Turtle Rock Studios, developer of Left 4 Dead and Evolve, has announced that they are actively working on a new IP which will be a co-op first person shooter with 'dark fantasy elements.' The game will be published by Perfect World Entertainment who have been responsible for bringing us many a well-received free to play MMO, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Blacklight: Retribution, to name but a few. In an interview with Studio co-founder Phil Robb on Gamesindustry.biz, the developer revealed their new 'AAA' quality project. While it wasn't specifically confirmed that the game will follow the free to play model, the focus of the interview was on the free to play market and the decision to take Evolve Stage 2 free to play.
Co-founder Robb was keen to sing the praises of the free to play model, saying it gives developers a chance to have a dialogue with their audience and iterate on titles more quickly in response to their community. When asked about the new title, Robb had this to say,
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. We're focusing on what we do best - heart-pounding moment-to-moment online co-op FPS action and with Perfect World as our partner, we will always make sure that our players come first by listening to them and growing the game based on how they play and interact over what we hope are many years to come. We cannot wait to show them what we have in store.
Studio GM Steve Goldstein was keen to stress that the studio is not trying to make a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead, saying that the designation carried a weight of expectation with it before adding "We'd rather have the new game be something our players classify and designate and judge without us affixing the label ourselves." It was Goldstein who revealed the dark fantasy theme to the game when elaborating further on these comments:
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. 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.
Little else is know about the title which we're told won't see the light of day until at least 2018. In the meantime, Turtle Rock is working on two already revealed VR titles: Other Worlds and Face Your Fears, for Gear VR. According to the developer, this is indicative of their new direction as they continue to grow the studio and they intend to always have multiple projects on the go, rather than being a 'one-game studio.' The studio was quite reserved when asked whether the new IP will feature VR in some way, saying they're "not sure yet how VR might fit into the upcoming title" and that they would "take a look after making the title a success."
The publishing partnership with Perfect World, along with the studio's comments in the interview, certainly suggest a free to play model for the new game. Speaking of their previous experience with major releases, Goldstein said,
If I was going to boil down our key learnings into one thing, it's that the AAA boxed product is just not a welcome home for independent developers. It's now a nearly impossible proposition, actually. The major publishers out there are spending [over] $100 million on developing the next iteration of a franchise... and at the same time, they are increasingly hesitant to spend on new IP.
His comments are perhaps not surprising when you consider Turtle Rock's history with publishers. After the success of Left 4 Dead, the studio was acquired by Valve in 2008 but the relationship only lasted two years before the developer went back to independent status. Then, when developing Evolve, the publisher curse struck again when THQ were no longer able to financially support development before the title was eventually saved by Take 2 Interactive. Goldstein actively denied that the split with Valve was over frustration with their release model but did say,
I wouldn't say that we were necessarily frustrated...but we definitely have a strong mindset to ship titles. While Valve and Blizzard have done an amazing job with 'shipping when it's done,' as a developer, you just can't have that value set unless you are making incredible amounts of money on a monthly basis off multiple revenue streams to offset the realities of dev cost. For almost all other independent developers out there, 'when it's done' is just not a luxury that we have
It is not yet known when the new IP will see release, what platforms it will be on, or what the eventual business model will be but approaching this from the free to play angle would certainly be in line with Goldstein's comments about releasing a product and improving it based on community feedback.
We'll be bringing you more on Turtle Rock's upcoming shooter as it becomes available so in the meantime, why not let us know your thoughts about Turtle Rock's games, Left 4 Dead, Evolve or free to play versus full price releases in the comments below.