Game development is a difficult thing. In an era of increasing technological complexity, putting together a AAA title is an admirable feat. There's a lot of pitfalls and budgets can balloon out of control faster than your waste line at Christmas. All in all, it's pretty impressive that game studios manage to do this sort of thing on a regular basis.
Of course, some don't.
The Most Catastrophic Game Controversies
These are the #VideoGames that spiraled wildly out of control, whether due to mismanagement, over-ambition or just plain bad luck.
When #LANoire was first announced, fans and journalists alike were cautiously optimistic. The combination of Brendan McNamara's track record at Sony and the exciting new MotionScan facial capture technology promised an ambitious title in an underused setting.
Excitement understandably faded over the next seven years, which is how long L.A. Noire took to complete. Development plunged into a hell of mismanagement as McNamara proved unable to head the project efficiently. Allegations arose of tens of millions spent on technology, abusive and violent behavior by the management and perpetual crunch periods and unpaid overtime.
Blame seemed to fall solely on McNamara's shoulders, with massive turnover and a disorganized structure, production was a chaotic mess of delays and confusion. None of this was helped by McNamara's insistence on controlling every aspect of the production, often, he would bypass team leaders and make demands directly of Junior staff, which would result in department management having no idea what their own staff were meant to be doing.
Three years after production began, #Sony dumped the project, citing massive overspending. Rockstar Games picked up the project soon after, and spent tens of millions and four years hammering the mess of a production into a playable shape. By the time the game shipped, fifteen missions had been cut along with most of the promised features. The final release was a fun, but limited title that was notable mostly for its excellent performances and the incredible attention to detail paid to the game's 1947 LA setting.
In a final vindictive act, the management at Team Bondi left most of the production staff off the credits to the game, a website was created soon after release with the 'true' credits to LA Noire, put together by the former staff of Team Bondi themselves.
Too Human was intended for release on the original PlayStation, but was shelved quickly when development studio Silicon Knights announced an exclusive partnership with Nintendo. After the studio released two other games with no word of production on the project, most in the industry assumed the project had been scrapped.
Six years after the project's announcement, word finally came out about Too Human. The project was to be developed for the Xbox 360, marking the second platform shift so far. Silicon Knights announced they would also be partnering with Epic Games to use their then-new Unreal 3 engine.
The Unreal 3 engine was an impressive bit of technology, and allowed Silicon Knights to create graphics that were stunning for the time. Unfortunately, someone at Silicon Knights appeared to be under the impression that the engine was free. In 2007, a year before release, Silicon Knights sued Epic Games for breach of contract due to a lack of support and service for their engine. Epic Games counter-sued, pointing out that Silicon Knights had never actually paid the contractually obligated fees for the use of the Unreal 3 engine, and had effectively stolen the technology.
Too Human under-performed on release, receiving middling scores and not living up to sales projections, that wasn't the worst part though. Epic Games won their case in 2012, forcing a recall of every unsold copy of Too Human, as well as the game's removal from the Xbox Live marketplace. The game was, for all intents and purposes, stricken from the record of #VideoGames.
'APB: All Points Bulletin'
APB: All Points Bulletin sounded like a gamer's wet dream when it was first announced. A massively multiplayer #GTA killer that allowed players to explore a vast city and build their criminal empire. The final result was somewhat less exciting, a lackluster team-based multiplayer game with minimal open world content limped out the door in 2010.
The game was massively over-budget at $100 million, which would be bad enough, but what really killed it was the controversy over its review embargo. Journalists were forbidden from reviewing the game until a week after release, presumably in an attempt at damage control.
Predictably, the stunt backfired, and when the week was up, APB was given a savage mauling by the critical press and a ton of bad publicity. Between the costs, lack of player interest and bad press, APB: All Points Bulletin was a total failure. Before 80 days had passed, RealTime Studios was forced to shut their doors and declare bankruptcy.
There's a happyish ending to this one at least, a few months after servers were shut down, the game was acquired for a song by free-to-play studio Gamers First, which relaunched the game as APB: Reloaded, a free title. The lack of a $60 price tag proved enough to overcome the poor critical reception, and the game has proved a modest success with a devoted fan base.
#StarCitizen may be the single best example of the benefits and pitfalls of crowdfunded games. The ambitious space exploration title managed to raise over six million dollars based on the reputation of its Director Chris Roberts before its first pledge run ended, surpassing all funding goals the development team had set.
Cloud Imperium Games didn't stop there though, they continued launching pledge drives, with ever-more ambitious stretch goals and rewards that lured in thousands of backers. As of now, the continued crowdfunding campaigns of Star Citizen have reached over $140 million dollars, making it the highest funded Kickstarter project of all time.
Now here's where the pitfalls come in: Star Citizen promised a universe to its backers before they'd even begun to do more than lump a bunch of sand together in a ball. With so much hype and so many promised features that often contradict one another, the development of Star Citizen has been total chaos.
At one point, the first-person shooter module Star Marine was completely scrapped because the main office failed to communicate effectively with their second team, resulting in an FPS module that couldn't actually be used with the main games. Sources within the company have come out about the project, complaining about wasteful, disorganized development and poor working conditions.
Early gameplay showcases were massively unstable despite obvious pre-rendered elements, crashing multiple times over the course of the presentation. Development has been going for almost six years now, far beyond the original projected release date of 2014 and the game is still in early access alpha. Star Citizen may be a victim of its own success and ambition, a bloated gas giant of feature creep instead of a fast-moving, tightly focused asteroid.
Time will tell if Star Citizen will meet the stratospherically high expectations of fans, or if we'll at least see a good game out of the tangle of enterprising technologies and disparate game modules. Roberts has pulled diamonds from a collapsed mine before. His last major project Freelancer 2, bankrupted its company and required extra help from Microsoft to complete. Despite lacking many ambitious features, it was an incredibly fun, well made title that was met with very positive critical reception.
Hopefully we can expect that much at least.
What do you think is the most catastrophic development of all time? Do you think Star Citizen will deliver on its promises or be a dud? Let us know in the comments.