wishful thinking. The experience (together with that of inSANE, a previous video game project of Del Toro's that became vaporware when THQ went bankrupt) caused Del Toro to swear off working on video games.
- 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.
- And just when everything semed like it would be going smoothly, the Red Cross requested that Valentine's crosses have their color changed (the symbol of the Red Cross is protected by the Geneva Convention; this is why you'll never see a Nurse Joy with a red cross on her hat). Lab Zero at least took advantage of the necessary patch to add a new character (Fukua) to the game.
- 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. The game's production (located in Sega Technical Institute's headquarters) was also notorious for language barriers and conflicting work ethics between Japanese Sonic Team members, who Naka brought to the United States to work on the game as he was unhappy with Sega of Japan's policies; and the American STI members, who assisted in the game's development. (Understandably enough, Naka developed Sonic 3 & Knuckles in STI on the condition that only his fellow Sonic Team members and other Japanese STI staff would develop the title to avoid another instance of this.)
- 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, 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.
- 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 on the Sega Saturn.
- For starters, what would eventually become Sonic X-treme for the Sega Saturn was actually the byproduct of a slew of several failed pitches for a Sonic game developed by Sega Technical Institute, which underwent many ideas for stories, game design, and even platforms (with the game planned for the Sega Genesis, and then its add-on the Sega 32X, before finally being settled for the Saturn).
- When development finally got underway, the development staff was comprised of two teams: one for the main levels, led by lead designer Chris Senn and lead programmer Ofer Alon; the other for the boss levels, led by programmer Chris Coffin. Despite the presence of a project overseer -Mike Wallis- to monitor both teams, the two groups ended up practically building two separate games with minimal similarities to each other. Not helping matters were the smaller teams that formed within the main teams and proceeded to work on different aspects of the game's development, who while in theory were supposed to ease the development process made it more cumbersome in practice. This ultimately contributed to an overall lack of communication across the development team, which led to high tensions between both groups, not at all helped by Ofer's seclusive tendencies from the rest of his team.
- The development team for the main levels frequently ran into problems porting the engine to the Saturn-the game was originally programmed on a Mac computer, then quickly ported a PC before finally ported to Saturn. While the game ran smoothly on Mac and PC, the Saturn port had atrocious framerate issues, with the game playing at a consistently sluggish 3-4 FPS. This along with the aforementioned rocky relationship within the studio led to constant delays in the game's development cycle.
- As a result of all this, Sega of America finally forced their hand in the development process by bringing in third-party developer Point-Of-View (POV for short) to smooth out the development process...unfortunately, this only deepened the cracks that would lead to the collapse of the game's development. Despite POV's intended role being to assist porting the main game's engine to the Saturn, they ultimately took over development duties from Alon - a decision which wouldn't had been so bad if POV didn't prove themselves largely inexperienced to the task. A very basic image of Sonic on a checkerboard background was what POV presented to demonstrate their programming skills (to say Senn and Alon were unimpressed would be an understatement), topped off by the developer also being unsuccessful at porting Alon's engine to the Saturn. note Despite this change in the development process, a new group comprised of the main engine's original team was later established by Alon and Senn to continue their own work on the main engine.
- This all culminated into a horribly botched presentation of the game to a group of Sega of Japan's representatives - which included then-President Hayao Nakayama - who visited STI's headquarters in March of 1996 to check out the game's progress. While the original team was polishing up their engine for a presentation to the SoJ staff (which had undergone a lot of development and had also been successfully ported to the Saturn), unknowingly to them another presentation with POV's failed attempts to run an older version of Alon's engine on the Saturn had already been shown to the SoJ staff, with Nakayama being disgusted with the results. This was followed by a presentation of Coffin's boss engine in action, which led to Nakayama ordering for the entire game to be designed around that engine and be completed for that year's holiday season. Despite Senn's best efforts to persuade them to stay a while longer to see their newer version of Alon's engine, they ultimately failed to convince the representatives to view the new engine.
- As a result, development from this point forward was largely restricted to Coffin's team to finish the game in time for the fast-approaching holiday season deadline, with POV, Ofer's team, and all work on the main engine effectively cancelled from the development process. In desperation, Coffin's team asked for and was granted use of the engine used in NiGHTS Into Dreams... to hasten development so the game would be finished on time. After getting accustomed to the engine's use after two weeks, the engine was taken away due to NiGHTS/Sonic creator Yuji Naka learning about the engine's use (the engine had been taken without his consent) and threatening to quit Sega if the team continued using his engine, sending the team back to square one.note All of this resulted in Coffin doing most of the work himself, tirelessly working 20 hours a day and sleeping in the offices. When he contracted pneumonia and doctors told her he had only 6 months to live if he kept working as he did, he was forced to exit development, and thus Wallis being forced to tell his superiors that the game would not be completed in time for Christmas. By that point, there was no other choice but to pull the plug on the game, with an later attempt by Senn and Ofer to get their work on the game released on PC rejected.
