Launching a video game seems like one heck of an ordeal, particularly when it’s a AAA game. You have to make sure you’re staffed properly, you have to make sure you’re making a product people actually want to play, and then you have to decide just the right time to announce it, release trailers to the public, and then try and nail down the perfect launch window while keeping everyone excited with new info along the way.
What you’re reading is a new piece which chronicles the path of major releases through all their trials and tribulations leading up to launch day. Evolve seems like the perfect title to get started with as it’s been a real roller coaster for the guys and gals over at Turtle Rock. For the uninitiated, Evolve is a multiplayer game that sees four different classes of hunters square off with a single monster in either a survival of the fittest, or to attack/defend a specific objective. Evolve has been primarily aimed at the competitive multiplayer crowd but you can play it solo with AI teammates and enemies rather than humans.
So what was Evolve’s journey to launch? The story began nearly four years ago…
We knew just a few months prior to this time that Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of the original Left 4 Dead, had begun production on their next game. We didn’t know what it was or when we’d get to see it, but we did find out in May that THQ had secured the rights to the game and would be publishing it. This was the first time what we would later know as Evolve really caught the attention of the public’s eye, despite knowing virtually nothing about it.
Unfortunately for both Turtle Rock and THQ, things didn’t exactly work out as planned. THQ went belly up two years after their original agreement, and a massive auction of all their intellectual properties ensued. The publishing behemoth, Take-Two, bought the rights to Evolve for nearly $11 million, and in doing so revealed the name of what they had purchased. We still knew almost nothing of the game at this time but details did slip out that it was geared towards co-op and competitive multiplayer.
Finally, a year after the Take-Two acquisition and three years after Turtle Rock signed with THQ, we found out what Evolve was all about. Announced for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, it first appeared on the cover of Game Informer and was described as a sci-fi multiplayer shooter that could easily be compared to the likes of what you might expect from a Predator video game. Turtle Rock also took this time to try and shed their link to Valve and Left 4 Dead, noting that they wanted Evolve to be a game that put them on the map via their own footing.
It was during this month that other media outlets got to see Evolve in action for the first time. Stefan was lucky enough to sit down with developers and talk a bit about what we can expect, and after seeing what Evolve was all about, he came away describing it as something “fresh, exciting and new.”
It was around this time in an interview with Denby Grace, Executive Producer at 2K who worked closely with Turtle Rock on Evolve, that we heard more about the experience and how it was immediately likened to Left 4 Dead.
I think there’s a lot of Left 4 Dead fans out there and a huge community, and we firmly believe that anyone who liked Left 4 Dead is going to like Evolve, but I’d argue that Evolve has a broader appeal than Left 4 Dead.
Certainly we’re going to leverage the community of Left 4 Dead, why wouldn’t we? I think we’ve got that immediacy, where I think anyone who’s a fan of Left 4 Dead is going to be a fan of this, but I think there’s more as well.
Things went quiet at Turtle Rock for a couple of months after the excitement surrounding the announcement died down, but in April they gave the public their first look at Evolve. There were small gameplay moments interspersed in a developer diary back in January, but this was everyone’s first look at pure gameplay footage from the perspective of the player.
Just shortly after their initial offering of in-game footage, Turtle Rock kept the hype train going by announcing Evolve’s release date. Prior to this time it was slated for sometime in 2014, but this was when October 21st was first pinned as when we could expect it to hit store shelves. A few retailer pre-order bonuses were also announced at this time.
About a month after we learned the release date for Evolve, we found out that there would be at least one beta, and that it would be exclusive to Xbox One (a second beta was announced later for all platforms). This is also when we found out that post-launch DLC would be exclusive to Xbox One for an undetermined amount of time.
Shortly after the news of the beta, Turtle Rock allowed a lucky few to take a first-hand look at the second monster in Evolve, the Kraken. Blair got to see it up close when he squared off with it during a preview event, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to best the beast. Although failing to win the match he played, Blair stated that Evolve played “better than I could have ever imagined.”
All the hype built up from the announcement, gameplay footage, and the beta reveal took a small hit in August when a Take-Two financial report revealed that Evolve had been delayed from its original release date in October to February 10th, 2015. While some were disappointed, just about everyone was in agreement that if this extra few months meant a better game, then so be it. And that’s not to mention the advantage of not launching within the same release window as Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and many other games that would appeal to at least a portion of the same audience.
After the announcement of the delay we didn’t hear much about Evolve until the end of October, but they did show off a limited edition statue early in the month (seen below). And when we say “limited edition,” we mean it. Only 500 of them were made. And when we say “statue,” we mean that too. It’s an almost 2.5ft tall depiction of the Goliath monster, weighing in at nearly 35Ibs. The cost? Just a measly £750, and that obviously doesn’t include the game, because why would it?
The very beginning of this month was supposed to be the start of the Evolve beta on all platforms, but one of them got off to a bit of a rough start. We’re talking about the PS4, and the issues apparently stemmed from changes made in firmware 2.0, which had just launched a few days before the beta was scheduled to appear. Thankfully, the problems were sorted just a short time later and Turtle Rock extended the beta for a few days to make up for the time lost.
Just prior to the holidays, Turtle Rock revealed the final monster featured in Evolve, the Wraith. We got to see a full-length multiplayer match that included the Wraith as the monster, and the third and final set of hunters you can use to track it down. To celebrate this final reveal of gameplay elements, Stefan and Peter sat down and had a nice chat about what we had seen of the game, and what it felt like to play first-hand.
Just a month prior to launch, it was announced that Evolve had just gone gold and was being packed up to ship out to retailers the following month. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm was short lived as the season pass and DLC content were revealed just a week later, and they weren’t exactly what we expected when we saw the price tag attached to them.
Tuffcub did a nice write-up on the math behind the content, and how ridiculously expensive it is when compared to what comes with the game. Later that week, Turtle Rock came out and essentially pushed blame for high DLC prices onto their publisher, noting that they just make the content, rather than decide the best way to sell it.
Finally (and this was just last week), we got our last bit of hype for Evolve in the form of a stylish trailer depicting real humans hunting one another, just prior to being revealed as the version of themselves within the game. It shows almost no in-game footage and is really just meant to be a hype trailer, but it’ll definitely strike a good chord with you if you’re already excited for the game.
So that brings us to where we are now. While we’re making sure we put plenty of time into the game before pushing out our final thoughts, we did just write-up our initial perspectives on the final product. Overall, we’ve enjoyed our time with it so far but we’re curious to see how well the matchmaking works when the general public enters the fray, and how the game ages with a little bit of time under its belt. Stay tuned to the site later this week for our full review.