Five years after the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, a modder has discovered that a simple typo in the enemy A.I. code had a major, negative impact on gameplay. Aliens: Colonial Marines was pitched as a canon sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens, and followed a new team of marines sent to investigate the disappearance of The Sulaco. It promised to bring fans back to familiar locations, and gameplay demos promised a gorgeous looking first-person shooter with bags of atmosphere and tense action.
Sadly, the Aliens: Colonial Marines that was released after many years of delays for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC wasn’t the title promised in those initial previews. In fact, it was an incredibly mediocre shooter littered with bugs, glitches and terrible enemy A.I. The xenomorphs, in particular, were far from the intelligent, lightning fast enemies from the movies, often getting caught on scenery and moving in sluggish, jerky steps that made them easy prey for Pulse Rifle fire.
The reviews for Aliens: Colonial Marines were mostly vicious, with many laying the blame for the title’s quality at the feet of developer Gearbox Software. Some fans have spent years modding the game to improve the A.I, lighting effects and other glitches, but now a modder named James Dickinson (via PCGamesN) has discovered the erratic xenomorph A.I. may have been caused by a single typo in their coding.
Dickinson discovered that by looking in Aliens: Colonial Marines games config file, that a piece of code reading 'AttachPawnToTeather' really should have been spelt 'AttachPawnToTether.' Since this has been discovered, many players have found that correcting the code makes a big impact on how the Aliens respond. They’re much more aggressive, and actively hunt the player and try to flank and ambush them. It should be noted that while this doesn’t fix the many flaws of Colonial Marines, it does at least make for a more challenging and tense experience.
This is the type of error that should have been spotted in testing before Aliens: Colonial Marines' release. Reports about the development of the title paint something of a chaotic picture; the game was delayed multiple times by Gearbox to focus on other games like Borderlands 2, and they outsourced much of it's development to other studios, whose work they weren’t happy with. In the end, with a tight deadline looming, the developer reportedly had to rush the game through testing to meet the release date, which accounts for the game’s many faults.
The fact one tiny change to the coding for Aliens: Colonial Marines could have such a big impact on gameplay shows how sloppy development was. In the meantime, a new Alien shooter game is in development by FoxNext for consoles and PC. Dark Horse also recently announced they’re making a five-part comic series based on William Gibson’s unused Alien 3 screenplay. Gibson’s story followed Hicks and Bishop trying to save the survivors of a space station from a virus that turns people into alien/human hybrids.