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Gearbox's Pitchford on Aliens' evolution

Gearbox's Pitchford on Aliens' evolution Exclusive

June 4, 2012 | By Chris Morris

If Randy Pitchford's gut is right, you have Gearbox Software co-founder Brian Martel to thank for this summer's movie Prometheus.

Several years ago, Martel sat down with Ridley Scott to talk about Blade Runner and Alien. As the two discussed the landmark science fiction films, Scott brought out the original, by-then-dust covered storyboards to Alien and began to animatedly discuss the franchise and his love for it.

No deals were discussed that day " and certainly no movies " but Pitchford now theorizes "it became clear to me later as our [game] was being put together and Ridley was putting together Prometheus, that that meeting was the moment that inspired both of these projects to happen."

Prometheus will beat Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines to the general public by about eight months, but whereas the film is a very loose prequel to the hit franchise, the game will be incorporated into the Aliens canon, which is something of a dream come true for Pitchford, an avid fan of the series.

First announced in 2008, Colonial Marines is a title many assumed was dead at one point. Currently on track for a Feb. 2013 launch, it first peeked its head out in 2008, with a Game Informer cover story, then Gearbox kept fairly quiet about it until last year's E3, where it was shown for the first time.

Pitchford says conspiracy theories aside, the seemingly long build period was a result of an over-eager announcement of the game.

"It turns out the total scope of this project is about as long as we normally take with internal stuff," he says. "The difference was at the very beginning. The ink wasn't dry on the contract yet and everyone was so excited. Within a week of the contract, Sega and 20th Century Fox put out a press release and that, of course, creates demand.

"We began building prototypes in 2007 and we did a cover with Game Informer as we finished those prototypes with a proposal: 'This is the game we're offering.' … The feedback we got was 'Yes, please!' so we hunkered down and started making it."

Roughly 80 percent of the work on Colonial Marines is being done in-house at Gearbox, with the rest being done by outside developers.

Shoot Many Robots developer Demiurge Studios spent nine months on the prototype and is now overseeing the Wii U version of the game. Texas studios Nerve and Timegate are also involved in the game.

And while Gearbox's Mikey Neumann wrote the final script for the game, during the 2007-2008 television writer's strike, Battlestar Galactica writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle helped flesh out the characters and the story for Colonial Marines.

While Gearbox isn't leading the charge on the Wii U version of the game, Pitchford sees it regularly, and while he says confidentiality agreements prohibit him from talking about the pros and cons of developing for the system, he's extremely bullish on what Demiurge is putting together.

"When I play with the controller, I immediately realize that for the types of games I like to play and make, this is the best controller I've ever had from Nintendo," he says. "For Aliens: Colonial Marines, it's really exciting to have that screen there because I can do things that are very unique to this universe. For instance, we have a motion tracker in this universe. Now our motion tracker can literally be in our hands and we can see and hear it "and scan the room in 360 degrees, since it's a motion device."

There's more going on at Gearbox that the Aliens game, of course. Arguably a larger group is interested in Borderlands 2, the developer's follow-up to 2009's surprise hit.

Pitchford says he's cognizant of the pressure to succeed with this sophomore installment, but believes fans will like what they see.

"When you see both Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines at E3, you can tell how much we've leveled up as a studio " and all of that has been enabled by the success of Borderlands," he says. "It's really a nice time for us."

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