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Interview with Creative Director for 'Evolve' Phil Robb

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Taking home quite a few of "Best of" awards at E3 2014, Evolve offered quite a unique cooperative experience that includes a lot of little things to separate itself from other titles. Phil Robb, who is also the Co-founder of Turtle Rock Studios, has seen success with cooperative gameplay in the past with the Left 4 Dead series. He took some time to speak with us at E3 this year, as he is very excited about this monster battle game that will eventually be community driven. Yes the game was due out October 21, but recently got pushed back and this can only mean better things for the game's launch and potentially more content. Robb answers questions relating to the setup of the game, the longetivity of the game, and also the expectations from the community.

Evolve does feature four classes of Hunters. These are Assault, Medic, Support, and Trapper, with the Trapper being a bit different than the normal class in a game like this. You will choose one of the four classes, who will start with three different characters a piece, all with subtle differences to mix and match chemistry on a team. Not to mention that perks can be unlocked for each character as they progress.

"Each character has a set loadout and it defines how they fulfill their role on the team. You have the four classes, assault, medic, trapper, and support. Each has their specific job. Each one has multiple characters and each one, while fulfilling that role, like Hyde and Markov do things differently. They are still assault guys and to dish out the hurt, but Hyde does it a little different than Markov does. I like Hyde a lot, he’s my favorite. The perks can upgrade weapons or other things. We have a big list of different perks, but ultimately the characters load out of a set, it’s a big part of their character, role, and play style.

-Phil Robb, Creative Director for Evolve"

Of course, if hunting isn't in your DNA, players have the choice to be one of three different available monsters at launch. At E3, the Kraken was the monster that was used during play trials. Turtle Rock Studios held many different tournaments throughout E3 as the booth area was arguably the busiest. The Kraken appeared to take queues from Cthulhu and the Xenomorphs from the Alien series. As the monster, you will "Evolve" through three stages. This is accomplished by eating flora and fauna on twelve different worlds that will be available to play on once the game is released. Each area will have its own wildlife, which can also be used to the monster's advantage during battle. The health of the monster will not restore, but consuming wildlife will rebuild the armor. The armor can be exposed as explained below by Robb.

"None of the monster battles are a typical boss fight. It’s not like where the big shell guy runs up and you shoot him in his glowing spot. We tried to stay away from that. We allow the Hunters, especially the medics with the sniper rifles, have the ability to make weak spots that the rest of the team can exploit. Lazareth, for example, he has a rapid-fire sniper rifle and when he shoots, these marks show up on the monster. Those are vulnerable spots that he has opened. Like Val has a much more powerful sniper rifle, and her’s are bigger, but Lazareth fire more of those vulnerable spots. Combine that with a flamethrower where you can 'paint' the monster, you're doing extra damage."

As for these twelve different maps that are available for launch, these areas are part of the Shear. According to Robb, twelve are planned for launch, but no exact number is in mind for how many to expect in the future. Each world will be diverse in its wildlife, as the flora and fauna of the maps can hurt and even kill Hunters. From a giant crocodile to a toad that hides in color, there will be plenty of strange creatures to eat or kill you if you get separated from your teammates. On the other side of that, as the monster, if you're in trouble, you can lure Hunters to these areas while you eat up things and restore armor or evolve to a new stage.

"Like when we introduced the first map, there was the tyrant, the big crocodile in the pool, but that’s not in this map. We’ve now introduced the Megamouth which is like a giant toad who camouflages himself in rocks. If you walk in front of him, he will grab you, and if your teammates aren’t there to help you, you’ll get swallowed whole. The monster can use these enemies to its advantage. There’s a spot where a couple of these Megamouths hang out, so if you’re trying to lose the Hunters, you can lead them to these areas to help you out as the monster. There will be some crossover between the wildlife and the plants, but they all sort of have their own “nasties” in them that you have to watch out for. Obviously, these things are food for the monster, but it’s a threat to the hunters. You have to watch out, some are fine, others are nasty, but as long as you leave it alone, it won’t bother you. Others will flat out attack you and eat you."

If you're concerned about the replayability of this game, Robb says you shouldn't be. Other than the main Hunters vs Monster mode, he stated there will be other modes, but cannot go into detail as of the time of this interview. The game will have lasting appeal, as he compares it to Counterstrike. That game is over ten years old, yet people come back and do the exact same thing. He wants to replicate that drive to play, but not just giving you a dude with a gun as he says. The game will eventually have a lot of characters to play with, and with the differences, there's a lot of mixing and matching.

"The idea of lasting appeal, for us, you look at a game like Counterstrike, how many matches of Dust have you played? What we’re hoping for is that drive to play, but the thing is we’re not giving you a dude with a gun, we’re giving you a lot of characters to play with and mixing and matching. What happens if we pull out Val and put in Lazarus and how do these abilities react and play against each other. We want to offer a lot to try. For us the goal is infinite replayability."

Evolve has been in development for three years. Robb mentioned that everyone is still having fun playing the game and he believes if they weren't, then what's the point in doing the game? That's more than just a solid philosophy, that's just common sense. He believes it's a good sign that his co-workers get mad if they get left out of a game. Even this author wasn't happy he couldn't get more time with the game at E3.

The thought of having more than one monster in an event has crossed the mind of Robb and his team. They are getting the game ready for release, but once it's out, it's no longer their game. Robb will be turning to the community for all the input going forward. They will listen to what the players have to say and what they want. If they believe having a match with more than one monster is viable, they'll look into it. Games get exposed all the time, and balance can certainly be an issue. They might have the perfect game developed, in their opinion, but something happens when it goes live that they hadn't thought of so rectification is vital.

"Ultimately, like I said, we’re going to release this game and it won’t be ours anymore. It will be the community’s game. We will paying attention to the things we can do and what they are looking for. Maybe that will be something we have to consider in the future. People seem to always find a way to break a game, but we will balance it."

Turtle Rock Studios obviously knows the drill when it comes to offering great cooperative experiences. This is the team that was behind the Left 4 Dead series, and they will look to carry some aspects over from that franchise. Robb realized with that release that there was an actual demand for a true co-op experience. These guys know a thing or two about having to work together to accomplish things in a game. Robb states a bit of DNA from Left 4 Dead will be brought over in the form of those boss battles. The Tank battles are what come to mind the most. In fact, the idea for Evolve actually pre-dates Left 4 Dead. Robb says there will be a feeling of comfort playing as the Hunters if you have experienced Left 4 Dead, but he believes they pushed it far enough to make it feel like a different game.

". Left 4 Dead proved that there is actually a demand for a true cooperative experience where it’s not like we just throw a bunch of guys in the same area and say shoot that way. You actually have to work together so obviously that a big part. Another thing, you will see a little bit of DNA from Left 4 Dead with the boss battle. In Left 4 Dead, the Tank battle was the most intense, frightening experience of the game. What was nice about that, when you go back a little bit, the idea for Evolve actually pre-dates left 4 dead. Chris had is rattling around in his brain and had been talking about it since before then. So when we saw the Tank battles play out and how intense they were, it was sort of like proof that this could work, we could take this kind of an idea and expand on it and make it even better. I think those are the two major things. Obviously if you played the hunters in Evolve, there is a feeling of comfort especially when you played a lot of L4D with the coop experience, we pushed it really far almost to the point where it will feel like a very different game."

This writer's first hand experience with Evolve was a genuinely different experience. This was with playing as one character out of the support class. Honestly, the longevity will be there, especially if there is future content supported based on community feedback. The game was delayed, but this should only be beneficial in the end. Stay tuned for more information about Evolve.

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