Did Aliens: Colonial Marines suffer because of Borderlands?

Industry source tells GameSpot that Sega was "very concerned" Gearbox wasn't investing enough effort into critically panned title.

by

The six-year saga of Aliens: Colonial Marines is reported to have strained the relationship between headline developer Gearbox and publisher Sega over a dispute that Gearbox was focusing too heavily on its Borderlands series.

Talking to GameSpot, one industry source close to Sega said the publisher became increasingly concerned about Gearbox's commitment to the oft-delayed title.

"Sega was very concerned that the bulk of Gearbox's resources/manpower was being spent on Borderlands and that they weren't investing the effort in Colonial Marines that they should have been," said our source, "hence it being repeatedly delayed."

"Obviously, judging from the end result, that issue was never resolved," they added.

Aliens: Colonial Marines received a 4.5 in its GameSpot review. Last year's Borderlands 2, on the other hand, was awarded an 8.5. Aliens: Colonial Marines was announced in December 2006 and was subjected to multiple delays before its eventual release yesterday. Borderlands 2 was announced in August 2011 and shipped in September 2012.

Friction between Sega and Gearbox--and the looming threat of legal action--is also mentioned in a Reddit thread titled "A lot of you are (rightfully) upset at the final product that is A:CM. Maybe I can shed some light as to how it got the way it is."

The anonymous poster, who said they couldn't speak publicly through fear of breaking NDAs but claims to have worked on the game for a year and a half, mentioned that Sega wasn't pleased about the game's delays but kept the project going and allowed Gearbox to outsource development of portions of the game.

"[Gearbox] outsourced a good portion of the game to outside companies," said the poster. "Initially, the plan was for TimeGate to take the majority of campaign, [Gearbox] 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 [Gearbox] could continue working on Borderlands 2, while a small group of [level designers], coders and designers dealt with Pecan."

Pecan was allegedly Gearbox's internal codename for Aliens: Colonial Marines.

"Somehow the schedules for Pecan and Borderlands 2 managed to line up and [Gearbox] realized that there was no f**king way they could cert and ship two titles at the same time," added the poster. "Additionally, campaign (which was being developed by TimeGate) was extremely far behind, even as Pecan's Beta deadline got closer and closer. In April or May (can't remember which), Pecan was supposed to hit beta, but [Gearbox] instead came to an agreement with SEGA that they would push the release date back one more time, buying [Gearbox] around 9 mos extension."

Gearbox formally announced the delay, and that Aliens: Colonial Marines would eventually ship in 2013, on May 21, 2012.

Considering that SEGA was pretty close to taking legal action against [Gearbox], asking for an extension wasn't an option.
"About 5 of those 9 months went to shipping BL2," added the poster, "In that time, TimeGate managed to scrap together 85% of the campaign, but once Borderlands 2 shipped and [Gearbox] turned its attention to Pecan, it became pretty apparent that what had been made was in a pretty horrid state."

"Considering that SEGA was pretty close to taking legal action against [Gearbox], 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). Issues that didn't cause 100% blockers were generally ignored, with the exception of absolutely horrible problems."

"This isn't because [Gearbox] didn't care, mind you. At a certain point, they couldn't risk changing ANYTHING that might cause them to fail certification or break some other system. And so, the product you see is what you get."

Another alleged ex-developer also said that the game's development was a "total train wreck" and that TimeGate Studios handled the campaign. Sega senior producer Matthew J. Powers has hit back, speaking about Aliens: Colonial Marines at the Italian launch event (via DSOG). "Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios helped Gearbox on the production of single and multiplayer."

How much of the game was actually made by Gearbox is still being questioned, however. Over on the TimeGate Studios forums, moderator Rossinna-Sama posted that about 50 percent of the campaign was made by TimeGate. "I thought TG worked on the MP component, but I was wrong. Messaged a few people in TG and found out that TG basically had a hand in everything."

"They are responsible for the weapons, the characters, some of the story, a fair amount of the aliens, and I don't mean conceptualization, they did the actual work of making said weapons and so on."

