It looks like Skull and Bones is getting another creative overhaul on its journey to completion – yet again! Games take time to develop and during that development time, things will definitely change. You’d expect the art and designs to change, and the little details like the velocity of a projectile to be tweaked to perfection.
But now and then, a game nears the finishing line but the developers decide that it’s still not working – so they give it a massive overhaul and start over. It can be particularly heartbreaking if you’re on the development team and could already taste the champagne, but the exponential improvement could just be worth it.
Here are 5 games that got significantly better after an overhaul.
It’s hard to imagine Halo as anything except what it is: the game that made the Xbox a household name and revolutionized console-based FPS games forever. But did you know that Halo didn’t start out as an FPS?
Back when Halo was first revealed to the world in 1999, it was by Steve Jobs at a Macworld event. Yes, Halo was supposed to be a Mac-exclusive! Not only that, but it was supposed to be an RTS!
The footage screened at Macworld was undeniably Halo, with the Martin O’Donnell soundtrack and the familiar unit designs, but the high and distant viewing angle was undeniably RTS. Which makes sense, because developer Bungie had just made the Myth games at the time.
Later on, Bungie would be sold to Microsoft, and the rest is history. Of course, there is also the Halo Wars series of games, which took Halo back to its RTS origins if you want to get a feel of what it could’ve been like.
Star Control II
There is this industry legend about Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, creators of Star Control, and their troubled development of Star Control II. The original Star Control was a simple 2D space combat game, like Asteroids but with different starfighters that had unique weapons.
For the sequel, they wanted something bigger but publisher Accolade ran out of patience for them and was ready to ship the game as is. So the two developers handed Accolade the almost-final version of the game and said they’ll just make a few more final tweaks.
Instead, they ran away to Alaska and disappeared from Accolade’s radar for half a year. When they finally resurfaced six months later, they came back with “like thirty different types of worlds, planet surface exploration, and enough player-alien dialog to fill a novel.”
And it was glorious. Star Control II remains one of the best sci-fi games out there, and a textbook example of a sequel that was vastly superior to the original.
How do you follow after a genre-creating game like Wolfenstein 3D? You perfect the 2D FPS experience with Doom. What do you do after that? If you’re John Romero, you push to make a fantasy game with 3D 3rd-person melee action inspired by Virtua Fighter.
And that’s what Quake was supposed to be! Medieval environments, a main character throwing a giant hammer around, and dragons. Plus, it was going to have RPG elements. It was nothing like the fast-paced action shooters like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.
But they couldn’t get it to click. As the development went on, the game design just wasn’t coming together. So they went back to their roots and traded in hammers for nail-guns and the RPG elements for lots of shooting. But at least the bad guys were still kind of fantasy-looking.
Quake was a major milestone for not just 3D gaming but also Internet-based multiplayer gamnig, so that was definitely the wise choice. If you really want to play what Romero originally envisioned Quake to be though, you can always pick up his next game Daikatana. This game picks up all his discarded ideas and puts them together into… something.
Gloom and Doom
Gloom and Doom is a narrative-driven indie game based around the friendship between a deadly immortal wraith and a young Antichrist-like teenager. It used this supernatural story to invoke themes of depression, isolation, and suicide. It was made by one of our writers, so we got to test it out early.
The game was close to completion and all set for a Halloween 2020 release when a bunch of us played it and felt that it was just too bleak. Yes, it was a story about depression, but it was so depressing that some of us found it difficult to push through the game. It was too relentlessly dark and emotionally exhausting.
Drew (the developer) took this feedback and then went off and delayed the game by about 5 months. In that time, he rewrote the game, changed the tone, and made it a homage to 90s slacker movies, with all the associated wise-cracks and pop culture references.
And this worked because Gloom and Doom became much more accessible through its humor, without sacrificing its deeper messages about reaching out for help when things feel too hopeless.
Skull and Bones
And finally, there is Skull and Bones, a game that has been in development for 8 years. What started as a multiplayer spin-off from a memorable portion of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag has become many things during this lengthy development period. It has been an MMO, a pirate game, and even Rainbow Six Siege but with ships.
Every time you hear any news about it, chances are there is a new captain at the helm and they have set sail in a new direction… But it never quite gets anywhere. Developers have said “it’s too big to fail” at this point, and there are even reports that they are contractually not allowed to give up on this game.
The game is currently slated for a release in March 2023, and the studio and the team have new leadership… so let’s hope that all this pivoting and rebooting will be worth it in the end. Quite frankly, the gaming landscape needs a new game about pirates!