Turtle Rock on How Evolve Plans to Last Well into the Future

Evolve has been the talk of every show it’s had a presence at. From PAX East 2014, to E3, to Gamescom, all the way to PAX Prime 2014. Even though it was hit by a delay, causing it to be slated for a February 2015 release, it remains one of the most highly anticipated games on the horizon. Turtle Rock Studios is looking to make Evolve a title that players come back to for years to come, much like Left 4 Dead. I recently caught up with Chloe Skew, Producer at Turtle Rock Studios, to chat about replay value, DLC plans, and how Evolve plans to avoid the dreaded “Titanfall Syndrome.”

[Hardcore Gamer] I think Evolve has the chance to ruin boss battles — in a good way. When you think about it, you’re always playing against AI in other games, so to have a real human on the other side has the chance to make AI battles feel less exciting. It’s just going to be a superior experience to play against someone intelligent. Do you have any thoughts on how having a human as a boss character can change the way boss battles are approached?

[Chloe Skew] You know, I feel like it’s apples to oranges, right? Evolve is so much about split second decision making; are we going to follow or cut the monster off? There’s a lot that goes into it, because nothing is predictable. In the studio when we’re play-testing, I know people’s play-styles. I know Phil at a certain point will run, re-armor and come back. And then there’s other people I know who are just really aggressive, but for the most part it’s the element of surprise. There’s suspense and anticipation, but there’s no predictability.

Having done a lot of raiding personally, it’s completely different. When you’re trying to coordinate, you have one raid leader, whereas in Evolve it’s supposed to be a team effort. It’s supposed to be that everyone has their own responsibility, and there’s parallels with that in 20 man raids where you go like, “Okay, well this is your job.” Back in the days of kiting and all that, there’s personal responsibility, but you have to know how the fight progresses; you have to know the pacing of it, and I feel like it’s just so different. I think in the MMO world, they’re trying to change instances and how they work and make them more dynamic, so yeah, maybe Evolve will influence that a little bit. Maybe with more creative AI, less scripted battles; but I really feel like it’s a different thing.

What were some of the inspirations behind the 4v1 concept? What made you want to have a human as the adversary in a co-op environment?

I think Phil [Robb] and Chris [Ashton] were really inspired by how much the community picked up on the tank battles in Left 4 Dead and really enjoyed those, and they just wanted to do something different. It’s their personality where they take something and go, “Hey, what if we did this?” They think outside the box, and this is a game they really wanted to play. They asked themselves if anyone has made it, and decided to do it. They’re risk takers. They wanted a little more, and the idea of playing as the monster; who doesn’t want to try that out? So many people tell me that they don’t understand why someone would play a hunter when [they] can be the monster, and I get that. I’m more of a hunter myself; the Kraken is pretty incredible, but I get pretty anxious and try to run away.

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“[Phil Robb and Chris Ashton] are risk takers. They wanted a little more, and the idea of playing as the monster; who doesn’t want to try that out?

What are the plans to make Evolve something people continually play, as opposed to being really awesome just before everyone forgets it? You don’t want to suffer from Titanfall Syndrome, obviously.

I think the idea of having classes, and, you know, you have three different options within each when the game launches, makes it really replayable. I play Bucket a lot. I mainly use the guns and missiles, and I rarely use the UAV. I feel like there are so many different levels of play depth that are possible. You can really specialize in one character or be a jack of all trades, or even focus solely on being the monster character. — there’s so much. We had a guy at Gamescom that played 18 times and won 18 games in a row —

I heard about this guy.

And then he played as the monster against a 2K team, and got crushed in Stage One. I think he realized that there’s a lot more to Evolve, and it’s not only a four against one competition, it’s also a competition with yourself to try out new things. Because there’s no predictability with the AI, there’s so much room from the community to create new strategies and change the meta-game. Also, four versus one is the essence of play, but there are other modes. I think people will get really competitive with it; they’ll want to strive to invent, think outside the box with play like we tried to think outside the box with the design.

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“I think people will get really competitive with it; they’ll want to strive to invent, think outside the box with play like we tried to think outside the box with the design.”

So there was a story a while back about how the Evolve team is striving to have the best DLC support of all time. Can you talk a bit about the plans to make Evolve an experience that lasts in terms of great downloadable content?

Well, Evolve is going to launch as a complete and awesome game. However, there’s some incredible minds in our studio, and the stuff they come up with is so cool. When they were brainstorming different monsters they came up with a lot of stuff. You know, it might be a different kind of mechanic or something we didn’t figure out yet, so it didn’t make it into this group of monsters, but down the road we really want to revisit that and check out what would be possible to push the boundaries a little bit more in the future.

Everyone at the studio would love the opportunity to come up with DLC for a while, and we have some amazing Hunter concepts too. I’ve had a chance to go through a lot of our backlog of concept art, and there’s so much there that we’d just love to be able to make. I think knowing how rich and diverse the gameplay can be with just what we have at launch (going back to your earlier question), Kraken and Goliath — if you’ve played them both you know how different they are and how it completely changes the game to play as different monsters. We’re really only limited by how much the community wants to see, and I think if people are really excited and want to play it competitively, we’ll support this until people are bored of it.

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“Evolve is going to launch as a complete and awesome game.”

One trend I’m seeing this generation that Evolve falls into is developers creating worlds that, if you took all the players out of them, they would live and breath on their own. You see stuff like Below from CAPY; there are dogs on the beach that will come up and cuddle with you, and if you hurt one of their friends they’ll look at its body and then attack you. I’ve seen a lot of emotional awareness in enemies; I’ve seen a lot of world building where the environment is kind of like a terrarium. Can you talk a bit about how Evolve falls into that trend; how you’re building the world to be its own little thing that players happen to be in?

Our wildlife is pretty intense. I’ve seen games where people wiped on wildlife before they ever see the actual monster. We’ve got Megamouths that look like boulders where you’ll run up and suddenly be grabbed by this big frog-rock thing. We’ve got venom hounds that poison you; there’s a lot of hazards in Evolve, and there’s some that are somewhat predictable in their placement, but mostly it’s very fluid.

We wanted to make sure that during the hunt you’re not just running around an empty map, because that would feel really weird. So there are lulls in the battle, but you’re always fighting because the world is hostile. And that’s the whole point of them being planet-tamers; their normal job is to come in and deal with the regular wildlife which, sometimes, can be hard enough. Then you’ve got this other invasive alien species that’s bigger and scarier than anything they’ve faced before.

Last question. Just to clarify: I’ve heard three monsters at launch, I’ve heard four. Which is it?

Three monsters at launch and then a guaranteed DLC monster that you get if you pre-order.

And is the third monster going to be part a large reveal, or is it going to be revealed before launch?

You know, I couldn’t say. Keep your eyes peeled, though. It’s going to be exciting.