"This said, the game underwent a lot of changes so [TimeGate Studios] doesn't actually know how much of their content is left. Some had the estimate that 50% 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."

Sega did not respond to a request for comment.

Discussion

488 comments
Ducati996R
Ducati996R

We all need to complain to 20th Century Fox and James Cameron so they can sue Gearbox and put them out of business. Tell 20th Century Fox that they're making one of their franchises look bad and I'm sure Fox has enough lawyers to bury Gearbox ^_^ and complain to James Cameron too.

Jasper_73
Jasper_73

i have to say i think its pretty obvious where gearbox focused their attention. A: cm was announced way back in 2006. Borderlands in 2011. look at the difference in the games obviously in the beginning they had some good ideas for it. when they started running into problems they got bored with it. they then outsourced it to time gate, and put everything they had into making borderlands. the aliens franchise and the fans of the franchise deserve better. they shouldn't of started working on borderlands, until they either sorted out whatever problems they were having, or if it was just not working should have ditched it entirely. then they could work on borderlands. instead of disappointing everybody

tizmond
tizmond

Gearbox dropped the ball with ACM, but let's be honest, it was destined to never live up to the hype & nostalgia, regardless of how good, or bad it was. The people calling for Randy Pitchford's head and saying they are going to boycott Gearbox need to GROW THE FUCK UP. It's pathetic attitudes like that, that can put a studio out of business. Do you really all want to see it boil down to just Activision & EA ? Because if you choose to boycott a studio based on one disappointing game, that's all we're going to be left with, outside the Indie games market. I also find it funny how everyone is pointing the finger solely at Gearbox, when none of us actually know what went on between them & Sega. We probably never will, but people are still quick to judge. Sure, if Gearbox's next couple of games aren't up to scratch, then we can judge them a bit more harshly, but until then, a full-on boycotting of their work is just juvenile.

gp3tron
gp3tron

What these guys should do is make Aliens: Colonial Marines: Enhanced Edition, just like The Witcher, and thats it.

theexperience13
theexperience13

As much fun as Borderlands 2 is (not insanely boring when playing single player like its predecessor :D), I would've preferred that they delayed THAT game instead of making a game that was supposed to be so much better than that garbage AvP into a steaming pile of crap. But of course, gaming is still a business, so Gearbox wanted to shell out the title that has a wider market and fan-base as soon as possible. Not to mention B2 has a boatload of DLC to make them even more money, so it's no surprise that Aliens was put on the back burner. =\

scifiknut
scifiknut

Hm, how can a game with a 6 year developement cycle be considered "rushed". This is awfully similar to the Duke Nukem Forever travesty. Should have learned back then and not pre-ordered the Collector's Edition, although the powerloader is a small redeeming factor ;-) .

stabby_mcgee
stabby_mcgee

I wonder if SEGA would really be willing to sue Gearbox. If SEGA knew that development wasn't going well and still poured money into the project then that suggests some very poor decisions on their part as well.

If SEGA does sue Gearbox then a lot of details about how poorly they handled things could come out and hurt them too. Publishers are supposed to keep up to date on the developer's progress. If a publisher doesn't know what the developer is doing then they're not doing their job either. SEGA might just let the whole thing go to save face.

icekula
icekula

I wont be buying games from gearbox ever again after this deception! (utube video Demo V.S. Final Product) Not to mention I've liked this company since Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 first came out on the original Xbox. Randy Pitchford you've lost more by failing in ACM then you ever could of gained by doing well in Borderlands 2!

ferval100
ferval100

No. It suffered because it was poorly made and rushed.

SciFiCat
SciFiCat

I can't believe this is the same developer that made Brothers in Arms and Borderlands.  As for all the empty promises that Randy Pitchford made regarding ACM I can safely say no one is going to believe a single word that comes out of his mouth to promote any of Gearbox's future titles.

silvergol
silvergol

you taked a 1 year to make a review hahahahaha

TOO LATE! 

silvergol
silvergol

Did Aliens: Colonial Marines suffer because of Borderlands 2? 

