Few studio these days can command the kind of diehard dedication and complete trust like Valve, despite the company holding only a number of established franchises under their umbrella. Even so, the company’s game development side has made a habit of spotting talent, and skipping past notions of contracts or publishing rights to the point of hiring, or outright purchasing. Such was the case with Turtle Rock Studios, the team that first created Left 4 Dead.
But once their co-op zombie survival title became a smash success, Turtle Rock returned to independence, re-founding the studio and recently announcing their next multiplayer project, Evolve. The team is out to prove that they’re more than a one-hit wonder, but have now offered more of an explanation for why they left Valve’s stable in the first place.
It’s worth pointing out that a large portion of Left 4 Dead‘s fanbase are likely unaware that the concept wasn’t spawned by Valve as it was. That’s no doubt part of the reason why Turtle Rock hopes to earn time in the spotlight with Evolve (and they’re certainly off to a strong start), but speaking with Eurogamer, studio co-founder Phil Robb wasn’t slinging mud at the opportunities Valve provided – simply repeating a sentiment expressed my many indies-turned-triple-A:
“Here’s the thing, we had a really great working relationship with Valve for like six years as an independent studio… And then they bought us, and things changed – as they do.
“The culture changed a lot when we became Valve, and not all of it was what we felt was the right way to go, and it wasn’t the way that we wanted to work. Once we came back out we got a lot of it back. We had most of the Turtle Rock guys who stuck with us, and for the most part that team’s still with us. Our culture has changed, but I feel really good about the way things are going.”
Robb cites the infamous notion of ‘Valve-time’ (in which development on the most anticipated sequel, or episodic installment can stretch to years without comment) as a frustration for his team, since they were eager to get projects to completion. And taking a brief look at Left 4 Dead‘s success, and the innovative approach to character classes in Evolve, it’s easy to see why the team likes to experiment, not hone to perfection.
All things considered, though, Robb believes that everything worked out in the end. The worst parts of developing as one of Valve’s internal studios wasn’t some overbearing control, merely the realities of corporate development – not what the team was founded to embody:
“Co-developing and working on one product, when both teams, two super tight-knit teams, are 800 miles apart, it’s a nightmare… There was a lot of tripping over each other. At the end of the day, after we shipped it, no-one was really happy with how it worked. So we sat down with Gabe [Newell] and talked about it, and it just made the most sense that, y’know, why don’t we go back to what we knew worked, which is us going independent again, and certainly they’d have work for us.
“Valve was kind enough to give us our name back, and that’s when we did all the DLC that we did for them. Eventually that work dries up, and I thought if we’re going to do something big, that’s the time to do it.”
There’s certainly no time like the present, with the arrival of next-gen hardware something that the team claims finally made their dream of a cooperative alien monster hunt possible. Buzz has already begun to surround the studio’s next venture, and if the first official trailer is a sign of the marketing to come, then they’ve got nothing to worry about.
What do you think of Turtle Rock’s comments regarding working for Valve? Does it come as a surprise to see them part ways, or does it seem to be a clean break with Turtle Rock wishing to release games, perfect or not? Share our hopes and thoughts on the game in the comments.
Evolve is targeting a Fall 2014 release for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
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