Rumor: Aliens: Colonial Marines developer explains current state of the game
Chances are you’re already well aware of the critical and fan reception to Gearbox Software’s latest title Aliens: Colonial Marines. It’s been pretty ugly, with the game being almost universally panned by reviewers across the board. Most people are quite shocked that the title has turned out as bad as it has, Gearbox is considered a “AAA” developer and the game was in development for more then half a decade. Well an anonymous developer that worked on Aliens: Colonial Marines shed some light on the troubled development of the project today on reddit, and it’s quite eye opening.
Pecan (the internal codename for ACM) has a pretty long history. SEGA, GBX and 20th Century FOX came to an agreement to produce an Aliens game around 6 years ago, after which SEGA almost immediately announced it, long before Pecan had even started production. The game has been in active development in the past, only to be shelved in favor of another project (Borderlands, Duke, etc), and each time it was resumed it would undergo a major content overhaul.
SEGA, naturally, wasn’t super pleased about the delays, but GBX got away with it for a long time and the contract between SEGA and GBX kept getting augmented to push the projected release further and further back. The last time it was resumed, GBX outsourced a good portion of the game to outside companies. Initially, the plan was for TimeGate to take the majority of campaign, GBX would take MP, Demiurge and Nerve would handle DLC and various other focused tasks. This decision was made mostly so that most of the developers at GBX could continue working on Borderlands 2, while a small group of LDs, coders and designers dealt with Pecan.
Somehow the schedules for Pecan and Borderlands 2 managed to line up and GBX realized that there was no fucking way they could cert and ship two titles at the same time. Additionally, campaign (which was being developed by TimeGate) was extremely far behind, even as Pecan’s Beta deadline got closer and closer. In April or May (can’t remember which), Pecan was supposed to hit beta, but GBX instead came to an agreement with SEGA that they would push the release date back one more time, buying GBX around 9 mos extension.
About 5 of those 9 months went to shipping BL2. In that time, TimeGate managed to scrap together 85% of the campaign, but once Borderlands 2 shipped and GBX turned its attention to Pecan, it became pretty apparent that what had been made was in a pretty horrid state. Campaign didn’t make much sense, the boss fights weren’t implemented, PS3 was way over memory, etcetcetc. GBX was pretty unhappy with TG’s work, and some of Campaign maps were just completely redesigned from scratch. There were some last minute feature requests, most notably female marines, and the general consensus among GBX devs was that there was no way this game was going to be good by ship. There just wasn’t enough time.
Considering that SEGA was pretty close to taking legal action against GBX, asking for an extension wasn’t an option, and so Pecan crash-landed through certification and shipping. Features that were planned were oversimplified, or shoved in (a good example of this are challenges, which are in an incredibly illogical order). Issues that didn’t cause 100% blockers were generally ignored, with the exception of absolutely horrible problems. This isn’t because GBX didn’t care, mind you. At a certain point, they couldn’t risk changing ANYTHING that might cause them to fail certification or break some other system. And so, the product you see is what you get.
We’d like to clarify that this post falls purely into the rumor and speculation category of the news, and there’s no way to know for sure that this is actually a developer from Gearbox Software. However the post goes into quite some detail and it makes all too much sense given the game’s reception to simply ignore. It was certainly explains why Gearbox released a “AAA” game that took six years to develop but somehow it came out an unfinished mess.
The most alarming thing about how Gearbox has handled Aliens: Colonial Marines is the promotional material, more specifically the gameplay demo they gave last year. As it turns out, almost all of that demo was a complete fabrication, and next to none of it ended up in the final game, which goes hand in hand with what the alleged developer said. Jim Sterling of The Escapist recently did a video commentary of the old footage and gave implicit detail as to what ended up in the actual game and what didn’t. He makes the argument that the demo was made solely for the press and was never part of the final game. Having put in about 3 hours of my own time into the game, I can safely reaffirm Mr. Sterling’s argument. You would do well to check out the video to understand the frustrations many consumers are currently facing with the game.