Quite why developers are scrapping to take credit for Aliens: Colonial Marines is a bit of a mystery.
But you can understand why the world is interested. The game had immense potential and, who knows, it could still fulfil some of that by selling strongly. The TV ads are very good at least.
So that the end result of six years’ development has been so vigorously panned by critics is of course a disappointment.
The first to shoulder the blame is naturally developer Gearbox, but the narrative that has formed is perhaps not what you might expect. Rather than lashing out at Gearbox for producing a sub-standard game, the community instead began to speculate that perhaps the real issue was Gearbox’s focus on the successful (and very good) Borderlands 2.
Did it simply farm out the “dull IP fodder” to another studio?
Of course not, Sega said. Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford himself said that around 80 per cent of the game was produced in-house.
But that’s not what TimeGate said. A rep on its forum claimed that the Section 8 developer did around half the work. And now on source has gone further still, saying that Colonial Marines is to all intents and purposes a TimeGate title.
“TimeGate definitely played a much bigger role in the development of Aliens than either Gearbox or Sega is letting on,” an anonymous source told Rock Paper Shorgun.
“Aliens: Colonial Marines is essentially TimeGate’s game. From my understanding, almost all of TimeGate has been working on it for a few years, and they are not a small studio.”
The source went on to call Pitchford’s claim that TimeGate handled about 20 per cent of development duties a “fabrication”.
“Preproduction is a very insubstantial period in a game’s development,” the source added. “For him to say that the contribution was equal sans preproduction is basically saying it’s equal. You can see that Randy’s math isn’t really adding up. If TimeGate did half, and Gearbox did half, where does that leave Demiurge, Nerve, and Darkside?”
Unsubstantiated claims on Reddit, meanwhile, would have us believe that Sega was on the verge of going legal on Gearbox after becoming increasingly frustrated at the studio’s decision to focus talent on other titles such as Borderlands 2 rather than on the Alien game.
Once the extent of Sega’s displeasure became clear, Gearbox apparently outsourced much of the work on the game to others – specifically TimeGate, Demiurge and Nerve.
However, when the schedules for Borderlands 2 and Colonial Marines clashed, Gearbox successfully convinced Sega to postpone the game yet again, partly because TimeGate was allegedly well behind schedule with the development of the single player campaign.
Once Borderlands 2 was successfully shipped Gearbox finally returned to Aliens, and was less than impressed with what it found. It even went as far as to scrap some of the single player levels completely and start again. But with Sega’s patience running out Gearbox was forced to go to certification. The rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, another interesting element to this story will be Colonial Marines’ commercial performance. While the online world of gaming is up in arms, do not forget that the vast majority of consumers remain blissfully unaware of the furore.
With a strong marketing campaign behind it and what remains a killer IP, the game could yet prove a commercial success.
Roll on Monday…
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to MCV that the TimeGate "rep" referred to in the seventh paragraph was actually a moderator on the TimeGate forums.