Every time I sit down to play a game, I always take a second to admire how many hours of coding and programming, as well as narrative writing and voice acting have gone into this game I’m about to consume. While some games are quick to market, taking about 12-18 months to put together, the more elaborate AAA games generally take twice that.
Then, there’s these games. The ones cursed by changing decisions, bankruptcy, tech issues, funding and rights, as well as thousands of other problems. These games took an entire lifetime to get out, to the point that some had to be re-programmed several times, as the release windows for certain console generations came and went.
What a ride.
Heart of Darkness (1998)
Development Time: 6 Years
This cinematic game was a platformer with huge aspirations. You play as a kid who’s dog got kidnapped by ghosts.
The game was pretty advanced for it’s time and was targeted for a PC market, but that platform became problematic. Then, they aimed for the 3DO in 1995, but that system became commercially unviable. So they pivoted to release it on the Atari Jaguar CD, but after further delays, that became impossible too.
By 1998, the only platform they could use was the OG PlayStation.
Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
Development Time: 15 Years
This sequel to Duke Nukem 3d was commissioned back in 1996 and was cursed from the start. Delays included a switch from the Quake II engine to Unreal, having a small development staff with no hard deadline, conflicts between the original developer 3D Realms and the publisher, and the bankruptcy of said publisher.
It was picked up by Gearbox software, and eventually completed by 2011, but was a critical disappointment due to clunky controls, long loading times and dated design.
Star Trek Online (2010)
Development Time: 12 Years
While there are a ton of Star Trek games out there, this one was the most eagerly anticipated. It was going to be the first true MMORPG to be set within the Star Trek universe, so it offered a realistic experience. Plus, it took place 30 years after the last Star Trek film, which offered fans a glimpse at the contemporary Alpha Quadrant.
Development began back in 2004, but hit snags at its original developer Perpetual Entertainment. It moved over to Cryptic Studios in 2006, and languished there for 2 years until players could jump into the game. At that time, however, due to technical and cost limitations, it was a PC only release in 2010.
It took another 6 years to make it to Xbox One and PS4 in 2016. So far, it feels worth it.
L.A. Noire (2011)
Development Time: 7 Years
With most games, delays in getting the game to market can be the result of issues with publishing, rights, money, or technical issues. This game suffered from no major issues in development, but still took almost a decade. Why? It needed a brand-new engine.
Generally, Rockstar has their own gaming engine that they use, but the game needed something that didn’t exist yet to work.
If you’ve played the game, you know that you need to pay attention to the facial movements of the subject during interrogation, in order to choose the right or wrong path. Thus, the developers had to create a new technology that required 32 cameras to capture an actors facial expressions from every angle. The development of this tech and the rest of the game, caused the 7 year delay.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2010)
Development Time: 7 Years
The immense success of the first game mean that a sequel was inevitable, but for years after the 1998 release of the original, no announcement followed.
The actual development didn’t start until 2003, but wasn’t announced until 2008 when a Beta was supposed to drop. It never did and the game took 2 more years to hit the market, despite being 95% completed in ’08.
The best I can gather is that some of the delay was due to programmers moving back and forth between this one and World of Warcraft simultaneously.
Development Time: 8 Years
This is a fun real-time simulation and strategy game, which allows you to create, cultivate and grow unique creatures. It was announced in 2005, but had already been in development since 2000 under different titles. It took another 3 years to get the game into a position where it could be published and sold.
Team Fortress 2 (2007)
Development Time: 9 Years
Back in 1996, a couple of guys created a mod they called Team Fortress for Quake, and was so well received that the developers were brought to Valve to make it into an official version. That was back in 1998.
Due to the turbulent times at Valve, while they were building out their Steam platform and the programmers were working on Half Life 2, no other games were getting any love. For 4 years, TF2 sat on a shelf.
In 2004, work was picked up again and the game was released in 2007.
Too Human (2008)
Development Time: 9 Years
Back in 1999, PlayStation fans were excited to get their hands on this game once it was announced. Except, it never got released on that console, because there was a nightmare of delays in coding for the Sony Tech.
Developers then turned their attention to releasing it on Game Cube in 2000. That didn’t happen either. The rights were finally sold to Microsoft in 2005, and it went through another development cycle, to get it ready for the 360.
Sadly, the game was planned to be a trilogy about futuristic Norse warriors, but the game wasn’t all that great. Plus, there was a lawsuit over the use of Unreal Engine 3, and turned this into one of the most expensive flops in gaming history.
Diablo III (11 Years)
Development Time: 11 Years
Diablo II was insanely successful, so obviously, Blizzard was gonna make a sequel. Starting back in 2001, they didn’t tell the public it was in development until 2008. Yet, it still wasn’t ready.
It took Blizzard until 2012 to release the game on PC, after extensive Beta testing, but ironically enough, it still wasn’t done. The servers ended up crashing upon launch, there were glitches galore and no one told the gamers that there was no offline play. Still though, it became a monster game.
Development Time: 11 Years & 11 Years
3D Realms started development on this game back in 1995, and was meant to be their in-house engine’s flagship title, but the game’s work was dumped when the project lead left the company. A new team worked on it for 5 years, with multiple iterations, and hit another snag. In 2001, the same was abandoned.
They then, continued to work on it again for another 5 years and released it in 2006 for the Xbox 360.
Development of a sequel began immediately, but when the games rights switched to Bethesda, Prey 2 became a Prey reboot; 11 years later.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
Development Time: 12 Years
This game was first announced in 2001, by a company called Check Six Games. They folded and cancelled the project. The rights were then sold to Sega. They fiddled around with it for a bit, then sold the rights to Gearbox Software, who spent 7 years working on it.
During that time, their resources were also spent on Duke Nukem Forever and Borderlands, so resources were tight, and parts of the game were outsourced to other studios.
When the game hit the market, it was plagued with bugs, gameplay issues, low-quality graphics and shared little continuity with the films. Also, the demo versions shown by Sega and Gearbox at conventions, were of noticeably higher quality, leading to several class-action lawsuits against the companies.
Half Life 2: Episode 3 or Half Life 3(TBD)
Development Time: 11 Years and counting
Valve is a pretty loosey-goosey, management-free, bohemian kind of place. So there’s really no one driving the bus on this one. Development has started and stopped several times on this game, and the rumours out of the joint are that they just don’t have a story idea that works.
So, I guess we’ll just keep waiting then?
Beyond Good & Evil 2 (TBD)
Development Time: 11 years
The first game was absolutely stellar, but a commercial failure. Hence, Ubisoft was reluctant to fund a follow up. The original games creator started a sequel anyways in 2007 and kept on checking in with Ubisoft. Originally a sequel story, BG&E2 has become a prequel and was officially announced in 2017.
Nn date, however, has been give for the game to actually drop. So we could still be waiting for quite some time.