If Aliens could cry, entire planets, ships, and conveniently placed ventilation systems would be dissolving under a torrential downpour of acid-laced tears right now. See, in spite of their lovable looks and multi-mouthed charm, no one wants to take credit for, well, pretty much anything about Aliens: Colonial Marines. First, Gearbox kinda did, but then TimeGate was accused of incubating Colonial Marines' loathsome single-player campaign - which prompted Sega to descend from its mountain of unreleased Shenmue sequels and tilt the needle back in Gearbox's direction. Seems like a lot of fuss to make if it was really all Gearbox at the helm, though, huh? And that's where a winding Reddit post by an alleged Gearbox employee enters the picture. Further, RPS reached out to a former TimeGate employee (who wished to remain anonymous) to clarify the situation.
"TimeGate definitely played a much bigger role in the development of Aliens than either Gearbox or Sega is letting on," said RPS' source. "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."
Further, our source claimed that Gearbox head Randy Pitchford's line about TimeGate handling "20 or 25 percent of the total time" is a fabrication. Not only that, our source says it fails to account for a smaller though not insubstantial amount of work put in by other studios. "Preproduction is a very insubstantial period in a game's development. 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?"
Meanwhile, a Reddit post from an alleged Gearbox employee (which RPS cannot, as of writing, verify entirely - though it matches with previous reports and rumblings we've heard) fills in almost every blank on the Borderlands developer's side of the equation.
It's well worth a read, but the short version claimed in the post is that Gearbox kept delaying Aliens in favor of other projects (Borderlands, Duke, etc), and Sega finally cracked the whip. Gearbox, however, decided to outsource so it could keep focusing on breadwinners like Borderlands 2, which is where TimeGate, Demiurge, and Nerve entered the picture. Then things allegedly got very, very messy. The Reddit post explains:
"Somehow the schedules for [Aliens' codename] Pecan and Borderlands 2 managed to line up, and GBX realized that there was no fucking way they could cert and ship two titles at the same time. 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 GBX instead came to an agreement with SEGA that they would push the release date back one more time, buying GBX around 9 [month] extension."
"About 5 of those 9 months went to shipping BL2. In that time, TimeGate managed to scrap together 85 percent of the campaign, but once Borderlands 2 shipped and GBX turned its attention to Pecan, it became pretty apparent that what had been made was in a pretty horrid state. Campaign didn't make much sense, the boss fights weren't implemented, PS3 was way over memory, etcetcetc. GBX was pretty unhappy with TG's work, and some of Campaign maps were just completely redesigned from scratch. There were some last minute feature requests, most notably female marines, and the general consensus among GBX devs was that there was no way this game was going to be good by ship. There just wasn't enough time."
Unfortunately, Sega was allegedly ready to unchain its fiercest legal hedgehogs on Gearbox, so, the unverified claims say, the developer had no choice but to rush what it had through certification - which brings us to where we are today.
Obviously, we plan to continue digging into this story, as there's quite a lot more to it than a simple summary can convey. If you are/were close to the project and are in a position to share information, feel free to get in touch. Just click my byline, and my personal troop of Internet fairies will take care of the rest.
Update: Sega has declined to comment. Still waiting on a response from Gearbox.