Turtle Rock Studios, the creator of Left 4 Dead and Evolve, is working on a brand new first-person shooter IP for release in 2018.
“We are developing a new franchise set in an all new universe that leverages the style of gameplay our community loves and expects from Turtle Rock Studios,” Turtle Rock Co-Founder and Creative Director Phil Robb told GI.Biz in an interview published today. “We’re focusing on what we do best – heart-pounding moment-to-moment online co-op FPS action.”
While fans of Turtle Rock’s last games can apparently look forward to a similar style of gameplay in the new IP, they shouldn’t expect its world and characters to hew too closely to those games. Studio President and GM Steve Goldstein said the next game is definitely not anything close to a sequel or a spiritual successor.
“What we can say is that we are definitely going back to our moment-to-moment gameplay roots with a huge focus on co-op FPS,” explained Goldstein. “There will be plenty of baddies to shoot up, but it is not a ‘zombie game’ or anything post-apocalyptic. What we can say right now is there’s a strong dark fantasy element to it.”
The studio is partnering with Perfect World Entertainment, a publisher best-known for free-to-play MMOs, for its new game. Evolve infamously switched to a free-to-play model on PC this year after releasing in 2015 as a traditional $60 AAA game that was critically praised but failed to find a large, lasting audience. Unfortunately, the free-to-play move couldn’t save Evolve, as publisher 2K shut down support for the game in October.
This time around, however, Turtle Rock has been specifically developing a game with the free-to-play model in mind from the start. The studio thinks this approach is going to help get the game out to as many gamers as possible right at launch by avoiding competition with the packed and fiercely competitive $60 shooter market.
It’s not wrong about how difficult it is to compete for attention and gamers as a blockbuster shooter with a traditional price model. This holiday season, for instance, the industry saw Titanfall 2 and even juggernaut Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare suffer disappointing sales, likely thanks at least in part to the sheer number of big-budget shooters packed into the release calendar.
“We can’t overstate how helpful [the free-to-play model] is to us as developers,” Goldstein said. It’s a direct line toward taking the game that we wanted to play when we first started working on it and ensuring that it will be a game that our community wants to play for years to come. This completely changes the dynamic of how we make games.”
He lamented that releasing $60 titles limited Turtle Rock’s ability to change directions based on player feedback outside of focus groups and alpha and beta tests. Those changes would then be further restricted to post-release patches, which Goldstein said are difficult to roll out quickly during AAA development thanks to that model demanding a studio focuses on DLC post-launch to ensure profitability.
“But with a service-based title, we can react to players’ behavior instantly,” he said. “If we see something that players don’t like, we can modify it in the next patch. Same goes for things that users are enjoying or playstyles that we didn’t anticipate.”