Don’t let his brooding in the recent Daniel Craig movies fool you; James Bond lives a charmed life. Hell, he’s even had good luck with video games. There have been a surprising number of good Bond games over the years, but Nintendo and Rare’s GoldenEye 007 stands alone as a groundbreaking achievement. GoldenEye proved that first-person shooters could work on consoles, licensed games could be true top-of-the-line experiences, and that sitting around the basement with your buddies racking up headshots was pretty much the ultimate way to waste a Saturday afternoon.
Of course, like a lot of cutting-edge games, GoldenEye weathered a rocky development, and as a result, the end product bears a lot of interesting quirks. Here’s a few GoldenEye 007 facts licensed to blow your mind…
GoldenEye 007 was developed by only nine people, eight of which had never worked on a game before.
Martin Hollis, the golden mind behind GoldenEye 007.
Given the depth and complexity of GoldenEye 007, you might surmise that the game was a major priority for Nintendo and the game’s developer Rare, but you’d be wrong. Development of the game began in late 1994, based on a pitch by a mid-level programmer named Martin Hollis (above) who had just finished up working on Killer Instinct, his first game with the company. Rare and Nintendo liked Hollis’ pitch enough to greenlight the game, but they weren’t overly enthusiastic, so they gave Hollis a skeleton crew of rookies. Hollis, with his impressive single game credit, was the only guy on the nine-person crew with any actual hands-on experience. In a strange way, though, that naivety actually helped the game according to GoldenEye team member Graeme Norgate.
“Because it was most people’s first game we did things we might not do again because it was too much work. We didn’t take the easy route. If something sounded like a good idea, it was like, ‘Yeah let’s do it!’ The world was our oyster! Only afterwards would you find it was a world of pain.”
GoldenEye was originally envisioned as both an SNES platformer and on-rails shooter.
Virtua Cop, the very 90s inspiration for GoldenEye 007.
With development kicking off in ’94, the original plan was to put GoldenEye on the still-current Super Nintendo, and like basically all 16-bit licensed games, it was going to be a 2D platformer. Aside from his eagerness to leap between the sheets, I’m not sure James Bond is really all that much into jumping, and neither was Hollis, who boldly insisted the game be a shooter.
You might expect the recently-released Doom or Duke Nukem to be Hollis’ inspiration, but it was actually the on-rails arcade shooter Virtua Cop that convinced him to make a Bond shooter. Basically, the idea was for the missions to be tightly-controlled “scenes” heavily inspired by the movies, rather than the more open-ended stages we got in the final game. So, what changed Hollis’ mind? Mario 64. Once Hollis got an eyeful of an early build of Super Mario 64, he realized on-rails gameplay was soon going to be obsolete and took GoldenEye in a new direction.
The game was going to feature “beautifully rendered gore.”
GoldenEye 007 was a fairly violent game for its time, particularly for a Nintendo-published title. This was, after all, the game that introduced most ’90s gamers to the concept of the headshot. Well, originally, the game was going to be even more frank about just how messy exercising your license to kill can get. Here’s Hollis describing the abundance of red stuff Rare originally planned for the game…
“For a while, we had some gore. It was a flipbook of about 40 textures, beautifully rendered gore that would explode out. When I saw it the first time, I thought it was awesome, it was a fountain of blood. Then I thought, hmm, this might be a bit too much red.”
Shigeru Miyamoto wanted the game to end with you shaking hands with all your enemies at the hospital.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nintendo’s twinkly-eyed master designer Shigeru Miyamoto wasn’t wild about all the gunplay and murder packed into GoldenEye. A touch hypocritical considering all wanton turtle violence in his games, but hey, you don’t question Miyamoto-san. Late in the development, Miyamoto sent Rare a fax, requesting they reduce the game’s violence or, failing that, have the game end with you shaking the hands of all the game’s enemies in the hospital, showing you hadn’t actually killed them. No, really. Hey, even the creator of Mario and Zelda is allowed the occasional bad idea.
Well, believe it or not, the team actually took Miyamoto’s advice. They didn’t have Bond shaking hands in a very overstuffed emergency room, but they did add a credit sequence where all the characters, including generic ones like “Russian Soldier” and “Scientist” were introduced as if they were actors in a movie. It was a nice cinematic touch, but it also sent the subtle message that GoldenEye the game was just as artificial as GoldenEye the movie. All the characters you shot were just “actors” and nobody really died. This was enough to mollify Miyamoto and the game shipped with no real cuts to its violence.
The game’s legendary multiplayer mode was thrown together in a month.
That’s the happiest pictures of Jaws I’ve even seen.
From The Dam to the Antenna Cradle, GoldenEye‘s single-player missions were mostly top-notch, but it was the game’s multiplayer mode that elevated the game to classic status. GoldenEye remains one of the best same-couch multiplayer experiences in gaming history, and continues to inspire ultra-popular multiplayer shooters like Call of Duty to this day. Well, surprisingly, this vital feature was never in the official plans for GoldenEye.