The past several days have been extremely depressing because (1) Valentine's Day is going to kill the bank account and (2) Aliens: Colonial Marines is tanking super-mega big time just days into its release. This shooter has been on the most-anticipated list for some time, and it's quite a letdown when all those hopes and dreams are destroyed in one single swoop. It's like paying entry to Disney World and none of the rides are working.
Review scores for Gearbox's Aliens title, published by Sega, have been horrific, and that's no particular pun. Without having any hands-on experience (yet), the game has been called so horrifically bad that there's now questions about who really developed it. As it stands now, Duke Nukem Forever seems to be a far, far better game than Gearbox's latest alien-packed shooter.
That said, there's more to this story than merely bad scores. Currently Gearbox Software, TimeGate Studios, Demiurge Studios and Nerve Software have all had a hand in its development. The single-player campaign was supposedly outsourced to TimeGate (which Sega is currently denying) while Gearbox focused on the multiplayer aspect. Or maybe not. It's a confusing mess to say the least.
"Hate to say it, but I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for Colonial Marines," said a former Gearbox worker before the game was released. "I used to work at Gearbox, and the development of that game has been a total train wreck, going on what, 6 years now? Gearbox isn't even making the game, except for the multiplayer. Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past."
Sega said the game was developed by Gearbox Software while other studios helped Gearbox on the production of both single and multiplayer. There's speculation that Sega really has no idea who did what, and just left it in the hands of Gearbox to get a product out by a specific date.
Before the review scores began to emerge, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said TimeGate worked on roughly 20-percent of the total development time. Demurge supposedly helped out with the networking and multiplayer options whereas Nerve designed the multiplayer maps. The idea was to pack in as much as they could into one release rather than dish out content as DLC.
Once the reviews began to reveal what was actually packed into A:CM, one developer took to Reddit and wrote a very lengthy-but-shocking story about its development. This unknown person couldn't offer any proof due to NDA requirements, but said he worked on the project for about a year and a half. Some of the information he provided in his tale stemmed from "more senior guys".
The blame for A:CM's present unplayable state seems to fall on Borderlands 2. After Sega, 20th Century Fox and Gearbox agreed to produce the game, Sega immediately announced its development before production even started. The game would be in active development and then shelved due to another project (DNF, Borderlands 2) multiple times. Each time the project was resumed, it would undergo a major content overhaul. Naturally Sega wasn't happy about the delays, and honestly neither were the fans.
"The last time it was resumed, Gearbox (GBX) outsourced a good portion of the game to outside companies," the source said. "Initially, the plan was for TimeGate to take the majority of campaign, GBX would take MP, Demiurge and Nerve would handle DLC and various other focused tasks. This decision was made mostly so that most of the developers at GBX could continue working on Borderlands 2, while a small group of LDs, coders and designers dealt with Pecan (aka A:CM)."
And it goes on and on.
For the record, someone claiming to work at TimeGate responded to the lengthy story by placing the blame entirely on Gearbox, saying that "everything Timegate did was under clear and explicit direction from Gearbox" who "had creative control of everything that occurred at TimeGate."
"It was Gearbox's shitty oversight of the project that led to the product you all now have before you," the supposed TimeGate employee said.
Ouch. The long road to retail continues here thanks to Destructoid. Will Aliens: Colonial Marines fall within the ranks of Daikatana and Atari's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial? Looks like it's headed in that direction. Game over, man. Game over.