Answer: Yes.

ZackRoyer
ZackRoyer

No, it suffer from "Generic-Shooter Syndrome", The objective is just walk and shoot. Even 6 years old kids can play and beat this game.

supertrooper23
supertrooper23

i dont understand why sega would trust gearbox with the aliens license? they should have chosen another developer for the job. 

maybe gearbox convinced them they were up to the task which is why i can understand sega seeking legal action. 

goldenboot76
goldenboot76

After seeing the VideoGamer comparison of the "work-in-progress" and the finished product, it shows that Gearbox didn't give a damn about A:CM. Also, Unreal Engine 3 is showing it's age, time to find another engine Mr. Pitchford.

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

To be honest, I wasn't even impressed with Borderlands 2. I only managed to play it for a few hours before being consumed by boredom over it's fairly repetitive gameplay. I mean, I never thought having such a crazy assortment of weapons could end up being so boring. I have yet to finish it to this day because I just can't find the willpower to so much as launch it again.

I don't know, it just felt too similar to the first. Sure it has talking guns and great humor, but witty dialogue and outrageous themes do not a great game make, especially if the gameplay itself is still lacking. 

I don't know, to me it feels like gearbox is a way over-hyped developer. They're making too many mistakes and even their top end titles are not what I'd consider among the best in the industry.

TomoEK9
TomoEK9

@Ducati996R Why would we complain to James Cameron? He wasn't the original director or even creator of the series. Ridley Scott is, and he only did the first movie and Prometheus.

atldeb0
atldeb0

@tizmond , ACM is an outright sham!  We know now that everyone involved with the project did a poor job.  Yet, they decided to release the game anyway.  Sorry, I support boycotts against companies that deliberatly put out garbage for a short dollah.  We all should support studios that actually give a damn about making great games.  Period.

Perhaps you are the one that needs to GTFU!

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@tizmond Gearbox isn't a publisher.  They are a developer.  Sega, EA, Activision, Take Two (also 2K Games), Koch Media, et al.  Those are publishers. Gearbox being shuttered tomorrow mean NOTHING to the games industry aside from no more Borderlands or Brothers in Arms.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@tizmond 

No one is boycotting Gearbox because of "one bad game."  No one is saying that all games are good.  Bad games can be made despite people's best efforts.  Its a creative process.  Everyone understands that. If they had put in their best efforts, but somehow fell short, no one (or at least I) wouldn't be harping on them.  The problem is that they didn't even try.  They took Sega's money and actively mislead the gaming community into thinking that they were honoring the franchise and trying their best.  This is not a case of falling short of expectations.  This is a case of fraud and deception.  

If you are such a simpleton that the only reason you are backing them up is so that the "world isn't just EA and Activision," then you are the one that needs to grow up.  People hate EA and Activision because of their corporate attitudes, but the bottom line is, they put out good games.  If anything, the Gearbox fiasco will just make it harder for the independent shops that we all root for to get contracts in the future.  

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@theexperience13 

Understandable from their selfish point of view, but not defensible.  They can't pull a move like that and not expect to face the consequences when things go bad.  I have no sympathy for Gearbox.  None.  

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@stabby_mcgee 

Nonsense.  This is not politics, where some Secretary of State is "ultimately responsible."  This is business.  I see SEGA deciding to cut Gearbox some slack and give them extra time a sign of generosity.  Going back and later accusing Sega of mismanagement is nonsense.  

They hired Gearbox to make the game, and they hired them on the presumption of hiring their top A-team guys.  I don't know the exact wording of the contract that they signed, but agreeing to make a game, then handing it off to someone else, has got to be some kind of contractual fraud.  

Gearbox.  Death by gulag.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@ferval100 

The problem is not that it was poorly made, it is that it was poorly made by SOMEONE ELSE!  Look, sometimes the end result of games, like movies, can be poor.  Sometimes its technical reasons.  Sometimes a vision in a director's head just doesn't translate well when actually realized.  That's the creative process.  I think that most people are intelligent enough to understand that.

