Alyse Knorr is an associate professor of English at Regis University and the co-editor of Switchback Books. She is the author of the 2016 Boss Fight book, Super Mario Bros. 3, as well as the poetry collections Mega-City Redux, Copper Mother, and Annotated Glass.

Boss Fight Books: GoldenEye 007 by Alyse Knorr

Bond—James Bond. In the 80s and 90s, the debonair superspy's games failed to live up to the giddy thrills of his films. That all changed when British studio Rare unleashed GoldenEye 007 in 1997. In basements and college dorms across the world, friends bumped shoulders while shooting, knifing, exploding, and slapping each other's digital faces in the Nintendo 64 game that would redefine the modern first-person shooter genre and become the most badass party game of its generation.

But GoldenEye's success was far from a sure thing. For years of development, GoldenEye's team of rookie developers were shooting in the dark with no sense of what the N64 or its controller would be like, and the game's relentless violence horrified higher-ups at squeaky clean Nintendo. As development lagged far behind the debut of the tie-in film GoldenEye, the game nearly came out an entire Bond movie too late.

Through extensive interviews with GoldenEye's creators, writer and scholar Alyse Knorr traces the story of how this unlikely licensed game reinvigorated a franchise and a genre. Learn all the stories behind how this iconic title was developed, and why GoldenEye 007 has continued to kick the living daylights out of every other Bond game since.


Halo might have taken networks of Xbox consoles by storm in 2001, but GoldenEye 007 paved the way for it and every other successful console FPS that followed. Alyse Knorr invites you behind closed doors at Rare during one of the studio's most creative periods. – David L. Craddock



  • "Absolutely the best book I've read about a videogame — or a film — and I'm not just saying that because it's, you know, GoldenEye. It's warm, personable, and surprisingly filled with minor dramatic incidents. Considering that a videogame is essentially a long process where a number of people sit down at computers for a long time, that is impressive."

    – Martin Hollis, Director of GoldenEye 007
  • "GoldenEye 007 (the book) is a thrill to read, just like GoldenEye 007 (the game) is to play."

    – Max Frequency
  • "This book answered many questions that I, as an avid player, still had after all these years, and really brought forth a lot of details that explained why the game played the way it did, and how specific details that I both marveled at and was frustrated by came to light. It even revealed a few secrets that I was still unaware of, as well as the current state of the Goldeneye community, who still remains devoted to the game. I am delighted I got a chance to read this book, and if you're a fan of Goldeneye, you really, really owe it to yourself to read this."

    – Goodreads



When [game designer David] Doak first joined the team at the end of 1995, GoldenEye's levels were just barebones architecture—no objectives, enemies, or plot. After designing the watch menu, he and [game designer Duncan] Botwood started creating a single-player campaign that followed and expanded upon GoldenEye the movie's narrative—a difficult task, considering the fact that the film's dialogue about Lienz Cossack traitors and Kyrgyz missile tests went over the heads of quite a few 12-year-olds. Doak and Botwood's job was to tell this complicated story using rudimentary pre- and post-mission cutscenes, pre-mission briefing paperwork, in-game conversations with NPCs, and mission objectives, which proved the most powerful way to allow players to experience the story themselves.

The biggest inspiration for GoldenEye's objective design was not another first-person shooter but rather Super Mario 64. "I studiously tried to learn what Nintendo was," [game designer Martin] Hollis said in 2015 of his years at Rare. "I played Link to the Past from beginning to end—I got all the hearts and all but two of the quarter hearts. I could write a thousand pages about that game. Then [an early version of] Mario 64 came out during the development of GoldenEye, and we were clearly influenced by that game. Ours was much more open as a result." Hollis took from Super Mario 64 the idea of including multiple mission objectives within one level. For instance, in the Control level, the player must protect Natalya, disable the GoldenEye satellite, and destroy some armored mainframes.

GoldenEye's mission objectives add variety to what a player has to do beyond just shooting people and blowing stuff up. Sometimes you have to rescue hostages or steal secret documents, and other times you have to disarm bombs or sneakily infiltrate a base. The game's instruction manual makes clear how differently GoldenEye treats its objectives from other games of the time: "Unlike other first-person perspective games," it reads, "the object of the game isn't necessarily to destroy everything or everyone you come into contact with. Some people or objects are necessary to complete the mission. Shoot the wrong person or destroy the wrong computer and the mission could be a failure. Make sure to read through the list of objectives for each mission. The fate of the free world depends on it!"

Emotional drama in games is best structured by carefully tuning the highs and the lows like a roller coaster, with brief lulls after big periods of action. Doak and Botwood established a rhythm to the missions so that fast, action-packed levels like Dam and Runway were followed by quieter, stealthier levels like Facility and Surface, respectively. To vary each level's pace, the two designers brainstormed a large variety of creative objectives. For instance, instead of just collecting keys—the already well-established formula for first-person shooters that id Software had established in Wolfenstein and Doom—in GoldenEye, the player makes use of more interesting, Bondian riffs on finding keys such as shooting a lock off a door or rendezvousing with an undercover agent to receive a door decoder. The level designers even tried objectives that wound up being technically infeasible. For instance, they originally wanted players to ride a motorbike through the Runway level, chasing the plane down the runway just like in the original movie. When this proved too difficult to pull off, the motorbike was repurposed as a miniature model on a desk in one of the Surface level's cabins.

The motorbike wasn't the only thing the developers couldn't fit in. The team originally wanted to include another level between the Jungle and Control missions called "Perimeter," but the level never made it past the earliest blocking stages. Another level cut from the game was a Casino mission in keeping with the movie—in fact, the game's ROM still includes money, a casino token, and a gold bar. In the end, Botwood said later, "there would have been such a lot of work to make a good casino background that we decided against it."