- Sonic X-treme's failure to show up on shelves has been largely pointed to as a reason as to why the Sega Saturn was a commercial failure, as the hole left in it's wake meant that the Sonic series (whose 2D platforming entries sold millions on the Sega Genesis) would not see a proper platforming installment released on the system and left the Saturn without a guaranteed Killer App for its system (not helped by the fact that rivals Nintendo and Sony had brought to the table their own 3D platformer offerings for their respective consoles earlier that year). The Sonic series wouldn't receive a 3D installment until Sega got Sonic Team to revamp the series for the Sega Dreamcast. The game's cancellation has also been blamed for developer STI dissolving shortly afterwards.
- 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.
- From the segments of information given about its hectic development, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric ended up being subject to this. Developer videos and interviews have indicated that the game - running on the CryEngine 3 engine - was originally intended to be developed for Xbox and PlayStation platforms; however, the final game was released as a Wii U exclusive - a platform that CryEngine 3 was not officially supported for. With Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric announced as the third and final game in Sega's Nintendo console-exclusive Sonic partnership and the game reportedly going gold in July, the general consensus of what presumably happened behind-the-scenes was that Sega ended up rushing the game's development so they could release the game in time for the Christmas season and so they could quickly finish the Nintendo-exclusive Sonic partnership (as the first two games of the deal sold poorly). Not helping matters was CryEngine 3 not able to handle the game that they planned to make (a action-adventure game that supported two player co-op...mind you, CryEngine 3 was originally designed for first-person shooters), with one of the game's developer stating that the team "was fighting against the engine the entire time". And if that wasn't enough, a large chunk of the team left in July either voluntarily or just being let go. As a result, the final game had a whole manner of glitches and visuals that left a lot to be desired - a stark contrast to the early footage released for the game, which showcased impressive visuals. It also didn't help that Sega enforced a review embargo to prevent official reviewers from telling the public about the mess the game was in, not that it did any good once the game was launched.
- 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. The game's production (located in Sega Technical Institute's headquarters) was also notorious for language barriers and conflicting work ethics between Japanese Sonic Team members, who Naka brought to the United States to work on the game as he was unhappy with Sega of Japan's policies; and the American STI members, who assisted in the game's development. (Understandably enough, Naka developed Sonic 3 & Knuckles in STI on the condition that only his fellow Sonic Team members and other Japanese STI staff would develop the title to avoid another instance of this.)
- 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 consist mainly (though not entirely) of FMV games, with only a few or so games that actually made (comparatively) more innovative use of the system's specsnote .
- 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.
- A good example of Cryptic's forced rush was the Klingon faction. Compare the group at launch and compare the group during the first expansion, "Legacy of Romulus": Klingons were not chooseable at the start, they were unlocked when a Federation player reached Level 20. The Klingons started out at Level 20, but had no extra places to actively gain levels like the Federation did and had very little ships to play with. As well, the Gorn race was laughably bad in design, looking almost as bad as the Star Trek: The Original Series versions. Nowadays, the Klingons are chooseable at the start, the Gorn look much better and there's an entire starting story for the Klingons.
- Free Radical's Star Wars: Battlefront III was subject to a large amount of development troubles and studio in-fighting with LucasArts before it was scrapped. Despite it never being formally announced, the details of its turbulent production are infamous:
- The developer started production on an internal prototype for the next installment in the Battlefront series. According to interviews with co-founder Steve Ellis, the concept was so good that Lucasarts was pushing them to release it as soon as possible, and they promised gameplay elements like a seamless transition from the player flying a ship in space to landing on a planet and exiting, cutting-edge tech upgrades and more. Likewise, LucasArts reportedly promised the developer that they could also develop a Battlefront 4 if the third installment was successful.
- In early 2008, LucasArts went through a round of layoffs and the relationship between the publisher and developer soured. According to Ellis, the new executives were sour on the concept and wanted to trim as many projects as they could. Consequently, the game began missing content milestones, and previous cash injections that were given by LucasArts dried up. Other accounts claim that the company was deliberately lying about their progress on the game to continue receiving support payments from LucasArts. All of this was compounded by the failure of the Playstation 3 game Haze, which sold poorly and garnered harsh critical reviews.
- The game missed an April 2009 launch date. Soon after, Free Radical was hit with a round of layoffs and the game was supposedly canceled for financial reasons, In interviews afterward, Ellis claimed that the project was "99% finished" and only needed bug fixing before it could be released, but his account was disputed by an anonymous ex-Lucasarts employee, who said that it was canned because Free Radical was missing target deadlines, lying about their progress and that the game tested poorly internally. Ellis stated that the game was mutually scrapped after it became clear that LucasArts couldn't afford to continue development.
