7 Video Game Development Horror Stories

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Halloween is here and frightening stories abound: here’s Game Rant’s list of the most horrific video game development stories in gaming history.

Halloween often casts an eerie shadow over everything, and people are more interested in stories with gruesome endings than they might be normally. While there are plenty of video games to play on Halloween that are suitably creepy or festive, the video game industry has more than just unsettling video game mods or spooky titles to offer its fans – there are some real-world tales from developers that are more terrifying than any ghost story.

Even scarier still, many of the games haunted by terrible luck or crucial development missteps are among the most popular or anticipated today. It’s a difficult business where a single poor decision can hamstring a game for years, and for those looking to see just how scary video game development truly can be, here’s Game Rant’s list of seven video game development stories that have surely kept those involved up at night for months afterward.


Duke Nukem Forever

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Our list begins with what could be gaming’s biggest example of development hubris. Duke Nukem Forever was originally announced as the sequel to the popular Duke Nukem 3D, and was poised to capitalize on the success of its predecessors with a bigger campaign and better graphics than the series had ever experienced.

Unfortunately, Duke Nukem Forever‘s development quickly became a running joke instead. After being delayed from 1997 to 2001, 3D Realms announced the game would simply be released “when it’s done,” and 8 years of silence followed before a brief demo was shown in 2007. In 2009, 3D Realms was forced to downsize, resulting in a lawsuit from publisher Take-Two Interactive that the studio never really recovered from. The Duke Nukem Forever game suffered as a result, finally releasing in 2011 after a 15 year development period to a mediocre response. Time had passed Duke Nukem Forever by, and the game is now more famous for its catastrophic development than its actual gameplay.


The Last Guardian

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For whatever reason, The Last Guardian has had the opposite effect on its fans and studio that Duke Nukem Forever developers and diehards experienced. The Last Guardian first began development in 2007 as the follow-up effort from Team Ico, the studio behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

That wait for the game ended up being about six years longer than expected, however. The game has been delayed multiple times, game director Fumito Ueda doesn’t even work at Sony anymore, and hardware difficulties forced the developers to completely rebuild the game for the PS4 after it struggled on the PS3. A development period that could have ended in disaster has somehow managed to create a mystique surrounding the game however, and ahead of it finally being released later this year, fans are inexplicably excited and hopeful to see what The Last Guardian has to offer.


Final Fantasy 15

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Speaking of high-profile games that were stuck in development hell only to somehow escape its fiery clutches, Square’s Final Fantasy 15 actually started out as a spin-off from Final Fantasy 13, a game that was released in 2009. Final Fantasy 15 itself began development in 2006, and initially looked well on its way to a smooth release, with numerous trailers and gameplay stills surfacing five years later in 2011.

It’s actually surprising that Final Fantasy 15 looks like a serious game of the year contender for 2016, given how horrendous its development cycle was. Several key figures, including the game director Tetsuya Nomura, left the project mid-way through, and the game also switched engines when it became clear it wasn’t going to be ready for the PS3’s life cycle. Despite the production and development headaches, however, Final Fantasy 15 has turned around under new director Hajime Tabata, and the game looks like it could be the innovation the JRPG genre has sorely needed for years now.


Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

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Not every development story ends once a game has gone gold. Long after the last details of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain had been ironed out, Konami’s next big AAA title became its own little horror show as the publisher had a very public falling out with series creator and director Hideo Kojima.

Speculation suggests that the dispute between the two parties stemmed from Metal Gear Solid 5‘s $80 million USD development spending, although it’s also possible Konami wanted to release the game sooner than Kojima had intended. Kojima has since earned the good-will of the video game community while fans have turned their backs on Konami and its strange, foreign take on Metal Gear since Kojima’s departureMetal Gear Solid 5 may have made Konami a lot of money, but it cost them their public image and their best creative talent.

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