Sometimes, due to the dreaded creative differences and/or other reasons, renowned game creators leave their former employers. This leaves the publishers – who may or may not have tried to remove the elements that made that game great – to reap the profits and kill cute animals and stuff. Meanwhile, said creators are usually snapped up by another studio or publisher and told to 'make that again', but 'better' and 'for us'.
Like these guys...
The Evil Within
Formerly known as Zwei, Mikami's latest is being touted as The Next Big Thing. But forget that: if this isn't at least in some way about Capcom allegedly kicking him upstairs and getting Hideki Kamiya to direct Resident Evil 2, then we'll eat our own brains.
The clue's in the (old) title. Granted, he did make the Resi remake and Resi 4 for Capcom, so maybe we just imagined all of this. But if you leave a publisher who didn't let you make the second game in the series you created, and then call it, essentially, 'Two', people do start to get suspicious. Oh, and the guy responsible for the Resident Evil remake's amazing background art is on board, which seems a bit like stealing someone's girlfriend and then making a better looking kid than them, but hey. Mikami can do what he wants.
Call of Duty
Remember the time when Call of Duty was the plucky underdog, competing against an all-conquering – and similarly themed – EA shooter called Medal of Honor? No? Fair enough: it's kind of like being told that Call of Juarez was, at one point, an alright franchise – you're sure it might have been true once, but now it seems so unlikely you'd sooner believe man landed on the sun.
Well it happened. While EA was storming the charts with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, key members of the team – such as Vince Zampella and Jason West – decided to leave and form their own studio. They created Infinity Ward, released Call of Duty, and lived happily ever after. Until they were fired, of course, and ended up back in the arms of EA, like a really crappy rom-com.
Way before Binfinite, The Mighty Ken Levine was working away on System Shock 2, often described as 'one of the scariest games ever made', even by people who haven't played it. It was ace, and yet one of the studios that co-created it soon bit the dust. The other was Irrational Games and, undeterred, Levine set out to create BioShock. As you may be aware, this did pretty well, leaving Ken to make any sequel he wanted. His next game was the earth-shattering, epoch-defining, world-beating, critic-numbing, Bioshock Infinite.
In The Past, there was but one management game: Championship Manager. Known for inflicting the sort of addiction that makes Super Heroin seem tame, it soon was one of the best-regarded games in the world.
Then: intrigue. As reported by Edge, Sports Interactive (the developer) chief Miles Jacobson had reservations about the arrangement, and of Eidos' intentions. (Including allegedly hiring a team called Beautiful Game Studios and telling Sports Interactive that they were making a platformer. Which would be like hiring We Love Stealth Shooters Games Studios and telling IO they were working on a puzzle game.)
Anyway: Eidos and SI split. Eidos got the name, SI got most of the rest, and Football Manager was born. The rest is history, Alan.
Guitar Hero used to the biggest thing in the world. Bigger than The Beatles, bigger than Elvis, bigger even than Marouane Fellaini's hair, an achievement that has stumped scientists to this day. From Guitar Hero 3 onwards however the series was under the custody of Neversoft; original devs Harmonix had done one to MTV Games/Viacom, intent on creating not only a rock-based game where players wield plastic guitars, but one featuring a whole bloody band. They named this revolutionary venture 'Rock Band.' Clever.
And it was ace. While Activision followed its well-practiced business plan of putting out sequel after sequel, Harmonix created a platform for its game, introducing a system for downloading only the tracks you want, and generally giving us something really rather cool. It might have been a fad, but what an awesome one it was.
Game designer Stuart Black once made a shooter called – yes – Black. It was pretty good, and for years people clamoured for a sequel. He followed it up with Bodycount, a game so naff it made us all cry. Bodycount is what you would get if you replaced all the interesting elements of the Bulletstorm design doc with pictures of Tron. This was a score attack game with a focus on destruction, yet the best way to win was to sneak around with a silenced pistol.
Still, at least we'll always have Black. And, also, wouldn't it be great if all developers had to name their game after themselves? Imagine how good Miles Jacobson's psychological movie tie-in Jacobson's Ladder would have been. Or Peter Molyneux's daring management sim about keeping up repairs in Wolves' stadium – itself called Molineux - up to date?
Brian Fargo Presents: Fargo – The Game of the Movie?
What a world that would be.