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.
GoldenEye‘s multiplayer mode was the brainchild of programmer Steve Ellis, who decided, with one month of development time left, to add multiplayer entirely on his own. Knowing the higher-ups would almost surely decide there were better uses of his time, Steve set about ginning up his multiplayer mode without informing or getting permission from anybody at Rare or Nintendo. The first time anybody but Steve saw multiplayer in action was when it was completely finished, and at that point, GoldenEye was so far past its deadline, everybody in charge just shrugged and decided to leave it in. Good call.
Rare wanted players to pull out and reinsert the Rumble Pak to reload their guns.
Okay, so, Rare stumbled on a lot of great, revolutionary ideas when developing GoldenEye, but they also thought up their share of turkeys. For instance, for the sake of realism, Rare thought players should yank out and then reinsert the Rumble Pak every time they reloaded. Y’know, as if they were actually changing the magazine in a gun. It’s kind of a brilliant idea in a weird, would totally never work kind of way, but it was ultimately nixed by Nintendo, as the Rumble Pak wasn’t built to stand-up to that kind of use.
Many of the game’s textures are based on photographs from the actual film set.
“Could you guys step aside? We need to capture a wall texture.”
One of the things that set GoldenEye 007 at the time was how true it was to its movie counterpart. This game really felt like a blocky, somewhat blurry interactive version of a Bond movie. This accuracy was due to the fact that Rare got at-the-time unprecedented access to the GoldenEye movie set. They visited several times, were given all manner of production materials and a lot of the game’s textures were literally just ripped from photographs Hollis and company took on set. Even today, a lot of movie-based games wish they could get the kind of cooperation the Rare team got.
Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton are hidden in the game’s code.
GoldenEye 007 has more than its share of references and characters from old Bond movies. Mayday! Baron Samedi! That goddamn Oddjob! But wait, why was Pierce Brosnan the only version of Bond in the game? Well, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton (poor George Lazenby) were in the game, but had to be removed at the ninth hour for legal reasons. How did the development team respond to this news? By having one last monster deathmatch with the four Bonds, of course.
“An edict came down from on high and we had to get rid of the other Bonds, so on the day we had to take them out we played this epic deathmatch, first to a hundred kills, which went on for about three hours. Mark Edmonds played as Moore and won by one kill. It went down to the wire.”
Ultimately, the team didn’t entirely remove the other Bonds. Evidence of them can be uncovered fairly easily with a GameShark or by doing a bit of picking through the game’s code.
The watch Bond wears actually tells time.
One of the cooler, more immersive aspects of GoldenEye 007 is that the pause menu is represented by James Bond’s badass spy watch. Well, that watch wasn’t just rad, it was totally functional. Watch the hands on that watch – they actually keep accurate time, and continue to move whether the game is paused or not.
A version of GoldenEye was in development for the Virtual Boy.
We’ve all played the N64 GoldenEye, and some of us have even played the Wii remake, but there was a version of GoldenEye in the works that nobody got to play. Yes, Nintendo almost released a version of GoldenEye 007 for the Virtual Boy. Sadly, this 3D version of GoldenEye was mostly a racing game as opposed to anything to do with the Bond girls. Of course, once the Virtual Boy bombed, the red-and-black version of GoldenEye was canceled along with everything else for the system.
Nintendo almost canceled GoldenEye mid-development and thought the game would be a flop.
GoldenEye 007 a bomb? Not likely.
As I mentioned earlier, Nintendo and Rare weren’t particularly jazzed about GoldenEye 007 when it was first pitched, but they must have come around once they saw how well the game was shaping up, right? Wrong. In fact, as delays piled up and bugs continued to be a major problem, Nintendo decided GoldenEye was more trouble than it was worth and wrote Rare strongly suggesting they cancel the game.
Thankfully, Rare decided to stick it out, but even then, there was no confidence within Nintendo or Rare that GoldenEye would be anything more than a quickly forgotten fart in the wind. It was a licensed video game being released almost two years after the movie it was based on, and conventional wisdom at the time was that first-person shooters just didn’t sell on consoles. Well, sometimes conventional wisdom ain’t worth crap, as GoldenEye went on to become the third-best selling game on the N64.
Rare turned down the opportunity to make another James Bond game.
Despite the runaway success of GoldenEye, Nintendo and Rare never made another 007 game, which you may have assumed was because Nintendo cheaped out and let the Bond license lapse. That’s what I always thought, but actually, the exact opposite was true. Nintendo was enthusiastic about doing a game based on the next Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, but Hollis decided one Bond game was enough and turned the opportunity down. Shockingly, Nintendo was apparently fine with this. Of course, Rare did work on GoldenEye‘s “spiritual successor” Perfect Dark, although that game only sold around 1.5 million copies to GoldenEye‘s 8 million. But hey, I suppose it’s appropriate that Rare’s relationship with James Bond was a one-night stand.
And there you are, a few suave GoldenEye 007 facts to get you in the mood for Spectre next week. Know any interesting tidbits I missed? Just want to brag about how badly you always beat your siblings and cousins in deathmatch? Train your sights on the comments and let’s chat.