The problem is that they didn't even try.  They just handed the project off to someone else; and a second rate house no less.  That they could treat such a widely-loved and landmark franchise with such disrespect is insulting.  Moreover, it means that the ideal Aliens game that we are all hoping for will probably never be made.  

Let them be cast out I say! Let their name Gearbox nevermore be spoken in these lands.  

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@SciFiCat 

Exactly!  That's what angers me the most.  Is that this guy Pitchford had the balls to do all these video previews and interviews, proclaiming his dedication to the game and the history of the Aliens creative property.  And all the time he was taking Sega and us for a ride, secretly handing off the project and devoting company resources to some forgettable FPS.  The lack of respect towards such a treasured property is absolutely astounding.

Remember in Mad Max 3 when they tied up Mel backwards on a horse with a big mask on his head and put him in the desert?  Death by something, I forgot the name.  That's what Pitchford deserves.  Sega should sue Gearbox for every penny and burn it to the ground.

MarcJL31
MarcJL31

@supertrooper23 Well Gearbox is a good studio. The original Borderlands turned out to be a great game that most had low expectations for because of its unique take. The problem is when a studio is invested into their own franchise but takes on work for other publishers. And this is the result. I think Gearbox is mainly at fault but after the game kept suffering delays and an obvious breach from Gearbox not investing time into the game they said they would, Sega should have pulled out and found another studio to get it done properly. 

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@supertrooper23 

Sega isn't stupid.  Perhaps there are technical reasons why they chose Gearbox.  Perhaps someone really talented works there.  Maybe they have resources that other developers dont.  As we are on the outside, we'll never know.  But with millions of dollars at stake, I am confident that there is a good reason.  

Although I sympathize for the employees there, I hope that Sega burns Gearbox to the ground.

tizmond
tizmond

 @McLargeHuge  So, to hell with them, right ? They make 1 bad game, so they should be punished for it and shut down and no one will care ? That's a horrible attitude to have. I'm fully aware that Gearbox are a developer and not a publisher. My point is, if we boycott a developer every time they release a bad game, all we're going to be left with is the big corporate publishers like the ones you mention. I believe a company that has made games to the standard of Borderlands & Brothers In Arms would be a sad loss to the games industry. But, if your gaming library doesn't go beyond the COD series, Battlefield & EA Sports you probably couldn't care less if a studio like Gearbox goes down the pan. Very sad indeed.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@McLargeHuge @tizmond 

I appreciate your clarification, but I wouldn't say that it means nothing.  Mega-publisher like EA will generally put out very polished, slickly produced games, but like major movie studios, they will rarely deviate from proven formulas and known licenses. Truly innovative creativity and "outside the box" the design will mostly come from the indie shops.  

I wanted to like Gearbox, and I root for the small shops. But as an Aliens fan, I can honestly say that I had never anticipated a game release more than this one.  I can't tell you how disappointed I was.  Disregard and sabotage of the Alien game franchise is a cardinal sin. 

tizmond
tizmond

@bolomd_basic "They took Sega's money and actively mislead the gaming community into thinking that they were honoring the franchise and trying their best.  This is not a case of falling short of expectations.  This is a case of fraud and deception."  Do you know this for a FACT ??? Do you work for Sega ? Do you work for Gearbox ? I'm guessing the answer is NO, you do not. Surely Sega would have had to approve the game in some way before it's full release. Like I said, the truth is we'll probably never know. People are just assuming that it's all the fault of Gearbox. If that turns out to be the case, then hey, I'll hold my hands up and say I was wrong. I'm not a "simpleton". Is it a bad game: YES. Does that mean that people should idiotically boycott a studios future releases: NO.

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@bolomd_basic I wouldn't be surprised if there were clauses in the contract that are worded so that it is OK for the contract holder to outsource parts of development, which were probably conceived to allow GBX to hire other artists for assets or things of that sort, but probably didn't have real specific verbiage as to how much or what exactly could be dumped off.

