Aliens: Colonial Marines has barely been out for a day and it’s already caused a lot of controversy due to the game’s low quality. For the uninitiated, news broke yesterday that claimed that TimeGate, a development studio in Texas, was contracted by SEGA to finish Aliens: Colonial Marines. But what really happened?
I jokingly said to a friend yesterday that I wasn’t too surprised that the title suffered this fate – after all, Gearbox was hard at work finishing Borderlands 2 to release in Fall 2012, and this title had been in some sort of continuous limbo state since the PlayStation 2 days. But developers rarely let the quality of their games wane. A low scoring game could tarnish a studio’s reputation and cause unnecessary purchase hesitation amongst gamers. This definitely doesn’t sound like Gearbox’s M.O., given that they took their time with the first Borderlands and even tried, to the best of their ability, to get Duke Nukem Forever finally released.
A Reddit post, allegedly from someone involved with the project, claims that they have the complete story. In said post, Reddit user throwawayacm outlined the progress of Aliens: Colonial Marines, claiming also that they have been part of the project for a year and a half and that, for fear of breaking their NDA, cannot confirm nor validate their presence or identity at the company. The overall gist of their post says that during April or May 2012, Gearbox managed to negotiate another release date delay for Aliens: Colonial Marines with SEGA, which Gearbox hoped would buy them 9 more months of development time for said title. This was necessitated due to the fact that Gearbox realized that they can’t release two titles at the same time and that resources needed to be pipelined towards Borderlands 2 to meet its deadline. Unfortunately, 5 of those 9 months at Gearbox were instead used to complete Borderlands 2. Around that same time, TimeGate had managed to complete 85% of the main campaign.
Here’s where it gets interesting: SEGA didn’t actually decide to outsource this project. throwawayacm claims that Gearbox outsourced certain parts of the game and that the main campaign was TimeGate’s responsibility. In the end, by the time Gearbox managed to turn its full attention to Aliens: Colonial Marines once again, the game was such in a poor state that any drastic changes to the title would force the game to miss its current release date. The linked post also talks about why Gearbox was not in a good position to push back the release date and other details we’ve barely covered here.
Time has passed since this information has been disseminated and SEGA has even come out to deny that any outsourcing occurred, claiming that TimeGate merely assisted Gearbox in developing certain parts of the game. This statement, in itself, makes us question how much of the game was TimeGate actually assisting in and we can’t help but think that both pieces of information exist. Regardless of who is at fault, it’s unfortunate that this happened to such a popular franchise and I can’t help but think that there must be a parallel here with how film companies treat movies based on video games in some way. The mishandling of Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ development will go down as one of the most controversial unconfirmed news stories this year.