Metro: Last Light
Metro: Last Light Devs 4A Games Endured Horrific Working Conditions, Says Ex-THQ President
Written Thursday, May 16, 2013 By Lee Bradley
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Former THQ president Jason Rubin has revealed the tough working conditions 4A Games endured while working on Metro: Last Light, in a statement published on

Rubin took over control at THQ towards the end of the publisher’s life, at a time when the writing was already on the wall. Within a matter of months the company had collapsed.

One of the studios Rubin oversaw during that period was Ukrainian outfit 4A Games, which was working on Metro: Last light, a game subsequently picked up by Deep Silver. 

Apparently, during development the studio endured power cuts, poor equipment, poor guidance from THQ and a small budget. They also had to smuggle dev kits and expensive tech into the country.

“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,” said Rubin.

“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.

“And all of this is compounded by the conditions this Ukrainian team works under in Kiev. The entire 4A studio would fit easily in the (underutilized) gym at EA Los Angeles' offices. 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.

“When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever, someone from 4A had to fly to the States and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack lest it be ‘seized’ at the border by thieving customs officials.”

According to Rubin, he even failed to buy some decent chairs for 4A, thanks to the unfortunate conditions in Ukraine. 

“Our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an ‘expediter’ to help bribe its way down to Kiev,” he said. 

“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. 

“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. 

“Montreal is cold, but when it gets cold in Kiev it's different,” he continued. “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."

“The only thing for which 4A is getting more credit than I think they deserve is the creativity behind the ever frightening, dark, post apocalyptic environment of the game," said Rubin. "I've been in Kiev to visit the team, so I know they just stepped outside for reference. 

“That last paragraph is a humorous exaggeration, of course, but there's truth behind the lie. 

“One evening when Dean Sharpe arrived at his apartment after a long day at the office a dangerous looking Georgian man and his three-car armed entourage greeted him. Dean was told that, lease be damned, he had a day to clear out and find a new apartment.”

Rubin also pointed towards the “irrational requirements” of THQ, including instructing 4A to include a co-op and multiplayer mode in Last Light within the same small budget.

“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.”

Rubin concluded by saying, “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.”

“It is a true testament to the raw skill and potential of the team. 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.”

You can read our Metro: Last Light review, in which we question the influence of THQ on the game, here.


User Comments
Forum Posts: 225
Comment #1 by KindredCampbell
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 08:08:55 AM
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yeh i had 2 return this , its a horrible game, the element is there but the gameplay just sucks , i do NOT recamend this to anyone unless you get it for free.

Forum Posts: 371
Comment #2 by crsn891
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 08:19:42 AM
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@1, I bought the game and am enjoying it.

Forum Posts: 124
Comment #3 by Fatboyrick
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 08:57:37 AM
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I loved the 1st one and when i go and get this one on payday i will enjoy it just as much hopefully.

Forum Posts: 86
Comment #4 by TrophyBoost
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 09:01:35 AM
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This article is silly. Nothing better than Sweat Shop style developing to keep cost down.

Forum Posts: 5121
Comment #5 by Rawanz
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 09:02:41 AM
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@1 You didnt even read this actual post did you? You just saw horrific in title and figured you would say something bad.

Sucks to see certain companies to work this way. But its good they kept pushing on, and got it out. And judging by reviews from gaming websites and players, it seems like its been well worth the wait. Still waiting for my PS3 copy to arrive.

Forum Posts: 158
Comment #6 by SGTquig
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 10:22:23 AM
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Game is bad-ass! Too bad they had to work in those conditions.

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #7 by timewarp
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 12:01:26 PM
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Sounds like 4A had some horriable conditions to work on but it's kind of insulting the way Jason Rubin talks about Irrational Games and Ubisoft Montreal, yeah it sucks for 4A but why the need to talk down the work that other people have done simply because they have better resources.

The comparison Jason made fails because the games weren't directly competing, it's rather like just turning to the other guy and yelling "FUCK YOU AND YOUR DECENT WORKSPACE KEN LEVINE YOU SHITBAG!"

Forum Posts: 753
Comment #8 by kakihara301
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 12:26:18 PM
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I get what you are saying, but I reread it, and that's not what I get from what he was trying to say. He calls BioShock Infinite "undeniably fantastic" and says FarCry 3 "deserved its great reviews" before he compares their working conditions to those for Metro.

It came out harsh, but I think he's just trying to compliment 4A by means of comparing it to other great games, not bash said games.

Forum Posts: 2262
Comment #9 by xhair
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 12:39:51 PM
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These guys should be on someones elses payroll now if that's what they could do in those conditions, that's basic raw talent right there. imagine them in a ggod working enviroment

Forum Posts: 27
Comment #10 by manifesto
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 03:11:26 PM
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already looking forward to it now this is just encouragement

Forum Posts: 2102
Comment #11 by UndergroundHipHopHead
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 06:22:33 PM
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They would have made more money if it didn't cost money for ranger mode. They should have made something else pre-order bonus. Not hard mode. What a terrible decision.

Forum Posts: 818
Comment #12 by ShieldWarden
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 07:52:58 PM
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@7 All he's saying by giving those comparisons is that 4A Games worked in hellish working enviroments, but still managed to put out a great game that can, and should, rival its competitors. The same competitors that throw money at projects and come out with subpar games, at least review-wise (looking at you Warfighter).

Rubin is trying to shed some light on the horrible situation so other less-informed people (like anyone who didn't work at THQ or 4A) can learn about their perseverance.

I honestly hope that Deep Silver gives 4A Games the treatment they deserve. I can only imagine the beautiful game they could make with the proper budget, equipment and work space they require. And please, PLEASE, get them out of the Ukraine!

Forum Posts: 1573
Comment #13 by poetic_justice_
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 08:39:00 PM
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It sounds like 4A didn't need a "creative team" to produce story elements for Metro: Last Light. They just put their daily personal experiences into the game: no lights, no heat, thugs taking what they want, smuggling valuable items past guards, and generally living in an Eastern European ghetto.

Forum Posts: 367
Comment #14 by XxFearReaper
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 08:56:27 PM
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Wow I will definitely be looking into 4A in the future. Question when THQ liquidated and sold off the property was the studio sold or the game? I'm not even really sure if 4A is independent or THQ owned.

Forum Posts: 818
Comment #15 by ShieldWarden
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 08:16:36 PM
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@14 Well, considering they're still going by 4A Games, I'd say that Deep Silver bought 4A and Metro: LL along with it.

Forum Posts: 367
Comment #16 by XxFearReaper
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 09:01:27 PM
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@15 Well in that case I would like to see Deep Silver bring them out of the Ukraine and budget them properly and see what beauty would come out.

Forum Posts: 1379
Comment #17 by JetFury
Monday, May 20, 2013 @ 01:41:36 AM
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That dev shouldn't have gotten the ip then

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Game Info
4A Games
Deep Silver


US May 14, 2013
Europe May 17, 2013

Resolution: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Sound: Dolby Digital
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature
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