The Story Behind Alien: Colonial Marine's Failure

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

The Story Behind Alien: Colonial Marine's Failure

image

Inside sources dish about the conflicts and mismanagement behind Colonial Marines.

Back in December 2006, Sega acquired the rights to the lauded Aliens franchise. Right away, they started two projects: a shooter and an RPG. While the RPG was cancelled, the shooter morphed into the critical failure that is Aliens: Colonial Marines. In those seven years, something went horribly wrong and Sega, Gearbox and Timegate are all pointing fingers at each other. While the official stories are rather vague, Kotaku has been talking to "people with connections to the game", some on the record, some off the record, but all anonymous. It correlates with what we've heard already, but adds new details as well. Together, it's a classic tale of mismanagement, bad priorities, and simply too many cooks in the kitchen.

It's odd to think that when Sega first handed Colonial Marine's to Gearbox, they were best known for Brothers in Arms. According to Kotaku's sources, they let the property languish while working on Borderlands and exhuming Duke Nukem Forever (for better or worse) before contracting Timegate in 2010. They claim that four years of Gearbox's work amounted to little more than a disconnected collection of art assets and the Borderlands shader model.

Sega, Gearbox, and Timegate proved to be too many chefs for Colonial Marine's kitchen. Allegedly, a central plot twist involved a scientist who would turn out to be working for the evil Weyland Yutani corporation was scrapped "because escort missions are stupid". Meanwhile, Timegate and Gearbox fought with Sega over the general direction of the game, with Sega behind the unusual number of human opponents to capture the Call of Duty market.

And then there's that trailer. Kotaku's sources suggest that more was at play than just simple deception. "We were told many times through demo production, 'Don't worry about performance, just make it awesome,'" one source reports. The result was a pretty game that couldn't run on modern consoles. By the time Gearbox took back the reins on Colonial Marine, there simply wasn't time for optimization, so textures were replaced and elements cut. "The game feels like it was made in nine months, and that's because it was."

There's a lot more to making games than simply tightening up the graphics on level three. We see the poor metacritic score, laugh with the modern breed of internet critic/entertainer, and feel superior in the knowledge that we would have pressed the fun button more in the development process. However, games do not spring fully-formed from the minds of designers. They are slow, painful births midwifed by hundreds of people working long hours for many years. Stories like these let us peer down from our consumer thrones and see the mighty armies toiling for our amusement.

Source: Kotaku

Permalink

... with Sega behind the unusual number of human opponents to capture the Call of Duty market.

Oh man, if that's true then, geez Sega, way to to live up to the publisher stereotype.

From what I can tell, most of the blame goes to Gearbox for focusing on everything but ACM for the better part of six years. It even seems like they used money that was suppose to go towards ACM and put it into BL 1 / 2 & DNF, which is possibly fraud. Overall Sega, Timegate, and the other devs that were working on this game are still partially responsible (seriously Sega, the CoD market?), but it was in the end Gearbox's responsibility to Sega to see this through all the way, which by the looks of things they simply did not do or care for for the vast majority of the game's six year development.

So if this is true then it really was mostly Gearbox's fault with a nice wtf Sega tossed on top.

I am horribly confused at Sega. Why would you hand a game over to a company and not get on them when 4(!) years go by with absolutely nothin to show for it?

Seriously. If you hire someone to do a job and they DONT FUCKIN DO THE JOB FOR FOUR YEARS, you'd think you'd say screw it and get your money back. Why the hell would they keep fundin such a project and why did they not keep better tabs on them?

because escort missions are stupid

This is true. Unless the escort is smart enough to hide or otherwise stay the f@#$ out of the way (Max Payne 2) or is resilient and capable of defending itself, escort missions are balls and scrapping it was the correct choice. There is nothing in this game to suggest they could have done a decent escort mission. Though they could still have worked the totally shocking plot twist that I'm sure we could not have seen coming from from miles away.

