The early years
Things dont always turn out the way you plan. Whether its a school project, dinner engagements, or a rafting expedition gone horribly awry, things can often take a turn you might not have expected. This is equally true for games: yeah, that company thought it was making a racing game, then My Little Pony with rocket launchers is staring back at them, and they have to wonder what the hell happened.
Weve talked about the rocky development years of some of our favorite games before, but there are even more stories of games going through massive metamorphoses. Many classic games were almost something completely different, and it's high time we shine a light on what could have been.
Bioshock used to be... full of space-monsters
The amount of content scrapped from the early version of BioShock is so insane it makes Sander Cohen look rational. Though Bioshock as we know it is famously set in an underwater dystopia, the game started life as a monsters-in-space drama that was basically System Shock 2-1/2. You would have played as Carlos Cuello, a "cult deprogrammer" paid to infiltrate an extremist group and capture a wealthy heiress, only to find out everyones been murdered and deconstructed by human-insect space monsters.
Over the course of development the station turned into an island called Isla de Salvacion, then a set of environmental chambers under the island (a la Portal on bad acid) where you build your own weapons and slowly mutate into a hell-beast of disgusting proportions. Oh, and did I mention you could increase the oxygen in a room to make it explode better? Unfortunately, the scope of the project made it too large and disconnected, so something had to go. After some creative soul-searching, Irrational gave us the BioShock we know and love, and never did anything with the cult-and-heiress idea ever again. Oh, wait, actually that sounds a lot like Infinite...
Conker's Bad Fur Day used to be... Twelve Tales: Conker 64
If taking a cuddly squirrel and turning him into a drunken, money-grubbing horndog is wrong, I don't want to be right. And neither does Rare. If it had let morality take control, Conker's Bad Fur Day would never have come to be, and instead we'd have the lackluster, kiddie-grade Twelve Tales: Conker 64 filling game shop bargain bins.
Rare already had the cartoony Banjo-Kazooie under its belt by the time it got to work on Conker's Quest. Early demo footage showed Conker's Quest to be a generic, cutesy platformer--but fans didn't seem excited. The company tried to revamp it into a more action-oriented platformer, dubbing the new effort Twelve Tales, and that was met with all the enthusiasm of leftover cafeteria meatloaf. The Rare devs then expressed their frustration by, we can only guess, sweeping everything off their desks in a rage and scribbling a new design doc full of dicks and hookers and blow. Thus Conker's Bad Fur Day was born, and all that remains of Twelve Tales is an unfortunate Conker cameos in the E-rated Diddy Kong Racing. Whoops.
Quake used to be...about an Aztec Thor
When you think of Thor's hammer, Aztec temples and dragons, what comes to mind? If you said Quake, get off Wikipedia. Nobody likes a cheater. Once very different from the FPS Doom-successor it became, Quake originally focused on an unnamed hammer-wielding protagonist that would explore a great Aztec-inspired setting full of strange and highly killable beasts. Early advertisements also claimed there would be thunderbolts and a "Ring of Regeneration" involved, which we can only assume played into this Thor Goes to Mexico feel they were going for.
Over time, however, the Aztec setting fell out of favor, and the devs started to add in a more medieval European theme to make the design as confusing as possible. Eventually, the development team admitted that the whole beast was bloated and misguided, then peeled off the extra content to reveal a no-frills FPS beneath. The result was a beloved series-launcher that changed the face of the FPS genre, so maybe bare bones isnt so bad after all.
Banjo-Kazooie used to be... Project Dream
Rare has a talent for making great games out of meh-worthy concepts. While Conker was originally undercut by a cutesy setup, Project Dream was serious and bland to the point of being a snoozefest, and that only changed when it became Banjo-Kazooie (yeah, you read that right).
Project Dream, a Zelda-esque RPG, starred a blank canvas of a guy named Edison who gets in hot water with a band of pirates. He and his girlfriend then go on an adventure to get away from Captain Blackeye, andexcuse me, I dozed off. Once Rare figured out how boooooring the idea was, they thought changing the main character might fix it. Then some tweaks to the story turned out to be useful, and they added some platforming, and if they were gonna give a bear wings why not just give him a bird friend that lives in his backpack? By the time the name changed to Banjo-Kazooie it was out of necessity, because there was nothing of Project Dream left.
Wolfenstein 3D used to be... stealthy
When you talk about stealth, perhaps one of the last things you think of is Wolfenstein 3D, right before Rocket Ball Halo and particularly loud foghorns. A game with an off-brand Rambo on the cover might not scream covert gameplay (or literally does and is therefore ineffective) but that was what Wolfenstein was meant to be back in the day.
