As video games become larger and more complex, so does the process of creating them. Triple A titles require massive teams of well over one hundred people, with everybody needing to be on the same page in order for production to run smoothly. There is little room for deviation from the original plan, and rarely would it happen during the eleventh hour.
Rarely, however, does not mean never. Even in big budget titles shake ups happen near the end of development that can have a significant impact on the finished product. Changing a video game at the last minute means a lot of crunching and over time, usually unpaid, unfortunately.
Relative to video game production, "last minute" usually has an entirely different standard than a television series or a movie. With the latter two, a spur of the moment idea can usually be put on camera as swiftly as it was thought up. For video games this is seldom the case, as most changes require a ton of work to implement. So "last minute" can mean six months to a year in some cases.
Over the next twenty entries, we will showcase games where the adjustments greatly benefited or catastrophically damaged the final release. For the former, the last piece of the puzzle that really makes a title stand out does not pop into the creators' heads until late in the development. As for the detrimental changes, anything from good intentions going bad to uncontrollable circumstances are the culprits of destruction.
So don't change that channel kids, because here are 9 Last Minute Changes That Hurt Video Games (And 11 That Saved Them).
20 Saved: Kingdom Hearts II - Keeping Axel Alive
The Kingdom Hearts saga is chock full of memorable personalities among both its heroes and villains. Axel, voiced by Quintin Flynn, is an especially beloved character for his emotional depth, despite a catchphrase that may annoy some.
It is a good thing that the developers changed their minds about his original fate in Kingdom Heart II then, otherwise players would have seen much less of the Nobody. He was originally intended to kick the bucket during the game's prologue. After becoming a favorite among developers, it was decided to postpone his morbid fate.
The red haired nuisance still meets his maker by the game's end, but he gets plenty of screen time and characterization throughout the journey.
19 Hurt: Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain - Firing Hideo Kojima
Hideo Kojima's final entry into the Metal Gear saga is truly one of the finest gaming experiences out there, at least what there is to play of it. The story goes along at a fine pace until it ends like the last line of T.S. Elliot's The Hollow Men - "Not with a bang, but a whimper"
The reason why the story abruptly halts and bee lines to the finale is attributed to a massive restructuring within Konami that greatly strained relations between the legendary game designer and the publisher.
When playing the game, it is easy to see where work stopped and the structure falls apart, leaving a mere shell of a game that could have been so much more.
18 Saved: Borderlands - Adding the cell-shaded art style
Gearbox slowly built its good name over the years with the renowned Half-Life expansions, Blue Shift and Opposing Force, and the Brothers in Arms series.
In 2007 the developer unveiled their new original property, Borderlands, but it barely resembled the Borderlands people know and love today. The biggest difference was that it utilized a more realistic aesthetic.
After three years of work, the developers knew the project needed something in order to differentiate itself from competitors like Fallout 3 and Rage. The solution was the cell shaded look that is now signature to the series. The change was not without its casualties, however, with the original art director exiting the industry after so much work was thrown out.
17 Hurt: Metal Gear Solid 2 - Censoring parts of its ending
Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty is a beautiful turn of the millennium masterpiece that speculates on the future implications of then burgeoning technologies. One of the major themes is the mass manipulation of digital information in order to change the truth.
How ironic then, that some of the game was censored a mere two months prior to release. The ending in particular faced heavy editing after the 9/11 attacks. A scene where Arsenal Gear crashes into Manhattan is edited out, with the screen going blank before the fortress hits the island.
It's understandable to do this in light of the world events, but it is unfortunate that the scenes were not restored in later release.
16 Saved: Goldeneye 007 - Adding multiplayer mode
Any reader who was gaming during the mid 90s will have fond recollections of 1997's Goldeneye 007. The single player campaign is a blast, but the multiplayer is what really gave the title legs. It would surprise many, then, to learn that the versus mode was not created until a few months before release.
In a presentation by Martin Hollis, he relays a story from Steve Ellis where he says the game was absent of multiplayer until March or April of 1997. To put that into perspective, Goldeneye came out in August of that year.
What's more is that the work on multiplayer was done in secret, unknown to Nintendo or Rare until they demonstrated a working version of it.
15 Hurt: Star Fox 2 - Not Being Released until 2017
Star Fox 2 is an example of perhaps the biggest last minute change to possibly befall a game - cancellation. Usually a title is canceled because of quality, legal, or financial issues. What was to be Fox McCloud's second outing was axed for being in 3D.
