Great game spaces: GoldenEye 007


GoldenEye 007 (often mislabeled GoldenEye 64) is often rightfully cited as one of gaming’s classics. Great design, addictive gameplay, actual objectives other than reaching the end of the level, reloading (!), and a multiplayer mode like nothing else ensure that it always holds a place in the canon of the first-person shooter.

But one point I often feel is seriously overlooked is the game’s sheer faithfulness to the film. This is not faithfulness in the way we currently assume film-to-game faithfulness works. It doesn’t have any cutscenes worth mentioning, no audio dialogue, and it commits the great adaptation cliche of inserting filler where there was none in the film. A ten second fight with Xenia in the film turns into a ten minute traipse through the jungle in the game, for instance.

Instead, this is faithfulness in a spatial sense. For a game released in 1997, it really is remarkably similar to the sets used in the film. Martin Hollis, producer and director of GoldenEye, has some very interesting points to make about this:

Karl [Hilton] constructed levels based on the film sets, which we visited several times. And Bea [Jones] constructed characters based on the photos of people and costumes we had. Later on Duncan Botwood joined the team and constructed levels. All of us immersed ourselves in the Bond universe.

One important factor was this. The level creators, or architects were working without much level design, by which I mean often they had no player start points or exits in mind. Certainly they didn’t think about enemy positions or object positions. Their job was simply to produce an interesting space. After the levels were made, Dave [Doak] or sometimes Duncan [Botwood] would be faced with filling them with objectives, enemies, and stuff. The benefit of this sloppy unplanned approach was that many of the levels in the game have a realistic and non-linear feel. There are rooms with no direct relevance to the level. There are multiple routes across the level. This is an anti-game design approach, frankly. It is inefficient because much of the level is unnecessary to the gameplay. But it contributes to a greater sense of freedom, and also realism. And in turn this sense of freedom and realism contributed enormously to the success of the game.

After all these years of playing GoldenEye, I can’t watch the film without somehow feeling like I’ve been there before. I’m continually surprised by Bond’s ‘wrong’ turn in Facility, minutes into the film (watch it – you’ll see what I mean), and I always feel like there is so much to the Bunker scenes not shown in the film.

In short, I’m not surprised that one of the most routinely lauded adaptations of all time concentrates on an approach to space. It also intrigues me that both of my entries to this series of posts so far have been adaptations, when we so routinely criticise the genre. I have a few suspicions as to why, but I might save them for a later date.

Therefore, what better way than to let the game make my argument for me? I’ve got some images for comparison below. Apologies for the poor quality of some; finding images of GoldenEye 007 online is harder than you think. They all follow after the jump.








Filed under Great game spaces, videogames

6 responses to “Great game spaces: GoldenEye 007

  1. This approach was a central part of what made Goldeneye 007 so great. I remember the tunnels of useless corridors in the Dam level which served no immediate purpose, but provided great opportunities for me to gather lots of guards together for a close-quarters brawl.

    I’m interested in the comment that this is “an anti-game design approach”. There’s something in that which I feel is relevant to our assessment of modern games like GTA.

  2. Pingback: Great game spaces: GoldenEye 007 | Online Gaming

  3. I never played the solo campaigns, nor do I remember the film. The multiplayer kept my family and I playing for many a weekend, though.

    One thing I love about level design is when I find spaces that aren’t relevant or have no real purpose. I don’t want to have the game spoil itself to me by making me realize that every ending location I visit will have something of use to me. Perhaps what I desire are actual worlds, where every room and locale does not have an immediate function, if any at all.

  4. Daniel Golding

    I believe you’re both onto something. Although those corridors did serve a purpose, Spencer, but only on higher difficulties. But yes, definitely agree with the ‘anti-game design’. There is just something fantastic about making an interesting space first, and then making it playable second.

  5. I agree with Dan Golding. I think that level design is a place where form should not follow function (so long as function is understood as the game’s objectives). Otherwise, the map will feel contrived. It’s easy enough to feel that the world exists for the player/PC as it is without the artificial feeling of sewers, hallways, fake doors, and constrained outdoor paths.

  6. Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    I’m Out! 🙂

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