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5 Video Game Developers That Endured Hell



Developing a video game isn't an overnight thing. In fact, it takes months just to lay the foundations for one, which is often followed by years of trials and tribulations that test even the most talented developers' moralities. Pull through, of course, and the rewards can be glorious. Drag it out over a lengthy period of time, however, and the final product can turn out irreversibly disastrous.

In this day and age, a video game can be churned out in around three or four years. Knowing that, of course, makes games that take over a decade to build stick out like a sore thumb. But what game can honestly take as long as ten years to develop from the ground up? Well, as it happens, there are five games with such lengthy periods devoted to finessing the formula. Pique your interest? Then let's delve right into the depths of development hell.

5. Prey

Prey (2006) - Original Game Trailer

Prey was once scripted to be 3D Realms' torchbearer for its in-house engine. Similar to what Unreal did for Epic Games, the studio was set to showcase its best features and qualities, using the sci-fi first-person shooter as its one and only vessel. But unfortunately, after only a year of development, its head designer, Tom Hall, abandoned the project in order to form Ion Storm. Unaware to the team at the time, this would be the nail in the coffin for the overly ambitious project.

Fortunately, Prey released in 2006, which was 11 years after its initial announcement. Between Hall's departure in 1996 and its 2006 launch, the game underwent copious amounts of revisions, team transitions, and even a studio handover. Luckily for the team that brought it to fulfillment, though, the final product was received with high praise and a number of noteworthy accolades, including Best Action Game of 2006.


4. Star Citizen

Star Citizen Trailer (2023)

At the time of writing, Star Citizen has amassed over $400,000,000 in crowdfunding, making it one of the biggest Kickstarter campaigns of all time. And yet, after 12 long years of false promises and questionable delays, the final product still hasn't arrived. And to think, this is a game that should've released back in 2014. The fact it still hasn't has, of course, had an incredibly negative effect on Cloud Imperium Games and its cryptic creators.

Since unveiling the initial blueprint of the game in 2010, its developers have faced an overwhelming amount of backlash. With long-term pledges losing faith in the highly ambitious MMO, Cloud Imperium is now having to issue refunds, as well as scrape enough content together to keep its remaining followers on tenterhooks. But without so much as a placeholder for its final release, the game will only continue to lose moral support. Will it arrive this year? Highly unlikely.


3. Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever: Official HD Debut Trailer

Duke Nukem was a third-person shooter series that bathed in more controversy than the vast majority of series of its time. Thanks to its explicit content and questionable taste in humor, the would-be award-winning saga faced more backlash than praise. In spite of this, the series actually had a cult following of sorts, which led to 3D Realms' interest in pursuing another game.

Duke Nukem Forever first came about back in 1997, shortly after the release of its prequel, Duke Nukem 3D. The final release, however, wasn't put out until 2011, leaving a 14 year period of development hell sewn between. The contributing factors that aided the lengthy tenure were 3D Realms downsizing in 2009, the IP being swapped over to Gearbox Software in 2010, and the outdated engine the game was being built on. Due to the countless complications, Duke Nukem Forever launched as a complete and utter shambles, effectively destroying the brand once and for all.


2. Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2 Commercial (1995)

Star Fox 2 was first announced after the release of its highly successful 1993 debut chapter. Having already been praised for its high quality graphics and next-level gameplay on SNES, the follow-up was in line to become the most anticipated release of the following year. However, with the PlayStation and Sega Saturn rising to prominence and showcasing their superiority as fresh consoles, the game devs quickly shied away from releasing the full product, mostly out of fear that its contents wouldn't compete with the rival platforms' growing libraries.

By 1995, Star Fox 2 was just about ready to go gold, with its localization and QA testing already being complete. However, before it could go live, Nintendo pulled it from the SNES, concerned that it wouldn't shine brightest on the outdated hardware. It was only much later, in 2017, that Nintendo revived the project and brought it to the SNES Classic, as well as Nintendo Switch Online in its 2019 update.


1. UnReal World

UnReal World official trailer 2016

UnReal World is allegedly the first sandbox roguelike RPG, according to Finnish duo Sami Maaranen and Erkka Lehmus. It's also one of, if not the longest-running games in existence, with a ludicrously long development phase of 26 years, going from 1990, all the way through to 2016. And even to this day, the game still receives the odd update over on its Steam page.

UnReal World was first brought to life back in 1990, with its first build being released in 1992. Following its successful launch, the game underwent a complete rewrite in another programming language, once again going live in 1995. It was only in 2016, however, that the game found ground on the Steam marketplace. And since then, the two-man team have continued to update it with various expansions and upgrades to its AI. Going by that, UnReal World has been around for nearly three decades, making it one the longest serving games of all time.


So, what's your take? Have you played any of the above titles? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.