The Development of Evolve



Hello lovely forum members!

Right now the Turtle Rock crew is hard at work closing out bugs and optimizing the game. Evolve, as it will ship, is largely "in the can" as they say. Don't get me wrong, there is a TON of hard work still to do, but all the content is there and locked. All the textures, characters, animations, sounds, fx, game modes, etc. are all there and mostly functioning as intended. wink

In the coming weeks, you'll be learning everything there is to know about the retail version of Evolve. It seems appropriate then, to look back at what we originally set out to achieve and see how we got from there to here.

On June 23rd, 2010, I sent an email to my partner, Phil Robb:

How about "Metamorphosis" for a new working title name for Prey since a lot of what is unique about this game is the monster and his state changes?

He replied:

Thats cool. ...or maybe 'morph' for short.

"Prey" is what we wanted to call it, but there was already another Prey game so we had to come up with something new. We knew that Metamorphosis wouldn't stick. It was too much of a mouth full but it was good as a working title.

To pitch the game, we needed a slide show presentation, a full design document, a teaser trailer, a storyboard showing ~15 minutes of gameplay, a budget, a studio profile document and a bunch of boring businessy docs.

On August 9th, 2010 Phil finished the slide show presentation. We had talking points for each slide. The whole pitch took about 45 minutes to go through. Here are most of the slides from that deck (excluding things like budget for obvious reasons):

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Monster Concepts
Hunter's journal / Wildlife encyclopedia - idea
More Wildlife Creatures for Diversity
Evolve Livestream - Next Date TBD @ 12PM PST
Curse you Evolve for being so awesome
Wait wait wait- why were these monsters dropped? they look finished
Something Interesting I Found on the Hunter's Quest Trailer
Character Design process?
Monster Mutations and Hunter Gear
So I was bored and I found something
Questions I have
More Content
Major user experience issues in the lobby
Book: The Art of Evolve
Dlc maps and wildlife
How can you say this community isn't toxic?
Discussion about unused content
How come there is wildlife in the app that isn't in the game?
Telemetry and Game Balance
Evolve Animation + Game Development Reel
So…what is this thing
A new Monster
Digging/Burrowing Traversal for T5 monster (anyone remember scorponok from Transformers?)
Early Footage of monster evolve cocoons. Kraken, Wraith, Host monster
Early Wildlife Footages
Why was some wildlife scrapped?
Monsters appearance based on chosen abilities
Evolve Timeline/Lore/Info Megathread
Question about the games development
Tier 6 monster maybe?
Possible link between old concept art and Meteor Goliath!
Useful Links
Useful Links
Would Love To See An Evolve Making Of Documentary
Useful Evolve Info. & Links HUB
Original Oratory Evolve
Wild life In game
Will there be alternate weapons?
Actual cocoons
Official Wildlife Information
New Forumer!
Making Evolve better for the future
Is it possible to get the early prototype builds of Evolve? I'm curious
What are the Monster's behind the scenes names?
Metamorphosis for Founders
Metamorphosis-inspired mod for garrys mod (just started making it)
I think scorpid has a really cool concept
Monster Guide
Original Oratory Evolve
Here are the start then final design of the monsters

We knew that THQ was one of our only shots at getting this game published. We walked in, made introductions, shook hands, etc. Hooked the laptop up to the big screen monitor and started the pitch. On the second slide, our laptop kicked the bucket. No more presentation.

Phil brought the deck on his iPad as back up but we didn't bring an adapter to hook it up to the monitor. Some of the THQ guys volunteered to look for one. While they scrambled, the THQ brass grilled Phil and I about Left4Dead, about design decisions, how the development process worked, Valve's involvement, etc.

After searching for nearly fifteen minutes, they gave up and Phil moved to their side of the table and held the iPad for them to see and swiped through the slides while I sat on the opposite side of the table and talked about each one.

We thought we sort of blew it, but the next morning THQ emailed our agent and asked when the deal needed to get done.

Other than that, most of the pitches were pretty straight forward. Definitely had a few awkward moments, but I don't want to put any non TRS people on the spot. wink


We wanted achievements to be integrated into the game. So we imagined a field guide, a guide book that you could open and page through. As you got an achievement, say for killing 20 reavers, a page would fill in with a drawing of a reaver and a bunch of info about them. And as a result of you having "studied" them, you'd get a statistical advanced vs. reavers. You might do 10% more damage to reavers.

