Rumours are flying around the internet about the reasons behind Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ rather underwhelming quality. Chief amongst these is that Gearbox outsourced a significant portion of the gameplay to other studios. Some more information regarding this could potentially have come to light, due to a post on Reddit by a user by the name of throwawayacm.
throwawayacm’s involvement with the Colonial Marines project has not been verified at this point, so take all they are saying with a grain of salt, but their claims correlate with a number of other reports enough to suggest that they know what they’re talking about. But again – none of this is confirmed as of yet, so reader beware.
throwawayacm – a user who joined Reddit yesterday – has posted a very interesting entry on the subreddit r/LV426, discussing the production of Aliens: Colonial Marines, entitled A lot of you are (rightfully) upset at the final product that is A:CM. Maybe I can shed some light as to how it got the way it is. Claiming to have been working on the Colonial Marines project for “around a year and a half”, they recount some of the things they’ve heard from “more senior guys.” Of course, all information is under NDA, so they’re relying on readers taking their claims on face value.
Apparently, development on the title – internally titled “Pecan” – was patchy, with a start-stop cycle that lead to frequent “content overhaul[s].” Eventually, Gearbox decided to outsource “a good portion” of the game’s development to other companies. The alleged distribution involved TimeGate handling “the majority of campaign”, Demiurge and Nerve handling DLC and “various other focused tasks”, while Gearbox themselves would handle the multiplayer. According to throwawayacm, this was so Gearbox could concentrate the majority of their resources on Borderlands 2.
The alignment of Borderlands 2 and Colonial Marines’ release dates, along with TimeGate’s progress on the campaign being “extremely far behind”, lead to another, 9 month, extension in the release date. Again, Borderlands 2 apparently received priority for Gearbox, taking “[a]bout 5 of those 9 months” to ship Borderlands 2. During this time, TimeGate allegedly was able to “scrap together about 85% of the campaign”, however it was still in “a pretty horrid state”. throwawayacm draws specific attention to various points here: “Campaign didn’t make much sense, the boss fights weren’t implemented, PS3 was way over memory, etcetcetc.”
When Gearbox returned their full attention to Colonial Marines, they apparently were rather unhappy with TimeGate’s progress, and “completely redisgned from scratch” some of the maps, and dealt with some “last minute feature requests, most notably female marines”.
The rush to certification and the suggested threat of SEGA taking legal action allegedly lead to the final state of the game. Singled out by throwawayacm here are the state of challenges, a feature that was allegedly “oversimplified”. Problems were supposedly ignored, except for “[i]ssues that didn’t cause 100% blockers… with the exception of absolutely horrible problems”. Another issue was the script, which was apparently approved by 20th Century FOX, but suffered in the rush to “throw a playable product together”.
throwawayacm is careful to stipulate that it wasn’t because Gearbox “didn’t care”, but because “they couldn’t risk changing ANYTHING that might cause them to fail certification or break some other system”.
As a response, a user named throwawayresponder appears to stick up for TimeGate. The nature of the comment suggests that they worked on the project for TimeGate in some capacity. There is no mention of their exact relationship to the project, and again, this information has not been verified. “[e]verything Timegate [sic] did was under clear and explicit direction from Gearbox”. throwawayresponder mentions that it was Gearbox’s sub-par oversight that lead to Gearbox firing “some of the most talented people” at TimeGate. Their final comment on the matter? “TG had absolutely no control of what was produced, they did exactly what they were asked to. You should be furious with Gearbox for assigning such shit quality creative directors to the project.”
So, if throwawayacm’s post is to be believed, Colonial Marines is a victim of crunch time, outsourcing, and split focus by Gearbox. And if throwawayresponder’s response is taken into account, Gearbox mismanaged the outsourcing to TimeGate.
We’ll be reaching out to the appropriate people to see if any information can be verified, but in the meantime this is the story being told by anonymous, faceless people on the internet. Keep that in mind, and we’ll bring you any information as it surfaces.
Read the full thread here.