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Sega and Gearbox Software stand by studio’s work on Aliens: Colonial Marines amid critical drubbing


The critical consensus is that Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a good game. Some might say it is downright bad. Digital Trends’ Adam Rosenberg said that the game is “an insult to fans of the franchise,” and those fans are accustomed to abuse after the past 20 years. Within a day of the game’s release, myriad parties involved with the game’s production are attempting to explain what happened during the game’s prolonged development. People claiming to be former team members from Gearbox Software say that the fault lies with another studio entirely. Sega, meanwhile, has pointed its finger at Gearbox instead.

Back in May, approximately when Sega began offering the press chances to play Aliens’ multiplayer modes in the lead up to E3, the alleged former Gearbox employee took to the Web to explain why no single player demo was offered. “Gearbox isn’t even making the game, except for the multiplayer,” said the developer, “Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past. I hope it proves me wrong, as I still have a lot of friends working at Gearbox, but I am expecting it to be average at best.”

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TimeGate’s reputation is by no means poor. Its last major release, first-person shooter Section 8, received moderate reviews when it released in 2009. The critical consensus surrounding that game echoed the unnamed Gearbox developer’s hopes for Aliens: An average shooter.

Gearbox’s president Randy Pitchford, meanwhile, insists that TimeGate only did a modicum of work on Aliens. Speaking with IGN at the DICE Summit, Pitchford said that TimeGate was only working on the game for “about 20 or 25 percent of the total time” and that “their effort is probably equivalent to ours.”

Publisher Sega is not as eager to spread blame equally. Sega producer Matthew Powers told news outlet Playnews (via Dark Side Of Gaming) that TimeGate and other studios like Demiurge (who helped develop the multiplayer modes and is producing the Wii U version of the game) only offered basic assistance. When asked if Gearbox was in fact only responsible for multiplayer, Powers replied, “Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios helped Gearbox on the production of single and multiplayer.”

After Borderlands 2’s success—Take-Two said it’s now its bestselling game ever—Gearbox’s position in the industry is secure. Two out of its last three shipped games, though, have been critical disasters. Aliens may prove a commercial hit yet, but it could cause the studio trouble down the road.

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Digital Blend: Commander Keen and Gearbox Software interviews, Team Meat returns

