Those familiar with Turtle Rock Studios don't need to be told the significance of four-player co-op; with Left 4 Dead, the studio showed that four was the magic number, and all that players needed to either survive or hilariously fall victim to the zombie apocalypse.
With the team's next project, Evolve, the same core concepts seem to have been refined, expanded upon, and placed into an even bigger, more complex set of mechanics. A squad of four Hunters is once again entering the fight, but the developers maintain that it is the perfect size for both the Hunters and the monstrous creatures out to defeat them.
The team has already shown that they're going to be taking a big leap from what fans are familiar with from L4D, offering not one, but several specialized characters in each of the game's four classes - Trapper, Medic, Support, and Assault. It would seem that for whatever reason, Turtle Rock has decided that good things usually - or always - come in fours.
While Valve may have noticed the promise shown by Turtle Rock, purchasing the studio and publishing L4D before the studio returned to its independence, but the team made it clear with their official Evolve announcement that they were out to prove they were the reason the classic zombie co-op was such a hit with shooter fans. Speaking with Game Informer, creative director Chris Ashton explained that their design was founded on 'the magic number,' one they plan to keep in place with their next-gen shooter:
"One of the first things that the Valve guys did when they started playing Left 4 Dead and they really enjoyed it, they were like, ‘This is great, but we could make it work for five guys or six guys... They changed the code on their side and they tried it, and eventually they came back to four.
"What happens is there’s a weird thing in that most people I think are able to track three friends. I can know that you’re over here and you’re in front of me and you’re to my left. And I can keep that in my mind, and I can keep in my mind that you have 50 health and you have 80 health, and I can keep track of that and fight another team. But if it’s four guys, it feels like I’m always losing one. I always don’t know where someone is, I don’t know where somebody’s health is — keeping track of four other friends is too much.”
As PC shooter fans regularly flaunt their 64-player multiplayer matches, and even Titanfall's 6 vs. 6 multiplayer is met with skepticism, this team isn't interested in adding more players at the cost of balance or effectiveness. The bottom line: they feel their four classes can function better on the battlefield better than three or five (in their experience, at least).
Of course, the confusion that comes when one has to track four different players is put on display in Evolve; while limiting the Hunters keeps them functioning like a well-oiled machine, there are still enough present to give the player-controlled monster a serious challenge:
"As a monster, that sort of works a little bit against him, which is what makes the four versus one thing very successful... Like I said, it’s hard to keep track of four. If I’m the monster and I’m fighting four guys, it’s really hard. I always lose one. I incap somebody and I’m fighting the other guys, and the next thing I know a guy’s up and I don’t even know who got him up — I can’t quite keep track of all four, it’s just too many. But that’s what makes it a challenge for him. As soon as you kill one guy and get one guy out of the picture, I think three humans are way easier to deal with and keep mental tabs on.
"There’s kind of some strange voodoo-type magic there. We’ve sat down and tried to figure it out from a scientific point of view, but there’s something about four guys."
The previous coverage of Evolve's classes has shown that the combat classes are far too complicated and layered to understand without playing firsthand. A Medic who is deadly from a distance, a walking tank taking on a fast, agile beast, a Trapper who can 'trap' his teammates as well as their prey, and a Support class who can stick out in a crowd or become invisible are all intriguing evolutions from Turtle Rock's previous game.
Since their belief in the sanctity of four-player co-op seems to give one heck of an advantage to the Hunters, not the player controlling the deadly Goliath, we expect the team will soon reveal some factors that tip the fight back in the beast's favor.
For now, what do you think of the developers' view on multiplayer? Is four the magic number for you, or do you prefer to have a bit more control over the cooperative experience? Sound off in the comments.
Evolve is targeting a Fall 2014 release for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
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Source: Game Informer