In 1999 a stealth-based third-person shooter called Syphon Filter released for the original PlayStation, becoming a bestseller and helping define the stealth genre. Thirteen years on, its developers admit that the game's original synopsis was only a page long and barely contained any ideas.
In an interview on the PlayStation Blog, Bend Studio's creative director, John Garvin, says that Syphon Filter came about free of influences like Metal Gear Solid (he says the game was already in development before they'd even heard of MGS) and the idea came from a producer at Sony's then 989 Studios.
"[He] had written a one page synopsis that he called 'Syphon Filter', which had zero meaning, i.e. there was no plot, no character and no story, just an idea for settings, mechanics and gameplay," Garvin says in the interview.
"From the beginning it was to be a 'stealth action' game (in the days before there was such a genre) that focused heavily on weapons, gadgets and stealth. Our goal was to make the player feel like a super spy. Our lead designer back then was pretty heavily influenced by Nintendo's GoldenEye, which was probably the closest you could come to finding a game like Syphon in those days."
Garvin goes on to talk about how the stealth classic came close to being canceled on more than one occasion, all the deadlines the development team missed and how they knew they were onto something special because of their sense of "terror" they felt whilst working on the game.
The in-depth interview where Garvin discusses the challenges of developing Syphon Filter and what he is most proud of can be read over at the PlayStation Blog.