So basically, they pulled a Silicon Knights and let Sega fund their other projects, except unlike Silicon Knights they hit gold with Borderlands and Borderlands 2. SK couldn't produce a decent game without Nintendo's QA and guidance and sank like a rock (while trying to drag Epic down with it). And Gearbox can survive all their crappy other releases because Borderlands.

The sad insinuation here is that Sega was footing the bill for games that they weren't going to profit from. However, it's also negligent of Sega to keep handing over milestone checks for 4 years with only art assets to show for it. Another source I heard said that once Sega got really pissed and started talking litigation, Gearbox got the game from Timegate only to find that it was a complete mess and unreleasable. They had about 9 months, including certification and gold, to essentially start over with the bare minimum of changes as there wouldn't be enough time to fix a problem caused by changes.

It's a chain of command involving negligence. Sega, for continuing to hand over money without verifying what actual Aliens work was being done, Gearbox for putting team members on Borderlands instead, Gearbox for passing the work down to another developer and not verifying their work either, and Timegate for (apparently) being too incompetent to handle such a large task at all. Timegate seems to be the main developer here, if you look at the resumes of the workers there it's a whole lot of A:CM levels, scripting, UI, and netcode work. The hard part is who's to blame for lying to us and making us pay for all the mistakes. Someone knew that the "preorder culture" could be enough to foot at least enough of the bill to make it even. The whole thing makes me sick, to be honest.

Jason Schreier did a fantastic job researching this. Sounds like Sega is going to sue Gearbox over this.

Why do publishers think that there's a COD market to be exploited? It's like opening up a mine shaft because this other mine shaft has gold... and finding out that the mine shaft you opened up has no gold because all the gold is ALREADY IN THE OTHER MINE SHAFT.

COD is the product that CATERS to the market, it isn't the market itself. Publishers are like giant evil empires, they all need some 7 year old kid to point out how stupid some of their strategies are.

"We need to appeal to the COD market."
"Why?"
"Because then they'll buy our game."
"What will make them buy your game?"
"The humans they get to kill in it."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because they like killing humans in COD."
"But they're already killing humans in COD. Why would they buy your game to do something they're already able to do?"
"Because METRICS!"

IanDavis:
The result was a pretty game that couldn't run on modern consoles. By the time Gearbox took back the reins on Colonial Marine, there simply wasn't time for optimization, so textures were replaced and elements cut. "The game feels like it was made in nine months, and that's because it was."

They should just just scraped the plans to make it a console game and released a badass PC game then.

Any possibility we can get the good game that gearbox didnt touch?

Sounds like the only person that didn't totally fail in this is the guy who said escort missions are stupid.

Gearbox and Sega seem to be coming off the worst out of this.

It's interesting that apparently the demo was just running on a high end PC, because the videos comparing the demo with game footage were using PC game footage. I guess they stripped all the good stuff out?

DrunkOnEstus:
Timegate seems to be the main developer here, if you look at the resumes of the workers there it's a whole lot of A:CM levels, scripting, UI, and netcode work.

And that is incredibly sad. I can't believe Gearbox were working on a game for nearly 5 years and in the end they didn't even put in enough work to be main developer, compared to a studio who've only made mediocre shooters working for 2 years.

I guess they bit off more than they could chew, but it sounds incredibly nasty that they chose to work on their own game and basically neglect a game that they were collecting paychecks for. We complain about publishers being over restrictive and too pushy with their milestones, interfering the dev process but it's pretty clear that they needed to do it more here. There's a real shame if you can't even trust someone to actually put the work in for you

BrotherRool:
Snip

Oh yeah, it's the last thing that "gamers" like you I and need. This just sets a precedent, so that when a developer asks for some breathing room and creative freedom the publisher can say, "oh, like Sega did? What, did you have some more profitable projects to put team members on?" I'm sure that a lot of these metrics and CoD market chasing and shit is just publishers understandably covering their ass but taking it to an extreme. We don't hear about a lot of games that we never saw because of developer shenanigans, or how a publisher may have been shafted by a game that was shit. It's eye opening to remember that these publishers, in many cases, are people willing to foot the bill to make someone's dream come true and supply the capital to keep things rolling in the industry, for better or worse. It's nowhere near as cut and dry as we make it sometimes. This is almost the Doritogate of developers, the way that was for ass-kissing PR *cough* ahem...journalists.

