As a journalist I’ve been lucky enough to broach a number of big exclusives and work on some great articles, but the ones I’m most proud of collect, preserve and report how games change during development. I work with universities, museums and the original developers to uncover the design documents for these games, then usally write up my findings for the Gamer Network, including Eurogamer and RockPaperShotgun.
For example, did you know that Warren Spector’s original design document for Deus Ex set the game in a Russian-occupied Texas? Or that a cancelled Thief sequel led by Ion Storm’s Harvey Smith would have rebooted the series in a modern setting? Did you know that Doom was originally planned as a four-player co-op game?
I strongly believe that design documents and the processes by which they evolve are a tragically under-reported aspect of the games industry. As a journalist I’ve spoken and written at length about the need for the publishers and developers to preserve the history of the medium, before this information is lost for good.
The Deleted Scenes Series
The Deleted Scenes of Half-Life 2 – RockPaperShotgun, 25/07/12
The Deleted Scenes of Deus Ex (Majestic Revolutions concept) – Eurogamer, 04/01/13
The Deleted Scenes of Doom – Eurogamer, 30/01/13
The Deleted Scenes of Thief & Dark Camelot – RockPaperShotgun, 05/08/13
The Deleted Scenes of No One Lives Forever – Personal Blog, 13/05/14
The Deleted Scenes of Outcast & Outcast 2: Lost Paradise – Personal Blog, 16/06/14
The Deleted Scenes of Deus Ex: Insurrection & Deus Ex 3 – Eurogamer, 16/11/14
The Deleted Scenes of Origin Systems – Eurogamer, 21/12/14
The Deleted Scenes of Thief 3: Dagger of Ways – Eurogamer, 31/08/15
The Deleted Scenes of Deus Ex (Troubleshooter concept) – Trusted Reviews, 29/08/15
The Deleted Scenes of Tomb Raider (2014 remake) – Trusted Reviews, 04/09/15
Interview: Video Game Historian – Half Hour Intern Podcast, 26/07/2016
Video Games You Will Never Play – Book, 25/08/16
In 2015 I gave a lecture at Videobrains in London about my exclusive research into a cancelled Thief game that was in development at Ion Storm before it’s collapse almost a decade previously. The lecture was based on an article I wrote for Eurogamer, in which I interviewed a developer who worked on the project and shared some of the original design documents.
You can read the full Eurogamer article, The Modern Day Thief Reboot That Never Was, for more information on Thief 4 – but I’ve also included my slides and script below.
The game itself was called Thief 4: Dagger of Ways and was designed chiefly by Harvey Smith, who later carried at least part of that vision over to Dishonored. Thief 4 would have been a modern day reboot of the Thief series, reviving the characters in a dark and seedy inspired chiefly by Blade and Silent Hill.
You can read the Eurogamer article for more information on Thief 4: Dagger of Ways, or contact me for the original files and research this talk is based on. You can also check out my other Videobrain lectures, Easter Eggs: A Love Letter to Love Letters in Games and Deleted Scenes: Disney, Doom and Deus Ex.
Continue reading “The Deleted Scenes of Thief 4: Dagger of Ways”
In 2015 I wrote for Trusted Reviews about the development of the 2014 reboot of Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics, focusing on content that was cut from the game before release and alternate directions the team pitched.
The article focused on two different pitches that Crystal Dynamics proposed, the first an unnamed survival horror version and the second known as Tomb Raider: Ascension.
Primarily a survival horror game, Tomb Raider: Ascension would have taken place on an entirely different island, with an entirely different cast. In 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, Lara starts off young and timid, relying on the encouragement and support of her crewmates – but in Ascension, Lara would have been much more seasoned to start out with. She’d also have been accompanied by a six year old girl called Izumi.
Meanwhile, the survival horror version of the game would have pitted Lara against giant, invulnerable colossi that stalked an island she was shipwrecked on.
You can read the full article, The Story of the Tomb Raider That Was Never Made, for more information or contact me for access to the original research.
In 2012 I was commissioned by RockPaperShotgun to research and write about the development of Half-Life 2, focusing on the content that was cut from the game during development. I also played restored versions of that content using the Missing Information mod for Half-Life 2.
I thumb open my copy of Raising The Bar and take a fresh look at what lays inside. A quote from Gabe Newell’s foreword immediately pops out: “It doesn’t matter what we cut, so long as we cut it and it gives us the time to focus on other things, because any of the options will be bad unless they’re finished, and any of them will be good if they are finished.”
The majority of the article focuses on the Borealis, an ice-locked research ship that was cut from HL2’s plot early in development. The Borealis has since shown up in Portal 2 and is hinted to play a major role in the future of the Half-Life series.
You can read the full article, Unlimited Hyperborea: Half-Life 2’s Missing Information, at RockPaperShotgun or contact me to get access to the original research.
There’s been some new articles here recently. The reason is that I’ve been busy pulling together research for my last Deleted Scenes article, so I’ve been looking at shorter and faster writing opportunities to stay sharp.
However, it turns out I don’t always need to do the writing myself! Sometimes I just need to chat to someone, like when I spoke to James Tennent at Vice recently.
James was thinking of building his own PC and, since I’d done a lot of that at Bit-tech, he wanted guidance. I duly advised him not to bother and he used it in a short feature, dubbed ‘Making Your Own Computer Can Be a Sad and Confusing Hell‘.