Excerpt: How the designers of GoldenEye 007 took advantage of “anti-game design”.

In this excerpt from her forthcoming book, writer and historian Alyse Knorr talks about some of the design choices made Goldeye 007 stand out from other first-person shooters of the ’90s and why this design has endured to this day. The book is currently seeking backers on Kickstarter.

When [game designer David] Doak first joined the team in late 1995, Gold eyeThe levels of were just barebones architecture – no objectives, enemies or plot. After designing the watch menu, he and [game designer Duncan] Botwood began creating a single player campaign, which followed and continued to expand Gold eye the narration of the film – a difficult task when you consider that the film’s dialogues about Lienz Cossack traitors and Kyrgyz missile tests overwhelmed quite a few 12-year-olds. Doak and Botwood’s job was to tell this complicated story using rudimentary pre- and post-mission cutscenes, pre-mission briefing materials, conversations with in-game NPCs, and mission objectives, which turned out to be the most powerful way to enable players to experience the story yourself.

<em>Golden Eye 007</em> by Alyse Knorr, here is an excerpt <a href=
Enlarge / Goldeye 007 by Alyse Knorr, excerpted here, is currently accepting pre-orders on Kickstarter.

The greatest inspiration for Gold eyeThe objective design of was not another first person shooter, but rather Super Mario 64. “I’ve been eagerly trying to find out what Nintendo is.” [game designer Martin] Hollis spoke about his years at Rare in 2015. “I played connection to the past from start to finish – I have all the hearts and all but two of the quarter hearts. I could write a thousand pages about this game. then [an early version of] mario 64 came out during the development of Gold eye, and we were clearly influenced by that game. It made ours a lot more open.” Hollis answered Super Mario 64 the idea of ​​including multiple mission objectives in one level. For example, in the Control level, the player must protect Natalya, disable the GoldenEye satellite, and destroy some armored mainframes.

Gold eyeThe mission objectives of add variety to what a player has to do other than just shooting people and blowing things up. Sometimes you need to rescue hostages or steal secret documents, and other times you need to defuse bombs or secretly infiltrate a base. The game’s instruction manual makes it clear how different Gold eye discusses its goals from other games of the time: “Unlike other first-person games,” it states, “the goal of the game isn’t necessarily to destroy everything or everyone you come in contact with. Some people or items are necessary to complete the mission. Shoot the wrong person or destroy the wrong computer and the mission might fail. Be sure to read the list of objectives for each mission. The fate of the free world depends on it!”

Emotional drama in games is best structured by carefully timing the highs and lows like a rollercoaster ride, with brief pauses after big bursts of action. Doak and Botwood set a rhythm for the missions so that fast, action-packed levels like Dam and Runway were each followed by quieter, more stealthy levels like Facility and Surface. To vary the pace of each level, the two designers came up with a variety of creative goals. For example, instead of just collecting keys – the already established formula for first-person shooters that id Software had established Wolfstein and demise-in Gold eye, The player uses more interesting Bondian riffs to find keys such as: Like shooting a lock off a door or meeting up with an undercover agent to get a door decoder. The level designers even attempted goals that turned out to be technically unfeasible. For example, they originally wanted players to ride a motorcycle through the runway level and chase the plane down the runway, just like in the original movie. When this proved too difficult, the motorcycle was repurposed as a miniature model on a desk in one of the surface plane cabins.

The bike wasn’t the only thing the developers couldn’t accommodate. The team originally wanted to add another level called “Perimeter” between the Jungle and Control missions, but the level never made it past the earliest lockdown stages. Another level cut from the game was a casino mission to match the movie – in fact the game’s ROM still contains money, a casino token and a gold bar. In the end, Botwood later said, “It would have been so much work to do a good casino background that we decided against it.”

Stealth levels like Facility (and his
Enlarge / Stealthy levels like Facility (and its “facilities”) helped break up the game’s action-packed levels.

In the Streets level, the team originally wanted the player to chase the evil General Ourumov through the streets of St. Petersburg, just like in the movie, and they even modeled Bond’s BMW roadster and Ourumov’s ZIL car from the movie. But after this proved impossible, they agreed to have Bond pilot a tank through streets full of mines, patrolled by guards with grenades and grenade launchers. During our interview, Doak showed me a hand-drawn road map from the development period. “My god, this is an absolute embarrassment because it’s just a ridiculous concoction,” chuckled Doak. “In the movie, it’s an amazing scene full of stunts. But then we got the idea that the tank could crush people, and that’s funny. We used to joke about the tank – it’s like Bond turned into a giant car” because the first person perspective doesn’t change at all when you use the tank.

The most famous of Gold eye’s scrapped design elements remain visible to players. The Dam mission harbors one of the game’s most alluring mysteries – a distant island visible through the sniper rifle’s scope, impossible to reach but so seemingly intentional that it has made a generation of gamers ponder. Botwood and [programmer Mark] Edmonds said they originally planned to add a boat that would allow you to get to the island to complete a mission objective.

“If I did it today I would probably have a check for an open water outlet pipe that blocked Bonds [bungee] Jump there, so you’d have to go there to turn off the water,” Botwood later speculated. “I think the original plan was to have a building over there to examine, with armor as a reward. That would have meant a boat ride had to be programmed in, and some of the scenery had gaps when viewed from the island, so it was too much work.” Late in development, taking something like the island out was much more difficult than just leaving them in [scenic art director] Karl Hilton told me.

In retrospect, Botwood thinks the island was a mistake. “I should never have put it there,” he told me. “It’s a visual nuisance.” But messy things like the island add to that Gold eye‘s Mythology – they breathe life into the world and give players something to theorize about and are some of the finest examples of the game’s handcrafted quality.

For Harper Jay MacIntyre, Double Fine’s content and community manager, the dam signifies the sort of implied promise of 3D spaces in the late ’90s. “Shifting from 2D to 3D, the worlds [felt] so much bigger,” MacIntyre told me. “Gold eye The levels are pretty short, but it’s easy to get lost when you’re playing them for the first time, especially back then, and it’s really exhilarating to think that there are secrets waiting for you.” Even—or maybe especially—when you’re finding them can never reach.