Metro: Last Light developer 'never playing on a level field'

Metro: Last Light developer 4A Games has worked in substandard industry conditions, according to former THQ president Jason Rubin. The executive laid out a fairly harsh picture of working conditions in the Ukraine, only to be met by some good-natured acknowledgement from the studio's creative director.

A letter on GI.biz criticizes THQ for the small development budget and cramped working conditions at 4A. He says that 4A was "never playing on a level field," and that the budget of Last Light was 10% of its largest competitors. Despite that, he says, it has gotten accolades for its story, atmosphere, and proprietary engine. He further notes that 4A's working conditions were cramped, consisting of a small studio space with its workers sitting elbow-to-elbow at card tables with folding chairs. Worse yet, he said power outages were "the norm" for 4A, and that on the whole it "looks more like a packed grade school cafeteria than a development studio."

Rubin says he's not trying to create a handicap, and he doesn't want his letter to change the way the game is received. But he does want to call attention to the accomplishment. "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 the comments, 4A creative director Andrew Prokhorov thanked Rubin for his letter, and acknowledged some of his statements. "It is a fact that our work conditions are worse than those of other developers outside Ukraine," he said. "I don't think anyone can doubt that--yes, it's true that American and most of European developers operate in a country far more comfortable than Ukraine. And yes, the publishers pay them more. This is clear: the more 'reasonable' the country the less the risks. And we don't want to be all dramatic about that--after all, better conditions are earned, and we strive to do this as soon as possible."