Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Feature: How conferences and shows can hide one’s wrinkles

Feature: How conferences and shows can hide one’s wrinkles

As the image suggests, we’re discussing Gearbox’s latest failure, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Why make such a big fuss out of a single game, might you say? Well, it’s not just the game — it’s the general opinion and mockery we, as gamers, receive. And I’m starting to elaborate.

Earlier this year, Gearbox Software, the critically-acclaimed developer behind Borderlands, released Aliens: Colonial Marines. The game was first announced in 2006, and seemed like a light at the end of a long, long tunnel for Aliens fans, who seemed to be “cursed” with not seeing a single good game bearing their favorite franchise’s name on the cover.  Gearbox had signed a deal with SEGA, which believed in the project and poured money into it, non-stop. Then, came 2009, and with it, gamers got Borderlands, Gearbox’s first game outside the Brothers in Arms IP (no, I’m not counting them helping with the development of Half-Life and Halo’s port). What about Aliens, though? No signs of life, apart from the occasional hype. SEGA was becoming impatient, rightly so, but Gearbox asked for more time, and with it, money. Years later, we saw an incredible looking video at E3 2012, showcasing a brilliant-looking Colonial Marines games, and thus, generating even more hype fuel to pour into the hype train. Along the way, we also got Borderlands 2. Apparently, Gearbox had enough time in 3 years to develop a full-blown sequel to its lucrative, new franchise, but nearly not enough to give us enough content and keep us hooked about “that other game they were making”. Commentaries also followed, showing us how “excited” Randy Pitchford was about the upcoming Aliens game, which had, at that time, turned into something like Duke Nukem Forever — oh, a coincidence! Another Gearbox game!

2013. Aliens: Colonial Marines has been released, and is a disaster. That light at the end of the tunnel? Big, laughing, Joker-like, evil, burning train. It plays and looks like an early PS3/X360 game, not even going near the “justified” area for both its budget and time in development. Everyone and their dog panned the game, myself included. That’s okay, every game deserves hate and praise, depending on what exactly it is. This one? It deserved even more, because we simply were lied to in our faces, and the man who never knows when to stop talking (clues in the above paragraph) was nowhere to be found and take responsibilities about it. Rumors about Gearbox having handed out game development wholly to TimeGate Studios, a humble, small studio responsible for the Section 8 games had sprouted, and that pointed towards one thing: Gearbox getting SEGA’s money to pour them into Borderlands 2 (possibly, even Borderlands), and giving bread crumbs to TimeGate so they have something to work with — after all, the Gearbox name had skyrocketed after Borderlands, and was way more expensive than those guys. Videos like the one below aren’t helping the situation, either.

Helpful video showcasing Gearbox’s great marketing skills, which, sadly, can’t be translated into game-making.

So, what does the title have to do with all this, you may ask? Just days ago, we were subject to viral advertising surrounding a new Borderlands 2 class, which finally got revealed at PAX East. The crowed cheered and yelled at the reveal and every word the Gearbox people said, almost as if they were planted there to prevent a normal, real crowd from mentioning Colonial Marines in the middle of the conference. How much media attention would that get? Well, a lot, but not nearly as much as an over-hyped DLC, and hints towards other DLCs, all the while accompanied by long talks and claps.

What else has Gearbox produced between Borderlands and Colonial Marines? That’s right — Duke Nukem Forever. To their defence, though, that game was already a train-wreck when they picked it up, as they say, and I find it believable. Developed and originally intended to be released a generation prior to this, and having gone through multiple development hells (I’ll be damned if it was just one, after 14 years) and engine changes, Duke Forever was the definition of vaporware, and was destined to fail. But what did they do to help the brand they acquired alongside the game, and themselves? Finished, and released it, without any additional work, and anyone who says otherwise is invited to play it. Horrendous loading times, clunky, last-gen gameplay, absolutely horrendous graphics and animations… almost like a Duke version of Colonial Marines. Albeit that last one was, as they say, completely developed in-house, with TimeGate just giving a helping hand. Which has me wondering, why are the two games so close in (lack of) quality, if the circumstances they were developed under was drastically different? Or was it?

Point in case, why do gamers feel the need to massively praise a developer for a good game, but avoid massively bashing the same developer when they, lacking any respect towards the ones who keep them alive, lie in our faces and feed us false information just to sell? Why should shows like PAX, GDC, E3 and the like, work like camouflage for developers who have flat-out messed with their audience? Because, if you search the gaming history, you will find plenty more examples of such cases, probably not as big or eye-catching, but nontheless in the same vein. What does the GamesThirst community have to say about this?

About Christos Chatzisavvas

Gaming lover, web developing graduate, founder and developer at Starblind Entertainment. Keep your eye out for news, reviews, previews and opinion articles, as well as game projects. Follow me on Twitter @CrashOkami.
  • Ernice Gilbert

    Classic article, and great points. I heard Randy blocked D’toid’s Jim Sterling on twitter because Sterling was asking him tough questions. It goes to show who he really is. Loves praise, can’t talk criticism?

    Great article!

  • Wolf1888

    Great reading!

    I too was disappointed with the game. I still play it with my friend, we kinda enjoy the split-screen coop, but really, we were expecting more out of this game.

Scroll To Top