Beyond Good & Evil: The Game Before The Game

Jade from Beyond Good & Evil

This week I will talk about a gem in gaming: Beyond Good & Evil. More specifically, about the things that led to this amazing game.

The Game

BG&E (Beyond Good & Evil) was developed at Ubisoft’s Montpellier studios in France, by  Michel Ancel (creator of Rayman), lead designer and writer of the project. In the beginning the game was called “Project BG&E” and it took over 3 years to finish, with 30 people working on this project.

The game’s initial idea was meant to make the player feel like an explorer; it was an ambitious project from which Michel Ancel wanted to make a whole universe into a single CD, giving the sensation of absolute freedom for the player that was exploring this world.

Now, having the infinite freedom did not mean the story would be open ended; Ancel meant for the story to be linear, as we can see in the final product, with the “freedom” just playing parts in between the main plot.

Another interesting information is that the title that Michel Ancel originally suggested was “Between Good and Evil”, and I quote:

For me, the meaning of this title is that you are always in the middle of an internal and external conflict, based on our conception of good and evil. In this game and in our world, propaganda thinks in our place; tells us these are our enemies and these are our friends. When you go beyond the appearances, you discover your own truth. That’s the theme of the game and marketing finally accepted this title, and just replaced the between by beyond, which fits better with the vast universe and story. -source

While at first Ancel wanted to give a whole world for the player to explore, after seeing TLoZ: The Wind Waker, he decided to shorten the game by removing long periods of exploration; I’m guessing that perhaps he felt this would have taken away too much time from the main story line, which for him was vital (but then again, this is only a guess). It was also originally going to be more “artistically ambitious”, but was changed to make it more commercially appealing. These changes, however, demoralized the team, and in the end Ancel felt the game resembled a sequel rather than a reworking. -source

Inspirations

Two main inspirations for the game were the Miyazaki universe (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, etc.) and the aftermath of September 11, 2001; other sources of inspirations were politics and the media.
You can see it in one of the trailers of the game:

“Who controls our minds?”

“Who starts the wars?”

“They will posses all of us. Almost everyone.”

“Truth knows no bounds.”

The influence can be clearly seen in the final product: the need to know the truth behind all of the propaganda drives the protagonist to uncover the conspiracy behind the fake war waged on Hillys, risking herself and her loved ones in the process; in the end, perhaps, for a better good.

Jade and Co.

Concept Art – Jade

At first Jade was going to be a teenager, as shown in the picture above, in comparison to the final product, in which Jade is 20 years old and more mature looking. Another interesting thing is that Jade was not going to have her beloved Daï-jo, and she would attack by what seems some sort of martial arts (you can see this in the first video of this post).

Picture from unseen64.net

At some point, her wardrobe was very different, with her using cow print pants, a red shirt and no head bandana. Ancel felt he needed to change her appearance, saying: “In order to be coherent with the fact that she is a war reporter. She looked too much like she had just got out of school, whereas the story introduces a more mature woman.”.

Before and After, same scene.

And Jade was not the only one that suffered wardrobe changes: Pey’j was originally intended to have a suit that would make him resemble more a mechanic.

Old Pey’j’s outfit

When creating Jade, Ancel wanted to come up with a realistic game character people could relate to, and eventually, develop an attachment to her. Instead of taking the easy way out of just making a female character with blatant sex appeal to attract male gamers, Ancel decided to make a character that really mattered:

From a psychological point of view she experiences joy, surprise, disillusion and even has the blues. The point was to make her lively, and above all, human. Jade is not a robot. -source

As for her sidekicks, I found on an article of the project when it was still on development which says that Jade was originally intended to have 4 to 5 sidekicks instead of only 2 like in the final product. I can only guess that the rest of the sidekicks would have been either the members of the IRIS Network or some of the NPCs you find around Hillys; who knows, maybe even her dog.

In Conclusion

While this game may not have achieved it’s full potential, and went through some changes (like most games do), in the end it became a rare gem that people around the world love and treasure, some even calling it one of the best games of all time (I know it’s on my top 5). Michel Ancel has said that Beyond Good and Evil 2 will be “the game I wanted to create for a long time”; from this we can perhaps assume that some of the missing content from the first one will be seen in the second one.

With that said, BG&E is an excellent game, ranging from it’s gameplay to it’s story and of course, the music. It’s a game that you can pick up for the first time even today and get quickly immersed in it. I’m speaking of experience here. I know, shame on me for taking so long to play it, but I can assure you, I’m glad I finally did.

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