- Gameplay of the reportedly near-final version leaked in 2012, and showed that the project was playable, but also suffered from random crashes and numerous bugs. The Free Radical team later published a video ridiculing LucasArts executives for failing to fund the project through to completion.
- To add insult to injury, Battlefront III wasn't the only Free Radical project that fell through. The team created a working prototype for Timesplitters 4, but were turned down by multiple publishers who complained that they didn't know how to market it. This was the final straw before the company disintegrated in 2009.
- The Battlefront project reportedly passed through several more developers before it was eventually given to DICE Software, who plan to release a reboot of the series in 2015.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is legendary for its turbulent development history and botched release. The game notably featured an incomplete and haphazard ending, caused by LucasArts rushing Obsidian to get the game out the door for a Christmas release. Major elements like the HK-50 Droid Factory, M4-78 droid planet, much more content with the player's squadmates (and a coherent ending) were either left unfinished or scrapped entirely, and Obsidian's attempt to resolve the issues via a major content patch after the fact was rejected by the publisher. KOTOR 2's release is also rumored as being partially responsible for the company nearly going bankrupt in 2004 and being forced to restructure and focus more on in-house development.
- Eventually, fans created The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod, which managed to fix most of the gameplay issues and restore cut content, making the game considerably better.
- 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.
- "Troubled" doesn't even begin to describe the genesis of Tattoo Assassins, Data East's Mortal Kombat clone. According to insider accounts, the idea was born when Data East Pinball executive Joe Kaminkow got a script treatment from Back to the Future's Bob Galenote and decided to turn it into a game — with a development schedule and budget that was less than half of the typical arcade game of the time. The developers were promised lucrative bonuses for making the deadlines, which resulted in 12-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week grinds. To make matters worse, the team was hamstrung by nonstop demands for additional fatalities, time was spent preparing demo prototypes for trade show demos, and the final hardware was far underpowered for the game's intended design. The playtesters had to be forced to test the game, while the developers simply wanted to finish it and move on — and at the end of it all, the game was never released.
"We knew the game was crap, and that we were no longer capable of fixing it. After we got back from the show, we were so 'crispy' that we no longer cared about the money — our only true reward for finishing up was that we wouldn't have to work on it any more."
- 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.
- 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.
- The World of Darkness MMO, as detailed in this Guardian article, spent nearly a decade in Development Hell before finally being canceled. Those years had all the makings of this trope.
- Icelandic developer CCP, fresh off the booming success of EVE Online, bought out a troubled White Wolf in 2006 hoping to get its hands on that company's lucrative tabletop gaming IPs. Almost immediately, CCP put a World of Darkness MMO in production, opening a studio in Atlanta to work on it.
- Troubles began almost immediately. While CCP, to their credit, kept on most of White Wolf's important staff and trained a stable of programmers and artists to work on the game, much of that staff wound up frequently poached to work on expansions for EVE and on the spinoff DUST 514, causing constant delays in production that saw features being planned, partially completed, and then scrapped. Furthermore, the manager in charge of the project had little in the way of a coherent vision for the game, exacerbating the delays and the problems of work wasted on various abandoned gameplay mechanics. The game effectively reached alpha stage (i.e. with the fundamentals of its core gameplay mechanics all implemented) a total of three times, with the staff going back to the drawing board for each one.
- As production stretched out, management frequently attempted to deflect blame for the delays onto the programmers. Design meetings were described by one former developer as "whoever shouted longest and hardest would dominate".
- In 2011, the Incarna expansion for EVE experienced its own troubled production, causing CCP to bring in the Atlanta team to help finish the job that their main team in Reykjavik was struggling with. When the Atlanta team got the job done in a fraction of the time that the Reykjavik team took to do just a quarter of the work, their work ethic was vindicated, but the Reykjavik team was left bitter that they'd been shown up so badly.
- The beginning of the end came when, in the aftermath of the Internet Backdraft against CCP for introducing microtransactions to EVE as well as the failure of DUST 514, CCP began cutting costs. Morale fell apart as developers saw cuts to their pay, to their free meals, and to their medical benefits, and twenty percent of the workforce was laid off by the end of 2011. A teaser trailer was released at EVE Fanfest in 2012, but while it got the feel and style of the source material down, it notably didn't contain anything even resembling gameplay footage. Resources were stretched even further in 2013 when CCP announced EVE Valkyrie, a Space Fighter game set in the EVE universe. At that point, its cancellation in 2014, the only product of its development being some cool concept art, was a Foregone Conclusion.
