If you haven't heard about the fiasco surrounding Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial marines yet, you're missing out on some high-quality entertainment. In fact, the controversy is far more entertaining than the game itself, and if you don't believe me, check out my review.
The gist of the story is this: At some point, Gearbox realized that the development schedules for Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines were uncomfortably close, and the developer would need to free up some manpower for Borderlands. So Gearbox outsourced a huge chunk of the development on Colonial Marines to a small studio called TimeGate. TimeGate is the company behind Section 8 and its sequel, but it doesn't sound like they were quite up to the task on Aliens.
When Gearbox finally got the build back from their subcontractor, the game was supposedly a gigantic mess and none of the internal developers wanted to take over the project. But since SEGA was already upset by the game's many delays, it was becoming clear that Gearbox was going to have to take one on the chin and just push the game onto the market.
All of this comes from a recent, and lengthy, post on Reddit from a secretive member of the Gearbox team. Obviously, since much of the information that he's divulging is in breach of the developer's nondisclosure agreement, we can't exactly verify the details. But it seems to align with what we already know. Here are the alleged developer's own words:
…once Borderlands 2 shipped and GBX turned its attention to Pecan [Colonial Marines' internal codename], 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).
If all of this information is accurate, I definitely sympathize with Gearbox's situation. Most developers are simply interested in making good games, and for them to knowingly release an underdeveloped title must have been painful.
But SEGA's role in this catastrophe is a little less forgivable.
Now, I understand that SEGA probably had a fair amount of money tied up in Aliens by the time TimeGate turned in their unfinished build. But the fact that they announced the title before it was even in development and forced the game onto the market before it was finished is a little frustrating. This is why publishers get such a bad rap.
The gaming industry is incredibly unstable at the moment, and the fact that publishers are still willing to roll out a subpar title tells us a lot about the way they think. For them, it's almost never about creating an exceptional product, which means that they never have their customer's interest in mind.
Bad games are going to happen. That's unavoidable. But the fact that licensed titles are almost always mediocre should tell us a lot about gaming publishers' mentality (I'm looking at you, Activision).
Colonial Marines might have been a particularly disastrous example, but it's definitely a symptom of an overarching problem. Hopefully it won't be so pervasive on the next generation of consoles, but I'm not crossing my fingers.
Date: February 15, 2013