The original Star Fox is already impressive for SNES hardware, and its sequel was set to blow it out of the water in every way. Unfortunately, around the time of the sequel's would be release the next generation consoles were starting to emerge. Because of this, Nintendo wanted a clear defining line between the two console generations, and the three dimensional SNES title muddied those lines.
The silver lining is that Star Fox 2 eventually saw a retail release on the SNES Classic in 2017.
14 Saved: Conker's Bad Fur Day - Changing the tone
Before becoming the foul mouthed bad boy that graced N64 consoles back in 2001, Conker was originally a much tamer character akin to the other family friendly mascots of the console. The title was first announced in 1997 to an unenthusiastic reception. General complaints were aimed at its similarities to Banjo-Kazooie.
The title went dark for over a year, eventually reemerging as Conker's Bad Fur Day, a goofy ride filled with dirty jokes and a character made entirely of scat, and were not talking about improvised singing.
The title did not garner high sales, but grew a strong cult following, eventually earning a remake on the XBOX. Had the kid friendly vibe stayed, the game may not have had the same legacy.
13 Hurt: Spec Ops: The Line - Adding an online mode
Rarely does a military have a memorable narrative with themes and messages that stick with the player long after the credits roll. Spec Ops: The Line is one of those titles that sends chills down the players' spines with its uncompromising story that is a loose adaptation of Heart of Darkness and, by relation, Apocalypse Now.
The stellar single player campaign was the main focus for Yager Development, and they had no intention of adding an online component. In fact, they were strongly opposed to its inclusion, but publisher 2K games mandated it. The mode was shoehorned in by a different developer entirely, blighting what should have stood alone as an amazing single player experience.
12 Saved: Duke Nukem Forever - Being picked up by Gearbox
Duke Nukem Forever seemed like a dream during its infamously long development. For twelve years from 1997 to 2009 the title was continuously teased and held just out of players' reach. Unfortunately the dream of seeing it hit the market was seemingly shattered when 3D Realms laid off the development team.
Hope was reignited in 2010 when Gearbox's Randy Pitchford personally saw to it that his team would take over the project and see it to completion. The game finally saw the light of day in May of 2011 to mixed reception. The game still has plenty of fans though, and while the levels aren't as labyrinthine as Duke Nukem 3D's maps, it still feels like a genuine Duke Nukem experience.
11 Hurt: E.T. - Being created in only 5 weeks
Back on the Atari 2600 things were simpler. A video game could generally be created by a single person in a little over half a year. To compress that development time into five weeks seems impossible, but Howard Scott Warshaw did it in order to have E.T. hit shelves for the holiday.
As most know, E.T. turned out to be one of the most infamously terrible games of all time. The five week period was simply not enough to work out all the kinks in the design. Blame should not rest on Warshaw's shoulders, however. He was a gifted programmer tasked with an impossible job, and he managed to pull through even with the unrealistic deadline.
10 Saved: Timeshift - Changing the story and style
Generational leaps can be a trying time for developers and their projects. Staying on the current gen runs the risk of looking outdated, while jumping over to the future can add a whole slew of overwhelming challenges. Saber Interactive not only leapt from XBOX to XBOX 360 and PS3 with Timeshift, but they also radically changed almost every aspect of the game.
The time travel mechanic remained untouched, but the look and story underwent a transformation. The game was given an additional year of development to fully revamp it. TimeShift was met with a lukewarm reception, but won a cult following. Currently, Saber are working on the World War Z game, which is shaping up to be incredible.
9 Hurt: Mortal Kombat: Special Forces - Removing the cooperative play mode
To anybody who has ever played Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, we salute you. Even the worst, most unrepentant criminals do not deserve a punishment so severe as being forced to play this mess. The development was plagued with issues, and it shows the second somebody picks up a controller.
The title was originally meant to have cooperative play with series regular Sonya Blade as the second player, but she was pulled out late in development. Not that having coop would have magically fixed the game's unbearable controls, but even the most miserable of experiences are better with a friend, right?
Fortunately, Midway eventually did the brawler genre justice with Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, released in 2005.
8 Saved: Star Fox Adventures - Being on the N64 & changing its title
Rare made a name for itself with the Donkey Kong Country games, but also had a plethora of classics that were not based on existing Nintendo properties. The Nintendo 64 are seen as a particularly glorious time for the developer, with hard hitters like Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker's Bad Fur Day.
