How a Subtle Tweak to Evolve's Monster Sent Ripples Throughout the Game

A matter of skill.

2K and Turtle Rock Studios have brought Evolve to Boston for PAX East 2014, and with the game's introduction to the public comes a pretty substantial change. Evolve, if you'll recall, is a next-gen shooter from the team behind Left 4 Dead that was first introduced earlier this year. It's notable for its asymmetrical structure, in which four players choose a class and team up against a much larger and more powerful monster--a role filled by a fifth player.

The aforementioned change is focused on the monster's ability system, a small tweak with profound effects on the strategic ebb and flow of any given match. Initially, players controlling the monster would begin each match by choosing a particular skill, whether that be breathing fire, a powerful charge attack, or the ability to hurl a massive rock pulled from the ground below. Then, as the monster leveled up within the match a la Dota or League of Legends, players would be able to fill in their arsenal by unlocking those other skills they initially passed over. (Note: We're talking about the Goliath specifically, as Turtle Rock has yet to reveal the other types of playable monsters in the game. The Goliath is the handsome fellow pictured in all the screens so far.)

All of that works differently with Evolve's PAX East build. Turtle Rock has adopted a skill point sytem for the monster, granting you a handful of points at the beginning of the match as well as each time you level up mid-game. What this does is allow players to either unlock a handful of low-level abilities right from the start, or roll the dice and go all-in on one particular type of attack.

"This change was something that we've been cooking up for a little while," says executive producer Denby Grace. "What we wanted to do was add more variety to the strategies you can employ. We saw an opportunity to make things a bit deeper."

A safe approach to playing as the monster might entail choosing several different abilities from the start, allowing you to get a feel for everything your hulking brute character is capable of before deciding if you want to specialize in any one attack. But, as Grace tells me, the more advanced players on the development team often take a riskier approach.

"We were playing a game the other day, and one of the guys dumped all his points into one or two abilities. Then we as the hunters realized he didn't have his fire-breathing ability. So our strategy was to all got really, really close to him. When you're in that close proximity, it's hard for him to use his rock throw effectively, because the rock is very much a ranged attack."

"So he chose all his ranged stuff, and we just got in tight and had our support and medic take care of the assault class. [His choice of abilities] led to a real difference with the way we played as the hunters."

In this instance, Grace and his team were able to spot their opponent's strategy through keen observation and a thorough familiarity with the game. That member of the development team playing as the monster could have easily exploited his maxed-out rock throwing ability to devastate newcomers, but that wasn't the case here.

But it's how that approach can be tweaked and fine-tuned that makes this skill point system interesting. In the earlier version of the game, you unlock a skill and that's it--there are no tiers or levels to each monster ability. With the revised version, you're granted a much more granular level of control. Maybe you still rely on your rock-throwing prowess, but save that one extra skill point to unlock fire--even if it's the least powerful tier--so that you at least have some close-range defensive capabilities against the hunters.

This approach also solves the cool-down dilemma: relying on one powerful attack means leaving yourself idle for those four or five seconds it takes to recharge your attack. By spreading out your skill points, you can get the full arsenal of attacks and just chain those together, knowing that by the time you're done with your last attack the cool-down on the first one has expired. But then again, a well-coordinated team of hunters can see that you've got everything unlocked and they might take confidence in the fact that no one attack is at its full strength. At least until you've evolved a couple times and turned yourself into a walking death machine.

And therein lies the appeal of Evolve: like Left 4 Dead before it, Evolve is a complex shooter in which teamwork and cooperation open up new doorways to strategic possibilities. Grace's team spotted what was going on and pounced on their opponent's weakness, but with this new skill point system that monster is free to take a completely different approach in the next game. What worked or didn't work in one match doesn't always transition over to the next one.

Of course, it helps that the core action in Evolve also happens to be a whole lot of fun. That blend of meta strategy and instant gratification has earned Evolve a spot on my most anticipated games of the year list, and I for one am eager to see more of it before the game's release later this year.

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Discussion

50 comments
LordTrexGuy
LordTrexGuy

Off-topic: I thought Gamespot was a site filled with so-called 'professionals in gaming'. So why do they still refer to PS4 and Xbox One as 'next-gen', even though all the 8th gen consoles have already been released? Any gamer worth his salt should know that these consoles are current-gen and PS5 should be considered next-gen.

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

4 vs 1...any room to expand into things like 8 vs 2, 12 vs 3, 16 vs 4...more Hunters + more monsters in a single game?

16bitreview
16bitreview

I played this on the PAX East show floor against Chris Watters yesterday and it was a blast, The movement is tight and fast, the classes work well together and the Goliath seems to be really fun to play as. My only complaint is that it seems to take no time to Evolve the Goliath to level 2 at the start of the match. From the second we touched down we were right on the Goliaths trail and he still ended up being level 2 by the time we found him. A small complaint that is probably going to be fixed by release.

GunEye
GunEye

What is this game anyway? 4 players vs 1? not sure it's that fun. I mean sure sometimes, but every time?

sadscooterpipe
sadscooterpipe

Any ideas when we might get to see some video?  Sounds like a promising game...

bochog3
bochog3

Pre ordering the S&%th out of it

musicXpirate
musicXpirate

Loved this game since they first announced it. It continues to impress. Now I just have to play it!

Renoo27
Renoo27

"What we wanted to do was add more variety to the strategies you can employ. We saw an opportunity to make things a bit deeper."


I wonder how long before players decide the what the "right" and "wrong" path of abilities are. :\ 

cboye18
cboye18

Hmm monster play would be nice, though the fps hunter gameplay might tick me off

dono14
dono14

Really looking forward to this game. Seems totally original and fresh.

