In the Making: GoldenEye 007
What do you get when you throw a handful of inexperienced game developers into a team? Sometimes, it can get pretty ugly. Not for this In the Making segment, though! What was once given the stink eye at E3 1997 is now part of the top three best selling N64 games of all time. If you haven’t played it, you should plan to after reading Arcade Sushi’s In the Making: GoldenEye 007.
In the later part of 1994, when the N64 was still in development, a team of 10 developers were called together to make a game. Surprisingly, 8 out of the 10 were inexperienced with developing games, but that later proved to be more of a benefit than a downfall. The original idea for the team was to create a 2D side-scroller for the SNES, inspired by the successful Donkey Kong Country. The director and producer thought that a 3D shooting game for the upcoming N64 would work out better.
GoldenEye 007 was planned to be a shoot ‘em up much like Sega’ Virtua Cop. The influence and similarities were very striking between the two of them. These likenesses were the reloading of the gun, the penalty for killing innocent civilians, an aiming system that could be alternated, and the hit reaction animations that were position dependent. The biggest difference was the way the player could control the character. Rather than use a light gun, the player would use the N64′s controller pad.
With a style in mind, the team headed over to MGM Studios. There they collected blueprints and photographs of the sets that were used for the scenes. They took those back to their workstations. Using the Nintendo’s NINGEN development software, they made the geometric environments for the game play.
Instead of sticking strictly to James Bond’s experience in the film, the developers spiced it up. Missions were either extended or modified in order for the player to have more participation in the story than he did. This showed that the team was not afraid to add additional elements to the story line even though they did stay true to references from the movie.
As the development continued, the priority remained the same: craft something interesting for the players. The level designs were made to be balanced, and the architecture was built without a strict path in mind. With a non-linear feel, the player had more roaming space and options. Some rooms gave no purpose except to exist in the level, and you were able to move in any way you wanted to in order to get to your objectives. These multiple objectives were placed in the game with inspiration from Super Mario 64.
GoldenEye 007 was unlike any other FPS at the time. The developers added two elements that were new concepts. The first concept was the spying technique with windows that only the player could safely see out of while the enemies could not see back. The second and biggest concept was the radius test installed in the game. To put it in better terms, when the player fires his or her gun, NPCs within a certain radius were alerted. If you were to fire the same gun again in a certain amount of time, a larger radius was alerted.
When the game was closer to finishing development, the team had to put an estimation on what the final product of the N64 could handle. While the console could render polygons much faster than what they were using, the textures were not fully compatible. To fix this, the team used black and white much more than the RGB colors. With the color reduction, processing power would cost much less. If they really needed to add color to any part of the game, they would add it in the vertex.
The last piece of the finalized game was the multi-player mode. It was added very late in the process due to not being part of the initial idea. Dubbed as an “afterthought”, the mode was created by Steve Ellis. He took the code for the single-player mode and created it to be used in the new multi-player mode.
After roughly 2 and a half years of development, the game was released on August 25, 1997. This was just two years after the film was debuted. It did not receive fantastic feedback from E3 that year, but surprisingly enough, it started to grow in popularity. It was a new thing for a FPS to be on a console instead of a PC. What was once considered a shameful product became an instant hit.
GoldenEye 007 has sold 8 million copies, making it the third best selling N64 game of all time. It has brought in $250 million worldwide and become a staple in any N64 collection. The inexperience of the developers gave way for a title that was created from a slush of ideas and original gameplay, much like a child experiencing paints for the first time. GoldenEye 007 deserves its rightful place in our In the Making series.