Our own Andrew Esposito reviewed Metro: Last Light, and gave it a rather glowing review. What he, or many others, didn’t know were the conditions the game’s developer, 4A Games, worked on Last Light.
In an anecdote published on GamesIndustry.biz, former THQ president Jason Rubin detailed some of the conditions the development team had to work under, one of which included the budget. Rubin states that the budget for Last Light was pretty insignificant compared to how much competitors spend on cutscenes alone:
Let’s be honest: 4A was never playing on a level field. The budget of Last Light is less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes, a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors. 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.
When it was time to actually work on Last Light, however, 4A Games experienced everything from power outages…
Power outages are the norm for 4A. All developers have deadlines, but I know of few that had to bring in construction generators to be able to work the weekend before final submission because an extra day meant missing shelf dates by weeks. Montreal is cold, but when it gets cold in Kiev it’s different. That’s because the government provides all of the heating through a central coal burning facility that pipes hot water to homes and offices. Unfortunately, it breaks down reliably a few times a year for a week at a time. Then 4A works in their parkas and struggles to keep their fingers warm in temperatures well below freezing. That is unless it snows and they get stuck home for a few days at a time because snow clearing isn’t up to Western standards.
…to meeting the demands of Last Light‘s original publisher, THQ, as well as the transition to current-publisher Deep Silver:
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?
In addition, in terms of the actual work environment, though the entirety of 4A was able to fit inside EA Los Angeles’ gym, the team had to sit 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.”
In order for 4A to secure a dev kit, or any other piece of hardware needed to develop Last Light, someone had to go to the United States and sneak it back to the Ukraine using a backpack. Otherwise, customs officials would simply steal the hardware.
Just getting proper seating for the team was a process in and of itself:
After visiting the team I wanted to buy them Aeron office chairs, considered a fundamental human right in the west. There were no outlets in the Ukraine, and our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an “expediter” to help bribe its way down to Kiev. We gave up not because this tripled the cost, but because we realized that the wider Aeron chairs would require spreading out people and computers, which would lead to extra desks, and that ultimately would have required bigger offices. Yes, really.
The guys over at 4A Games literally went to hell and back in order to deliver us Metro: Last Light, and the 9 out of 10 score we gave it shows that it is an excellent game that should not be overlooked.
Not everyone will agree with the aforementioned statement, but we can all agree that the team over at 4A worked its ass off to deliver Last Light, and for that, I applaud them.