GamesBeat: Do you have to make the environments large enough so the monster has a chance to hide? I have to imagine that’s a balance because it’s not too fun if the monster can always escape.
Robb: That’s the thing. We’ve played it enough that we’ve come to a nice area. Right now, most of the maps are about half a kilometer. The monster needs to be able to get away, but you never want a situation where he can hide indefinitely. That’s just annoying. That’s why the hunters have — you’ll see this when you get out and play. They all – particularly Griffin, the trapper – have ways to find the monster.
I don’t know if we still allow the monster to see his own tracks, but he’s leaving tracks wherever he goes. They’re always on your tail.
GamesBeat: They found me sooner than I thought they would, yeah. Even when I was sneaking away, they got to me pretty quickly.
Robb: Sneaking is one of those interesting things. If you’re doing it, you want to make sure that you’re hiding and you’re in some bushes. A lot of people use the sneak to misdirect, but a lot of guys use it to stalk as well. I’ll run and run and run, then stop and leap off, so that my tracks stop. Then I’ll sneak up to a bush next to where my tracks stop and they’ll be like, “What?” Then I can get them.
GamesBeat: At Turtle Rock, did you have much disruption as a result of changing publishers recently?
Robb: For Chris and I, that was a stressful time for us. We didn’t get to stay on point as much as we’d like to. But as far as the team itself, we had a plan. They knew what they had to do and just kept going, while Chris and I were paying attention to what was happening on that front. We don’t want the team to be preoccupied with that kind of thing.
GamesBeat: How big is the team nowadays?
Robb: About 75 people. Certainly a lot bigger than we used to be. On the original Left 4 Dead, we were never bigger than 12.
GamesBeat: The sense I often get is that you need something close to 200 if you want to do one of these giant single-player/multiplayer games.
Robb: Our thing is, we want to stay as small as possible because the smaller you are, the more nimble you are. Our philosophy is, we do what works. If at some point we get into a situation where we need that many people, we’ll figure out how to make that work. But we like this smaller vibe. Everyone in the studio knows each other. You don’t get that feeling of, “Who is that guy? I have no idea.”
GamesBeat: Was the new console technology easier to develop for because it’s all x86 now? Did you meet a lower learning curve for these systems?
Robb: The new consoles are pretty seamless, just in terms of going from a PC version to the Xbox or PS4. The console makers have wised up a bit. Don’t make it a pain in the butt to develop for your console. Otherwise nobody’s going to do it. That hasn’t been much of a problem. You’ll always have to tweak some little things, but that wasn’t the biggest hurdle, certainly.
Artwork is always the biggest challenge. We’ve got our guys in-house that do a lot of the key stuff, and we outsource as well to people who help us out with assets. Where we don’t have the capacity, we find it.
GamesBeat: It might have helped that you weren’t making a launch title, too. There’s a little more stress involved there.
Robb: Yeah, I think so. It would have been cool, but at the same time, the installed base isn’t there yet. Being part of the next group of games after launch is probably better because people will have had more time to figure out the nuances in each console. We’ll release it when we’re going to release it.
GamesBeat: Left 4 Dead had little bosses, but you never got to this stage where you had gigantic enemies.
Robb: Yeah. The tank was the big one. The tank was kind of cool, because after that went in, later on when we were working on this, we were able to look back on that and say, “That was cool. That was super exciting.” In a way it plays like a bit of a proof of concept. The tank battles were intense and scary. So what if we could take that and draw it out a bit?
Sometimes we compare this to a fighting game, in a way. There’s that back and forth of moves, looking for weaknesses. That same thing happens a lot in Evolve.