Even if you weren’t around when the game first debuted, chances are you’re at least aware of 1997’s GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 console. While many games have stood the test of time, the mere mention of proximity mines and paintball mode invokes nostalgia from those both young and.. well… slightly less young.
So what is it that catapulted GoldenEye into the stratosphere of gaming culture? The answer is a combination of advanced gameplay, branding, and ahead-of-its-time graphics that still impress, especially considering 3D gaming was in its infancy at the time.
Whether you’re a diehard fan or only vaguely aware of it, here are 10 things you probably never knew about GoldenEye 007.
1. It was originally going to be as a side scrolling, 2D shooter for the SNES
Martin Hollis, Game Director, instead proposed “a 3D shooting game” for the Nintendo 64 console, then still in development and known only as Ultra 64. He then created a document with all the design ideas he wanted in the game, including gadgets, weapons, characters to use, story digression from the film, and an artificial intelligence (AI) that would react to the player’s actions.
2. The team behind the game were relative amateurs
The majority of the team behind GoldenEye had never worked on a video game before. The rest were more familiar with 2D titles such as Donkey Kong Country. But those involved say at the time, that was actually a plus.
“Because it was most people’s first game”, composer Graeme Norgate told Now Gamer back in 2011. “We did things we might not do again because it was too much work. We didn’t take the easy route. If something sounded like a good idea, it was like, ‘Yeah let’s do it!’ The world was our oyster! Only afterwards would you find it was a world of pain.”
3. Developers initially planned to let players reload weapons by unplugging and re-inserting the Rumble Pak on the game controller
Yep. Developer Steve Ellis says the idea was ultimately nixed by Nintendo. “Nintendo weren’t keen on that idea and I think it might have affected the pacing a bit…”
BUT HOLY SHIT CAN YOU IMAGINE.
4. There was supposed to be four Bonds in the game
Sean Connery’s Bond, along with Timothy Dalton’s and Roger Moore’s were originally included alongside Pierce Brosnan’s. Developer Dave Doak recalls it was “right near the end” of the game’s development that the characters were pulled. The firm who held the license said it was a no-go.
“An edict came down from on high and we had to get rid of the other Bonds, so on the day we had to take them out we played this epic deathmatch – first to a hundred kills – which went on for about three hours. Mark Edmonds played as Moore and won by one kill. It went down to the wire…”
The other Bonds exist in some of the game’s promotional material and documentation. What’s even cooler is that they left behind digital footprints in the game.
5. Much of the game is actually in black and white
Karl Hilton, one of the designers on the project, says the N64’s processor was only 3/4 of what the team had designed for. Their solution? Go old school. “RGB colour textures cost a lot more in terms of processing power. You could do double the resolution if you used greyscale, so a lot was done like that. If I needed a bit of colour, I’d add it in the vertex.”
6. Super Mario 64 changed everything
Dave Doak told Now Gamer that when Super Mario 64 was released, the developers, like many players, were floored. “When Mario arrived it was clearly a step forward. Martin was obsessed with the collision detection, which was obviously doing it in 3D and GoldenEye was essentially using a 2D method. And our story was only about shooting stuff – we needed other things. We started putting in objectives, like meeting people in a level and back then that involved some complicated AI.”
7. Many elements are recycled from other parts of the game
The radar on multiplayer mode is actually an oil drum texture. The shuttle scene reused satellite textures and it’s takeoff imagery was powered by graphics from grenade explosions. “That whole level is a big hack job, but it’s one of the nicest looking,” Karl admitted.
8. Most supporting characters were rendered from employees at Rare Studios
Most everyone, aside from the studio owners, were scanned in for use in the game. At the start of each level, 5 faces from the collection are chosen at random. According to the 2011 interview, the entire development team are in there and Karl remains rather proud of the manly scar added to his face.
9. The game was extremely profitable
GoldenEye 007 cost Rare Studios an estimated $2 million to produce. It went on to gross over $250 million worldwide. Over 8 million copies of the game have been sold to date, making it the third most popular title for the console behind Mario 64 and Mario Kart.
For reference, the actual movie GoldenEye had a $60 million dollar budget and brought in an estimated $350 million at the box office.
10. Multiplayer mode was a last-minute additionThat’s right. Possibly one of the most memorable parts of the game nearly never came to light.
Developer Steve Ellies was brought aboard in the final months of the project to add in cheat codes and extra details. But his most important contribution was easily multiplayer. According to Doak, Ellies “sat in a room with all the code written for a single-player game and turned GoldenEye into a multiplayer game.”
Thank you, Steve.
11. The Cheat Sheet
Plenty of games have hidden easter eggs and cheat codes, but GoldenEye’s took the game to another level.
Players will fondly remember gems such as Paintball Mode and Tiny Bond, all achievable through carefully choreographed combinations that if done incorrectly, just make Bond look like he’s busting out a brand new dance.
Of course, you can always just beat certain levels within a specified time and win these perks honestly, but come on now, just bust a move.
12. Flying Bond
Yep. It’s more of a glitch, but still. This one was shared on GameSpot by user Millers C.
“Enable the Tiny Bond cheat. Go to a staircase and Crouch as far down as you can and walk off, and Voila, Bond can fly! Try it at the Frigate!”
13. Secret Island
While designing the first level, programmers built an island that was meant to be reached by boat. The boat was removed but the island remains… that is if you have a GameShark. Remember GameSharks?
The folks over at Fandom shared this tidbit:
“During the Dam level, go to the opposite side of the docks away from the place where you jump off. You can use your sniper rifle zoom to look around. While looking around, you will see an island slightly obscured by fog. Using a GameShark and a ‘No Clipping’ code, you will be able to reach the island.”
14. Secrets of the Silo
This one comes from IGN. Again, it’s more of a glitch, but still pretty freaking cool.
“This code requires that you have the invincibility cheat. Go to the Silo level with invincible Bond on. Select the plastique explosives from your watch and throw it on the wall. Now, shoot the explosives with your gun. Wherever you run, the explosions will follow you and kill everything in your path.”
Bonus Fact: Did you know there was originally an elevator in the silo level?
15. There’s a hidden emulator with 10 bonus games!
That’s right. There’s a fully functional emulator for the ZX Spectrum system, complete with ten original games. Getting to it is a bit of a pickle though. It was originally made as an experimental side project by Rare, but was deactivated in the final build. However several fan-developed patches allow modern emulators to unlock the bonus content.
If all of this has you feeling nostalgic, you can cop an original (refurbished) N64 along with GoldenEye 007 on eBay for the reasonably affordable price of just $79.99.
There are also emulators available online, but be wary of spammy links and ads. Seriously.
These crazy facts are a part of our dad trivia series, where we drop some pop-culture science you can impress your dad pals with at the next BBQ.
Check out our previous edition where we featured crazy Facts You Don’t Know About Super Mario.