BFE's 7th Anniversary Retrospective
By Mauritsio

Yesterday was a remarkable day in the history of Serious Sam - it's the 7th anniversary of Serious Sam 3: BFE! It released for PC on November 22nd, 2011. As the Sam game that kick started multiplayer events within our community, we'd like to give it the appropriate tribute and look back at how BFE came to be, and what the community made of it in the years afterwards.

After the critical and commercial success that the classic Encounters generated in the early 2000's, Croteam began development on the next title in the Serious Sam series as soon as they could, and set out to make it good. That game would eventually end up being Serious Sam 2 - but an issue arose in the middle of the game's development. Croteam had lost their original publisher, Gathering of Developers, to the threat of bankruptcy. They had been acquired by Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Games and Rockstar Games. With Croteam having had huge troubles seeking a publisher for their earliest Serious Sam prototypes, they had little confidence in finding another and opted to stay with 2K. As such they continued development on the game under a new publisher.

However, this decision proved to produce a problematic situation. After Gathering of Developers had phased out completely, 2K took marketing of the game into their own hands and set a very strict release window - late 2005. Unsure if they could hit this mark, Croteam set out to prove it anyway and conformed to the release timing, but as a result a large amount of content had to be cut from the final game. One popular instance is where you'll find a promotional shot of Sam on a quadbike - a feature nowhere to be found in the release build.

What might have been...

Although Sam 2 received generally positive reviews, it was nowhere near where Croteam had hoped its highly anticipated sequel to be. Dissatisfied, Croteam broke their deal with 2K and contacted the recently formed Devolver Digital - as luck would have it, consisting of mostly the same staff from Gathering of Developers! Under their name, Croteam began developing the Serious Sam HD games in the newly made Serious Engine 3 as a primary method to fund their future projects and remind gamers that the Serious Sam series had not drawn its last breath. Before this, one of those projects was an unnamed military shooter, seemingly much in the vein of modern FPS games such as Battlefield, which was canned early in development. Instead, designs for the game were repurposed for the new upcoming Sam game. Of course, this was Serious Sam 3: BFE.

Serious Sam HD's was Devolver's first hit as a publisher, and in an effort to hype up the release of Serious Sam 3, the first new Sam game in 6 years, Devolver Digital commissioned three indie developers to release Serious Sam spin-offs during the same release timeframe of BFE. Among them the side-scroller Serious Sam: Double D, the mobile spin-off Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack and the sort-of-JRPG Serious Sam: Random Encounter. These games would set up the trend of an "indie of an indie" kind of Sam games, which would later be succeeded by Serious Sam's Bogus Detour, I Hate Running Backwards, and today, the other upcoming Croteam Incubator games.

From the game that brought you pancake kamikazes.

Finally, after the long wait and a large amount of hype from its fans, Serious Sam 3 released on November 22nd of 2011, a prequel to the first game, over a decade since Sam's first appearance. Soon after release the game was a financial and critical success, fans were very eager to see Sam back in action after all this time - however some were left somewhat dissatisfied with its weapon variety and environment design. Still today, these things are what keeps fan discussing the good and bad aspects of the game. In the year after, the 3-level DLC pack Jewel of the Nile was made and distributed to the public - which attempted to rectify the level design critiques from the base game - and succeeded.

In January of 2012, 7Smoke was created and BFE was the very first game we picked up for our events (which started out with zero attendees!). But there wasn't much to do aside from the usual BFE campaign runs. This all changed starting from November of 2012, when the game received its very own Steam Workshop page which enabled more streamlined mod support for the game. Made with the Serious Editor 3.5, mods had already been appearing on some community sites like Seriously!, but the Steam Workshop was the perfect method for content creators to show off their crafts. Modding for Serious Sam 2 and Serious Sam HD was tricky, due to a lack of edit data for many game assets which was done to save on file size, preventing them from being accessed or modified. But with Serious Sam 3, Croteam actually added this edit data in an update shortly after the Workshop went live. These two factors coupled together caused an enormous surge of content in 2013 going through 2014 before trickling down steadily through the next two years. This gave us and other communities plenty to play. Its strong modding support in comparison to other titles is seen as one of the prime reasons BFE was so great and re-playable.

Do you recognize these timeless creations?

After a run of 6 years, BFE was mostly phased out when it was included in Fusion 2017 on an improved engine. But the former remains as the game that carried the modding scene to a new level and introduced many to the scene - the one that was already there focused and still focuses itself on the Classic titles.

Thankfully, Fusion is setting itself up to carry on that legacy. Happy anniversary!