I personally enjoyed the game, I mean wasn't some golden glittering gem. But certainly had fun with it. Maybe it was because I didn't go into it with high hopes because I don't really hype myself up for games. But nonetheless I thought it was a decent game.

And I have to thank the guy who said "Escort missions are stupid" as they can ruin any game.

Based on all the reports, I'm glad it sucked. I would have been more upset if I didn't have my Borderlands awesomesauce assault rifles.

FoolKiller:
Based on all the reports, I'm glad it sucked. I would have been more upset if I didn't have my Borderlands awesomesauce assault rifles.

If you think about it ACM should have been the better game considering Gearbox had it for 6 years and then squandered all that money into their personal Borderlands project at the time so that means ACM should have been the better if not decent game.

That and there are fans of the Aliens franchise including me that felt really let down by Gearbox and for that my trust in them is all but gone.

Abomination:
Why do publishers think that there's a COD market to be exploited? It's like opening up a mine shaft because this other mine shaft has gold... and finding out that the mine shaft you opened up has no gold because all the gold is ALREADY IN THE OTHER MINE SHAFT.

COD is the product that CATERS to the market, it isn't the market itself. Publishers are like giant evil empires, they all need some 7 year old kid to point out how stupid some of their strategies are.

"We need to appeal to the COD market."
"Why?"
"Because then they'll buy our game."
"What will make them buy your game?"
"The humans they get to kill in it."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because they like killing humans in COD."
"But they're already killing humans in COD. Why would they buy your game to do something they're already able to do?"
"Because METRICS!"

Exactly the way I think hahaha I'm not a big fan of war games (fps), but when I feel like playing one I buy the latest CoD/Battlefield, in my opinion they're the best there is, I'm not gonna risk at an unknown quantity when the "master" has already proven itself to me, the consumer (obviously, unless a huge new game comes along and tramples the known franchises). So it's just like you said, if I wanna go "human shooting" there are other games out there who have proven themselves.
PLUS: why in the name of fuck would I buy an ALIEN game with the focus of shooting HUMANS?! It's an ALIEEEEEEN game, i wanna fight the aliens, or play with the aliens to fight the humans, but hey, as you so aptly put, they decided that's not what people who pick up an Alien game expect to do... You know, there's a new Batman game coming, I really do expect to play as a thug against other thugs... NOT

DrunkOnEstus:
However, it's also negligent of Sega to keep handing over milestone checks for 4 years with only art assets to show for it.

Having worked as a project manager for a developer, I can unfortunately say that this is quite common. Many publishers (and developers) have no discipline whatsoever when it comes to development goals/milestones - some just keep handing over money without wanting to see anything delivered (leading to a long stretch at the end of development, where the developer gets no money while working on the still-unfinished product or just games being released in an unfinished state), other just don't pay at all.

Sadly I don't have much to say on this other than...if only Randy had just come out and said all this instead of saying all the crap he did on Twitter I would still have quite a bit of faith in Gearbox.

<-- broken record

same thing I keep repeating in all of these threads, to make a successful aliens game you need 2 ingredients

1. atmosphere (lighting!!, sound, level design, environment.........then graphic quality far behind the rest of those)

2. gameplay that faithfully recreates the feeling of the movies (specifically 1, 2 and 3)

-- marines have big loud guns but are easily dispatched at close range, and are vulnerable to ambush and darkness
-- aliens are speed demons and can run full speed on any surface, but are fragile and easily killed if caught out in the open

And so far the only game to do this is AVP2000 http://store.steampowered.com/app/3730/ BUY IT if you havent already

Play it in the dark, alone in the house, with headphones.

