Video game history is littered with titles that never quite made release, but it's not only smaller projects and new IPs that have had projects cancelled and work left in the dust. Many Star Wars fans have mourned the loss of Star Wars: 1313, whilst Sledgehammer Games had a third-person Call of Duty game cancelled.
However, some projects can receive a second lease on life. Nosgoth, Psyonix's free-to-play multiplayer title, was originally the multiplayer mode for the unreleased Legacy of Kain: Dark Sun.
Certain developers have been lucky enough to be given another chance to use their ideas and prototypes with major tweaks. In fact, sometimes a well-loved game can have an unrecognizable first version. Here's a rundown of some of the games that had major changes along the way.
Devil May Cry
The flamboyant hack and slash series Devil May Cry has become one of Capcom’s most well-loved franchises. The over-the-top action, vibrant graphics and larger-than-life characters all help make Dante’s demon-hunting quests some of the most enjoyable gaming experiences around. However, were it not for a serious bout of development hell, Devil May Cry may have never existed.
As it goes, Capcom was having severe trouble with Resident Evil 4. The survival horror sequel was causing lots of problems behind the scenes, with prototype after prototype being deemed not quite right. Capcom created one early version of Resident Evil 4 that was seen as too action-focused by the developer. However, the prototype had too much potential to simply be scrapped. Instead, the go-ahead was given to develop a new IP, with the property seeing release as Devil May Cry.
Doom is one of the most influential video games of all time. Although id Software did not create the first person shooter genre, its ultra-violent demon-hunting title certainly brought immense innovation to the fledgling game style and made it a staple of the PC gaming library. There’s a reason why other FPS games were referred to as ‘Doom clones’ for many years afterwards.
However, Doom itself could have ended up an entirely different beast. According to Doom guru John Romero, id Software was initially trying to create a licensed Alien FPS. Rather than Doom’s nightmarish supernatural beasts, players would instead have faced off against Giger’s Xenomorphs. However, negotiations stopped at the last minute after id Software decided they wanted more creative control. John Carmack then simply asked “what if we did the same thing, except with hellspawn instead of Aliens?” The result was a huge part of video gaming history.
Franchises will often try to branch out from the genre they are known for. Super Mario has taken up go-kart racing and golf, Resident Evil has tried its hand at online co-op play and even on-rails shooters, whilst Metroid took the leap to FPS with great aplomb with its Metroid Prime series. Unfortunately, not all genre shifts are successful.
This was the case with Time Crisis Adventure. Envisaged as a way to take players off the rails and into a more open environment, Time Crisis Adventure was pitched to Namco by developer Darkworks in 2003. Unfortunately, Namco then dropped the title one year later. Darkworks persevered, though, and Time Crisis Adventure found new life. The game was picked up by publisher Ubisoft and took a survival horror turn. It was resurrected as Cold Fear for the original Xbox and Playstation 2, and received mixed reviews upon release.
Factor 5 had a long and troubled history with Star Wars titles. The developer had helped create the memorable Rogue Squadron series, but in a frank interview Julian Eggebrecht, former president of Factor 5, explained that all-too often prototypes and early drafts of games were scrapped. In one instance, the developer was tasked with creating an Xbox 360 exclusive called Star Wars Rogue Squadron: X-Wing Versus Tie Fighter.
The project was another to be cancelled by LucasArts, but Factor 5 took the project to Sony as a PS3 launch title, who asked them to adapt the game into a new IP making use of the PS3 controller’s Sixaxis. The result was the dragon-riding air combat title Lair. Unfortunately, Lair did not live up to the expectations set of it. The game was a critical and commercial flop, leaving fans wondering about what might have been if X-Wing versus Tie Fighter had been given the go ahead.
As far as GTA alternatives go, it’s hard to go wrong with Sleeping Dogs. The story of an undercover cop taking on the Triads in Hong Kong, the open world actioner gained plenty of fans upon its release, and has a MMO sequel on the way in the form of Triad Wars. However, the GTA comparisons go back much further than the 2012 title.