Dinosaur Planet was on track to be an original idea from the company until a generational leap caused the Star Fox brand to be stamped on the title. Before the change, Shigeryu Miyemoto noted the similarities between Fox McCloud and Dinosaur Planet's protagonist. Some of the team was displeased with the shift, but development proceeded and Star Fox Adventures ended up being a highlight of the Gamecube's lineup.
7 Hurt: Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver - Cutting out exploration
The second entry in the Legacy of Kain franchise was an staggeringly ambitious undertaking. Amy Hennig directed the project, who would go on to direct a little game some might remember called Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
For this game, Hennig and the team bit off a little more than they could chew with the time they had. To ensure the project did not get too grand and out of hand, they made the decision to start slashing content. The process was brutal, as every cut area and power meant undoing months of hard work.
The game that shipped is still fantastic, but it is easy to spot places where cut content would have been, especially in the latter half of the campaign.
6 Saved: Max Payne 3 - Brining back James McCaffrey
The first two Max Payne outings have impeccable voice acting that bring the bleak narrative to life. A particular standout among the cast was James McCaffrey, who voiced the titular character.
Upon Max Payne 3's initial reveal, Rockstar stated that a new actor would voice Max. Fans were understandably distraught, as many associate the actor's voice with the character. A Max Payne without McCaffrey would feel like a Dirty Harry without Clint Eastwood.
For a couple of years after the announcement, little news was heard regarding the title. Then, in September of 2011 a new trailer was released, along with the assurance that McCaffrey had returned to the role and would also perform the motion capture for the down on his luck detective.
5 Hurt: Jurassic Park: Trespasser - Being rushed
When games like Max Payne 2 and Half-Life 2 were using ragdoll physics in 2003 and 2004, it seemed revolutionary. It may come as a shock that Jurassic Park: Trespasser used the animation system all the way back in 1998. It is not as well remembered as the first two examples with good reason - it is barely playable.
Trespasser had lofty goals, but it was rushed to completion after already going through one delay. Without the time to polish it, the complex technology powering the game was riddled with bugs and glitches and Trespasser lives on in infamy.
Had the game been given more time to cook, it really could have been the next step in video game evolution.
4 Saved: Kameo: Elements of Power - Remaking it for Xbox 360
When Microsoft bought Rare for an astounding $375,000,000 many projects were faced with having to switch over from Gamecube to XBOX. A few titles still did not make it onto Microsoft's debut console, and landed on the 360, ultilizing the next generation's upgraded hardware.
Kameo: Elements of Power was in a near finished state before the decision was made to bring it the XBOX 360. Because of this, the developers were able to fit significantly more none player characters on screen and increase the graphical fidelity. They were also able to produce an orchestral soundtrack, a first for the company. The title unfortunately sold below expectations, but was well regarded by critics and made it onto Rare Replay on XBOX One. .
3 Hurt: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - Adding microtransactions
With the original Deus Ex, Warren Spector wanted to make a game with artistic merit higher than any other title on the market. By all accounts, the game hit its marks. It's sad to note, then, that a future title in the series was brought down by the inclusion of microtransactions.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the most recent entry in the franchise and includes the dubious cash printing method. Publisher Square-Enix also insisted that the breach mode be put in the game. Micro transactions were never a part of the marketing, making them feel like a stab in the back to fans. There is still a solid game under all the executive meddling though.
2 Saved: Resident Evil 2 - Canceling Resident Evil 1.5
People cannot wait to get their hands on the Resident Evil 2 remake, but if you dusted off your PlayStation and popped in the original, it would still prove to be a timeless experience. Almost as legendary as the game itself is the story of its development.
Before becoming the scary masterpiece players know today, an entirely different game was nearly finished. This version is often dubbed "Resident Evil 1.5" and features different environments, characters, and several other key elements that vary from the true Resident Evil 2.
The game was heavily reworked because the team simply was not satisfied with what they had done so far. Playable builds exist of 1.5 on the internet for those interested in trying it themselves.
1 Saved: Grand Theft Auto 3 - Removing Darkel
Grand Theft Auto III was as revolutionary as it was controversial when it brought the criminal carnage into the third dimension.
Like most games of its scale, the title saw a lot of content trimmed shortly before release. One character who has received an almost mythical status is Darkel, whose missions were incongruous to the rest of the game.
The popular rumor is that he was removed because of the 9/11 attacks, but Rockstar denies this. Their reason for cutting Darkel was that his missions clashed with the tone of the rest of the game. Seeing as how the story mainly revolves around conflicts between organized crime families and cultures, it is easy to see why Darkel stuck out like a sore thumb.
Are there any other games had big last minute changes? Let us know in the comments!