8 Video Games That Escaped Development Hell (But Shouldn’t Have)

Maybe if your game takes 15 years to iron out, you should just give up.

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Video game development isn’t an exact science; a game can enter production as a first-person shooter set on Mars, and come out the other end as a golfing simulator. It’s a wild and stressful process making any game - let alone a great one - and sometimes a promising title can get trapped in development hell along the way, emerging in the form of a deranged beast when it breaks out.

Sadly the video game industry is littered with examples of games that looked and sounded so promising, only to break gamers' hearts when they finally got their hands on it. The reasons this can happen are plentiful; internal creative strife, budget issues, switching to different game engine during development, and while some games actually survive this chaos and come out stronger for it (Half-Life 2, Resident Evil 4) most of them emerge hopelessly mangled instead.

Some of these titles have gone on to become infamous in their own ways, be it for breaking every pre-release promise or featuring ad campaigns that are mocked to this very day. In some tragic cases they ended promising careers or caused studios to shut, but at the very least they serve as a cautionary tale to other developers; if you are going to spend years on one game, make sure it's worth the pain.

8. Duke Nukem Forever

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Gearbox Software

Time In Development Hell: 15 Years

We may as well start with Duke Nukem Forever, since the game has become  the poster child for development troubles. Work on Forever started in 1996, almost immediately after the launch of classic shooter Duke Nukem 3D, but after a few years of showing off gameplay videos and delaying release dates, 3D Realms finally threw their arms up and announced the release date as “When it’s done.”

They weren’t kidding; for close to ten years there was nothing but rumours and vague statements, including the switch to new game engines being a big reason for the long delay. Eventually 3D Realms went under, and heartbroken fans had to get used to the idea they’d never see the game they spent over a decade lusting after. 

Then Gearbox came in to save the day and spent another year hammering it into releasable shape; but they really should have let it die.

The final game – released a full fifteen years after work began – was a dated, ugly mess that bore the stitches of its protracted birth. It was also painful unfunny and just plain dull to play, and fans had to wonder why it took so long to release something so average.


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