4A Games, creator of Metro: 2033 and follow-up Last Light, should be recognised for the achievements it has made considering the sub-par working conditions available to the team, former THQ president Jason Rubin has said.
"It is unfortunate that Prof [Creative Director Andrew Prokhorov], Dean Sharpe, and the rest of the team at 4A won't receive appropriate credit for their achievement in releasing Metro: Last Light," began Rubin in a story posted exclusively on GamesIndustry.
"A combination of a complex and secretive industry, a press that lags the movie and music press in calling attention to the stories behind the games, a dysfunctional and ever-changing sequence of producers causing confusion, the inevitable anonymity that comes from being an Eastern European developer, and a new, last minute publisher that doesn't see the upside in doing your team's publicity, will conspire to keep an incredible story hidden.
"I am going to try and change that."
Rubin goes on to highlight some of the terrible conditions facing 4A Games as they battled to finish Metro: Last Light.
"The entire 4A studio would fit easily in the (underutilised) gym at EA Los Angeles' offices," explained Rubin. "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 said that efforts to improve working conditions were ultimately unsuccessful.
"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 realised 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."
Power outages were also an ongoing concern for the team.
"I truly enjoyed Far Cry 3, which deserved its great reviews. But how many times did Ubisoft Montreal lose power for hours or days during development? Power outages are the norm for 4A," wrote Rubin. "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."
Rubin believes that 4A Games' achievement is comparable to some of the most uplifting underdog stories.
"Sometimes when the underdog comes in second, third, or fourth, it is ultimately more impressive than the story of the inevitable number one," said Rubin. "4A is to developers what the Jamaican Bobsledding team is to Olympic sport. The Jamaicans may not have won the gold in 1994, but they beat the Americans who had far more going for them... like winter coats and bobsledding tracks to train on."
Rubin concluded: "Ultimately, it is a desire for the recognition of 4A's talent that drove me to write this. You may know that I have a history of talking about developer recognition. These guys need recognition.
"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?
"I can only imagine, and I am looking forward to playing it."
Metro: Last Light is available now for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.