Back 4 Blood is a game that has been a huge hit since it was revealed at The Game Awards in 2013. It is a return to an era. Turtle Rock Studios made it clear that they were disappointed in zombie shooter releases over the last decade and have returned to this genre doing it themselves. The studio is open about this new IP. However, it also acknowledges its familiarity with the formula and the spiritual predecessors of the game.
In March the game was delayed from 22 June to 12 October. This gave the team more time and allowed them to complete it. Back 4 Blood, which will also be available on Xbox Game Pass from day 1, will remain online. A beta open to all will be available on the 12th of August. Pre-orders are eligible for early access.
Eurogamer’s beta team gave me the chance to test it out and I also had the pleasure of having a conversation with Chris Ashton (co-founder, design director at Turtle Rock Studios). He spoke to me about Xbox Game Pass and storytelling. I also asked him questions regarding the new card system, Left 4 Dead legacy, Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass, and other topics.
Are Back 4 Blood and Left 4 Dead 3 the same thing?
Chris AshtonWe tried to clean it up. The foundation and some of its moment-to-moment feel feels almost like a Turtle Rock title. There were many things that we wanted to add to the genre, and things we wanted the new game to reflect. For example, we were very excited about the 8 playable characters. It was also important to add some gameplay to these characters. This time it was crucial to have a larger story.
This campaign has multiple parts. The campaign has a start, middle and end. There are many mission objectives that you can accomplish out there. The Cleaners, who are more soldier-oriented, go out in the world to destroy nests, etc.
You have more options and access to toys than usual. So, a coop or what we call a coop-oriented progression system is where the cards you play directly benefit you. This was huge for us. Although you can still shoot zombies, the gameplay is different with sprinting, ADS and other modern mechanics. There are weapons that can be attached to multiple things. The Cleaners can use four attachment types that change how the weapons function. We also have zombies that you can use to gain mutation points, so you can alter your species.
It’s not a lot of stuff. Although we didn’t intend to invent the wheel, it was important to try new things and find out which ones work.
Since the original Left 4 Dead, it’s almost been 13 years. What made you think now was the right time to revive the genre?
Chris AshtonIt’s quite a mix. If you take a look back at Turtle Rock Studios’ history, it is clear that every project we have done was a brand new IP. This is our first chance to go back to an IP, but to at least a subject or genre we have worked on previously. We’ve learnt from every one. As a group and as studios, we have grown and learned many hard lessons. There are many of us who just love the fantasy and zombie-killing fantasy. Our studio has always been focused on multiplayer, specifically team-based games. It’s right in our wheelhouse.
Then there’s Game Pass. This allows you to bring the game to more people and makes it cheaper. It’s simply that there are more online users than ever before. This is especially true when you consider that there was no pandemic at the time we began development. Consider how many people now have computers at home or online access.
It’s a mix of love and talent. It was important to us to be able go back to a topic and have a second chance to learn something. It seems that the world is prepared for this, I believe.
Game Pass was mentioned. Game Pass has been used for other games. Servers became too busy and the players were unable to access them. What can you do to ensure fans don’t experience the same problems when October comes around?
Chris AshtonThe alpha was where we started to get a small number of players online. We’re also stress-testing the servers. We have the beta available, and we are hoping for some big numbers. Turtle Rock has had a good track record in terms of servers being up and running on launch day. We have a great team. We’re just trying to be prepared by doing all our research and crossing all the Ts.
To add polish to the game, you also delayed it by four months. How has this delay allowed you to accomplish something you couldn’t do without it?
Chris AshtonWe believe the most important thing is that this game has probably required us to make fewer cuts than other games we have worked on. The game is significantly longer than any other game that we have worked on.
We decided to ship what we had when we started up. It’s a first for us, and it’s very, very exciting. You have to face challenges and set goals. Unfortunately, you may not see these things come to fruition. In this case, however, I am so proud of this team, and all the content that is coming along with it. That was the great thing about this game, we didn’t need to cut any corners. We wanted this to be what we built.
The game’s decision to be always online even while solo gaming has been a major criticism. According to the studio, there are plans for an offline mode in the future. Is there anything new? What was the reason for the online game being available only after launch?
Chris AshtonYes, but I do not have any new updates. This was an interesting topic. They’re trying to do it.