We thought it was a cool idea, but the various platforms all have their own ideas and requirements for achievements that don't really align well with the idea of a field guide. We abandoned it before any work really got started.


Design Doc

The deck was something we presented in person but we also left a copy of the actual design doc with every publisher that we pitched to. That still seems kind of crazy to me. Months of hard design work on a game idea that was years in the making simply handed over. "Here you go!"

Phil and I once asked our agent,

"What's to stop someone else from taking the design and making it themselves?"

He answered,

"Because nobody else has the team to make this game."

Still... pretty crazy to think about. Below are some exerts from the design doc.

Tucker was a character that continually showed up in the fiction of the game only to be killed at some point. Colonel Tosh would later become Cabot.

Pretty much nailed everything in here. "Smell Vision" would eventually change to just being able to see tracks and outlines, but you'll get to see some footage of it working with particle systems later on in this thread.

Lots of these ideas made it into the game in one form or the other. The creature on this page is a Plated Ape which would eventually become a Reaver.

Eventually all the different planet types became a single planet, Shear. The Ruined Civilizations environment type never came to pass.

It took us a long time to figure out exactly what would happen when monsters staged up, but we always planned on them getting bigger and more powerful, and they always had three stages. Here you can see Scorpid again.

Pretty much delivered on the wildlife with the exception of not being able to have large herds. This guy would eventually become an Armadon.

Scorpid's design is detailed here. Charge Attack and Flame Breath survived all iterations and can be found today on Goliath.

We didn't know how many monsters we'd be able to make at the time, so we listed all the cool, inspiring ideas we could come up with.

Velvet Worm wasn't technically feasible.

The Spawner was built, but again we ran into technical difficulties. Your effectiveness as a monster came down to the effectiveness of the AI parasites. You were totally dependent on them. You always felt like there was a middle man between you and the things that you wanted to do to the Hunters.

The Grounder became the Kraken.

The Shape Shifter wasn't technically feasible because it required the ability to drive all the other creatures around. Our wildlife typically does not have the ability to jump, swim, climb, etc. so building this monster would have required too much work on all the wildlife.

I don't even rember the Timber Monster. We would use Spore Cloud on Scorpid for a long time though.

And we never even attempted the Swarmer.

Originally we planned for only four Hunters but even as we expanded, the group dynamic has always been important. All of our characters have backstories, personalities, faces. smile Obviously the story changed.

Olfactory Sensors quickly became standard gear for every Hunter. The Parachute Camera would become a UAV, and then become Bucket's head. The Tracker Dart is now Abe's. Cabot and Hank use Binoculars to call in ordinance. We don't need to zoom since our weapons can do that now. The Sound Triangulators became Griffin's Sound Spikes.

The Harpoon Gun made it to Griffin. Gas Grenades became Hyde's Toxic Grenades. The Electronic Shield made it to Hank as the Shield Projector. Health kit went away when we invented classes and introduced Medics.

What type of Monster would you like to see?
Useful Links
ITS AN Arachnid hybrid?
Closed Poll: Creating a Monster ARCHETYPE
Closed Poll: Creating a Monster ARCHETYPE

The Teaser Trailer

We also wanted to show something with movement during the pitch, something more than still text and concept art. And we knew that there would be concerns about Turtle Rock using a new engine, so the logical step was to try to build a teaser trailer using in-engine footage and attack that worry head on.

We built the first version of Scorpid, a corpse, the first version of the dropship and a full sized environment to shoot in. In a couple weeks we put together a pretty cool trailer. Here are a few shots from that trailer.

This shot wasn't in engine. It was simple animation of TJ's concept drawings.

We originally planned on being able to see out of the dropship windows as you get ready to drop. Once the maps were more complete, we would often see out of the world and instead settled for seeing out of the dropship doors. Notice this is footage from Tucker's camera.

We always imagined that you could see the dropship fly in as the monster, and it turns out, you still can! Here is Scorpid 1.0.

We originally thought the dropship would land. It didn't take long for us to figure out that was a bad idea. It allowed the monster to charge straight into the cab of the ship and slaughter everyone in a corner.

Signs of the monster. This bloody corpse model was the last prototype model to get swapped out of the game with a real asset. It lasted years!

Tucker on the run. Something chasing him.

Hello Scorpid! Goodby Tucker.