Digital Blend is back on track. After an extended hiatus and a format-shattering D.I.C.E. round-up last week, it's all systems normal once again. This is your one-stop-shop every week for the latest news and releases in the realm of all things in under-$20 gaming. We're a catch-all, covering everything from indies to mobile to virtual storefronts on consoles. Read on for the latest in the week ending March 2, 2013.
Making headlines...
* Team Meat returns! The next game from the warped brains of the people behind Super Meat Boy is, for all intents and purposes, a crazy cat lady sim. You will raise and genetically modify a horde of mewling, hungry, soul-stealing felines. AND YOU WILL LOVE IT.
* Bad news for Final Fantasy fans. Square Enix confirmed this week that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will not be following the lead set by other recent MMORPGs with a free-to-play model. If you want to play FF14, then you'll need to subscribe. Until someone at Square Enix realizes that subscription-only pricing for MMOs is a rapidly dying business, unless (and, really, even if) you're called World of Warcraft.
* Dishonored DLC alert! A newly revealed set of PlayStation 3 Trophies points to one of two announced upcoming campaign DLC expansions for Arkane Studios' Dishonored. There aren't a ton of details to be gleaned from the list, though its very existence suggests that Bethesda will be revealing more soon.
* We sit down for a lengthy chat with Gearbox Software founder Randy Pitchford about the studio's ethos and development approach. Some fascinating insights here into the amount of work that goes into keeping a ship like Borderlands 2 afloat behind the scenes.
* We've known for awhile that Angry Birds was getting a tie-in cartoon series, and now we know when it's coming. The series launches on Rovio's website on March 16, 2013, answering important questions of the day about the residents of Piggy Island. Things like "Why is Bomb Bird so angry?" and "Why is the King Pig the King Pig?" The kids apparently love this stuff.
* The Walking Dead - Season One came and went last year, and there was much rejoicing. Now Telltales Games begins the long journey of delivering a second season for fans who are dying to no more. The bad news: it's going to take a minute. The good news: Telltale has some kind of bridge content planned. So said script supervisor Gary Whitta in a recent interview. 
* Ouya ships to backers on March 28, 2013. Awesome news, that. The company also confirmed a few other exciting tidbits, such as the fact that Portal creator Kim Swift is working on a console exclusive. Ouya also grew by 1 earlier this week when thatgamecompany co-founder Kellee Santiago came in to head up developer relations. The next-gen hardware from Sony and Microsoft will steal a lot of attention this year, but don't you dare count Ouya out.
* Remember Commander Keen? id Software co-founder Tom Hall sure does. He spoke about the series at length with Digital Trends and discussed his plans for bringing the heart of the Apogee classics back even though the "Commander Keen" brand remains off-limits.
Top buys of the week...
Runner2 :: Xbox 360 / Wii U/ PC :: 1,200 MS Points / $14.99
The full title of this one is actually Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien which, as you've probably guessed, is from the makers of the Bit.Trip games. The rhythm-fueled endless is packed with 100+ levels in the familiar, visually distinctive universe that these games all occupy. We didn't get to spend any time with this one, but reviews are positive and developer Gaijin Games understands quality. Definitely worth a look.
Capcom Arcade Cabinet :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $4.99 / 400 MS Points
Capcom wraps 1943: The Battle of Midway, Avengers, and Black together into a single retro package. It's the first of five planned three-packs that will be released between now and mid-April 2013. The collection is hardly definitive, but that's all right. So many of these old-school games have been released in other forms previously, it's nice to see deep-cut stuff like Avengers trotted out.
The Banner Saga: Factions :: PC :: FREE
The Banner Saga: Faction is technically an unfinished game. The PC/Mac release this week on Steam is absolutely gorgeous, but it's restricted to the multiplayer portion of the game. It's also completely free to play, so factor that in. Banner Saga comes from a team made up of BioWare vets, and their talents show in the level of craft that is immediately evident in this tactical strategy game. Strategy games tend to be favored by a niche, but that niche will definitely agree with this one being singled out as pick of the week.
Real Racing 3 :: iOS :: FREE
Let's start with the good news. Real Racing 3 is gorgeous. Firemonkeys delivered a racing game that could give any number of current-gen console games some stiff competition in the graphics department. Especially if you're looking at it on a Retina Display. Unfortunately, the newly free-to-play Real Racing 3 stumbles badly in the execution. The nickel-and-diming and the time constraints placed on free players could easily be characterized as "reprehensible." A new asynchronous multiplayer mode is cool, but the game overall is not nearly as free as it seems to be.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - MULTIPLAYER ONLY :: PlayStation 3 :: FREE
There's a very simple formula at work here: the wonderful third-person shooting multiplayer in Uncharted 3 is now free-to-play. You have 15 levels of progression, with the option of buying unlocks that let you go even higher. Even if you max out at 15 and never pay a center, you can keep playing. To summarize: Uncharted 3 multiplayer is now a standalone free-to-play game. Get get it.

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Game or movie? How Aliens: Colonial Marines will further blur the line between both media
the ever shrinking divide between film and games narrows further with aliens colonial marines

The relationship between video games and film has historically been a complicated one at best. Twenty years ago, games were just something that could further market a movie. Game tie-ins were common and quickly dismissed as what they were – little more than amusing gimmicks. That, of course has changed - at least for video games.
Senior Producer for Gearbox, Brian Burleson
The video game and film industry continue their odd courtship dance that brings them ever closer together. What once was a dumping ground for tie-ins has become a viable outlet to expand narratives that couldn’t otherwise be continued, at least not in the same way. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a perfect example of that marriage between the two industries succeeding.
Under the stewardship of Gearbox Studios, the upcoming game is one that doesn’t just offer a spin-off, or even a recreation of the property. When you play the campaign you won’t just be Private Expendable on Planet X. Instead you take the role of a colonial marine assigned to investigate Planet LV-426 after a previous team is reported as missing.
Fans of the series will likely recognize that Planet classification, as it was the setting of Aliens 2. The game takes place shortly after Ripley has blown most of the facility away and escaped on the Sulaco with the android Bishop, Hicks, and the Newt. It is a direct sequel to that film, and more importantly, 20th Century Fox is considering the game to be canon in the Aliens franchise.
“Part of the thing that’s really cool about our game is that it’s canonical,” Senior Gearbox producer, Brian Burleson, told us. “So in the whole universe its part of the time line. That makes a huge difference when it comes to capturing the feel.”
The origin of Colonial Marines began with an encounter between a well-known member of Gearbox, and a very well-known member of the Hollywood elite that has a bit of history with the Aliens franchise.
“Bryan Martell, the creative director for Gearbox, was talking to Ridley Scott about some stuff,” Burleson explained. “And one of the things they had fun taking about was Aliens – the property Aliens, the really cool universe. They nerded out for a while.”
Scott showed Martell several storyboards for the series, and that inspired him to approach Fox about the licensing opportunities, which are currently under the control of Sega. Sega has not been idle with the property either, releasing Aliens Infestation for the DS in 2011, and the Aliens vs. Predator tie-in in 2010.
Even prior to that, the Aliens property was no stranger to video-game adaptions, with dozens of titles spanning decades. The first game to try to capitalize on the franchise was released in 1982 for the Atari 2600, and was simply titled Alien.
“For Fox and Sega it’s been pretty cool because everyone wants to take this franchise and keep moving forward, and that give a lot of momentum behind it,” Burleson said. “So people are really eager to make something really cool that people remember being as very fun.”