IanDavis:
Stories like these let us peer down from our consumer thrones and see the mighty armies toiling for our amusement.

Not to be contrary here, but that's kind of a bad analogy. That would only be the case if we didn't contribute anything to the process. We do. They're not toiling for our amusement, they're toiling for our money.

A better analogy would be investors. They're toiling to create a product worthy of spending money on.

Don't misunderstand me, as a Software Developer myself, I know the kind of work and manpower that goes into making digital products, and, as part of my job involves providing support for our product, I know how out of touch the average person is with how the process works.

I just think there are too many people in the gaming media and industry who like to paint the consumers as parasitic entities who just cause problems while looking down their noses at developers. Truth is, Consumers are why the industry exists at all. Without consumers, you wouldn't have games.

If people didn't want the product my company makes, I wouldn't have a job. If EPA regulations were rescinded, my company would dissolve within a month.

In every industry, the consumer and what they want are the driving forces for change and innovation. And frankly, as someone who does the same thing a Game programmer/developer does, I'm tired of the Games industry thinking they get a free pass.

7 year of development widdled down to 9 months of production because of stupidity. Great work Sega, Gearbox, and Timegate. How about firing all the upper management? Its pretty obvious the fault lies with them. But you know they'll just fire all the programmers who had absolutely no choice in the matter.

Oh good. Prior to this article it'd been at least a few days since a game "journalist" had reminded me that I'm an entitled brat.

BrotherRool:
It's interesting that apparently the demo was just running on a high end PC, because the videos comparing the demo with game footage were using PC game footage. I guess they stripped all the good stuff out?

Yeah the article mentions that they had to scale it back for mid-range PCs in a hurry, so they botched it. Both of those things are entirely Gearbox's mismanagement.

rembrandtqeinstein:
-- marines have big loud guns but are easily dispatched at close range, and are vulnerable to ambush and darkness
-- aliens are speed demons and can run full speed on any surface, but are fragile and easily killed if caught out in the open

That is ONLY the 2nd Movie. The first one was more of a 1on1 horror movie, where Ripley just ran away as it was all she could do. Doesn't sound like a fun game to me. And in 3, it was pretty much the same, but with more people. And less scary. Again, not fun.

My big question for this fiasco is how is this going to affect Gearbox? Obviously, there is the possibility that Sega might sue, but even if they don't, what publisher is going to want to sign a contract with Gearbox after all of this shit? I sure as hell know that I wouldn't.

I think that no matter how any of this goes, Gearbox is going to be negatively affected by this. And honestly, they should be.

Seems like a dodge to me actually. While plausible it seems like a way of engaging in a bit of less damning self-flagellation to try and sidestep the accusation that they intentionally engaged in deception and produced a piece of shovelware they were trying to pass off as an actual game.

The bottom line of all the hemming and hawing, other than to try and deflect accusations onto The Publisher, seems to be that they are claiming that the demo they showed wasn't created as a lie, but was an "as per instructions" game conception going back however many years.

The problem with the claims here as I see it is that nothing they showed in the demo really isn't possible for the current level of technology. The Demo was cool, in part because it was believable and wasn't promising anything that can't be done with current tech and performed stabilly, it was basically applying all of the bells and whistles we expect from current technology and have seen elsewhere to a franchise people wanted to see treated that way. This is also not a case where a few things were stripped.

It also raises questions as to why the game was using 5 year old game and art assets and not supporting anything newer, what your looking at isn't some last minute downsizing, but the appearance that they basically took the fasted and cheapest toolbox availible and decided to churn out a game. I don't disbelieve the 9 month dev cycle, I just disbelieve that this was unintended from the beginning.

Such are my thoughts, and I know many will disagree with me. To me this smacks of an evasion of sorts, a differant style than we normally see, but an evasion none the less. "We screwed up" to this extent is rare for the game industry to admit, but it's better than what has otherwise been flying about A:CM... and really this not being intentional and planned out in more detail seems unlikely.

