Ukrainian developer 4A Games made Metro Last Light with a fraction of the budget of competing titles, working under conditions which would be cause for a lawsuit in the west.
The revelation of 4A Games’ appalling-sounding office conditions comes via former THQ boss Jason Rubin, writing on GamesIndustry.
Rubin said 4A Games prides itself on being judged on a level playing field, but the reality of the situation is such that Metro: Last Light is a triumph against the odds; he compared it to the 1994 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team beating their US rivals.
“The budget of Last Light is less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes, a mere 10% of the budget of its biggest competitors,” he said.
“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 the entire project. Yet its tech chops are never in question.”
Rubin said 4A Games’ entire office would fit in the gym at EA’s Los Angeles office, and that staff sit on folding wedding chairs to work. He compared this with games like Medal of Honor: Warfdighter and BioShock infinite, which had huge budgets and comfortable conditions.
On top of that, 4A Games faced problems unthinkable to those of us in more developed countries; power going out for days at a time; centrally-administered heating shutting down in the face of near-Arctic winters; corrupt officials purloining vital equipment; the inability to import more assets; and even bizarrities like one team member’s apartment being seized.
“Accounting for the budget and adversity that the team faced, and considering the size and talent of the teams they are competing with, [Last Light] is a stunning achievement,” Rubin said.
“If 4A had been given a more competitive budget, in a saner environment, hadn’t wasted a year-plus chasing the irrational requirement of THQ’s original producers to fit multiplayer and co-op into 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 created?”
Rubin wasn’t shy about calling out THQ’s “insane” requirements but he also made a swipe at new publisher Deep Silver, saying the company hadn’t done enough to highlight the developer.
As spotted by Eurogamer, the former executive was quickly embroiled in a Twitter spat with Deep Silver representative Aubrey Norris, who argued that the four months Deep Silver had wasn’t long enough for it to tell 4A Games’ story – notably pointing out that THQ didn’t do it in all the years it had, either.
“4A is awesome. Everyone here knows that. And now that Metro is done and they are not so crazy busy, their story can be told,” she added.