‘Final Fantasy XV’ and Other Games that Escaped Development Hell

Bob Mackey
Games Final Fantasy
Games Final Fantasy

Making video games ain’t easy. While that previous sentence may be the understatement of the century, it still rings true. Frankly, video games amount to such a massive, complex undertaking, the fact that this medium even exists stands as an outright miracle. And if you need some evidence to support this hypothesis, check out the list of games below. Despite all odds, they managed to escape the doomed land known as “Development Hell” and actually see the light of day. Not all troubled games end up being this lucky…

Final Fantasy XV

Despite all odds, Final Fantasy XV recently sprung into existence after a troubled 10-year development cycle. True, Square-Enix put this production on the back burner a number of times, but the developer first announced XV under the title Final Fantasy Versus XIII way back in 2006. Originally part of the Final Fantasy XIII Fabula Nova Crystallis project, Square-Enix at first intended for Kingdom Hearts mastermind Tetsuya Nomura to head up this spin-off.

This period of time saw the Final Fantasy brand suffering from some major problems, with major production hurdles on the XIII collection of games, as well as a disastrous launch of the original Final Fantasy XIV. While Square-Enix set out to repair Final Fantasy’s reputation, Versus XIII underwent some serious retooling. Its ties to Fabula Nova Crystallis, director, and platform changed completely, and Versus XIII officially assumed the form of Final Fantasy XV during E3 2013. For a comprehensive breakdown of the game’s development, check out our extensive article on the subject.

Too Human

A screenshot of Too Human.
When a game lingers so long in development it changes platforms, you know something’s up. That’s certainly the case for Silicon Knights’ Too Human, which entered development for three different consoles before finally landing on the Xbox 360 in 2008. And Too Human’s original premise changed along with its platform. Originally announced in May 1999 as a multi-disc RPG about a future cop seeking vengeance over his murdered partner, Too Human would emerge with a far different focus when it finally released nine years later.

If this hellish production cycle wasn’t bad enough, Silicon Knights also suffered some serious legal problems. After publicly denouncing the Unreal Engine, Silicon Knights sued Epic — the creator of said engine — for failing to deliver on their promises. Afterward, Epic’s countersuit found Silicon Knights guilty of breaching their contract, misappropriating trade secrets, and infringing on Epic’s copyrights. Silicon Knights ended up owing Epic $4.45 million in damages, and were ordered to destroy all copies of their games made with Unreal Engine 3. Simply put, Too Human escaped development hell only to be executed by the state.

Duke Nukem Forever

A screenshot of Duke Nukem Forever.

Duke Nukem Forever once existed as the go-to Internet joke. We once assumed it would never see the light of day, but in mid-2011, it finally did. But when 3D Realms announced Duke Nukem Forever on April 28, 1997, they definitely couldn’t know the game would finally come into being 14 years later. If they had any idea of the difficulties this Duke sequel would face, 3D Realms would have likely changed Forever’s title so it no longer referenced a movie from 1995.

Forever mostly languished in development as a result of 3D Realms wanting to wow people as much as Duke Nukem 3D did back in 1996. Every few years, the developers would trot out a new trailer, showing the game running on an improved technological platform. Just a few years after one final trailer in late 2007, 3D Realms officially canceled development of Duke Nukem Forever. Soon afterward, 3D Realms employees who’d been working on Forever in secret after its cancellation approached Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software in the hopes of saving their seemingly doomed game.

It took only two more years, but Gearbox finally finished Duke Nukem Forever, and released the game on June 10, 2011. Duke Nukem Forever wouldn’t go on to be remembered very fondly, but its existence alone makes for an impressive feat.

Darkstar: The Interactive Movie

If you’ve never heard of Darkstar, don’t feel bad. Its subtitle “The Interactive Movie” should give you an idea of when this game entered production, despite finally releasing in 2010. Darkstar came about as the product of an era when people didn’t know quite what to do with the power of multimedia. We’ve moved beyond the age of games featuring “full-motion video,” but the concept didn’t seem all that strange in the late ’90s.

Really, Darkstar made a name for itself on the Internet for involving several members of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 shortly after its 1999 cancellation. And, strangely enough, Darkstar marks the final acting role of the late Peter Graves, who made a name for himself in the ’50s as a b-movie star. Unfortunately, since most of the game’s development depended on one person—creator J. Allen Williams—it couldn’t get out the door while FMV adventures still held relevance. In 2010, Darkstar couldn’t be viewed as anything but a relic, but the fact that it actually saw a release probably meant a whole lot to its industrious creator.

To see how we think Final Fantasy XV fared after its escape from Development Hell, check out our review.

Bob Mackey
Bob Mackey is Games Editor at Fandom. Since joining the games press in 2007, he's written for sites like 1UP, Joystiq, The A.V. Club, Gamasutra, USgamer, and many others. He also hosts the weekly podcasts Retronauts and Talking Simpsons. Follow him on Twitter @bobservo.
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