New monster + new map + new wildlife suggestion
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New scorpion monster idea


As mentioned earlier, we were also asked to storyboard 15 minutes of gameplay, which, lucky enough for us, represented a solid round of Hunt mode. It was a pretty fun exercise, thinking through all the details of what might happen in a single round. Here are some of those storyboards. You might recognize one that leaked very early as "concept art for Evolve." wink

We always planned for the monster to have a head start, and for the dropship to go to the monster's starting location (though we did experiment with starting the monster at a random location.) Hunters used to have to choose their gear during the dropship ride.

Indicator birds and tracking footprints was also always part of the plan, though in the early days, you literally had to find clearings and stand on tall rocks for minutes on end looking for birds. No HUD indicators back then.

Cabot dusting! I read an article in Popular Science one day about the military being able to use radioactive dust to track terrorists. Sounded like a good way to track monsters too.

One of Scorpid's early abilities was swimming. We though if he could swim fast, he could use water to get away from the Hunters. This idea never really panned out, especially since monsters can move so fast anyway, though monsters can still use water to hide their tracks.

Yup, we always planned on carnivorous plants. They readily attract new players.

Always planned for anti-material rounds. Might have been inspired by Starship Troopers for this one. Originally it was going to punch a hole in the monster, but that turned out to be hard to create and hard to see, so we modified it to show the blue markers on your HUD instead.

Stage 3's were always supposed to be about 25ft. tall.

Harpoon Guns originally had metal cables. Made sense, but was hard to see, so we switched to electronic tractor beams instead. Besides being easier for the monster player to see, they also felt more sci-fi.

We always wanted there to be environmental damage. We have lots of props for the monster to destroy (along with heavy weapons) but none of it can hurt players. It looks cool and be used to help track the monster but making it hurt players wasn't really feasible.

Useful Links
New scorpion monster idea


As we started to pitch the game we realized that we had cool concepts of environments, monsters, gear, dropship, etc, but what we didn't have was some art that captured the feeling of 4v1. So our buddy TJ Frame worked on some new art that we would include in future pitches.

This one is my favorite. Scorpid ambushes four Hunters with the Burrow ability.



In late December 2010, we signed Evolve with publisher THQ. We were a group of just ten people. When we started pitching, we had high hopes but little expectation that the game would be funded. Suddenly we were looking at a signed contract and the daunting task of hiring a team, moving into a larger studio and learning a new engine all while figuring out how to run a company together.

The first few milestones were spent researching and experimenting with the engine, creating all kinds of documentation for the publisher (they understandably want to know what they're paying for) and creating concept art. We won't bore you with documentation, but we're happy to share some of the highlights from Milestone #1.

This was one of our favorite forest environments. Definitely has an alien look to it. We were quick to realize that the sloped roots and vines would not play nice with player and AI navigation.

This early "lava" environment concept provided a lasting direction that we looked back to many times for our acid environments.

And we built our first map that would serve as the Evolve test bed for more than a year.

Useful Links


Lots more documentation in this milestone, but the concept machine was in full swing. Here are some of our favorites. smile

We always wanted to have civilian NPC's in the game. To what extent fluctuated heavily throughout the entire development process.

Sunny was originally spelled Sun Hi. She was Cabot's daughter and was supposed to pilot the dropship. She would become a little bit older in future iterations.

This is pretty typical of how we initially planned maps. This particular map saw many different iterations during development. At one point we even made the rope bridges procedurally spawned so that different combinations of them would appear each round. Jetpacks would eventually make bridges mostly irrelevant.

A bunch of foliage concepts. We would build a lot of this vegetation, and eventually, we would wipe most of it out because players would struggle to make sense of the world. It was a lot of visual noise which led to player frustration.

This is sort of what we expected the Field Guide to look like. This Pangothere would eventually become the Crowbill Sloth that you all know today. Originally we wanted to have males and females and have different behavior for each.

There are lots and lots of Kraken concepts but you get a better sense of the "electric eel" origins in the early ones.

This is one of the first concepts for the Parasite monster (previously called Spawner.) The idea was that the Stage one would be a zombified colonist walking around with a few huge bugs on its body. By Stage 3, the original body would be nothing more than a husk.

Here are the first concept for what would eventually become the Wraith!

A new monster idea
T5 "Spider" Monster ability speculation
5th tier monster is "chilling"
Two: Caira's Story
Useful Links

One of the entries from the never-produced Field Guide to Shear.

There was a lot of backstory to this. It was written by an NPC, you were going to unlock pages from it as you fought wildlife. And if you opened the field guide up and looked at that page, you might get a buff when fighting those things. Or maybe they had a weak spot that would be highlighted and do double damage.

