Before the year is out, Gearbox Software will have released three first-person shooters, reportedly, all in the third quarter of 2012. The most impressive thing isn’t that they have three shooters slated for release in a three-month period, it’s that each of their games is being backed by a different publisher. Aliens: Colonial Marines is being published by SEGA, Ubisoft is backing Brothers in Arms: Furious 4, while 2K Games gets to have their name on the box of Borderlands 2.
On a recent press junket to Dallas, Texas, for Aliens: Colonial Marines, I had the pleasure of enjoying a studio tour of Gearbox’s three-storey complex. While certain sections of the developer were understandably blocked off to prying journo eyes—hilariously, with life-size Taylor Lautner cutouts that read ‘No journos past this point!’ on one side and ‘Don’t remove Taylor Lautner!’ on the other—it was an interesting look at the Gearbox offices and process.
The lobby was impressively decked out with spoils of Gearbox’s development history. I didn’t have to look too far to be reminded of the stamp Gearbox has made on the industry. A Duke Nukem throne sat in one corner, with a Master Chief statue in the opposite corner. On the other side of the room, a Borderlands motif haunted the front of the room, while a host of geeky Aliens swag filled a third of a glass cabinet.
A line of pinball machines sat adjacent to a lunch room, reinforcing just how geeky Gearbox Software really is given the Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings gaming boxes that filled the space. Back to business, we were taken into Gearbox’s own internal motion-capture room that’s frequented by animators seeking to perfect the all-important believable movements of their in-game characters. A storage room was filled with motion-capture props such as Colonial Marines armour and various pistols, while an M1 rifle, two Nerf guns and a smart gun stand-in prop sat in a line on the main floor. According to our guide, one lucky Aliens fanatic who had constructed his own replica smart gun was invited to visit Gearbox Studios’ motion-capture studio to put his replica to use for the game. Lucky guy.
As we moved higher up through the studio, I commented on the abundance of Colonial Marines concept art that adorned the walls. Our guide explained that the hanging of concept art was standard fare for Gearbox Software projects. Suffice it to say, there were more than a few interesting hints of weapons, items, Xenomorphs and locations to potentially expect from Aliens: Colonial Marines. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about these in the not-so-distant future.
[HERE BE SPOILERS]
One interesting titbit I can tell you about is that I noticed the presence of a familiar face when we were hustled through one room where devs were working on Colonial Marines. Those who want to avoid potential spoilers would do well to skip past this paragraph, but for curious Alien geeks, read on. It seems that Bishop will be returning, as I spotted the likeness of Aliens-era Lance Henriksen on one of the developer’s screens. If you want to geek out further on the speculation front, the subtitles for the Bishop lines were attributed to ‘Michael Bishop’: Bishop was the name of the android, while the more formal Michael Bishop was the Weyland-Yutani employee that the Bishop android was based on. Could we be seeing a human Bishop in Aliens along with his familiar synthetic form?
[HERE END SPOILERS]
That’s the end of the spoilers, and the tour continued. By far the coolest level was the penthouse; and not just because it had its own rickety elevator shaft that had to be used for entry. A lot of the Gearbox Software bigwigs had offices on the penthouse level, and each office was geekier than the next. There was plenty of Gearbox games’ memorabilia in every office, with a host of other complementary toys such as some ridiculously authentic District 9 guns hanging from one wall. But the best of the bunch was president Randy Pitchford’s office that was decked out with every possible imaginable console attached to a stand and sitting proudly across shelves on both walls. Some people collect stamps; Randy collects consoles.
Gearbox Software was the kind of place that I would’ve loved to have spent a full day at, getting lost in the corridors and discovering new geeky things in every nook and cranny. Whatever the mysterious Gearbox formula is, it’s clearly working for them. And I certainly took a lot of comfort in the fact that the Gearbox staff and officers were clearly geekier than me. Aliens: Colonial Marines is in good hands, it seems. We’ll be giving you more access to Aliens: Colonial Marines nuggets over the coming months. Stay tuned.