Dust: An Elysian Tail co-writer Alex Kain explains in a new Gamasutra feature how the game's story had to be sliced down by one-third to make its release date, drastically changing the story's antagonist and finale.
"Towards the end of 2011, Dust: AET was beginning to come together," Kain writes. "A rather large problem was looming in the background this whole time: the story was nowhere near finished."
Dean Dodrill, the game's original creator and sole full-time developer, had created a storyline for the game that was impossible to implement in time. Kain said the narrative included "a massive third act that took the player to brand new locations fighting against a new main antagonist and changing the entire focus of the storyline."
This would have meant "another several months of development time," and there simply wasn't time to do that before the game released.
"Dean and I resolved to cut this final section of the game and tighten up what we had, promoting General Gaius up to main antagonist and centering the game around his campaign."
This sounds simple, but according to Kain, there was a major problem with this plan. "When you're on a team, cutting content is a fact of life. When you're one guy, every single asset you create is important."
However, it all paid off in the end. "Dean ended up agreeing with my decision to cut the third act and consolidate the story we had," Kain writes. "It was hard to part with the mysterious final villain, but the game ended up a lot tighter, and the story felt much more satisfying ending where it did."
You can find more of the trials and tribulations of the development of Dust in the extensive Gamasutra postmortem.