But holy shit it was going to be a lot of writing. And it had to be done very, very early in development, before we knew which of these creatures would be in the final game. So it was abandoned not long after I'd written a handful of entries.

Other Names
Tidal Grazer
Slime snail
Snail jelly
Gelatinous Lurker
Jurve (From the Serbian ‘srv,’ meaning ‘worm’)

Capable of living on land or in fresh water, the snail jelly is an amphibious hermaphroditic gastropod found at the boundaries of most fresh-water bodies on Shear, including lakes and rivers. It possesses rudimentary eyes, capable of seeing only light and dark, and motion.

Though it appears to have a spinal cord, the snail jelly is not a proper chordate, being more akin to a worm sheathed in an avascular mass. This gelatinous sheath acts as a lung, through which it absorbs and filters oxygen from the oxygen-rich atmosphere of Shear, a stomach, digesting material on the way to its worm-like body, and a liver, filtering toxins and impurities.

While its worm-like body is rich in vital nutrients, its gelatinous sheath is dense and tough and cannot be digested by most animals on Shear. Additionally, it secretes a mild digestive acid which breaks down its food prior to being absorbed into the body. This acid acts as another deterrent to predators.

Being tough to tear into and covered in acid means the Slime Snail enjoys a life free from most predation. Only the Plated Ape routinely eats slime snails, as some ape populations have learned to pry the spiny carapace off the gelatinous mass, and eat the worm-like body exposed underneath.

The colors of the Slime Jelly spines indicate their purpose. Darkly colored spines are rigid and sharp, capable of piercing the mouth-tissue of most predators. Brightly colored spines are typically flexible and pliant, but contain poison sacs at the ends which release neurotoxins that paralyze prospective predators.

For colonists on Shear, the slime snail is harmless. Its antennae are used primarily in detecting food and potential mates. Should one approach, it’s safe to ignore. It may reach out and probe you with its antennae, but it will quickly determine you are inedible, and slowly move around you.

It is of particular interest to evolutionary biologists and genetic archaeologists because it appears to be a living fossil and may be closely related to the first creatures on Shear to evolve a spinal chord.

Snail jellies live on the boundaries between land and freshwater. Lake species tend to be larger, some weighing twice as much as a man, while river species have been cataloged as small as a fingernail.

The snail jelly is slow moving, like its terrestrial counterpart. It lacks muscles in its avascular body, instead relying on foot-like structures to expand and contract its body, allowing locomotion.

When moving on dirt, sand, or soil, it is almost entirely silent. On rock, its flexing gelatinous mass makes a loud sucking sound.

While any given body of water may have dozens or hundreds or thousands of snail jellies, they are not social creatures. They ignore each other except during mating season when jellies physically join together into large masses, colonies of several dozen individuals for mating purposes.

Evolve field guide wildlife on shear


By milestone 3 we were making our own models, textures, shaders, environments. We were still primarily focused on concepts, but we were experimenting with the tech getting ready for the production phase.

We were heavy into figuring out what our wildlife might look like. Here are a few nice samples.

And we were also busy concepting the plant life.

This was the first approved Harpoon Gun concept. All the gear back then had a more present day feel to them.

And this is one of the early concepts for the Lightning Gun.

These are some of the water shader tests we were doing. We would pick a reference photo and try to recreate the look and feel. These shaders would serve as our baseline for the next year or so.

Here is another example of a top down map layout. This is another map we would prototype and eventually play in.

This is some of the earliest footage, before the game was playable.

We already built Scorpid for the teaser trailer. Now he was being animated as a real game asset. The first set of movement animations were delivered on this milestone. This was the run cycle.

Evolve Theory: The Monsters are humans?
Useful Links


Milestone four is where things start to get pretty real. More concepts were being made while other concepts started turning into models, and we jumped into a five player game for the first time!

This one brings back some memories. Giant forest trees are called "emergent trees." You can see us exploring a bunch of different emergent tree looks from somewhat Earthy to pretty alien. Ultimately we went with something familiar, but you'll get to see some of the more alien attempts in future milestones.

You might recognize this as one of the giant mushroom type plants in Evolve. It survived all the various iterations! It can now be found in swaps and has bio-luminescent orange light coming from those round bulbs.

