Staff that worked on Alien Colonial Marines explain to Kotaku why they believe the game was such a car crash
Oh, Gearbox; You have brought us much joy over the past years. With top notch titles such as the Borderlands series, Brother in Arms and not forgetting the original Half Life expansions, Blue Shift and Opposing forces. Those were the days… However now things seem to be taking a turn for the worst for the company, in the wake of a recent string of PR and development disasters. What are we referring to? Aliens Colonial Marines of course!
If you’ve paid any attention to video game news outlets for the past few weeks, you may have seen the uproar surrounding Gearbox’s latest title, Alien Colonial Marines. Receiving negative reviews across the board, criticism that the games demo was in better shape than the retail release and complaints that the E3 trailer was over sensationalised, including scenes that didn’t appear in the actual game, some media sources have gone as far as to label the title as one of the biggest train wrecks in video game history.
Not wanting to see their reputation smushed into the dirt much more, several staff members that worked on the game have gone on the record, speaking directly to Kotaku in order to set the score straight and explain what exactly happened to the epic Aliens Colonial Marines title the world was hoping for.
Aliens Colonial Marines – Insider Info!
So, rewind to 2006. Sega purchased the rights to make 2 games based on the Alien IP; an RPG title to be made by Obsidian Entertainment and a FPS by Gearbox. Step forward and sadly in 2009 Sega announced that it was having financial troubles, thus the RPG title from Obsidian was cancelled (Footage appeared online last week of the cancelled RPG series and can be found here!).
It was of course 2009 that Gearboxes brand new home grown IP, Borderlands hit the market and after acclaimed success, the company went full steam ahead to produce Borderlands 2, which released in 2012. With barely any staff remaining for the Aliens title, Gearbox chose to outsource the title to developers of multi-platform title Section 8, TimeGate Studios.
Commenting on the acquisition of the project, one source is quoted as saying “There was really good synergy between both teams about what needed to happen… It was a very love-love situation“. That was until TimeGate received the workload of the project, then it became apparent how much work they truly had to do.
“There was obviously not four years of work done on the game”, said one source referring to the period between Sega’s IP Acquisition and TimeGate’s intervention. “[It was] basically a hodgepodge [...] A lot of assets just didn’t seem like they fit there.” Several sources Kotaku conversed with apparently felt that Gearbox had simply ignored the title for several years, focusing all of its assets and efforts on Duke Nukem Forever, Borderlands and Borderlands 2, leaving nothing more than the very bare bones of Aliens Colonial Marines for the studio to work on.
Formally taking charge of the project in 2010, TimeGate was apparently riddled with troubles during its development of the title. Several sources provided incohesive stories, with one saying that TimeGate simply threw out the entire project and started from scratch where as another explained they simply worked with what they had.
2011 and the next issue to face the title was the lack of cohesion between the studios with some sources explaining that both Gearbox and TimeGate writers were constantly writing and rewriting the script, sometimes forcing developers to discard whole levels.
“There was also the ‘too many chefs’ syndrome when it came to gameplay, where too many people gave feedback on both ends and it ultimately led to further delays,” explained one source. “In one case, working on a particular task took me a month to finalise, as there was inconsistent and delayed feedback.”
In regards to the E3 Demo that caused so much of a stir; “We were told many times through demo production, ‘Don’t worry about performance, just make it awesome,’” [...] “There was a reason [the demos] were never playable.”
Allegedly the demo shown at E3 was a collaboration between Gearbox and TimeGate, the only problem being, it required a rather suped up PC that the average consumer wouldn’t own. “We were constantly cutting back more and more in terms of texture, shader and particle fidelity, in order to fit into the jacked memory restraints,” explained one source.
2012 and Gearbox were back on Aliens Colonial Marines, having had TimeGate flesh out the vast majority of the project. Yet, camp Gearbox weren’t exactly happy with how the project had turned out. According to one source, Gearbox had to go back and change everything from lighting, shaders and textures. It apparently didn’t even run on PS3, which when the game is launching on multiple consoles….is kind of a big deal (Something Bethesda should know all about, OH SNAP!)
“[Gearbox made] big changes to lighting, texture and shader complexity,” Explained one source that came in very late into the build process. “Design elements were altered or redone entirely. It looks like a lot of [TimeGate's] assets remained intact, with the exception of lower-res textures and faster-performing shaders.”
One source from Gearbox spoke with Kotaku explaining that the studio knew the game was going to be a disaster, but after 6 years working on the project, they didn’t feel it would be appropriate to go back to Sega to ask for another extension.
“The game feels like it was made in nine months [...] That’s because it was.”
Most curious is that despite the game being out already for two weeks, neither publisher Sega or Gearbox have yet commented on the fiasco.
Final Writers Thoughts
Having not played Aliens Colonial Marines myself, I honestly cannot express a true opinion on the title. All I can say for sure is that I was one of the many that was geeking out at the original announcement and was truly hoping for something spectacular. After the release of Aliens Vs Predator in 2010, I was certainly reserved about the potential of the Colonial Marines…After all, I’ve always been of the opinion there has been no competent Alien game since Alien vs Predator 2 in 2004. It truly saddens me that a game that had so much potential has more or less been disregarded by a great company in favour of other endeavours.
Surely it is business 101 to not spread your resources so thin and put your heart and soul into a product, over shipping something that many, even the developers, consider flawed?
For a more in depth look at the claims by staff, be sure to head over to Kotaku for the full story.