Depending upon the lawyers involved, Gearbox could be well covered against this.

stabby_mcgee
stabby_mcgee

@bolomd_basic But publishers don't just give the developers a bunch of money and let them do whatever they want. The publisher sets milestones for the developer and checks in on their progress every few months or weeks.

It's not like the development of Colonial Marines was going great until the last minute. The game was in development for 6 years. That's plenty of time for SEGA to figure out that Gearbox was screwing up.

ferval100
ferval100

@bolomd_basic 

"The problem is not that it was poorly made, it is that it was poorly made by SOMEONE ELSE!"

So my comment still stands. It was poorly made, doesn't matter by who.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@MarcJL31 @supertrooper23 

Well, they may be a good studio in that they have some talented people.  But they can't be trusted to put out quality work when they have agreed to do so.  And a for a game developer, your ability to put out consistently good work is the coin of the realm.  And BTW, I don't get angry with people putting out bad games, I get mad about defrauding the gaming community.

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@bolomd_basic @supertrooper23 At the point Sega made the deal with Gearbox, all Gearbox really had under their belt was the Brothers in Arms series, and a handful of ports of other IPs.  Sega probably assumed that Gearbox would deliver a decent squad based FPS with the story/voice talent that made the first Brothers in Arms games so compelling.

And when I think back to the first preview pieces that came out in 07 about A:CM that is exactly the impression I got.

bizarro890
bizarro890

@tizmond @McLargeHuge Does your son work for Gearbox or something? You're holding a torch for losing argument. A: CM had been in development since 2006 and they failed to capture key aspects in this recent release. This above article suggest that there is about 9 months worth work in it; and it's mediocrity shows.

Aside from that, I think the COD-direction they took was a bad call. COD is much more empowering of an empowering experience as you run around with a team gunning down the Russians, Uzbeks, or whatever ... Aliens is about being cut off, doomed and hopeless against a face eating space thing. There is no thrill of isolation.  Instead of COD, they should have looked at Dead Space. 

There seems to be this epidemic in the video gaming industry enables developers to think they can get away with producing half-baked concepts. And consumers are right to get upset at that. The social contract between the consumers and developers is that we'll buy it, but it better be worth the $60. And that's not to high of an expectation.


bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@tizmond @McLargeHuge 

The point that we are trying to make is that they didn't even "make" this one bad game.  Read the article and the links within in.  This isn't a game design creativity issue, this is a business integrity issue.

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@tizmond Where did I say "they made one bad game, they should be shut down"?  I said that if you remove a developer from the equation, it doesn't change the AAA publisher landscape one iota.  You are grossly overstating Gearbox's impact on the industry as a whole.

Also, please point out where I said that I didn't care if they went under.

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@tizmond yes, really.  I don't find strapping a Diablo-esque loot pinata on the skeleton of a standard FPS to be terribly innovating.  Points for originality, but it's not like it disrupted the whole genre.

tizmond
tizmond

 @McLargeHuge   Really?! Borderlands is one of the most unique & original FPS I've ever played. Definitely one of the better ones this gen.

McLargeHuge
McLargeHuge

@bolomd_basic @McLargeHuge @tizmond I agree with this statement in it's entirety.  Although I don't know if I could really say that Gearbox has really ever gone outside the box in any of its projects.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@tizmond @bolomd_basic

Have you even read the article that this message board is linked to?  Or are you just jumping into a conversation?  Read the article.  Within the article, there are links to articles and forum postings from people inside some of the companies involved.  

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@stabby_mcgee @bolomd_basic 

Look, if the point you are trying to make is that Sega should have been more hardline with Gearbox and taken the project away, then fine.  But that point is just inconsequential.  Ineptitude doesn't come close to fraud.

bolomd_basic
bolomd_basic

@ferval100 @bolomd_basic 

So is your point just to say that its a bad game? Gee, thanks for the brilliant insight.  I'm really glad that you are here to point these things out. 

TigerRifle1
TigerRifle1

@bolomd_basic @SciFiCat

They also put a little jar of water tied to a stick in front of the horse. The horse never got the water but kept trusting that it would. Now I know how the horse feels.