Video gaming has evolved so rapidly over the last two and a half decades that it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come since the Pac-Man days. Case in point: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Fortnite and basically every shooter post-1997 wouldn’t have existed in their current forms if it weren’t for Rare and Nintendo’s James Bond-starring masterpiece, GoldenEye 007.
You may remember GoldenEye 007 as that critically-acclaimed Nintendo 64 game that was simultaneously heaps of fun and a friendship killer. What you may not know was how it was not only cobbled together by a team of newbies who’ve never made a game before, it completely – and unintentionally – revolutionised first-person shooters.
GoldenEye 007 began life back in 1994 when programmer Martin Hollis – who had only worked on one game at the time – pitched the idea of a James Bond game to Rare (the developer) and Nintendo.
The game was originally meant to be a 2D platformer for the Super Nintendo before pivoting to an on-rails shooter like Virtua Cop. But after seeing Super Mario 64 in action, Hollis wanted to make it into a 3D shooting game.
They liked the idea enough to say yes but weren’t confident that it would be a success so they gave him a crew of eight newbies, all of whom had never worked on a game before.
While this would spell doom on most projects, Hollis said the lack of experience actually helped the making of GoldenEye 007. Since no one knew anything, the team embraced a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach.
They threw in things that may seem rudimentary today but were considered incredibly innovative at the time, like bullet holes in walls, large environments, stealth elements, non-linear levels (based on photographs from the actual GoldenEye movie set), and context-sensitive hit locations on enemies.
Sure this led to an overabundance of development problems, bugs and deadline overruns but hey, no one said making a groundbreaking game was easy.
But perhaps the most innovative mechanic GoldenEye bestowed upon the world was local multiplayer mode on consoles, the feature that gave birth to a bunch of people crowded around one TV and playing against each other.
While it’s an expected thing in almost every shooter these days, multiplayer actually wasn’t intended to be in the game at all and was put together in the game’s final month of development by a single programmer, Steve Ellis.
In fact, it was so last minute that Rare or Nintendo didn’t even know of its existence until the game was well past its development deadline. At that point, it was too late to pull the plug so everyone shrugged and left it in.
Despite all the incredible work that went into GoldenEye 007, Nintendo weren’t particularly confident in the game and had actually “strongly suggested” to Rare to cancel the game after all its development troubles and poor preview showings.
Luckily, the studio stuck it out because they had alright dived way too deep to give up and it ultimately proved to be the right move. GoldenEye 007 was a massive critical and commercial success, and its then-innovative mechanics and multiplayer mode influenced a whole generation of first-person shooters.
So next time you need motivation, just remember that if nine blokes who had no idea what they were doing could make something involving James Bond that revolutionised a whole industry, you can do something amazing as well.
Or you could just procrastinate and play some GoldenEye 007 instead.