- X-Men: Destiny was hit with this due to behind-the-scenes Marvel Comics licensing problems throwing a monkey wrench into the game's budget. The Word of God from Silicon Knights chef Denis Dyack says that the game was intended as a major AAA release at the end published by Activision, who formerly held the Marvel game license at the beginning of development, with Silicon Knights even pumping even more money into the budget than its employees' salary.
- What neither Activision nor Silicon Knights could have foreseen was Disney's acquisition of Marvel midway during development: With Disney publishing games themselves, Activision and Disney got into disagreements over the former's Marvel video game contract, causing the budget to shrink down in the process; Silicon Knights was not paid by Activision during conversations and had to fund the game's development out of their own pockets at the point. Needless to say, the game suffered for it and with Activision's Marvel contract being "so complicated and detailed to unravel" that Disney couldn't do anything to help the project, the final game had to be released as a mess. Disney would eventually buy out Activision's Marvel license a few years later.
- Of course, this requires one to take the word of Small Name, Big Ego/Jerkass Denis Dyack's word that it was their fault and their fault alone. This account factors in other elements contributed by many of SK's former employers; notably that SK had been blowing off Activision in order to buy time to create other games that Dyack was more interested in. Mind you, Dyack's Ego was out of control at this point in time so at SK, if you didn't work with him, you were against him and the workplace environment reflected that. Countless times they presented nothing but demo screens/falsified trailers just to appease Activision who in turn just accepted it. This was partially because Dyack really didn't want to do X-Men Destiny (he wasn't an X-Men fan), but rather his own projects such as Eternal Darkness 2. To try to ensure that this game would be worthwhile, Dyack siphoned away numerous senior workers from the X-Men game project to the ED 2 project. Unfortunately, nothing came out of Eternal Darkness 2 either and by that point, Activision were finally getting impatient with Silicon Knights'.
- Eventually, Activision, tired of having their product delayed indefinitely with art assets and unplayable builds, created a trailer for X-Men Destiny and slapped the company's name to it; effectively putting them on a timer. This was compounded by technical problems. To quote and entire paragraph from the article: "To further complicate matters, the under-staffed and over-stressed team working on XMD had to struggle with technical difficulties. A source who was there at the beginning of development says that when staff began work on the project, “the tech was really in its infancy. We didn’t have a good level editor, as we started a new one from scratch, in a language that none of the programmers had any experience with: C#. The editor and exporter were terrible to work with. It took hours to make a change and see it in the game. It did improve over time, but it was never really good, or on par with modern editors and engines.”
- Mind you; SK had tons and TONS of time to create their project beforehand but never did anything about it; so now they had to rush down on everything because NOW their reputation was on the line. This led to humongous crunch times but with no real ideas behind the game proper to make anything good out of it in due time because they were unfamiliar with tech used (think Sonic Boom and the Crysis engine) and no senior members working on the project earlier (though the article really said that nobody really tried at all). As a result, they had to publish whatever they had; which was a stinker.
- The Yogscast video game Yogsventures! met an untimely end because of this.
- It all began when the developer, Winterkewl Games, started a Kickstarter campaign to get support from fans, which resulted in $500,000 dollars in funds raised. The first problem came up when the game's artist left the team to work with LucasArts, who didn't give him any accessibility in his contract to spend time on working on the game. This was a huge setback for Winterkewl, as they already had a contract that guaranteed each of the main artists a $35,000 lump sum payment and they made no clear clause as to how and why someone could legally stop working on the project. This basically equated to the artist working on the project for about 2 weeks with pay, and then suddenly abandoning it later, much to the surprise of Winterkewl.
- Upon hearing about Winterkewl's troubles, Yogscast co-founder Lewis Brindley immediately expressed his confusion and disdain over what happened, and became hesitant to trust Winterkewl leader Kristafer Vale. The development team ending up giving $150,000 to Yogscast for them to create and ship the Kickstarter campaign's physical rewards to fans who had already pledged for the game, along with aiding in hiring a main programmer for Winterkewl (which they still didn't have at this point in development). Meanwhile, with currently no actual programmer in his team's roster, Vale found himself taking on that role, and worked tirelessly for 18 months on the game.
- Various design changes and Vale's inexperience as a project lead and developer ultimately marked the end of the line for Winterkewl, who, by this point, had paid so much money for licensing fees and finding a programmer that they had little left to continue the project. Winterkewl ended up going bankrupt and announced the cancellation of the game. Yogscast also officially announced this bit of news as well, calling the whole thing a failure that was "a deep regret". Out of sympathy for the tens of thousands of people who had funded the game and had no chance of getting any money back, Yogscasters gave out free copies of Landmark, a massively-multiplayer online RPG (which is now in closed beta). At the end of it all, Yogsventures! has since been regarded as one of the biggest failures in Kickstarter video game projects.