Entertainment: The 8 Games With The Longest Development Times (That Actually Released)

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Long development times are bad news for developers. Every year that goes by without a release is another year of not getting paid. It’s another year of stagnation. As technology improves, games with long development cycles become outdated. At worst, fans can be left waiting for a decade or more. We took a look at some notable games with long and troubled development cycles. Were they worth the wait?

Duke Nukem in front of a radiation symbol. © Provided by DualShockers Duke Nukem in front of a radiation symbol.
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Only games that have actually come out made the list (i.e. no Star Citizen). Also, there are no games with heavy ongoing development (such as No Man’s Sky), since they’ve technically already been out for a while.

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8/8 Ultima IX: Ascension (Five Years)

The infamous Tapestry of Ages from Ultima IX: Ascension. © Provided by DualShockers The infamous Tapestry of Ages from Ultima IX: Ascension.

Some readers may not be familiar with Ultima. It was a popular series of CRPGs in the ’80s and ’90s, but there hasn’t been a new Ultima game in years. That’s largely due to the horrendous failure of Ultima IX: Ascension. The Ultima series was developed by Origin Systems. In 1992, Origin Systems was purchased by Electronic Arts.

The development of Ultima IX came to a halt when EA moved the team over to work on another game, Ultima Online. When they came back, Ultima IX was outdated. The entire thing had to be scrapped and rebuilt. When it was finally released, it was buggy. The voice acting was embarrassing. The story felt rushed, and the game failed commercially. In the end, EA shut the developer down, which is something they’ve since become known for.

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7/8 Alan Wake (Six Years)

Alan Wake shining his flashlight at a group of monsters. © Provided by DualShockers Alan Wake shining his flashlight at a group of monsters.

Alan Wake, which was developed by the same team as the Max Payne series, began its development in 2003. A few years into its development cycle, Remedy Games decided to completely rework it.

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At one point, Alan Wake was supposed to be an open-world game. The studio kept adding more and more features, like a day-night cycle, controllable weather events, and so on. Remedy Games’ Creative Director Sam Lake has discussed this, saying “this period … with us trying new things, it just kept on going and going, and people were feeling tired”. In 2006, Remedy decided to rework the game, making it more a more focused, linear experience. That may have been for the best, as Alan Wake was finally released in 2009, receiving mostly favorable reviews.

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6/8 L.A. Noire (Seven Years)

An artistic drawing of Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire in front of palm trees and smoke. © Provided by DualShockers An artistic drawing of Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire in front of palm trees and smoke.

Much has been written about the infamous development cycle of L.A. Noire. It was worked on by the now-defunct Team Bondi. Not long after the game was released in 2011, members of Team Bondi spoke out anonymously about the awful working conditions at the studio. It came to light that Team Bondi was forcing its employees to essentially work 24/7.

Management at Team Bondi seemed perfectly fine with the high turnover rate of their workers. Dozens of employees left the company, with most of them quitting rather than being fired. Others reported there was no strong vision for the game, or that management could be hard to get in touch with. Given these conditions, it’s a wonder L.A. Noire was released at all.

5/8 The Last Guardian (Eight Years)

An artistic drawing of Trico meeting the protagonist in The Last Guardian. © Provided by DualShockers An artistic drawing of Trico meeting the protagonist in The Last Guardian.

It’s hard to pin down one exact reason The Last Guardian was delayed for so long. It was likely a combination of factors — important people departing the company, issues with Sony as a publisher, and so on — that cast it down into development hell. Fans of the previous games by Team Ico (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus) were left waiting on this sequel for years and years. There were few updates and a very little indication as to what was going on behind the scenes.

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The Last Guardian was likely hampered by changing technology. Comparing its various trailers and tech demos, it seems very little changed about the game over the years other than the graphics. At one point, Team Ico had to transition the game from a PS3 to a PS4 release. Maybe Sony wasn’t confident that the game ran well enough on PS3. Whatever the case, The Last Guardian did eventually release with mostly positive reviews.

