Sitrep: How Aliens: Colonial Marines exposed everything terrible about games

Aliens: Colonial Marines

By on February 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Because I try not to be mean even when someone is being mean to me, let us just say that Aliens: Colonial Marines is somewhat… divisive. In that it has divided the patience of many an expectant fan. You can’t win ‘em all, although some people like it. That is cool for them and their happiness is my happiness.

More people do not, though. Metacritic collate-paints a fairly unflattering picture, and I must admit that after less than ten minutes with it I had the same impulse that I’m sure lots of other peoples did: I just wanted to find Randy Pitchford and ask him why.

What happened? Why are the aliens drunk? Why can I put a silencer on my pulse rifle? Why are the textures from the Jurassic period and why can’t the game recognise a graphics card I’ve had for two-hundred years? Look into my eeeeeyeeee.

ACM is not just a window into the tumultuous juggling act of publishers, studios, big expectations and bigger licenses, but also into the nature of the games press.

Subsequently, a lot of backroom details we’re not ordinarily privvy to started to surface: ACM had been in production at Gearbox for six years, continually pushed back in favour of Borderlands 2 until Sega began to suggest legal action was in order.

There’s a very interesting account of all that on Reddit by an alleged former employee.

Nothing will make a publisher (or anyone) move faster than the law, so Gearbox reportedly outsourced the bulk of the game’s dev-work to Section 8 studio TimeGate in a last-ditch effort to stave off Phoenix Wright.

Sega would go on to contradict Gearbox themselves and deny this, but it’s a spurious denial at best. This is not the handiwork of the men and women who gave us Pandora to play on.

ACM is not just a window into the tumultuous juggling act of publishers, studios, big expectations and bigger licenses, but also into the nature of the games press. This guy has clearly not, in my opinion, actually played the game. That is not an assumption, it is clear and present fact: the vagaries of everything he mentions were all covered to the exact same hollow extent in every bit of preview coverage ever.

I don’t believe he was “paid off” but rather that he banked, like so many of us did, on ACM being a great game and thought yeah, let’s get those clicks early. Beyond unethical, but if he’d been right, no disservice would’ve been rendered (that you knew of).

Unfortunately for him, no one could’ve predicted this, and further to that is the fact nobody has been able to convincingly answer why ACM seemingly got worse during development and not better. This video, hey. You’ve seen it, but it’s still a mind-fry:

Development, press, and also the press as given by the developers themselves has not been spared by ACM. Randy Pitchford has worked as a magician IRL and some are starting to feel he’s still an illusionist over at Gearbox too. It’s true, he talked up some things that were simply not in the game (slashed, so they say) and the demo he flaunted in his pre-show runs at the media (see above) looked a lot more impressive than what hit storefronts. Death threats are taking it a little far.  Don’t do that.

I interviewed Randy, in person, prior to the game’s release. He genuinely loves Aliens. He does. He knew more about its intricacies than anyone in that room. Not stuff media training would teach you; stuff a fan from way back would know. He looked like a big sad kid when he told me ACM director Brian Martell got to meet Ridley Scott to talk LV-426 and he didn’t. The passion is there and real, but Pitchford works with what he’s got, like any CEO stretched thin.

The whole thing has shone such a piercing light on just about all sectors of the industry it feels like it might actually have been good for something in that context. Gearbox are still suffering tremendous backlash and no doubt will for some time, but all’s not completely lost for ACM itself – because you know who’s going in to save the marines who went in to save the other marines? You guys are.

Click here for our Aliens: Colonial Marines review, and click here for our editor’s thoughts on Aliens: Colonial Marines as our ‘Game of the Month’.

Header image courtesy David Rayfield.

33 comments (Leave your own)

I don’t think user’s should be relied on to save the game. If user’s kept on fixing developers games, then we will keep getting these crappy releases. It should be gearbox trying to fix it

and randy obviously loves borderlands more than aliens

 

I wasn’t really buying into it that much going it’s the typical over hype that happens, but after watching that video I’m stunned.

 

just looked at EGM’s review score from metacritic…. lol

looks like they have 90 macro’d on their keyboard.

 

Sad to say, they were working on what would have been a great PC game. Then they were ordered to dumb it down. Now we have another piece of generic console trash as a result.

 
jerichosainte

As stated in the review the final release was vastly different to what previewed prior to launch. I don’t think it has anything to do with being multi platform.

