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Gearbox: Aliens: Colonial Marines a "massive" project, hundreds working on it

Section 8 dev helping out. Gearbox admits early announcement was a mistake.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a "massive" project and hundreds are working on it, developer Gearbox has said.

The studio has at least three high-profile first-person shooters in development: Aliens, Borderlands 2 and Brothers in Arms: Furious 4, but senior producer Brian Burleson insisted Colonial Marines is getting the attention it deserves.

"It's been pretty massive," he said. "We have hundreds of people working on this game."

Because of the sheer scope of the project, Gearbox has enlisted the help of other developers, including Section 8 maker TimeGate Studios.

"They're pretty well known for their engineering," Burleson explained. "They're very methodical and they just get s**t done, which is really fun. So when you need to get some stuff done they're pretty good at that."

Also helping is outsourcing specialist Shadows in Darkness, which has worked on Modern Warfare 2, Dragon Age and Gearbox's own Borderlands, among many other titles. "They had done a lot of character work with us on Borderlands," Burleson said. "They've done some fantastic work with some of the other stuff we've done in our game. They can just do things very quickly and they nail the xeno design so nicely that we can focus on some other things."

Despite the outside help, ACM remains a Gearbox shooter through and through, Burleson said. "The real juicy stuff we always like to keep inside. We like to say, we do the glamour stuff and the outside people don't. But that would be kinda dickish. It's all about what's going to make the best experience for the gamer in the end. If working with someone who can do this part of engineering or art, will that give us a better game in the end? Will it give us more time to make a better game? That's where the choices are made.

"Sometimes there are people who can do it better than we can. Or we just don't have the bandwidth to do certain stuff in the time we need to have it done.

"So on ACM we worked with a lot of outside partners who had a lot of expertise that Gearbox doesn't necessarily have. Because we want to make the best game possible, we find partners who can fill a niche part of the production cycle, and work with them to finish that part. We were able to get more in the time we've been working on the game than we have in any other game before."

This week Gearbox and publisher Sega announced ACM's final release date: 12th February 2013. Sega had announced an autumn 2012 release window for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U FPS, so most took the announcement as a delay. But Burleson denied ACM had been delayed because, he insisted, Gearbox had never announced a release date.

Just now, we're almost at alpha. Going through that, you get a sense of how long it's going to take to finish it. So there really hasn't been a delay. We never agreed on a date to begin with.

"We never formally announced a date," he said. "So the proper time to release it, we were still sorting out when that would be. Just now, we're almost at alpha. Going through that, you get a sense of how long it's going to take to finish it. So there really hasn't been a delay. We never agreed on a date to begin with."

So how does Burleson explain Sega's autumn 2012 release window? "Every time it's always something different. Marketing and all that stuff."

ACM was announced six years ago, in December 2006, with a press release. Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford believes this early announcement is why most felt the game has taken too long to make, and Burleson agreed, saying it was a mistake the studio will learn from.

"You're never supposed to announce a game before you start working on it," he said. "It makes things seem a lot longer than they actually are. It happened when we just had concept art and just some other things that were just starting to be developed. We didn't have a full team of people. We were just starting. You're never supposed to do that. Live and learn of course."

Pitchford has said when all is said and done, ACM's development length will be similar to that of Borderlands and Brothers in Arms. According to Burleson, ACM has been in full development for at least two-and-a-half years, when he joined the project. "So it actually hasn't been in full development for that long."

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