This is a weathervane plant. This plant would go into production, but ultimately wouldn't make the final cut. You'll likely see it in future map footage. Originally scent would flow down wind so it was important for monsters to pay attention to the wind direction. This plant was sort of like that wind icon in golf games. It would point to the direction the wind was blowing.

This is a paint over concept. The concept artist started with a screenshot of one of our current forests, and then painted in some of the plant concepts from the previous milestone. You can see the Parasite monster buzzing around back there. This concept had a great spooky vibe. It looked dangerous. It would inspire the "feel" of the game for years to come.

This is one of the earliest concepts for the Harpy - the scavenger birds that are attracted to dead corpses in Evolve.

And this is probably the oldest concept for Megamouth. This is still a rough, quick concept, but we were all able to look at it and say, "Yeah, lets make that! And it should be able to swallow you whole!"

I believe this was the first ever version of the "Spotter." We watched a lot of nature documentaries and saw how prairie dogs would have one of their group stand watch while the others went about eating, digging, etc. If a threat came near, the watcher would make a high pitch alarm call and all the others would take cover. That's basically the design of the Spotter in Evolve. If the monster comes near, the Spotter sounds its alarm and hopefully the Hunters are paying attention. smile

Do you remember the Plated Ape from the design doc? This was the z-brush model. Eventually the Plated Ape would be replaced by the Reavers. As the world of Shear became more and more clear to us, the Plated Ape felt more and more out of place.

And this is the Armadon! The model would eventually be updated with bigger tusks, higher resolution geometry, textures, beefier and longer legs, etc.

As mentioned earlier, by the end of the fourth month we had multiplayer working and a playable monster. The monster couldn't attack and there was foot sliding and all kinds of ugly stuff, but this was our very first look at what it might feel like to see a giant monster in the woods. And yeah, there is some first person footage there of the claw hands. smile You might recognize the Crytek trench coat SDK guy in there. He was our stand in while we were building our first Hunter.

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More concept art, more gameplay.

We started concepting the rock structures,

and looked at how Scorpid might change visually as he staged up. Interestingly, this is very close to what we do for all the monsters now. Bigger spikes, longer claws, etc.

Originally, all of Scorpid's abilities were claw driven. So the idea was that we would have different claw models depending on what abilities a player chose.

The basher claw was slow to attack but packed a super heavy punch.

The concussion claw would deal some damage and knock Hunters back.

Interestingly, the concussion claw was inspired by this little guy:

Then we had the raking claw which was for slicing and dicing.

And by this time we realized that the original Scorpid wasn't very monstery looking, so this paint over explored keeping the same overall shape, but changing the details to make it more scary.

Meanwhile, we were starting to build the core elements we needed for gameplay. Sorry I don't have clips. This video got corrupt so I couldn't open it in Premiere. Could only screenshot it. Wasn't exciting anyway.

The first thing we needed was food for the monster. We wanted to simulate the basic gameplay in the easiest, quickest way possible. The wildlife's primary role is to force the monster to move from area to area while gaining energy to Stage Up. The more spread out the food, the longer it takes for the monster to Stage Up. The monster leaves tracks while looking for food and that enables us to have the core tracking element.

So one of the guys modeled three sizes of meat - small (ham), medium (steak) and large (ribs.) We procedurally spawned a set number of meat in the map. This enabled the food to be in different locations each time the map loaded and forced the monster to "hunt" for prey, as opposed to memorize its location. Here you can see an energy bar to the right. When the energy crossed that red line you could Stage Up.

Here you see the largest, and most scarce foot type, the rack of ribs!

The monster has now staged up to Stage 2 and the energy meter is empty again. It's worth noting that at this point in time, we made monster players spend their energy on sprinting. So as long as you had energy, you could sprint and run much faster than the Hunters, but spending that energy would make it harder to stage up. Managing the energy resource was kind of cool, but man, if you ran out of energy and the Hunters found you, you might as well put down the controller because you were slow and had no way to get more energy.

With the monster moving around the map and feeding, we needed to prototype the tracking mechanic. In the next screenshot you can see some red cones on the ground. These are the footprints of a player who has stopped running and turned around to look at their tracks. The red cones would point the direction that the player was facing when they made them.

The yellow balls are scent. As mentioned previously, scent flowed off of every player in the direction that the wind was flowing. If you stood still, you'd have a straight line of scent flowing with the wind. In this screenshot, you can see that the scent is starting to flow over the terrain towards the left side of the screen. This gave the Monster and Hunters two means of tracking each other. You could see tracks or you could also find yourself down wind of the monster and pick up their scent. If you followed scent, it would soon merge with the tracks and the monster.

