Meanwhile, in a past life...
Some game developers have been around for a long time now, their progress and evolution since the early days really highlighting just how far the industry has come (and how old Im getting). Some of these stalwarts have stood the test of time by always adapting what they do. For example, Nintendo was founded in the 19th Century, and began life as a playing card company. Other devs however, sadly dont last as long. R.I.P., Accolade.
Though as the vibe and personality of the industry have matured, some long-standing developers have gone through (sometimes radical) rebrands to mix things up and keep it fresh. As a result, plenty of todays biggest names have a whole glut of games to their (previous) name that youre probably totally unaware theyre responsible for. Like the ones on this list. How many of these would you have guessed were made by the same group of people?
Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto 5
There arent a great number of similarities between this cute puzzle platformer and the fastest selling entertainment product in history, but they were made by the very same company. DMA Design Ltd. was founded in 1988, and it wasnt until 2002 that it became Rockstar North, the household name that it is today.
Actually, GTAs record-breaking launch-night queues, full of single-minded acolytes with bloody chaos in their future, are at least superficially similar to DMAs gleeful rodents of old, so I guess the legacy of the companys early days is still intact in a round-about way. Either way, since the early 90s, the Edinburgh based companys games have earned consistently high review scores, from Lemmings, to the N64s Body Harvest and Space Station Silicon Valley. There must be something in the water up there.
Rock 'n' Roll Racing and World of Warcraft
Blizzard hasnt always been the megalith of tactical, role-playing dominance it is today. It was originally founded in 1991 under the name Silicon & Synapse. In 1993 it released Rock n Roll Racing, a battle-racing game for the SNES and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. It was a great little game, now looked back upon it fondly for its MIDI instrumental versions of popular rock songs, and tight, nippy, isometric take on vehicular combat. There wasnt any epic loot though.
It wasnt long after Rock n Roll Racings release that the company changed its name to Blizzard Entertainment. StarCraft, Diablo, and Warcraft later, its a legitimate gaming superpower.
Vietcong and Mafia II
The Vietnamese jungle and the fictional American city of Empire Bay are a long way from each other in terms of both vibe and (fictional) geography, but both were brought to life by the same company. 2K Czech released the greatly under-appreciated Mafia II in 2010, but the company was founded as Illusion Softworks way back in 1997.
Both Mafia II and Vietcong were fairly well received on the PC, but you might want to hide in the undergrowth if you see the shoddy console ports of the latter passing by. If you fancy a slightly less violent title made by the Czech developer, you could try out Top Spin 4, a tennis game released in 2011. They do drop-shots just as well as they do head-shots.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Dead Space 3
Theres an unwritten rule of videogame journalism that says cant describe combat as visceral without sounding trite. So it's desperately inconvenient when a developer decides to put the word in their name, effectively legitimising its use when talking about its in-game violence. Visceral Games was founded as EA Redwood Shores in 1998, and changed its name in May 2009, just after the release of the first Dead Space.
The Return of the King film came out over a decade ago, and Oh damn, theres another thing that makes me feel old. Anyway, the game of the film was fairly well received, and after a few more decent, high-profile licensed games for EA, the company earned the right to make its own, original game. The rest is Necromorphic history. Though is it just me, or are some of those skittering, undead mutants a little reminiscent of Gollum from in a certain light?
ZZT, Jill of the Jungle and Gears of War
Okay, a bit of bonus content on this one. You see Epic Games has changed its name twice. Founded originally as Potomac Computer Systems in 1991, the studio only developed one game under that name, the top-down adventure game ZZT, powered by text-based graphics and famed for its powerful and versatile level editor. The following year, the company changed its name to the far cooler-sounding--in 1992--Epic MegaGames, shortly before gearing up to develop and publish a slew of titles.
Famously, upbeat platformer Jazz Jackrabbit was one of the earliest games worked on by Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski. Less obviously, Epic also made Jill of the Jungle, a series of early PC platformers, starting in 1992, designed to go up against the likes of iD Softwares Commander Keen franchise. Of course, now we know Epic as the highly successful creator of franchises like Gears, Infinity Blade and Unreal. Perhaps its consistent latter-day acclaim will persuade it to stick the Mega back in its name soon. Its bound to start sounding cool again eventually.
Math Jam and The Last of Us
Everyone knows Naughty Dog as the creators of The Last of Us, Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and Jak & Daxter, but the company existed long before any of its revered PlayStation franchises. It was actually founded way back in 1984 under the name Jam Software, only taking on its canine monicker 5 years later.
This is perhaps the most incongruous duo of games on this list, Math Jam being an educational game released for the Apple II in 1985. Alas, no visual record of the game seems to exists, so youll have to make do with the artists impression above. So yeah, from maths to one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time just a few decades later. Who says high school academia is useless in the real world?
How am I not myself?
Be truthful now, how many of these did you know were made by the same developers? Leave a comment below. And let me know if you can think of any other devs whove undergone an identity crisis and come out the other side.
And while youre here, check out some of our related features. Give The first games of legendary developers a go, and then check out 8 developers that made incredibly different games back-to-back.