We're re-surfacing a few videos from days past over the Christmas 2018 break to give folks a chance to see them anew. Step across the pond to lovely Croatia and hear the tale of how one of the most frenetic shooters ever came to be.
Welcome to another edition of "War Stories," where we coerce developers into talking about problems that almost kept them from making the games that made them famous. We've previously chatted with the likes of Ultima's Lord British, Thief's Paul Neurath, and Stardock's Brad Wardell. Today's video takes us across the Atlantic to Eastern Europe, to the offices of Croatian developer Croteam—the folks who brought us the classic FPS Serious Sam.
Serious Sam is a fast-paced explosion-fest, filled with Duke Nukem-esque one-liners and gibs galore. Released way back in 2001, the first game spawned a bloody dynasty that continues to this day and even has a new entry coming next year—hopefully).
It seems obvious in hindsight that the game would be a hit, but Croteam had a difficult time bringing it to market—in fact, although the developers spent a lot of time crafting and polishing a single-level demo that showed off the best they had to offer, they couldn't even get a publisher to call them back.
Salvation (and, eventually, publisher dollars) came from an unlikely source: the angry and often satirical game review site Old Man Murray. OMM had a review "methodology" called the "Crate Review System," wherein it assigned ratings to games by the amount of time that elapsed between when the game starts and when the player encounters the first destructible crate with supplies inside. Intended to poke fun at the concept of supply crates as a game design crutch, OMM unexpectedly gave the Serious Sam demo a positive review (something about as rare as Zero Punctuation's Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw giving a positive review) because Serious Sam broke away from the concept and didn't have destructible supply crates.
(When we asked Croteam co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Davor Hunski why the game lacked crates, he told us that it wasn't because Croteam was trying to buck an industry trend or anything so noble—the game didn't have crates because Croteam simply forgot to include them. On such accidents are built decade-spanning gaming franchises.)