4/8 Spore (Eight Years)

Microbial organisms fighting for sustenance in the cell stage in Spore. © Provided by DualShockers Microbial organisms fighting for sustenance in the cell stage in Spore.

Development on Spore began in earnest in 2000, but the idea may have come as early as 1994, with concept art for a game called “SimEverything“. Given that it’s such a unique game, it’s natural that Spore had a long development time. However, now that Spore has been out for more than a decade, nearly everyone agrees that it’s underwhelming. It is not, as Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello once predicted it would be, “One of the greatest franchises in our industry … Right up there with World of Warcraft”.

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Many reviewers have pointed out that Spore feels like five different games rather than one cohesive experience. In interviews, Maxis indicated difficulties with the creature and vehicle creators, which likely went through numerous design changes. Spore was continuously delayed. It seems it was just too ambitious of an idea to completely flesh out.

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3/8 Too Human (Nine Years)

The protagnoist of Too Human in front of a scenic background. © Provided by DualShockers The protagnoist of Too Human in front of a scenic background.

Too Human was developed by Silicon Knights, who also headed up games such as Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. It was originally announced as a Playstation One game in 1999. It actually released on the Xbox 360 in 2008, nine years after its announcement.

Too Human was built on Unreal Engine 3. However, in 2007, Silicon Knights sued Epic Games (the owners of UE3), citing “breach of contract” for lack of support with regards to the engine. Epic then counter-sued Silicon Knights for misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things. Epic won their suit, forcing Silicon Knights to recall and destroy all unsold copies of Too Human. The game’s botched release may have hurt them, but this court case was the final nail in their coffin. Silicon Knights went out of business in 2014. Too Human was one of their last games.

2/8 Prey (Eleven Years)

Tommy Tawodi, the protagonist of Prey (2006), in front of a portal. © Provided by DualShockers Tommy Tawodi, the protagonist of Prey (2006), in front of a portal.

For our purposes, we’re discussing the original Prey, which came out in 2006. Funnily enough, the Prey remake from 2017 took a similarly long time to make and was originally supposed to be Prey 2.

Prey, an old-school FPS, had been in development since 1995 by 3D Realms. It ran into trouble when lead designer Tom Hall left the company to form Ion Storm with his colleague, John Romero. And that was for the best because without Ion Storm we never would’ve gotten Deus Ex or Thief. Later, technical issues arose with Prey, as its portal mechanics proved too difficult to program. Prey went through several design iterations because of these issues. It did receive generally positive reviews when it was finally released in 2006. However, Prey seems like a walk in the park compared to the project 3D Realms is perhaps most known for.

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1/8 Duke Nukem Forever (Fourteen Years)

A low-angle shot of Duke Nukem looking cool, the city behind him being destroyed by robots and aliens. © Provided by DualShockers A low-angle shot of Duke Nukem looking cool, the city behind him being destroyed by robots and aliens.

The development of Duke Nukem Forever was a running joke in the gaming community for more than ten years. Not only did it take longer to produce than any other triple-A game in history, but the story behind its long development is also fascinating.

Duke Nukem Forever was first announced in 1997. After the release of Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms were struggling to update their engine. By 1998 they settled on the Unreal Engine, but not before switching multiple times, completely scrapping their work on Duke Nukem Forever each time. According to stories, series director George Broussard would continuously try to update the scope of the game, adding new levels, working on a multiplayer mode, etc. The game missed several of its planned release dates.

Then, things went quiet for a very long time. In 2006, Broussard claimed the game was almost finished. However, it wouldn’t come out for another five years. Internally at 3D Realms, employees reported that Broussard lacked a clear vision for the game. Although profit-sharing was supposed to take place, no profits could be shared, as there were none to begin with. Employees were understandably frustrated. The team dwindled and had to rebuild itself, just like they had to rebuild the game multiple times to keep it modern. In 2011, Duke Nukem Forever was finally released, and nearly everyone agreed it was not worth the wait.

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The post The 8 Games With The Longest Development Times (That Actually Released) by James Austin appeared first on DualShockers.

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