Trev9421
Trev9421

This game seems like a lot of fun.

PowerDingALing
PowerDingALing

It's a game meant for people who like L4D. If you don't like L4D, you won't like this one. Go play (or do) something you like, but don't bash it. L4D is one of the best games ever made, and one of the very few true co-op. I hope this one to be quite as good!

eternal_napalm
eternal_napalm

So its like Primal Carnage but with monsters? I won't be getting it, but cool

Poodger
Poodger

This looks pretty fun. I am very excited to play as a monster... not necessarily as a hunter though. But that should still be fun as well.

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

all talk....i really need to see some real gameplay of this now, before i can get hyped. My main concern is how will this play with random people. Friends yes it would be amazing, but most of the times people will be playing online with randoms. I fear many people won't use voice chat to help each other or they will just run off like Rambo......which could destroy the game if thats the case.

gamingfriendly
gamingfriendly

This game will be ruined by idiotic team killers, kick vote spammers and Rambo rush noobs, basically L4D all over again.

ringringabel
ringringabel

i really can't wait for this game, seems like this will be the year to finally fix my pc

blackace
blackace

Is there a single play mode for this game as well? Having to play in a group with others who don't know what they are doing will make this game unfun in the end. You'll really need to get your friends online at certain times so you can play together and advance in this game. A single play mode would make this game a whole lot better.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

This game looks great and sounds tough all in a nutshell.  I'm not much for playing well with others and online gaming 90% of the time its easy to get stuck with a group of douchebags or little kids that just do their own thing so I'll pass on this game even though it sounds like it be a blast to play with some friends but not my thing really.

xxmavr1kxx
xxmavr1kxx

This seems like a game that would be hard with randoms

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

@LordTrexGuy It's just the way it works. Current is still PS3 and 360, until more people buy into the new consoles. PS5 doesn't exist yet, so it shouldn't be considered at all. 



bigg_p
bigg_p

@klugenbeel 

^ This, soooo much!

Imagine the added strategy & depth with 2 monsters and 8 hunters =  awesomness squared!

aermeus
aermeus

@bochog3  Why?  Why do people preorder?  Why not wait to see if it is actually any good?  Wouldn't that help insure that you don't regret your purchase?

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@PowerDingALing  

Oh sure, be defensive about criticism against this game while you have been mentioning that other games bore you or turn you off. :/

Psycold
Psycold

@PowerDingALing  Yep. Between both L4D's I have well over 600 hours of gameplay and most games gets around 50 hours from me if they are lucky

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@gamingfriendly  STEAM is your friend, play tons of counter strike or whatever else heaps and after awhile youll get a friends list going.


I generally play Left 4 Dead in single player. I prefer it.

notfrylock1987
notfrylock1987

@blackace  

you wouldn't have much fun in Single Player....one person, and three A.I Controlled Bots?

Poodger
Poodger

@blackace That sounds pointless and boring. The whole point to this game is to have quick matches, which are better in multiplayer. And players making mistakes are what create tension. The game would die off so quickly and become boring and stale if the humans consistently won matches and killed the monster with minimal mistakes.

Poodger
Poodger

@xxmavr1kxx It seems BALANCED with randoms. It is no fun if the team of 4 is so well coordinated, that the monster never wins.

devilzzz1983
devilzzz1983

@xxmavr1kxx  Well maybe people should learn to be patient with each other and work together that way instead of raging or ripping people apart and maybe gaming would get better with randoms.  Just a thought.

shaunmc
shaunmc moderator staff

@xxmavr1kxx  I get that sense too. Teamwork is critical when you're one of the hunters. It's hard to lone-wolf it and win the whole match on your own. 

LordTrexGuy
LordTrexGuy

@PS2fweak @LordTrexGuyWell, when PS4 wasn't announced, didn't everyone start moaning "Where is next-gen?" Doesn't make sense that PS5 is not next gen. And 5 million+ sales makes it current gen.

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@aermeus @bochog3  I never preorder anymore unless I am absolutely certain a game is going to be worth it. been let down far too many times. 

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@notfrylock1987 @blackace  its the only way i still play Left 4 dead 2 on PC and thats make my own maps and campaigns and play single player, so.....yeah i want single player options. Its why i play ARMA 2 also, for the single player. Also if the bots are good, if you like the game, you can still play it when all your friends go and buy the next Battlefield and some of us fcking hate battlefield.

Poodger
Poodger

@xxmavr1kxx Furthermore, the monster should win more often than the hunters. If the hunters win too often, than the monster will usually play cautiously, and thus the whole point of being a rampaging bloodthirsty brute will be lost. The humans should be scared of the monster, not the other way around.


And just like in L4D, it was still amazingly easy to win as a survivor, even if one person went full blown rambo and died. The infected doing well was balanced and relied on humans making mistakes. A well oiled, flawless team made the game boring.

PowerDingALing
PowerDingALing

@kwijeebou @blainose@janregal@gamingfriendly I 100% disagree with all of you. I play L4D2 almost everyday. I've played it today. I never played with friends, instead I've actually made some friends in the game. So you don't need friends to play with you, nor convince them to play.

And I don't know what you mean with "L4D all over again". L4D2 is one of the best games ever made, and it's not ruined or abbandoned. There's A LOT of people playing it every single day, and kick vote spammers, Rambo rush noobs and team killers are a minority, I've encountered a lot more of them in other games.

kwijeebou
kwijeebou

@blainose @janregal @gamingfriendly  Did you try getting 4 friends to want it? Did you explain the game to them? Did you mention it's by the people you brought us Left 4 Dead? If your friends don't like L4D you should probably get better friends.