So it seems Gearbox and Sega weren't intentionally deceptive, they were just stupid.

Monsterfurby:

DrunkOnEstus:
However, it's also negligent of Sega to keep handing over milestone checks for 4 years with only art assets to show for it.

Having worked as a project manager for a developer, I can unfortunately say that this is quite common. Many publishers (and developers) have no discipline whatsoever when it comes to development goals/milestones - some just keep handing over money without wanting to see anything delivered (leading to a long stretch at the end of development, where the developer gets no money while working on the still-unfinished product or just games being released in an unfinished state), other just don't pay at all.

Seriously? That seems like a pretty messed up way to run a company/industry.

You'd think with the absurd amount of experience these companies demand of prospective employees they would actually be able to hire people who are actually good at what they do. Or is it like almost every other creative job in that it doesn't matter if you're lying or not on your application as long as everything looks good and sounds impressive?

So basically, they decided to do the equivalent of saying they are going to build a website, then a year later have nothing but pictures of layouts to show, so the company is forced to hand off the project to another group who then work on the site, say it is too much work, and rework it so it's missing half of the art assets given in the layout pictures. Then the original web team comes in and says everything is okay because we just funneled all that time into our own personal artsy website! There are not enough words to explain how wrong this entire situation is.

Alandoril:

Seriously? That seems like a pretty messed up way to run a company/industry.

You'd think with the absurd amount of experience these companies demand of prospective employees they would actually be able to hire people who are actually good at what they do. Or is it like almost every other creative job in that it doesn't matter if you're lying or not on your application as long as everything looks good and sounds impressive?

The key issue is the discrepancy between business expertise and product knowledge. The people who know how to run a business (i.e. companies' higher echelons) either don't care for games or have started seeing their product through an exclusively marketing and finance oriented filter.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have people who care deeply about games, are very familiar with trends even before they hit, and often are gamers themselves. The problem: these people often lack business expertise or soft skills to apply it. The way many companies are structured, they are not taken seriously because they are not trusted with handling complex business processes in a way that investors can follow.

The area in-between has a very few rare individuals occupying it who are very sought-after. Mostly, though, companies hire by expertise rather than product-orientation - and that leads to gross errors in project planning and execution.

Zhukov:
Oh man, if that's true then, geez Sega, way to to live up to the publisher stereotype.

I know, right? Who the hell wants Aliens in their Aliens game?

IanDavis:
tightening up the graphics on level three

I really, really hate that commercial.

ohnoitsabear:
My big question for this fiasco is how is this going to affect Gearbox? Obviously, there is the possibility that Sega might sue, but even if they don't, what publisher is going to want to sign a contract with Gearbox after all of this shit? I sure as hell know that I wouldn't.

I think that no matter how any of this goes, Gearbox is going to be negatively affected by this. And honestly, they should be.

2K Games? They must have made a shit ton of money from Borderlands. My guess is that Gearbox won't get blacklisted, but more like on a 'one to watch' list.

escort missions are stupid

I wish more devs could reaize this...

While I get that we need to recognize the magnitude of creating and publishing a game[1], one does not simply forgive disasters such as Aliens:CM any more than one "forgives" engineering disasters or cascade system failures.

We still need to do an autopsy. We still need to understand what went wrong. We still need to see if reparations can be made, or this sort of thing is going to happen again and again. In fact, it has and does.

I want more than answers. I want the excellent Aliens game I was promised. I won't get that (not soon, anyway) so I want at least assurance that the next time this kind of meltdown will be less likely.

238U

[1] Much like the way Ed Wood is still regaled as a movie maker. Despite that he made bad movies, he made movies, which is no small task.

really does show how far your average pc has advanced passed the consoles if it simply wouldnt work on them.

i dont trust gearbox to make the next brothers in arms game frankly

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here