The scent was a cool idea and worked great with yellow lines but when we tried to create real art for the scent, we started running into problems. We tried rendering it with particle systems that streamed away from players like a smoke stack, but it would get crazy in combat with colored smoke all over the place. Eventually we would abandon the idea of scent trails and go with outlines instead, mixing the idea of scent with the idea of the monster having keen perception and knowing exactly where a nearby Hunter was.

You'll see how it all shakes out in future milestones.

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Six months into the project and suddenly there is a LOT going on. A bunch of gear and monster abilities are in and suddenly we have a real game on our hands. Strategies start to emerge and people start getting competitive and having a lot of fun.

There are still a lot of items to be conceptualized and in some instances, you're going to start seeing the second and third iteration of some things.

More NPC's. In this instance, a NPC that could fight back.

Dr. Leuckart was to be our Field Guide author. The idea was that you would capture images of plants and animals with a built in camera and e-mail them to Dr. Leuckart. He would research them and send you back the field guide entry.

Here is Sunny again, this time a little bit older.

More carnivorous plants. Originally some of the carnivorous plants were going grow fruit that you could eat to gain health. You'd need to work with a teammate to harvest the fruit without getting chomped by the plant. This was before we had medics in the game.

Here is the earliest concept of the Marsh Strider.

And this is a Plowhorn. We actually built this guy but he didn't make into the shipping game.

I always thought this guy would be awesome. He never made it past this early concept phase though.

And these guys were super weird and alien. They were going to feed on the branches of the emergent trees. Ultimately we couldn't build anything that big for tech reasons. Our terrain is too uneven. All those legs wouldn't be able to IK properly to the different terrain heights.

The Mauler never made it past this concept phase. Probably a little too weird to make the cut. It was supposed to latch onto you and bash you with it's pointy head.

The Leviathan was going to be our solution for keeping players out of really deep water. smile We even thought it would be cool just to see one crest the surface of the water in the far distance.

Here lies the first real concept of the good ol Tyrant.

And a more polished concept of the Megamouth.

Some more Scorpid parts. When you burrowed, we were going to have the camera stay above ground so we wanted to keep the eyes there too.

Originally monsters didn't climb unless they took that as one of their abilities. Here we added a set of climbing hands to Scorpid's belly so he could latch onto the rocks.

You will recognize this ability. This is where Goliath's Fire Breath ability was born.

And finally, we scrapped old Scorpid and started a new concept, this time working in 3D.

One of Scorpid's abilities was a grabber claw. You could pick up Hunters and wildlife and throw them. This was when we had falling damage and no jetpacks.

Scorpid also had a Spore Cloud ability. It was hard to see in and would force Hunters to walk. Additionally, no data escaped the cloud. So if you were a teammate outside of the cloud, you couldn't see where they were or what their health was. We would try many iterations of this ability before throwing in the towel. As it turns out, players don't consider being blinded or visually disoriented fun.

You might recognize this one. This is Charge Attack's earliest days. smile

It's a bit hard to see here but this is the first Tracker Dart rifle. Worked pretty much like Abe's does now except that back then you couldn't dart wildlife too. Interestingly, we wouldn't have a Boss Battle health bar for another year or so. If you wanted to know how much health the monster had, you had to switch modes on the dart rifle and shoot the monster with a "vitals dart" which would then display the monster's health value.

And now we start getting finished weapon models. This was the first pistol we made. Didn't ship.

And we start getting plant models in there too. This is our first emergent tree model along with the first version of the giant mushroom plant.

Dead Leviathan
(New ideas) Spore equality for everyone
Will we see a Leviathan Like Monster in Evolve
Useful Links
Do medics in general need a buff?
Is Slim too bursty now?
Throw Slim a bone

I believe MS06 was when I joined the team. June of 2011 or thereabouts.

Prior to this, the fiction was being handled by a couple of screenwriters who'd been contracted for the job. They didn't work in the office and the stuff they turned in tended to be too far-fetched.

The planet was supposed to be A: three times the mass of Earth and B: tidally locked to its primary, so one side was boiling desert in perpetual daylight, and the other frozen in subzero darkness. The game was set on this thin stripe of land that divided the two sides.

I saw this, and saw problems. It sounded cool to say, but what was the point? Three times as massive? Why? Gravity would crush you. Tidally locked? Why? How were we going to make that relevant to the player?