The title was initially meant as a follow-up to the True Crime series of games, and would have been titled True Crime: Hong Kong. Previous titles True Crime: Streets of LA and True Crime: New York City were released in 2003 and 2005 respectively to fairly positive critical receptions but middling sales. True Crime: Hong Kong, however, was cancelled by Activision Blizzard due to delays and budget problems. Square Enix then bought the publishing rights but not the rights to the True Crime series itself, making Sleeping Dogs a spiritual successor to the franchise.
Blizzard has become one of the real heavy-hitters of the video game industry through the Warcraft franchise. The developer created three hit real-time strategy games in the Orcs vs Humans universe, before changing the MMO market with World of Warcraft. The title that started it all, however, had very different beginnings. 1994’s Warcraft was originally touted as a game based on the Warhammer licence, and Blizzard created some character models based on the tabletop strategy game.
After some brief negotiations with Games Workshop, Blizzard instead decided that they wanted more creative flexibility, and so they created a new lore to work on. Ironically, 2009's Warhammer-based MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was criticized by some as being too similar to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Blizzard has always been influenced by Games Workshop, with many fans citing similarities between Starcraft and Warhammer 40,000. Blizzard was also once working on Nomad, a strategy title influenced by dystopian gang warfare game Necromunda, but the project was cancelled.
Volition's Red Faction made a real smash when it turned up on the gaming scene in 2001. Promising players a destructible environment, the shooter gave hints of Total Recall, putting gamers into the shoes of a revolutionary on Mars, fighting against the evil Ultor Corporation for the rights of a mining colony. The franchise went on to have several sequels, the most recent being 2011's Red Faction: Armageddon.
The original Red Faction was originally meant to follow on from another franchise, however. At first, Red Faction was the fourth iteration of Descent, the six-directional FPS/air combat hybrid. Although the two series seem quite different, there are some hints to Red Faction’s past as Descent 4: a setting in mining colonies beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, a untrustworthy corporation, and experiments with a dangerous virus.
With Halo, Bungie took the first person shooter genre and updated it to a whole new era of gaming. Aside from rare anomalies such as Goldeneye, the FPS was seen mainly as a PC gaming’s crown jewel until Halo took the genre – and the Xbox - by storm. However, the franchise’s now-iconic gameplay changed wildly over the course of development.
As strange as it sounds, Halo was first conceived as a real-time strategy game, with players taking control of squads of soldiers akin to Command & Conquer. Eventually, this would then change to a more action-focused title, and Halo debuted at the Mac World Conference as a third-person shooter. It was only in 2000, with Microsoft's buyout of Bungie, that Halo made the jump to first-person. A Halo RTS eventually did release, as 2009's Halo Wars.
The Last of Us
It’s hard to think that Jak & Daxter and The Last of Us could have a shared development history. However, as bizarre as it sounds, the two franchises are heavily linked. In 2009, a creative team at Naughty Dog was tasked with creating a reboot of Jak & Daxter, giving the series a facelift for a new console generation. After a little work on the project, however, the team realized that their work had little emotional value, instead feeling that the project was "more for marketing" than for passion.
Neil Druckmann, one of the game's directors, then took the team's concerns to his superiors. The team was taken off Jak & Daxter and instead granted permission to pursue a new story of their own. The process was long and arduous, with Druckmann going back to the drawing board over story and theme several times. Finally, the team created The Last of Us, and the survival horror title went on to become a critical and financial success, winning multiple awards and earning a remastered version for the PS4.
There’s a reason why Deus Ex is still seen as one of the most innovative video games around. The cyberpunk title, created by Warren Spector, bucked the trend when it was released in 2000, giving players the choice between a wide variety of play modes. If players wanted to use stealth and hacking, it was a perfectly viable alternative to a run-and-gun strategy.
However, it appears that not everyone was convinced, as Deus Ex had a complicated production history. Spector originally laid the groundwork for a game called Troubleshooter, which would have starred an ex-cop security specialist in a real world setting. Looking Glass did not take up the project, however, as the studio did not believe there was sufficient technology in place or even a place in the market for such a cross-genre game. Thankfully for Spector, John Romero and Ion Storm offered backing for Spector to make his "dream game," resulting in multiple Game of the Year awards and a place in gaming history for Deus Ex.
So there we have it: 10 games that came to life as something very different from what the developers originally anticipated. Are there any other games you know of that started out as something else? Let us know in the comments below!