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Someone Else Mostly Made Colonial Marines, Mostly (Maybe)

Edit – Sega Senior Producer Matthew J. Powers has said of this allegation that “Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios [like Timegate] helped Gearbox on the production of single and multiplayer.” Which doesn’t really clear anything up, but there you go.

By almost all accounts, Aliens: Colonial Marines, released this week, is a trainwreck. And not one of those cool trainwrecks with explosions, collapsing bridges and men in awesome hats leaping to safety at the last second. Instead it sounds like a sad, slow, drift off the edge of the track, toppling gracelessly onto its side and making a limp ‘pffffffffffffffffff’ noise. Mister John Walker will be along either later today or tomorrow to confirm or deny this, but in the meantime let’s have a confusing look at the Gearbox shooter’s odd gestation. I say ‘Gearbox shooter’, but it rather sounds as though other studios did the heavy lifting.

It’s been hinted before that Timegate studios, known for Section 8, FEAR add-ons and the excellent, sadly abandoned Kohan series, had pitched in with the game, and indeed they are openly listed in the credits of the game itself. However, unearthed (though as yet unconfirmed) rumours now have it that they may have done the majority of singleplayer development, despite official claims to the contrary.

Eurogamer‘s got a good summary of alleged events, almost all of which has to remain rumour until official word arrives. And frankly I doubt that will happen, as I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone involved with the game probably just wants it to go away now. In short, Gearboss Randy Pitchforkd last year acknowledged the involvement of Timegate, as well as Shoot Many Robots dev Demiurge and another studio, Nerve (best known for assorted ports of Activision games), but he told Gamasutra that Gearbox had handled approximately 80% of development.

However, around the same time someone alleging to be an ex-Gearbox employee claimed that Timegate were doing pretty much everything except multiplayer. Quoth the mystery man, “I used to work at Gearbox, and the development of that game has been a total train wreck, going on what, six 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.”

It’s deeply unwise to take the claims of someone who is a) anonymous and b) no longer working for the company in question at face value, but if there’s any truth to it would at least explain why a company arguably at the top of its game right now would make such a sorry mess of such a high-profile title.

That said, arguing that a game is necessarily a disaster because such and such a studio was involved is also nonsense. It’s just as likely a shortage of budget and resources as it is creative wrong-headedness. Too many cooks on the other hand…

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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