6 Triple-A Games With Surprising Origins - GTA 5, COD & Final Fantasy
Call of Duty, Gears of War, Final Fantasy and other series owe their success to retro games big style. Join us as we champion these unsung heroes.
Published on Mar 30, 2012
Coming up with a unique idea is hard these days. Daring to be different or making an abstract game might result in positive reviews or a cult following, but chances are the developer won’t get a lot of sales. Just look at ICO and Okami for example.
There are many games out there today that pull in millions upon millions of fans, massive piles of cash and high review scores. However, very few of them are original.
So we decided to track down the inspiration for some of the biggest franchises around today, and to give credit where it’s due.
6. Gears of War 3 owes its existence to Kill.Switch
Woah hold on there fact-fans, yes we know that Koei’s 2001 shooter Operation Winback was the first game to use third person cover shooting mechanics, but have you actually played the game or seen it running? It’s not very good.
Operation Winback doesn’t handle well and suffers from a clumsy cover mechanic, and even then it didn’t exactly invent the whole ‘snap to cover and shoot’ mechanic. Hell, even Time Crisis did that way back in the day.
Regardless of what game invented cover-shooting mechanics, it’s hard to deny that Kill.Switch honed them into a format that worked incredibly well, and laid the frame for the most prominent cover shooters of our time.
So what did Kill.Switch bring to the table exactly? Only snapping to cover, blind firing, blind grenade throwing, creating locales and set pieces around cover placement, fluid third-person shooter controls, and directly influencing Cliff Bleszinski when he was conceptualising Gears of War.
Fear my ability to hide behind things, bwahahaha!
So quite a lot then, although chances are your average punter on the street won’t have heard of the game at all. Because regardless of the way Kill.Switch informed shooter design for years after its release, it didn’t receive much of a fan following when it launched on PS2 in 2003.
To many, Kill.Switch just looked like a naff Japanese attempt to cash in on the success of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear by those guys who made Dynasty Warriors. You remember that right? It’s that series that does well in Japan but nowhere else.
We’re being mean now, but to prove a point. Here was another genuinely innovative and interesting idea from Japan that had a massive impact on an industry, but never reaped the rewards it deserved. That is, until the west started riffing on it to make the template even better without giving due credit. Sound familiar?
Released ahead of its time, ito a world that wasn’t ready for it and suffering from a lack of marketing, Kill.Switch disappeared as soon as it came. But its legacy will live on in the DNA of third-person shooters everywhere, even if gamers don’t realise it.
5. Resident Evil 6 owes its existence to Sweet Home
But hold on, Alone in the Dark created survival horror in 1992, right? Well technically it did, but we’re fast approaching another Operation Winback versus Kill.Switch scenario here.
Sure, Alone in the Dark delivered the horror, control scheme and mansion setting that – on the surface – seemed to directly influence the creation of Capcom’s Resident Evil series, but in fact, Resident Evil was originally pitched as a sequel to a 1989 NES game called Sweet Home.
Sweet Home was developed by Capcom alongside a Japanese horror movie of the same name. It followed a team of five people who enter a deserted mansion in the middle of the woods and become trapped. The team then has to work together while battling monsters to escape.
Fair enough, Sweet Home is a top down game that blends RPG and battle staples, but the similarities between this and Resident Evil go even further. For starters, one of the characters has a lockpick, which obviously makes her a master at unlocking.
That tenuous thread aside, Sweet Home also has inventory management, a mansion setting, monsters, a real horror vibe, puzzles, gory, collectible diary entries and more. Not to mention loading screens whenever your team goes through a door.
So while Sweet Home did influence Resident Evil and its countless sequels internally at Capcom, Alone in the Dark took what it attempted to do and made it come to life in a 3D format. It also wasn’t half bad too, just don’t mention the 2008 reboot, or the Uwe Boll movie.
4. Call of Duty owes its existence to Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
This is the kind of statement that gets fanboys foaming at their expletive-spewing caves, but like it or not, this is absolutely true. This is definitely one of those ‘apprentice becoming stronger than the master’ tales that borders on the painfully ironic.
After the first Medal of Honor dropped on PSone in 1999, EA’s franchise quickly became the de facto force in FPS console gaming, sparking a surge in military themed shooters across most formats. So if you hate military shooters, divert your anger here.
The third game in the series was Medal of Honor: Allied Assault – you might remember it as the one with the Omaha Beach landing level that cribbed heavily from Steven Spielberg’s war flick Saving Private Ryan. It’s also fondly remembered as being the one that was absolutely amazing.
Praise shouldn’t go directly to EA for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, as it was actually developed by the now defunct studio 2015. The studio had quite simply reinvented the face of military shooters and made them slick, playable, cinematic and with stunning multiplayer to boot.
Shortly after Medal of Honor: Allied Assault launched in 2002, a large chunk of 2015’s payroll splintered off, took their expertise and used it to form a little studio called Infinity Ward. Chances are you’ve heard of them.
Hello, we have a lot of money.
Originally consisting of 22 ex-2015 staffers, including prolific founders Vince Zampella and Jason West, Infinity Ward’s first title was the PC-only smash Call of Duty. Not only did the original Call of Duty make EA’s subsequent Medal of Honor games pale by comparison, it cemented the future of the franchise.
