4A Games’ “Metro Last Light” released this week to generally positive critical reception, but former THQ President Jason Rubin said Thursday the game could have been so much better if the developers had the amenities enjoyed by other studios in the industry.
“The entire 4A studio would fit easily in the (underutilized) gym at EA Los Angeles’ offices,” Rubin said. “Yet ‘Last Light’s Metacritic score blows away ‘Medal of Honor Warfighter.’ As undeniably fantastic as competitor ‘Bioshock Infinite’ may be, the team was given whatever resources they needed to make the title.
“At the same time, 4A’s staff sat on folding wedding chairs, literally elbow to elbow at card tables in what looks more like a packed grade school cafeteria than a development studio.”
Rubin visited the Ukranian studio after he took over THQ in 2012. He said he was horrified by the conditions the team was working under and the issues they had to deal with on a daily basis. Corruption runs amok in the former Soviet Union country and it was apparent judging by what he heard from the development team.
“One evening when (executive producer) Dean Sharpe arrived at his apartment after a long day at the office, a dangerous looking Georgian man and his three-car armed entourage greeted him,” Rubin said. “Dean was told that, lease be damned, he had a day to clear out and find a new apartment.”
The brilliant “Metro” series is noted for pushing both consoles and high-end PCs to their absolute limits. But to ensure the game reach such heights, members of the development team needed the best equipment possible. Rubin said this required literal cloak and dagger techniques to ensure the team got the equipment it needed.
“When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever, someone from 4A had to fly to the states and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack, lest it be ‘seized’ at the border by thieving customs officials,” he said.
Rubin went on to praise the brilliance of “Last Light” and the team working at 4A. He said the developer put out a quality game with literally 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors, such as Ubisoft Montreal’s “Far Cry 3.”
“Let’s be honest: 4A was never playing on a level field,” he said. “The budget of ‘Last Light’ is less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes. yet it is lauded for its story and atmosphere. It is built on a completely original and proprietary second-generation engine that competes with sequels that have stopped numbering themselves, with more engineers on their tech than 4A has on an entire project. Yet its tech chops are never in question.”
The former executive didn’t pull any punches in calling out his former company, either.
“If 4A had been given a more competitive budget, in a saner environment, hadn’t wasted a year-plus chasing the irrational requirements of THQ’s original producers to fit multiplayer and co-op in the same deadline and budget, hadn’t had to deal with the transition to a new publisher in the crucial few months before final, what could 4A have accomplished?” He said, “I can only imagine, and I am looking forward to playing it.”