A rework of the stealth-based Castle Wolfenstein, 3D originally tried to keep to that sneaky spirit and improve on the heros covert capabilities. Swapping uniforms with guards returned, as well as being able to sneak-attack enemies and hide dead bodies. Then the developers realized that this made the gameplay too slow, and they feared players might get bored of all that complexity and thinking. So they went the exact opposite direction and got rid of all those features, leaving behind a skeleton with a chain gun and a thirst for blood. The resulting game is widely credited as the granddaddy of the FPS genre so, you know, credit where credit is due.
Grand Theft Auto used to be... a racing game
Grand Theft Auto: the biggest name in murderous, immoral debauchery. It appeals to the city-destroying monster in us all, and its hard to envision it any other way. Thats why the game it once was, a dull thing called Race n Chase, seems light years away from the GTA we know today.
Granted, Race n Chase did start from the idea that crashing cars in the digital world is hours of fun, so theres that. The major differences were that you could play as a cop or a criminal, the AI behaviors were more realistic, and oh yeah, it was incredibly dull. Under threat of cancellation--because the game managed to make police chases a snore--the devs came up with a dynamic new gameplay formula that revitalized the entire concept. By which I mean they messed around with the AI behaviors until they got glitchy cops. It was so fun that over-the-top insanity became a cornerstone of the game, and hey, whatever works, right?
Devil May Cry used to be... Resident Evil 4
Take Resident Evil and fantasy action mechanics, then slam them together really hard, and you apparently get Devil May Cry. Under the working title of Resident Evil 4, the game that would bring us the demon-slaying Dante originally starred a biomechanically engineered superhuman named Tony. The main struggle would have been him discovering the mystery behind his insane abilities, and there presumably would have been zombies, though with all the changes devs made it's hard to be sure. The series' pre-rendered backgrounds were replaced with a dynamic camera, the art became heavily stylized, and an emphasis on action-packed gameplay began to shift the tone away from survival-horror into rule-of-cool territory.
Eventually, the project became so different from its inspiration that it couldn't claim to be a Resident Evil game anymore, but why waste perfectly good code? Take out some zombies here, add demons there, and switch the names to something philosophical and you get DMC in all its hammy glory.
Splinter Cell: Conviction used to be... Splinter Creed
Clancy fans probably remember the weirdness that was the lead-up to Splinter Cell: Conviction, how it barreled right over its 2007 release date and didnt actually drop until three years later. When it did hit shelves it was dramatically different, and maybe for the better, because at first it looked it should have been called Splinter Creed.
Headed by a much gruffer and beardy-looking Sam Fisher, the game focused on Sam as a fugitive trying to uncover horrible secrets about Third Echelon. He would use social stealth tactics like blending into crowds, along with some hand-to-hand combat for when eavesdropping didnt cut it. This first version of Conviction got pretty far into development, and was mere months from release before the devs realized those mechanics were the foundation of Assassins Creed, a game that was set to premiere five days before Conviction. Whoops. They then went back to square one and brought us the Conviction we know today, just a couple years behind schedule. Eeeh, nobodyll notice.
Team Fortress 2 used to be... super serious
If this list has taught us anything, its that the key to fixing a problematic game is to make it 10 times cartoonier and way more over the top. Team Fortress 2 will do nothing to change that impression, because once upon a time it was a realistic military shooter; we see how well that worked out.
Back when it was called Brotherhood of Arms, Team Fortress 2 was a blend of FPS and real-time strategy with the realistic visuals of Half-Life 2. It wasnt half bad either, winning several awards at E3 1999 before vanishing from the public eye. Somewhere along the line it was completely revamped to center on a conflict between humans and aliens (hey, that sounds familiar) that kept the FPS/RTS feel, but that was too complex and the whole thing went out the window. After eight years with barely a peep from Valve it seemed that Team Fortress was doomed to nonexistence, but then the Orange Box hit like a meteor and it ended up being even better than expected. Let that warm your soul during the frigid wait for Half-Life 3.
Cut and print
They say its not where you come from, its where youre going, and when all is said and done we got some pretty good games out of these wild changes. Which game were you happy to see dramatically altered? What original would you love to experience? Tell us in the comments below, because remember, theres always mods.
And if you're interested in more, check out 7 more games that were originally totally different and 7 game features you didn't know were originally glitches.