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Power Cuts And Responsibility: Making Metro: Last Light

We’ve yet to WiT Metro: Last Light on RPS, thanks to the review code not working, but its recent release has prompted ex-THQ boss Jason Rubin to write an astonishing article on the development of the game. Over at GamesIndustry.biz, Rubin has written an incendiary post on the daily struggles that Kiev-based dev team 4A Games faced, calling their game “a stunning achievement”, and asking for more recognition of their abilities. If accurate, he paints a team building a game with a tiny budget, in a country where implied corruption necessitates smuggling higher-end equipment past customs officials, for a company he describes as “irrational”. I’m British, so my monocle is currently on the floor.

Rubin joined THQ as company president in May of 2012, so he was there for the final eight months of the game’s development. He claims he wrote the post because: “A combination of a complex and secretive industry, a press that lags the movie and music press in calling attention to the stories behind the games, a dysfunctional and ever-changing sequence of producers causing confusion, the inevitable anonymity that comes from being an Eastern European developer, and a new, last minute publisher that doesn’t see the upside in doing your team’s publicity, will conspire to keep an incredible story hidden.”

So what were those challenges? According to Rubin the working conditions of the team were “appalling”, with the team working on folding chairs, and when he tried to change that the expensive chairs he’d hoped to provide were too big for the offices. He also said the game’s development studio would easily fit inside EA LA’s gym, while the budget for the game was, “a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors.”

Tough times, but Rubin also claims that the country’s infrastructure compounded the problems: frequent blackouts would disturb the developers and shut off heating in the sub-zero winters; gangsters threw a producer out of his flat with a day’s notice; and “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.”

It’s an incredible post, particularly when it gets down to THQ’s role in all this: “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?”

He also has a prod at the game’s new publishers Deep Silver, claiming they should be outing the story he’s telling. It’s a strange point to make, given they picked up a nearly complete game and he didn’t do any of this in the eight months that he was in charge. He was in charge of a sinking ship, but if it was a story he believed in and had offered access to the press, there’s no way it would have been turned down. Access to an Eastern-European developer in a country as corrupt as the one he paints isn’t something that’s easily got.

Even so, the full article is definitely worth a look at.

We’re told Deep Silver are preparing a statement. And they’ve already kicked off on Twitter.

Metro: Last Light is already out in the USA, and will be out in Europe tomorrow.

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Craig Pearson

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