Metro: Last Light developer plagued THQ upheval, lack of equipment and budgetary constraints

Rubin outs dire working conditions at 4A Games

4A Games was forced to work through dire working conditions and company upheval during the development of Metro: Last Light, former THQ president Jason Rubin has said.

In an editorial posted on GamesIndustry, Rubin outed the difficult conditions the Ukraine-based studio was forced to work under during the winter months, and how it had to fly in equipment from the US to ensure it could develop a game.

He described 4A’s office as more akin to a packed grade school cafeteria than a development studio, with staff often using folding wedding chairs and sat elbow to elbow in its tiny office, which he said could easily fit into EA LA’s gym.

Due to a lack of high-end equipment outlets in the Ukraine, the developer was forced to fly to the US and “sneak” back dev kits and high-end PCs. Rubin said that bringing in equipment from nearby Poland became near impossible due to the high costs involved in “bribing” a truck full of equipment into the country.

“When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever, someone from 4A had to fly to the States and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack lest it be ‘seized’ at the border by thieving customs officials,” said Rubin.

“After visiting the team I wanted to buy them Aeron office chairs, considered a fundamental human right in the west. There were no outlets in the Ukraine, and our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an "expediter" to help bribe its way down to Kiev.

"We gave up not because this tripled the cost, but because we realized that the wider Aeron chairs would require spreading out people and computers, which would lead to extra desks, and that ultimately would have required bigger offices. Yes, really."

Rubin went on to describe the freezing conditions the game’s developers were sometimes forced to work in due to “reliable” power outages a few times a year for a week at a time across the country, and bemoaned problems with clearing snow, leaving developers often stranded at home.

He concluded by saying that the development of Metro: Last Light was a “true testament” to the team’s talent, and said he believed the studio could have created something better had it been given a more competitive budget, better working conditions and had it not had to deal with the upheaval resulting from the now bankrupt THQ. After the publisher closed its doors, rights to Metro series were acquired by Koch Media for $5.8 million.

“It is a true testament to the raw skill and potential of the team,” he said.

“Ultimately, it is a desire for the recognition of 4A’s talent that drove me to write this. You may know that I have a history of talking about developer recognition. These guys need recognition.

“If 4A had been given a more competitive budget, in a saner environment, hadn’t wasted a year-plus chasing the irrational requirement of THQ’s original producers to fit multiplayer and co-op into the same deadline and budget(!), hadn’t had to deal with the transition to a new publisher in the crucial few months before final, what could 4A have created?”

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