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The fantastic origins of your favorite games


The recent American cultural phenomenon of playing plastic baby guitars set to pumpin’ music all began with the development of the first Guitar Hero, developed by RedOctane and Harmonix. We all know Harmonix created GH2, then went on to make the Rock Band series, while Activision continues to pump out the GH releases. But how did it all start?


In 1999, Kai Huang and Charles Huang formed RedOctane and started the very first online gaming rental service. Eventually the Huangs began making game peripherals like dance pads, drums and joysticks. According to the Cleaveland Plain Dealer, the Huangs were heavily influenced by Konami’s GuitarFreaks – which never made it out of Japan – and decided to make a game based around their own plastic guitar. A number of investors turned them down, citing how weird the concept was.

At the same time, Harmonix – founded by two friends from MIT – were looking to make another music game when approached by RedOctane. With a budget of roughly a million, the two companies identified the three key aspects of the game: note-matching, showmanship and star power. Harmonix even used GuitarFreaks’ controllers for development until RedOctane created the prototypes.

According to an MTV report, the original guitars had pressure-sensitive fret buttons to match actually playing a guitar, but that was too hard. In fact, the whammy bar wasn’t even added until about a month before the game finished. From there, certain software used enabled Harmonix to appropriately adjust and modify a song’s track to adjust difficulty levels.

As for the music? The track list was whittled down and added to in terms of whatever licensing deals could be struck. WaveGroup Sound – an audio post production center - was entrusted to handle covers of the songs, while former Drist and Hellbilly guitar player Marcus Henderson handled the lead tracks for many of the covers. Then the game was released and millions of dollars were made.

…game designer Satoshi Tajiri loved to collect insects when he was a child and that love became the basis for the Pokemon series.

…Metal Gear Solid was originally intended to debut on the 3DO.

…the idea for The Sims came from when Will Wright lost his house and possessions in the Oakland fires of 1991.

…the boss fight with GLaDOS at the end of Portal once included laser-dodging, redirecting rocket fire and a chase sequence.

…some of the sound effects used in Dead Space came from the BART stations and trains in the San Francisco Bay Area.

…Tim Schafer’s Psychonauts was originally intended to be published by Microsoft but was kicked to the curb because of underperforming platformers. Majesco published instead and interestingly, Psychonauts is an Xbox Original on XBLA.

…Nintendo wanted to create a 3D version of Zelda for the N64 and indeed they did.

Feb 12, 2009


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31 comments

  • waffledragon33 - September 25, 2010 3:45 p.m.

    i never would a thought
  • gmilf71 - February 18, 2009 7:17 a.m.

    yes, it's true there was another bioshock before. it was called, like, systemshock or something along the lines of that. big daddy in wheel chair?!?! WTF?!
  • uvebeenpwned - February 17, 2009 2:01 a.m.

    the guitar hero actually looked pretty good
  • WayByWind - February 15, 2009 3:30 p.m.

    its Cleveland
  • Bov11 - February 14, 2009 8:07 p.m.

    love the last line about Twilight Princess.
  • Elbo444 - February 14, 2009 7:37 a.m.

    Bioshock in an underground WWII genetics facility would have been awesome, and in my opinion probably quite a bit scarier, i didnt think Bioshock was scary at all
  • GoldenMe - February 14, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    You know what? I'm not going to talk about Zelda in 3-D. Can't make me.........*sigh* "Nintendo wanted to create a 3D version of Zelda for the N64 and indeed they did." WTF LIEZ!!!! reCAPTCHA: SMITH sixteed
  • Spike_the_Dogg - February 13, 2009 10:28 p.m.

    Some how I always knew there would be a 3-D Zelda.LOL
  • Yellowhat17 - February 13, 2009 4:35 p.m.

    I thought the early splicer concept art looked a lot scarier... But I also spotted a Big Daddy in a wheel chair, and a gopher child harvesting ADAM from a dead body.
  • Red - February 13, 2009 3:05 p.m.

    Well that explains why Bioshock had shitastic alternate endings.
  • CH3BURASHKA - February 13, 2009 6:19 a.m.

    Shane Patterpon!!! reCaptcha: children Sells (what the fuck?)
  • iKOemos - February 13, 2009 3:31 a.m.

    I'm so glad TF2 came out the way it did. Great Article.
  • somthing42 - February 13, 2009 1:46 a.m.

    >Nintendo wanted to make a 3D Zelda for the N64 and indeed they did What a surprise Recaptcha: stanley manley
  • marcusfenix22 - February 13, 2009 midnight

    the little sister in bioshock would have been a squirrel? wow, that would have been hysterical! great article!keep up the good work!
  • oryandymackie - February 12, 2009 9:23 p.m.

    BioShock's first plans looked quite good, chuck them in with the splicers we know today and it would've been a lot scarier
  • MeesesGlokmah - February 12, 2009 8:55 p.m.

    Banjo as a boy would have been weird. Good thing they were more creative.
  • SmokeyPerrito123 - February 18, 2009 3:24 a.m.

    there was another BIOSHOCK b4 the so called original
  • Sly_Fox - February 17, 2009 6:35 a.m.

    blurg indeed
  • noobeater - February 16, 2009 11:09 p.m.

    i never knew about the banjo kazooie interesting article...i love the bear bird combo that it came to me...its great how it just 'works' best game ever
  • EvilInkarnate - February 14, 2009 5:10 a.m.

    Damn, and I thought the Bioshock that I played was creepy!! Did you guys see the legless Big Daddy in the wheelchair?? Or the Lil' Sister with almost no hair and the Adam collection tank om her back?? What about the crawlin naked body that's torso seems to be twisted 180 degrees from it's lower half?? Man I hope they go more towards this route for the next one, just without ruinin my fav game of all time.

Showing 1-20 of 31 comments

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