Games with unfinished or abandoned mechanics

I’m always fascinated by elements of games that are clearly part of an earlier iteration of the game’s design or were intended to be more fully fleshed but never were. It’s an interesting look under the hood.

I thought of this because over the winter break I finally played Control. And while I loved it it’s clearly a game that’s a bit half-baked. As I was playing it I kept coming upon shelters near junctions and level entrances. In the released game they usually just have upgrades with a couple containing side quests. But given their frequency and prominence it feels like they were, until pretty close to release, a integral part of the game’s structure and may have served as checkpoints instead of the control points in the finished game.

What unfinished mechanics fascinate you? And why is the checkpointing in Control so goddamn bad?

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Love this question! But I’m sorry, I’m going to steal the two that are probably on top of many people’s minds

  • The remnants of more in-depth use of the Wii U gamepad in Breath of the Wild.
  • There are signs of a more in depth lighting system in Dark Souls 2, primarily in the gutter, explains why that area is so meh.

I promise I’ll think of more

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Perhaps not as interesting - but the two-person team behind Paradise Killer have talked about the iterative process of making the game (including in the Artbook), which included junking some mechanics apparently because they just didn’t fit. I mention this because at least some of the junked mechanics are things I actually felt were missing from the game - the “Trial” phase of the game [which you start whenever you’ve decided you’ve collected enough evidence in your run] is actually very straightforward and directed in the release version, but apparently had more to it in the original.

Hacking was, originally, a more involved process than the version in the release version too, apparently.

Similarly, there was, for a while, at least one time-dependent clue in the game - a person who you could interview if you got to them before they died of their injuries - but that was also removed.

I think all this is interesting because, whilst a lot of games seem to “grow” mechanics as they develop, Paradise Killer was mostly slowly pared down to only the parts that worked with the eventual “focus”.

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Very well known one, but Shadow of the Colossus has a bunch of weird stuff. Areas where colossi might have been and birds you can actually catch and glide on are the two that come to mind. The whole process of even getting on a bird in Colossus is so silly that it’s amazing it stayed in the game.

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I’m not sure if this fits what you’re looking for but the first thing that comes to mind is the Stop ‘n’ Swop stuff from Banjo-Kazooie.

It’s been a minute since I thought about this so I may get some of the fine details wrong but in the original game there are items you can obtain (6? mono-colored eggs with question marks on them and a key) by beating the game with all the Jiggies and returning to specific, somewhat hidden areas in the game. The items were supposed to be used in the sequel Banjo-Tooie and you were supposed to transfer the data by accessing a menu in that game and quickly ripping out the cartridge and putting in the Banjo-Kazooie cartridge you had collected the items on. All this got gutted from being properly implemented but I believe you can still collect the items in the original game using Game Shark codes and stuff like that.

The cool thing about Stop ‘n’ Swop is that it did get implemented years later in the Xbox Live Arcade release, which is where I first learned about it. You could collect the items in that version of the game and having that save data would do the thing they were supposed to do in Tooie (which I never played) and doing it would also grant you bonus items for building vehicles in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.

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Weeew I get talk about Prey! They introduced several survival mechanics (weapon degradation, injury/trauma status-effects, and oxygen limits if you don’t maintain your suit’s condition) as update to the main game alongside the launch of the Mooncrash DLC. These were apparently contemplated for the main game from the start. For me it’s a welcome piece of resource management that I can’t play without. I suppose the idea doesn’t appeal to everyone, but ti feels very much in keeping with the broader design of the game.

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ReCore, the middling 3d platformer I played on gamepass, was launched totally unfinished with items and loot (it’s a loot game) dropping for a character that just… wasn’t in the game. I think they added that stuff in properly later but it’s still real weird to me.

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Final Fantasy XII was planned to have a more robust Guest Party member system where you could pick up more side characters to join your party for quests and hunts. There’s some bare remnants in that in the final game, such as the like twelve hours Vossler, Larsa, and Reddas are in your party. Or the hand full of quests where an NPC joins your party which makes almost no difference. The developers wanted the game to be much more of an offline MMO than it already was, even with multiplayer at some point, and I’m curious how this would have worked.

They also wanted a Job System which did finally make it in with the HD port and the Zodiac Job System version. The Jobs in FFXII still do not feel entirely entire finished to me in any version though. It certainly is not as robust or distinct as the jobs in say, Bravely Default.

Have y’all heard of a little game called No Man’s Sky…?

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Everyone knows Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) is broken in a lot of ways, but the most beautiful is the gem system. Over the course of Sonic’s third of the game you can buy a number of gems that give you special abilities. These include: running faster, slowing down time, using special dash or tornado attacks, creating a shield that protects you from 1 hit, throwing a gem and zipping to wherever it lands (really), and shrinking. Shrinking lets you jump as many times as you want in mid-air (yes, really). None of that is the unfinished part (maybe the mid-air jump, it’s hard to tell). The unfinished part is that gem abilities are supposed to be balanced by draining your energy meter, but that just doesn’t happen. Once you have a gem you can use it as much as you want, whenever you want.

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I was at the part where Larsa joins the party a 2nd time and I realized I hadn’t done like any hunts, so I kept him in my party for an extra few hours. This game feels really good with additional party members! Normally I don’t like guest party members, but it works really well in FFXII. It’s done right, and interesting to know it could have been much more robust!

Also, it definitely feels like you need to play the game like an MMO. I always feel like I’m at just the right level for every new area, but that’s because I 100% explore every area. If I didn’t I think I would be under leveled and having a much harder time. Edit: especially in regards to equipment. I always have enough loot to fully equip my party members, which basically only happens because I’ve been exploring.

They’ve certainly turned that around now though. I was admittedly a defender of the released game but it’s only gotten better since launch. Giant sandworms included

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Dark Souls 3 was meant to have a very different system for bonfires, involving dragging around corpses and peircing them with the spiral sword thingy yourself. It sounded interesting, shades of the old Resident Evil typewriter ribbons, saving resources to make checkpoints where you needed them. If you look back at some of the promo material around announcement you can see referanced a lot, there’s a big ol’ statue of the Front Cover Knight demonstrating the idea that was at a convention or two. It got dropped pretty late in development though, which is why there are some odd bonfire placements, most notably the pair near the end where you beat a boss, rest at the bonfire, and you can literally see the next bonfire from where you are.

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This is a weird one because I don’t know if it was ever planned to be deeper or if it was just marketing bullshit from day one.

Eternal Darkness was supposed to have a very in depth magic system. You had incantations and modifiers that each had different effects and the pitch was you could create your own spells and own effects by mixing around the incantations. This is on paper true, you were not given prerecorded spells like final fantasy, but there was still only a set number of acceptable incantations and they were all just variations that benefited different systems like magic, health, sanity, etc.

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Larsa is the one guest party member who really helps because he has an infinite supply of healing items and will save your ass going through some jungle bosses soon.

Eventually you out-level Vossler and Reddas and they just become irrelevant to your big fights.

The amount of work that has gone into piecing together the cut content in Shaodw of the Colossus is staggering. Easily one of the best rabbit holes to fall down when it comes to YouTube videos if you are just interested in a community piecing together clues in a way that is not just digging through with a hex editor and pulling out strings.

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This is kind of an offshoot, but I feel like I’ve also played games where one mechanic totally throws off the entire game. Like, breaking the in-game economy or overtaking the focus of the gameplay loop. Struggling to think of them though.

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As someone who’s hit a brick wall three times… This is very true.