Game Assets that Weren’t

As in the movie business, a significant proportion of game content originally envisioned to be worthy of inclusion ends up on the cutting room floor. Only in the software industry, the metaphor doesn’t really stand up under scrutiny because the director’s floor is often actually built into the game that ships.

Any graphics, music, or code that lingers in a piece of software that can’t be experienced by the end user is known as an ‘unused asset’, and these can be left in place for a variety of diverse reasons.

The quality of work may not satisfy the standards imposed by the production manager, or may fail to align with the style or theme of the game. A promising concept once executed may place too much of a strain on the resources of the intended platform, so is scrapped to maintain smooth frame frames. Other material could deliberately be left in place as it is expected to be accessed at a later date by expansion disks. Tight deadlines, and simple forgetfulness may bridge any gaps in the possibilities.

Some game engines when compiling a developer’s code will seek out references to assets, and draw only this data into the final package, making it as streamlined as possible. Other less efficient systems will opt to gather up everything that has ever been worked on as part of the project regardless of whether those assets are currently being called upon by the code.

If conservation of space on the distribution medium is critical, or the excess material is of a sensitive nature (imagine the ‘hot coffee mod’ winding up in a PG-rated game), automated tools are available for identifying and erasing any superfluous data. Mostly though, it’s not worth the trouble, or the risk of introducing bugs by performing such janitorial routines. It certainly doesn’t make sense to assign a talented, expensive programmer the task of poring over the code manually to whittle it down.

Whatever the circumstances, for as long as unused assets have been a fixture of gaming, people capable of accessing and dissecting programming code have rejoiced in rooting out and sharing them.

Today, entire sections of ‘Games that Weren’t’ web sites have been dedicated to documenting and celebrating these discoveries. Sites such as Frank Gasking’s fore-running GtW64, born way back in 1993, for instance. Aside from not incorporating a specific ‘lost assets’ category, the Amiga equivalent would be aGTW.

Then there’s the Amiga area of The Cutting Room Floor, which predominantly features a host of developer’s expletive-fuelled, NSFW anti-piracy rants, recorded for posterity. All these really achieved was to fan the flames, and often made the authors look more scurrilous than the pirates they condemned. Why drag paraplegics and gay people into the fray? Ah, remember the good old days when prejudice and homophobia were acceptable?

A tad less contentious, Tim Wright’s lost Lemmings soundtrack, replete with copyright protected chiptune versions of pop culture tracks is worth checking out.

Another example that stands out from the crowd comes from the single screen platformer, Naughty Ones, coded by slick demo group, Melon Dezign. Hidden within is a polite plea to crackers to give their game a free pass. No such luck! Paradox (aka Crystal) did the honours with regards to the AGA version, while Kingdom took care of the OCS edition.

I suppose you could argue they were advocates for equality.

 

One of Melon Dezign’s iconic intros, ironically leading into a game cracked by Paradox.

All of which brings me neatly onto my own personal finds, snagged from magazine scans or emulation snapshots, rather than by delving into clandestine programming code… which would require me to have the foggiest clue where to begin!

These aren’t necessarily included in the finished article, only intended to be at some point along the development cycle.

Anyone remember this pool table littering up one of Robocod’s sports themed levels? Me neither. Sorry about the horrible quality magazine extract taken from Amiga Power issue 4, August 1991.

Peter Molyneux slags off one of his employees, committing his mean-spirited nit-picking to print for the rest of eternity… and more crucially, the Everything Amiga blog. What a charmer.

In Amigo Scour 6 I mentioned that the Amiga port of Addams Family was initially going to ship with intricately fleshed out background graphics as found in the SNES version. To its detriment they did feature in the Atari ST port. Below is a side by side comparison of the same scenes taken from each edition, showing what might have been if smooth scrolling hadn’t been prioritised over pretty wallpaper.

Gomez contemplates ending it all.

 

One way to dodge pernicious spinny-rotatey blades is to wear the ring of invisibility …or was that a Hobbit super power?

 

It’s hardly a greenhouse without windows is it, eh?

 

Never trust Alton Towers when they tell you ride malfunctions are a one-in-a-million blip.

 

Narcissism is alive and well in the Addams mansion.

 

What’s holding that ceiling up there with no inbetweeny rocky soil matter? Come on Ocean, it’s basic physics. Think!

 

Boing Ball themed stairs… in the Atari ST port? The world’s gone stark-raving mad!

In another dimension – aka an early developmental phase – Donk! – The Samurai Duck! was known as ‘Dong‘, his cuirass was a different colour and he was missing his kabuto. The name switch came about because it was felt that a slang term for the male appendage wouldn’t be appropriate for the target audience.

Naked duck at 9.00 o’clock. Avert your gaze kids! I didn’t expect to find such depraved filth in an Amiga games mag of all places!

One way to root out these kind of curios is to visit the Hall of Light database and peruse the screenshots that appeared in early preview articles. These can then be compared to the final game as you play it, read reviews or check out the myriad captures online.

So there you go, that’s your homework for this week set! Feel free to share your findings in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Game Assets that Weren’t

  • October 31, 2016 at 6:40 pm
    Permalink

    Nice stuff! One of my favorite "hacks" of all time is Donkey Kong 2, which used a bunch of unused game assets to make a great, and very challenging sequel. Very fascinating!

  • November 1, 2016 at 6:28 am
    Permalink

    Oddly enough, the SNES version of The Addams Family also didn't have a background in the Greenhouse/Conservatory or Under the Tree levels, either. The Atari ST reigns supreme! Or something.

  • November 2, 2016 at 1:18 am
    Permalink

    Heh I know Robert, he is a good bloke.
    When it came to light he posted it on his Facebook with the line "I shocked myself! Can't believe i'd write something like that!" it was of a time so no need to kick the man 20 odd years later

  • November 2, 2016 at 3:25 am
    Permalink

    I suppose we've all said and done things we regret. Unfortunately for him his comments were committed to disk and spread all over the globe, and now his name will forever be attached to them online.

    I didn't plan on waging any sort of vendetta against the guy. Do you think I should link to the article without drawing attention to his name?

  • November 2, 2016 at 3:06 pm
    Permalink

    It's upto you, at the end of the day he did type it, but I know other Amiga coders (including ones in your latest article) who hid a lot worse , personally linking to the article is enough to shame him imho.
    Going post link to your sensible article on some of those guys fb pages 🙂

  • November 2, 2016 at 4:31 pm
    Permalink

    You're right, there's no need to single him out and sully his reputation any further, so I've removed his name.

    Thanks for the feedback and links. I still can't believe that article actually happened. Now the world knows who dog woman is!!! 😀

Leave a Reply