The GoldenEye 007 that never was

Rare alum Martin Hollis talks about the eleventh-hour addition of multiplayer and potential light-gun support.

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Fifteen years after its release on the Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007 remains a beloved classic that paved the way for console first-person shooters. But according to game director Martin Hollis, the GoldenEye 007 that shipped to stores in August of 1997 might not be recognizable today were it not for a series of significant changes that occurred during the game's nearly three-year development.

Multiplayer wasn't added to GoldenEye 007 until late in development.
Multiplayer wasn't added to GoldenEye 007 until late in development.

Speaking in a GoldenEye 007 postmortem today at GDC Europe, Hollis offered a snapshot of how much those changes shaped the legacy of Rare's seminal first-person shooter. One of the biggest alterations, the inclusion of competitive multiplayer, occurred well into the eleventh hour. Relaying an anecdote from programmer Steve Ellis, Hollis noted that his team didn't implement multiplayer until "sometime like March or April of 1997."

The addition of multiplayer was a clandestine operation carried out without the knowledge of Rare and Nintendo management. According to Hollis, the team was able to sneak multiplayer in--a job programmed by Ellis within a single month, according to designer Duncan Botwood--due largely to the lax managerial atmosphere that existed within the studio. "There were six-month stretches when no members of Rare or Nintendo management came to the team offices," said Hollis.

Moving on to the subject of controls, Hollis noted that GoldenEye's use of the Nintendo 64 analog stick as the engine for gun aiming was never part of the game's early plans. Hollis' initial pitch for GoldenEye promised strong similarities to the arcade light-gun series Virtua Cop. "In my mind was Virtua Cop and Doom," recalled Hollis. "I could see the value of having a gun [peripheral] in your hand, but there was no gun planned for the N64."

Instead, Hollis' team at Rare built their control scheme around the promise of a rumor. "At this time, we had no idea what the [Nintendo 64 controller] would be at all," said Hollis. "There was no certainty, but there was a rumor that there was going to be an analog stick. That was all I knew. I was hoping the analog joypad would be okay." In the end, Rare chose to center its control system around the analog stick, and the bet paid off.

Finally, Hollis pointed out that some of GoldenEye's most memorable quirks could potentially have been ironed out if his team had more time for tweaking and balancing. As an example of one of his favorite mistakes, Hollis cited the Oddjob character in GoldenEye's multiplayer mode. "Oddjob was an annoying character because he was so hard to shoot," admitted Hollis. "We didn't have time to balance all the characters. Really we just threw them in for the multiplayer. But these little quirks and bits of sketchiness really bring personality to the game."

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