30 Games That Emerged from Development Hell

  • Comments: ↓ 27 user comments
  • Publish Date: June 23, 2011

We waited for this?

This last batch of games includes the most disappointing titles that, despite years of development, still feel unfinished or lacking.

game imageAPB: All Points Bulletin PC 58
5 years in development (2005-10)

Intended as an MMO take on a Grand Theft Auto-style open-world crime game by one of GTA's original creators, David Jones, APB was plagued by years of delays before its 2010 release, and poor reviews and financial problems after its release, leading to the game's eventual shutdown last fall. Under new ownership, it is expected to resurface later this year as a free-to-play game, retitled APB Reloaded.

game imageDaikatana Nintendo 64 n/a PC n/a
3+ years in development (1997-2000)

First previewed in 1997, the next game from Doom and Quake co-creator (and industry star) John Romero was supposed to hit store shelves in Christmas of that year after an (overly) ambitious seven-month development schedule. But the aggressively marketed 3D action-adventure Daikatana didn't reach gamers for another three years, following several more missed release dates and disappointing demos. The resulting game was terrible, and stands as one of the most notorious failures in the industry's history.

game imageDarkfall Online PC n/a
8 years in development (2001-09)

Though fantasy MMORPG Darkfall was announced during the summer of 2001, the game didn't even reach the non-playable demo stage until 2006. It took another three years before players were welcomed into the world, but many weren't happy with what they saw.

game imageDuke Nukem Forever PC 55 PS3 54 Xbox 360 49
15 years in development (1996-2011)

The problem with Duke Nukem Forever is not that it took 15 years to finally reach gamers, but that the game feels like it was created 15 years ago. The textbook definition of vaporware -- Wired gave DNF its vaporware lifetime achievement award ... in 2004 -- this sequel to the beloved 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D went through a well-documented development hell to, against all odds, arrive in stores last week. While a reaction of disappointment is not unexpected, many of the reviews have been scathing, with critics calling DNF dated, moronic, mean, irrelevant, and incompetent.

game imageStar Trek Online PC 66
6 years in development (2004-10)

The first and only MMORPG set in the Star Trek universe, STO went through two different developers and nearly six years of work to reach its official 2010 launch. While the game is not terrible, the initial reaction was mostly one of disappointment, making STO just one of many mediocre Star Trek games.

game imageToo Human Xbox 360 65
9 years in development (1999-2008)

First developed for the original PlayStation, and then for GameCube, Silicon Knights' action-RPG Too Human (a sci-fi take on Norse mythology) eventually turned out to be an Xbox 360 release almost a full decade after it was originally slated to arrive. Unfortunately, little of that extra development time was used to create something that gamers enjoyed playing.

game imageUltima IX: Ascension PC n/a
5 years in development (1994-99)

The game that killed the popular Ultima RPG series, Ascension had a troubled five-year development process that saw at least four different versions of the game. The final product that emerged in 1999 was buggy and unpolished, with a story that alienated longtime fans.

What do you think?

What games did we miss? Which of these one-time vaporware titles did you like, and which were major disappointments? Add your thoughts to the discussion section below, either now or in a few years.

Comments (27)

  • Briciovh  

    Wow, I was half way in hihgschool when L.A. Noire started to be developed

  • FrozenStar90  

    I couldn't agree more with the scores for Duke Nukem and Too Human. Those games were god awful. I liked the original Fable, but lost interest in the series after Fable 2. Peter Molyneux has a tendency to make his games out to be ground-breaking. They're definitely fun...just not mind blowing.

  • EduardoSVK  

    Wheres Freelancer? Development: 1997-2003. And what a great game it was when it finally went out...

  • Fredelas  

    Star Trek Online's lesser known sibling, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was just released this week after more than six years. It will be interesting to see how it fares in comparison.

  • Jeust  

    It may be just me, but including Alan Wake and Fable in the second category was pushing the envelope. Neither of the games is as average as the category wants to express, even as Alan Wake won GOTY awards.

  • Inuit_Dude  

    when star wars battlefront three is announced you will be able to add it to the long list of vapoware games it is being made by spark and is the unannounced project on thier page

  • kevlarcardhouse  

    This article makes a lot of false assumptions. For example, Warcraft III was only in pre-production for a lot of that development time, Prey was just on hiatus for a good portion of that time, and Prey 2 was only started on two years ago (After the first Prey, Human Head worked on another project but that fell through.)

  • bud389  

    Maybe the writer should've taken 5 more years to write this correctly and get his facts straight.

  • Krud  

    I enjoyed this article, but took issue with the statement that "Heart of Darkness" was the first game ever with full orchestral soundtrack. Am I missing something? Because I am nigh positive that games prior to 1998 had full orchestral soundtracks. "Star Wars: Dark Forces," any number of the mid 90's Sierra CD-ROM adventure games, and the LucasArts western shooter "Outlaws" in '97. Maybe the definition of "full" orchestra is the key factor, I don't know.

  • Goofus  

    You forgot Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. In development for 7 years (1999-2006) and bankrupted the developer. Great game though... terrifying.

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