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.