Saturday, 2 March 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines - Truth Behind The Demo Revealled

You might recall not too long ago we looked into allegations that the Aliens: Colonial Marines demo had lied to the game's customers and misrepresented the title to audiences. As well as featuring a vast number of aspects which were not in the game itself, many people were quick to point out the vast difference in graphical quality between the demo and the actual product. Despite being labelled "work in progress" the demo displayed graphics, animation and lighting which was far superior to what was found in the finished title, even on high end PCs.
Last week the reasons for this were finally revealed. 

In an interview with Kotaku on the 25th of February, a number of anonymous people involved in the game's creation confirmed that they had created the demo but were given no constraints in what they were supposed to show. The article itself states that according to sources they spoke with "the demo for Colonial Marines was built by TimeGate—with animation assistance by Gearbox—and ran in real time. As is standard for E3 demos, it ran on a high-end computer with specs that would be unfeasible for a normal console game. "We were told many times through demo production, 'Don't worry about performance, just make it awesome,' [...]There was a reason [the demos] were never playable."" The reason the demo looked so good was because it was not being optimised for the older technology of the PS3 and XBox 360 with graphical designs and aspects they were simply not capable of. 
After being asked to make it look as good as possible, what followed afterwards was a continuous process of scaling back its appearance and lowering it to a level the consoles were capable of: "We were constantly cutting back more and more in terms of texture, shader and particle fidelity, in order to fit into the jacked memory restraints," 

This goes some way to explaining the considerable graphical differences and many of the problems on the consoles such as frequent poor rendering, animation and occasional tears in what previously looked like a well made title. Another source backed up this point claiming that in the middle of 2012, Gearbox took over from TimeGate after having been largely absent in the development process. Spending the time working on Borderlands 2 and altering what had been created. In part, supposedly because it could not work on PS3 and also because what had been done by TimeGate was not up to scratch with what had been hoped for. A statement from someone familiar with the later builds used by Aliens: Colonial Marines informed that "[Gearbox made] big changes to lighting, texture and shader complexity, [...] Design elements were altered or redone entirely. It looks like a lot of [TimeGate's] assets remained intact, with the exception of lower-res textures and faster-performing shaders." 

As TimeGate staff were removed from the project, some being "let go" from their jobs as this happened, Gearbox set about trying to come up with a finished product. It is alleged that Gearbox felt as if they could not be permitted to requested another extension on working on the title having no produced anything in seven years. And finally that it's overall quality was because "the game feels like it was made in nine months, and that's because it was."

Due to the lack of named within this interview and the absence of comments from either Sega or Gearbox , despite frequent demands from customers for information on what happened in the developing process, it would be best to take this with a pinch of salt. None the less, it would explain a great deal about just why what first mesmerised fans at E3 devolved into quite possibly the worst title we have seen since Duke Nukem Forever. Whether or not Gearbox will come out with the truth behind what happened to this project remains to be seen.


Aliens: Colonial Marines and all related characters and media are owned by Gearbox Interactive and Sega.

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