This is an uphill task. We have a progression system, which is a great advantage. The game is played by you. You earn supply points, buy cards and build decks. This progression system is very important and it’s managed on the server side. What if you decide to play offline? Are you allowed to use all of the cards or just some? Do you see a crossover here? It’s technically a problem. We’ll find a solution. We’ll find a solution. I’m not sure what this will look like or how it will be described yet, but it is something that I know.
You now have an annual pass. Already we know that there will be content drops, with new campaigns and characters. Are there any updates for PvP as well?
Chris Ashton I mean, absolutely. The game’s PVP is so important. This is something I believe we do as a team really well. We’re especially good at the asymmetrical stuff because we have so much experience.
And we love being monsters. Fighting monsters is my passion. I also love the ability to play on the opposite side as a monster, and to change and upgrade your monsters according that strategy.
It’s definitely a major part of the game. However, for me, my preference is that it depends on what I feel like. When I feel like having a good time, I will spend two to three hours going through the entire campaign with my friends. It feels like an adventure. While I will play PvE, if I have half an hour or more and just want pure fun, I prefer to go in and play PvP. You get both the best and worst of both.
Fans loved the Left 4 Dead’s environmental storytelling. It was so important for you and your team that this kind of environmental storytelling continued in the game.
Chris AshtonAs I mentioned, this game was more about story than any other. It’s the story that makes multiplayer games challenging. Especially if it isn’t choreographed. We don’t know when things will happen. You can’t cue conversations now because some Ridden has raped you. The environment is full of things. It’s also a larger campaign so you have more space and more environment for telling stories.
We also have more characters which allows us to play different characters. You might have done a mission ten times before, but you are now playing the eleventh and you see a completely different set of characters. A character might say something you have never heard before. The entire campaign will be played through. There’s the plot. It has a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll see the story unfold, and you’ll see these beats occur. The background information about the characters and world and how it all works will be revealed over many sessions. We are very excited about it. This team invests a lot of time in researching backstory and comes up with it.
The card system is one of the most important. What was the inspiration behind this card system? How do you make sure that the game isn’t too hard? You might even find it too simple.
Chris AshtonWe came up with the card system as a way to create a progression system. We wanted to ensure that if you had 1000 hours and I had 10 hours that the card system would work, then when we jump in, we wouldn’t be scaling [the game]. I was very clear that regardless of the amount of time I’ve spent on the game, the M16 should do the same damage. Und die Zombies should be given the same amount of health as they do.
Then you have to decide what your progression system should be. You can also play 1000 hours together and jump in to a new game, so if you have played 1,000 hours you don’t need any additional knowledge. Your game and mine should have a lot of fun. You shouldn’t feel like you are slogging or that you have boring games because you’re new, right? That shouldn’t be the case.
We came up with the following solution: The progression should be shared. The original concept was that if you earn AK-47s, I can spawn them all over the world. You can also pick them up and still use them. So, in this way I am a higher-level player and have progress. I also have access to certain things you don’t have, with the exception of when we play together. All of these are now available to you. That was it.
We kept on building upon that until the player had much more control over the world and everything around it. You can also purchase gear and weapons at checkpoints, instead of having to find it around the world. You have much more control over the world. That’s why cleaners, while not being survivors, are soldiers. They’re more than just getting by.
Once we’ve got that system in place, it becomes clear we can use it to create the Game Director. It could speed up the movement of zombies, increase their health, make them hit harder and make their heads explode. It has a significant impact on the gameplay. We need to look at how we handle balance. There are many ways we do this. There’s less randomness if you focus on easier problems. For example, fog might be a constant feature of a mission. Director will always play the fog card for the mission. If you are playing easy you can still strategise and plan. You can also take advantage of certain cards to combat it.
As you take on more difficult challenges, the director can do this stuff quickly. Because you never know what is coming you must adapt. You’re more capable of handling that because you have more cards and stronger cards.
The system was also created so that failure can lead to strength. You may have noticed, however, that even if your computer is wiped out, you can still use cards and any money you’ve accumulated around the globe to purchase more equipment. When I make a mistake, I think, “Oh, crap, we lost.” Then I go back to the checkpoint. Then I realize that I could buy 2 grenades rather than one. This card gives me an extra card which allows me to have a melee combat knife, killing all zombies with one strike. So now, I feel excited and have good reason to believe we can accomplish it. This was a major theme of the game. It shouldn’t be the depressing, hopeless Apocalypse. We should instead feel positive about it. We’re doing this voluntarily. Balance is not one thing. There are 100 factors that contribute to balance.
Publiated at Thu, 05 August 2021 18:21:01 +0000