5 Famous Video Game Disasters (And Why They Happened)
In any given art form, there will be a few shining gems and many, many more pieces of forgettable, poor-to-middling pap. If everything was great, we'd have to call the merely good stuff crap and readjust. And video games are no exception. Of course, some titles are so bad that they serve as valuable case studies in the fine art of not developing a game. For example ...
Anthem Was The Result Of BioWare Completely Breaking Down
In February 2019, BioWare (the studio that gave us Mass Effect and Dragon Age) released their latest sci-fi epic, Anthem, a loot-em-up in which players in powered suits fly around a jungle planet shooting aliens in the face. With its heady blend of Pacific Rim and Uncharted, there was no reason this game couldn't have been a new classic, the yardstick against which all future AAARPGFPSMMOs would be measured, instead of by the length of their initials, as is the current system.
Things did not work out that way. Upon its release, Anthem was panned by both critics and players. According to Metacritic, it's currently the worst game that BioWare has ever made. Yes, even worse than the Lovecraftian nightmare generator Mass Effect: Andromeda.
It's not entirely surprising that Anthem turned out this way, though. When Jason Schreier of Kotaku interviewed over a dozen developers who'd worked on the game, it came out that BioWare wasn't so much a studio as it was a tinderbox of bad management, technical misfires, and mental trauma.
Despite first being teased in 2012, Anthem didn't enter actual development until 2017. That's because for the longest time, no one knew what they wanted the game to be. Management meetings about things like the plot or mechanics would often end in a stalemate where nothing got decided. It wasn't until 18 months before Anthem was due to be released that BioWare decided to get its act together, which led to them asking a studio veteran to step in and do whatever it took to get the game out the door.
The technology that the team was using didn't help. As a subsidiary of EA, BioWare was asked to develop Anthem using Frostbite, an engine created by EA. The only problem was that no one at BioWare had any experience with Frostbite. As a result, the team soon found themselves having to cut content, because while they could eventually finagle Frostbite into doing its job, there wasn't enough time to do it with every single feature they'd envisaged.
With a working environment more hostile than anything they'd managed to program, it wasn't long before the team started breaking down. In the two years that Anthem was (properly) in development, BioWare saw dozens of employees -- some of whom had been with the company for decades -- resigning for greener pastures. Or at least pastures where everyone could agree that pastures should probably have some form of grass.
Some breakdowns were more literal than others. The harshness of the production cycle, the ineptitude of management, and the fact that (according to one developer) everyone was "so angry and sad all the time" resulted in several employees being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, while others wound up having to take doctor-mandated periods of "stress leave" (which was deducted from their vacation time, of course).
I actually cannot count the amount of 'stress casualties' we had ... a 'stress casualty' at BioWare means someone had such a mental breakdown from the stress they're just gone for one to three months. Some come back, some don't.
After Kotaku published its article detailing all these shenanigans, EA and BioWare responded by arguing that it was a mean-spirited attempt at tearing down the company's employees -- which is something that they know a great deal about, according to said employees.
The Launch Of Pokemon Go Was A Disaster Because The Developers Didn't Think Pokemon Was That Popular
When Pokemon Go was first announced, it immediately became the most anticipated game in history. How could it not? It was the chance for us to live our dreams and become for-realsies pocket monster masters, complete with gym battles, special events, and a surprising number of corpses.
Of course, you all know what happened next.
The rush of players immediately overloaded the game's servers, causing widespread outages that lasted for weeks -- a situation compounded by the fact that the developers were still rolling out the game as planned, which only added more and more players into the increasingly frustrated mix. As it turns out, the developers had massively underestimated the popularity of their little project, and hadn't given much thought to building out their server capacity.
That's understandable. How were they meant to know that a free-to-play game based on one of pop culture's most enduring franchises might appeal to more than, what, 25 people? We almost feel like the bad guys for expecting too much of them. Anyway, it took several weeks before people were able to play the game reliably, after which point they breathed a sigh of relief, took it for a quick spin, and then went back to playing Overwatch.
"I'm Han Solo" Was The Invention Of Some Random Management Goon
One of the greatest tragedies in history -- worse than that of Darth Plagueis -- is that the last game by LucasArts was Kinect Star Wars. We could spend hours talking about how the game is nothing but a cynical cash-grab with less soul than the computer-generated abominations of the prequels, but we bottle that stuff up for our monthly therapy sessions.
Besides, we know what you're here for.
One of the worst elements of Kinect Star Wars was "Galactic Dance-Off," a mode wherein you could dance along to franchise-themed parodies of current songs like "Hologram Girl" (a riff on "Hollaback Girl"), "Empire Today" ("Y.M.C.A"), "Blasterproof" ("Bulletproof"), and of course "I'm Han Solo" ("Ridin' Solo").
For a long, long time, we wondered who we had to blame for this mess. Was it George Lucas? Kathleen Kennedy? Rian Johnson? Those bloody Sith again? Um, no. It was the fault of the bean counters over at Microsoft:
Microsoft had had success with a Kinect dance game, they had licensed a number of songs for a different dance game, and then that game fell through. They had that license and they had all these songs, and they knew that that gameplay was something that worked well with the Kinect. So somebody at Microsoft made the decision that they were going to add a dance section into the game.
On the other hand, the existence of "We No Speak Huttese" kinda evens everything out.
No Man's Sky Was Almost Criminally Overhyped By The Developers
Although it's incredibly easy to make fun of what gamers consider to be "scandals," the outpouring of anger that followed the release of No Man's Sky in 2016 was the first time these guys ever had something resembling a point. On the face of it, it's hard to see why. No Man's Sky is a perfectly serviceable game about flying in space and exploring desolate planets. But that was kinda the problem.
During the development of NMS, the developers massively talked up the game to fans and journalists alike, and promised them all manner of wonderful things, like multiplayer, the ability to land on asteroids, and a way for players to opt out of the loot-gathering mechanic that every game is now contractually required to have.
So when the game arrived and none of these things existed, one committed redditor was able to assemble a dozen-point outline of features that never materialized. In the aftermath of their snafu, the developer was criticized for their lackadaisical approach to marketing. And because this is the internet, they also received death threats from rando dillholes with boundary issues.
Destiny Was Recycled from An Old Version Of Itself
Destiny was originally conceived by Bungie (the studio responsible for Halo) as a franchise that would one day stand alongside, if not surpass the likes of Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars. Instead of a genre-defying colossus, however, Destiny was met with mockery, if not outright derision over its terrible ... everything, not least its story and voice acting.
There's a good reason for this. After being in development for several years, the writing team put together a "supercut" of the game's cinematics for the studio's senior executives as a way of showing off their work so far.
The executives hated it.
They hated it so badly, in fact, that they ordered the game's story to be completely reworked -- with less than a year to go before the game was due to be released. The development team was forced to take sections of the game that'd already been completed and "stitch" them together to build a new game. If you instinctively know that this is a terrible way to make anything except for maybe quilts, then we recommend you throw a resume at Bungie, because it's clear that they need big-thinking talent like you.
In a weird way, though, Bungie got their wish. The finished version of Destiny was indeed compared to The Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars. It's just a shame the points of comparison were The Hobbit and The Phantom Menace.
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