The Joy Of… Old Versions

2016 Artwork The Joy Of Old Versions

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about earlier unreleased versions of well-known creative works and why they’re so absolutely fascinating.

Although I’ll mostly be talking about classic computer and video games here (since there are loads of examples I can use), everything in this article also applies to drafts of novels, sketches/plans for comics, scripts for movies, pilot episodes of TV shows etc.. too.

Anyway, one of the cool things about computer and video games is that they often go through several versions (eg: “beta” versions and “alpha” versions) before they are finally released. Like a writer preparing several drafts of a novel before publication, this allows the designers to see what works and what doesn’t, to correct mistakes and to make any changes they feel are necessary.

These “alpha” and “beta” versions of computer games are absolutely fascinating for all sorts of reasons. The most notable of these is that there are often substantial changes made to a game between these early versions and the published version.

This often means that footage of a “beta” version of a game (or the beta itself, if the developers have released it) will show a fascinating alternative version of something very familiar. It gives us an intriguing glimpse into what could have been. It’s almost like taking a look into a parallel universe of some kind.

For example, as you can see from this footage of the beta version of “Resident Evil 2”, the game actually contains a totally different selectable main character than the final game does. Instead of playing as Claire Redfield, you play as a totally different character called Elza Walker instead.

Likewise, in this footage from one of the alpha versions of “Doom”, you can see that the player is given a rifle (instead of a pistol) at the beginning of the game. This makes much more sense in the context of the story (given that you’re supposed to be a space marine and some of the zombified space marines you encounter in the finished game are all carrying rifles).

Plus, as I mention in this article about the beta version of “Duke Nukem 3D”, the beta version seems to have originally been intended to be much more similar to it’s predecessors than the released version of “Duke Nukem 3D” was. It also contains much cooler-looking weapons and a few extra features too.

As well as giving us an intriguing glimpse into the thought processes and design decisions that went into creating something great, seeing old versions of great things can also be a surprisingly powerful motivational tool too.

If you get to see part of the unedited draft of a story, the pilot to a classic TV show or the rough sketches for a comic, then it can remind you that the people who created it are only human. It shows you that even your favourite authors and artists make mistakes and don’t produce perfect things on their first attempt. This can take some of the pressure off of you and can help you to feel slightly better about your own creative works.

For example, although I’m much more of a “Star Trek” fan than a “Star Wars” fan, this article about the first draft of “Star Wars” is absolutely fascinating. The first draft of the script for “Star Wars” was titled “Adventures Of The Starkiller, Episode 1: The Star Wars” and, from everything else I’ve read about it, it’s hilariously terrible.

Yes, thanks to a lot of revisions and re-writing, it ended up being the classic sci-fi movie that made George Lucas famous. But he certainly didn’t get it right on his first attempt.

So, yes, old versions of well-known creative works can be absolutely fascinating for all sorts of reasons.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