Despite a poor critical reception, Sega’s Aliens vs. Predator sold well. So when Martell approached Sega, everything quickly fell into place as the publisher was eager to continue to capitalize on the brand. Gearbox was then given carte blanche to go through the Aliens library and present Sega with its vision for the franchise.
“When we were talking about what kind of Aliens game we wanted to make, we looked at all the different films, and we went ‘You know what, we have a lot [of experience] making first-person shooters, let’s make a first person shooter,’” Burleson recalled. “And what better movie to start from than Aliens, which is perhaps one of the best action films ever.”
With the renewed interest in the property thanks to Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise with Prometheus, the anticipation has built for the game. Throw in Gearbox’s increased profile thanks to last September’s critical and commercial hit Borderlands 2, as well as several well received demos of the game by fans (including some memorable times with the multiplayer), and the game has garnered plenty of attention recently.
The pressure to make a good Colonial Marines game is something the developers at Gearbox are keenly aware of, and not just because of the professional implications. The team is comprised of people that grew up with the series. They want to make a good sequel to Aliens, because they are fans themselves. Everything else came second.

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First DLC for Aliens: Colonial Marines is just ‘another bughunt’
first dlc for aliens colonial marines is just another bug hunt

Come February 12, Aliens: Colonial Marines will burst onto store shelves like a gore-slicked xenomorph from the chest of John Hurt. This being 2013, it seems a foregone conclusion that the game would eventually see additional downloadable content, and while the assumption has long been in place we hadn't seen any official confirmation of such until this morning.
The first DLC release for Aliens: Colonial Marines bears the title of "Bug Hunt," and is slated to appear at an as-yet-unrevealed point in March. There's currently no information on Bug Hunt's price tag, though the announcement also details the game's season pass which indicates that Bug Hunt should set you back $10 if purchased by itself. Whether or not the DLC is worth that amount of money is another question entirely. "Bug Hunt will throw players into an all-new multiplayer mode where they have to take on waves of increasingly difficult enemies in three brand new maps based on environments from the Aliens film." reads the official announcement from publisher Sega.
Based on that description, it appears that this DLC is the Aliens: Colonial Marines equivalent of Gears of War's fan-favorite Horde mode. As fans of that franchise will attest, joining forces with pals to fight off increasingly larger waves of enemies is a tense, satisfying experience that drives the human brain to constantly seek higher scores. The effectiveness of Bug Hunt should only be enhanced by its subject matter: The creatures in Aliens: Colonial Marines are not just fast and equipped with caustic acid blood, they can also climb along walls and ceilings. This should prevent human players from setting up viable chokepoints - a commonly used strategy in Gears of War - and with enough affection and care put into the design of the Bug Hunt DLC this multiplayer mode might just replicate the tension of its theatrical inspiration.
Then again, maybe the Bug Hunt DLC isn't for you. Maybe you're one of those people who hates playing multiplayer. In that case, the silver lining here is that Sega announced the Aliens: Colonial Marines season pass alongside the Bug Hunt DLC. Featuring a $30 price point regardless of platform, the announcement claims that this marks a 40-percent reduction on the costs you'd face by buying the Aliens: Colonial Marines DLC piecemeal. While we've yet to hear official word on any of the DLC packs beyond Bug Hunt, this pricing scheme indicates that there will likely be several more DLC packs popping up at some point in the future.
Finally, a few moments after all of the above information was issued to the public, Sega also announced an agreement it has signed with Walmart, giving the mega-retailer the ability to reward those who either purchase or pre-order Aliens: Colonial Marines with a totally gratis copy of the Bug Hunt DLC. 

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