Aliens: Colonial Marines

Gearbox "Stole" From SEGA to Fund Other Projects, Claims Alleged SEGA Employee

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Since its release Aliens: Colonial Marines has picked up negative attention well beyond simple poor review scores.

As well as suggestions that the game was outsourced by Gearbox to Section 8 developer TimeGate, it has also been alleged that Gearbox basically left the game to die.

And now, it gets worse. A statement from someone who claims to be a SEGA employee says that Gearbox’s treatment of Aliens: Colonial Marines and its dealings with SEGA are tantamount to “theft.”

This latest development comes from someone going under the name of Bryan Danielson, on a blog called SEGA Awakens. Danielson said that while Timegate and SEGA are also responsible for the poor quality of Aliens: Colonial Marines, Gearbox is guilty of “embezzelment.”

“Gearbox stole from SEGA,” said Danielson. “They robbed us, lied to us about the game, and tried to get another company to make the game instead.

“Pitchford and Gearbox wanted to focus heavily on Duke Nukem Forever, but how would they get the money to hire some of the 3D Realms team and even buy the intellectual property? 

“Sure, they made a lot from Borderlands, but guess where they got the money to fund Borderlands in the first place? Yup, SEGA.

“So Gearbox essentially lied to SEGA, mishandled funds, broke agreements and contractual obligations to work on other projects, didn’t want to work on a game they were contractually obligated to work on and gave it to another team, poor organization and direction on ACM, took on too many projects from different companies at once, and other things that we may not even know about. 

“Hell, part of me believes that Gearbox wanted this thing delayed as much as possible so they can get more funding money to embezzle from SEGA.”

Danielson said that he has heard rumours that SEGA was looking to sue Gearbox, but that Gearbox had fulfilled its contract, despite the poor quality of the game and the repeated delays on the project.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was first announced as a Gearbox project back in December 2006, missing numerous release windows before hitting shelves earlier this month on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A Wii U version of the game is due next month, but that’s supposed to be the weakest of the lot.

“I strongly believe that SEGA should not have released the game and made the fans pay for it, they should have taken Gearbox straight to court, because they stole money from us to fund Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever,” said Danielson.

“This should be a lesson in management for you all. In my view, the board and the people supplying the money should not have any creative control over a product. In this case, what happened clearly was SEGA had a decent eye on the project, rightfully cancelled it, when they saw the problems, then someone decided to restart the project, leading to this massive mess.

“This game should have been cancelled permanently, and the final product is undeniable proof of it. Despite that, I believe SEGA wanted to try to get some of the money back, at the fans’ expense. SEGA should have also watched the project and development a lot better, because there was a lot of warning signs that said this was a disaster in the making.”

Before release it was suggested by an ex-Gearbox employee that Aliens: Colonial Marines had been largely outsourced to Timegate, a studio with a solid if uninspiring development history.

“Gearbox isn’t even making the game, except for the multiplayer,” said the source. “Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past. I hope it proves me wrong, as I still have a lot of friends still working at Gearbox, but I am expecting it to be average at best.”

SEGA denied the claims, while Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford said that TimeGate contributed about 20-25 per cent of the work, Nerve Software created the game’s multiplayer and Gearbox handled the rest.

However, Rossinna-Sama, a moderator on the official TimeGate forums disagreed.

"They [TimeGate] are responsible for the weapons, the characters, some of the story, a fair amount of the aliens, and I don't mean conceptualisation, they did the actual work of making said weapons and so on,” said Rossinna-Sama.

Interestingly, however, there was confusion even within TimeGate, as to how much the studio had contributed.

"The game underwent a lot of changes so TG doesn't actually know how much of their content is left," Rossinna-Sama added. "Some had the estimate that 50 per cent of what you see in the campaign is their work, others wanted to see for themselves and would get back to me after playing the game themselves."

These changes are further proof of what someone claiming to be a Gearbox employee says was a development period marked by creative differences and conflicting visions.

Apparently, Gearbox began the production of Aliens: Colonial Marines back in 2006, before handing it over to TimeGate in 2010. However, when TimeGate took the lead it threw out much of Gearbox’s work, including all of the art and design that had been churned out over the proceeding four years.

So when Gearbox shipped Borderlands 2 and took back Aliens: Colonial Marines it was horrified to find that the game 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,” said a Gearbox source.

“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.”

As a result, many developers at Gearbox didn’t want to work on the game, but as the company had already asked SEGA for numerous extensions, they restarted what they could, patched up what they could, and shipped it.

This would seem to be evidenced up by the huge differences in quality between a demo shown to press last year and the final product. Indeed, such has been the intrigue surrounding the game that Randy Pitchford has been forced to address the matter publicly. In an manner of speaking.

"That is understood and fair and we are looking at that. Lots of info to parse, lots of stake holders to respect," he wrote on Twitter. It’s the last official word we’ve had on the subject.

So perhaps we’ll never know the truth about the troubled development of Aliens: Colonial Marines, but from various people close to the project it looks as if we already have a decent idea. The whole thing is a mess.

We can't remember such a high profile title in recent years, that has fallen so far amidst so much acrimony.


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Game Info
Gearbox Software


US February 12, 2013

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