This is eerily similar to the duke nukem failure except this is now the second failure in a row with AVP and now ACM.

It really puts a spotlight on the industry when GB have been equally passionate about BL2 and ACM but they are polar opposites on the fun/quality scale.

 

I’m starting to think game developers are great programmers but shit project managers.

 

Let’s be honest – the chances of making an Aliens game that actually satisfied the fanbase is probably not worth taking the risk. The whole point of the original Alien (and to a lesser extent the sequels) was that the fear of the Aliens was because they were never fully revealed. Now they’ve been so over exposed in movies, games, comics etc that it is impossible to actually scare people with them any more.

I haven’t played ACM but I can’t help thinking that they knew it was a stinker, but pooped it out anyway in the knowledge that a lot of people would preorder on the basis of hype and they could make their money anyway even though they’re burning the fans in the process. Short-term I guess this seemed like good buisness sense but hopefully it will mean people will be a lot more circumspect in commiting cash to any future Gearbox titles until the reviews are out.

 

Wow. That looks absolutely awful. Its even more depressing that it was looking so good too. Really disappointing.

ralphwiggum,

This is pretty much the case for everyone in IT. They know what they’re doing. They can do it, but planning is definitely not their forte. They need a strong leader/planner to keep everything on track. The fact that Gearbox had huge distractions from the development of other games has clearly resulted in the neglect of A:CM and it just looks awful. Couldn’t be happier that I didn’t pick this up.

 

jerichosainte:
As stated in the review the final release was vastly different to what previewed prior to launch. I don’t think it has anything to do with being multi platform.

I seem to recall that this was originally going to be a tense, PC-focused game, more like a squad-based horror game than a straight action shooter. Unfortunately that was in 2006 when the console market was ramping up bigtime.

I can almost imagine the meeting with jerk producers – no, it’s too slow! In this bit, can you add, like, 300 aliens? It’s too easy to die, can you make the aliens slower? The squad stuff is too confusing, get rid of it! We want people to really SEE the aliens, can you make them sort of come around the front and move more slowly towards the player? Etc etc.

The graphics certainly have some serious console-itis, too.

 

the disgusting thing is that this is top seller in the UK atm

Top 10 UK Software Sales (All Formats); week ending February 16:

Aliens: Colonial Marines
Dead Space 3
FIFA 13
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Far Cry 3
Assassin’s Creed 3
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Just Dance 4
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Halo 4

http://www.joystiq.com/2013/02/18/aliens-colonial-marines-storms-this-weeks-uk-charts/

 
Toby McCasker

I wrote something serious and I feel disgusting.

 

Toby McCasker,

PENIS
There, I said it.

 
Toby McCasker

Jason Imms,

Ah. Ah yeah. I mean, not as in, “Ah yeah I love penis,” but you know, like… anyway this is all going as wrong as ACM. I’m topical.

 

jonlee:
I don’t think user’s should be relied on to save the game. If user’s kept on fixing developers games, then we will keep getting these crappy releases. It should be gearbox trying to fix it

I think Gearbox are holding back waiting to see how to fix it by reading the same forum thread… later they’ll just release the fixed files from the forum as an official patch.

 

caitsith01:
Sad to say, they were working on what would have been a great PC game.Then they were ordered to dumb it down.Now we have another piece of generic console trash as a result.

You’re worse than the devs if this is a serious comment.

 

The Subtext:

Cock. Penis, penis. willie, cock. Giant rodgering, what the penis.

WHY?!

Penis.

The End.

—>8—

Actually, I have to say, I’m really dismayed by this. All the discussion sounded *right*. The demo looked *right*, and even the “rough” edges could easily be defined as pre-release issues.

But this. This. It’s just wrong. It’s a slap in the face of each of the companies involved, the fans and gaming community, something that actually coins the phrase “actually worse than Duke Nukem Forever”.

Shameful.

 

Well after seeing that video I want my money back, I’d call that false advertising.

 

forumrabbit: You’re worse than the devs if this is a serious comment.

Uh… why?

 

Because it sounds like it’s just as bad, if not worse on consoles. What did they dumb the console versions down to, a game & watch?

 

Guys, guys. To quote a famous fat man, “stay on target”.

Seen this all too often, one person says something .. let’s just say misguided .. about a PC Master Race or Consoles Are The Future or whatever .. and the actual point is lost in the shouting.

Just saying.

 
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