With Zampella and West leaving Infinity Ward with a huge chunk of staff to form Respawn Entertainment, it seems that history is repeating itself once again. But as to what the studio is currently working on, well that’s anyone’s guess.
Say what you will about the Call of Duty series, but few can deny its immeasurable success, all of which was born out of a gutsy move that could have ended horribly. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Call of Duty game, you have Medal of Honor to thank.
3. Tomb Raider owes its existence to Rick Dangerous
Rick Who? This guy?
No you fool, we’re talking about Rick Dangerous, star of the 1989 Amiga platformer of the same name. Rick was a little adventurer chap who looked like Indiana Jones, and he spent his days rummaging around ancient tombs in search of relics.
Rick was a posh British agent who journeyed to the Amazon in search of a lost tribe. Along the way, players would have to help Rick avoid traps, shoot bad guys, solve puzzles and climb around the perilous environment.
Rick Dangerous sounds a lot like Tomb Raider without the cleavage, 3D visuals, or the affinity for tiny hot pants. Lara is also a posh British person, she too likes to shoot enemies, and she does everything else we just listed above. Alarm bells are ringing.
"Hello Steven? it's George, call the lawyers."
Somewhere along the line, is it possible that the makers of Tomb Raider ripped off Rick Dangerous, a game that many retro fans consider to be a true classic? Nope, because they were both created by the same studio, Core Design. Oh snap!
Word on the street is that Tomb Raider was originally pitched as a 3D remake of Rick Dangerous, and while that remains an unconfirmed rumour, it’s also widely documented that the initial lead character was male, not the Lara Croft we know today. Coincidence?
Either way, there are clear threads between both franchises, and it’s actually kind of nice to go back and play Rick Dangerous today just to se where Core got its inspiration from. That, and it’s a rather playable little gem too.
2. Grand Theft Auto owes its existence to APB
We’re not talking about APB, the highly disastrous MMO from now-defunct Scottish developer Realtime Worlds, but there is a common thread here that can be traced to the creation of the original Grand Theft Auto.
APB is also the name of a fun arcade developed by Atari and released in 1987. It follows a rookie cop called Bob who has to hit the city streets in his squad car to hunt down and penalise criminals. It’s a top down game that looks like this:
Basically, you’re riding around the city like a maniac, penalising the drivers of cars that look just like the vehicles in Grand Theft Auto, using the same top-down control system, and racking up massive cash bonuses. Grand Theft Auto has APB’s fingerprints all over it.
Jump forward to 1995 when respected Scottish game developer DMA Design was working on its new game concept, a title called Race n’ Chase. The game would see players getting behind the wheel of their car and hitting the city streets to cause crimes.
There were no on foot missions, and it was a multiplayer game focuses on crashing into other players and generally raising hell as best you could. The game would be set across New York, Venice and Miami, and missions would see you doing bank robberies, racing and a demolition derby mode.
My, how times have changed.
You could get out on foot to steal another car if your vehicle got trashed, but that’s as far as it goes. This is essentially an extension of APB, and after some revision, DMA Design changed the name from Race n’ Chase to Grand Theft Auto, and a legend was born.
The original GTA’s cars looked just like APBs, the city setting was similar, the viewpoint was the same and the car controls were nearly identical. Fitting homage, or a massive coincidence?
Well, we say ‘homage’, because after DMA Design became Rockstar North, the studio head Dave Jones left the company to form Realtime Worlds, creators of Crackdown and – wouldn’t you know it? – a free roaming cops n’ robbers MMO called APB.
The extent of Atari’s impact on the original GTA is still up in the air, but it’s hard to refute the similarities between both games and the fact that the APB MMO exists in the first place.
1. Square-Enix owes everything it has done to Final Fantasy
You might think ‘Well, yeah, obviously!’ but don’t forget that Square-Enix (or Squaresoft as it was known back in the day) didn’t just make Final Fantasy games during the studio’s early years. In fact the first Final Fantasy came out four years after the studio was formed.
Instead, Squaresoft made games like Dragon Slayer, King’s Knight and the NES game Rad Racer. Depending on who you ask, Squaresoft is said to have been perilously close to bankruptcy in 1987, and desperately needed a hit game.
It turns out some floppy haired rich kid playing your game with a hi-tech oven mitt isn't enough to sell your game. Right Lucas?
Squaresoft’s main planner Hironobu Sakaguchi rounded up seven of the studio’s best developers and began thrashing out an idea for their next NES game. Due to the tough situation now facing the company, the team decided to call their new RPG Final Fantasy, because it could have very well been their last game together.
Sakaguchi has always said that had Final Fantasy been a flop, he would have quit the industry and went back to university, but luckily for him Final Fantasy was a massive hit in Japan, gaining huge coverage in game magazine Famitsu and exceeding demand.
At launch, only 200,000 Final Fantasy cartridges were made, but production had to be doubled to meet the overwhelming demand from gamers. It would take until 1994 for Final Fantasy to reach western shores, with the insanely good SNES hit Final Fantasy VI (confusingly called Final Fantasy III in the west).
Chances are you know the rest of the story. Final Fantasy has become a gaming and cultural phenomenon and has generated a whopping amount of cash for Square-Enix. Although Sakaguchi is no longer with the studio, his legacy lives on as strong as ever.