I thought the planet should be politically important, rather than just weird-looking. This would give the heroes something to talk about and motivate the various factions in the game. Why, exactly, the planet was important was something we'd go back on forth on for the next two years.

My very first day, @SlabOMeat rolled over to my desk (it would be 2013 before we ever used our conference room for anything but interviews and D&D) and showed me that picture of Dr. Leuckart.

Goddamn, look at that guy! What a character! I instantly believed in him, in his reality. He did not look like a video game character and this is why I wanted to work at TRS. I wanted to work on people, not caricatures.

Phil explained who this guy was in a single sentence. "This guy is our Liet Kynes." Just think for a second how amazing a sentence that is. Not "Have you read Dune?" Just "Our Liet Kynes." Like, of course I would know who that is. I better know who that is!

I knew who that was. Dune is my favorite novel. I worked on the Dune RPG and the Dune CCG. Cut me, I bleed melange.

Phil gave me my first task. "What is the name of this planet?" At the time it was called Planet X. Other names hadn't stuck.

Phil said "I want something cool. Like Arrakis. That's a bad-ass name. I want a bad-ass name."

Well, I sort of took that in a different direction. I didn't just sit there making up names wondering "is this bad-ass enough?" I thought about how Frank Herbert arrived at the name Arrakis.

The Fremen are Buddhist Arabs. The Zen-Sunni wanderers. Their language is Arabic. Bi-lal Kaifa, Ilm & Fiqh, Karama & Ijaz, Kitab al-Ibar.

Arrakis is meant to have descended from al-Rakis, "The Dancer."

So, that's a path right there. Frank Herbert didn't think "What's a bad-ass name?" He thought "Who named this place? What language did they speak?" He further thought "How do planets get their names?" Well, 'planet' means 'wanderer.' Wanderer is Planet in Greek, so Arrakis is Dancer in Arabic.

This was a fertile line of thinking.

According to the fiction Chris and Phil had layed out, this frontier was corporate. There would be logos all over everything. What if Wells Fargo and Sears Roebuck had bought the West from France? What if there was no government, only corporate regulations?

Ok, so I started thinking about corporations. About the idea that this world has been here for decades, and changed hands a few times. I liked that idea of a layered world. That you could look around and see English signs, and where they peel away, Russian signs, and underneath all that, Chinese signage.

I decided the first corporation to break ground on Shear was Chinese (Celestial Materials Extraction and Transport. For a long time, the big corporation in our game, later to be supplanted by Nordita). So I asked my Chinese friends how you say "world" in Chinese.

"Shìjiè" came the answer. Pronounced "Shear-jay" approximately. You can see where this is going. smiley

So the English speaking people show up decades after the Chinese corporations broke ground and they work with the Chinese corporation and when the Chinese employees say, in Chinese "We're going down to the planet" the English speakers hear "Shear-jay" over and over and just assume that's the proper name of the planet. Eventually they shorten it to Shear.


I'm not even sure I went to Phil with this, I just started using it in documents to see if people would pick it up. They did. It sounded like a real name. No one ever said "that's stupid." Usage of the name in the studio grew virally and soon people I'd never talked to were calling the planet 'Shear.'

Not all my ideas were that successful, stay tuned, but that was an early success. Shear didn't sound bad-ass, but it sounded plausible and that had a lot of value.

It was a good first day. smiley

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Dang! Wraith has come a long way. MS2 wraith looks really wiry and humanoid. I love where it went though!

I thought I'd do up a little comparison in photoshop to show how far the monsters have come since metamorphosis:

Color me impressed! Your monster designs are spectacular - you all really knew what changes to make and took the time, love, and care to make something really unique.



Started getting some AI wildlife hooked up and the game starts to look more real and less like a prototype (although it's still plenty hitchy at this point.)

Here is the final concept for the Spotter!

An early version of the Trapjaw.

Here is the first Cabot face model ever made! He has changed a lot since then but is still captain of the ship and crew.

And here's a look at some of the initial dropship concepts.

And here's a look at the chosen dropship model in game.

Here was the new Scorpid model with textures.

And here are some footage gifs.

We got monsters to break trees when they ran into them, although the trees would still cause the monster to stop. We wouldn't be able to run through trees without stopping for more than a year as it would require us writing our own prop break system. stuck_out_tongue

Though chopping trees with your claws was satisfying.

Here's some multiplayer footage.

A nice clip of Scorpid ominously emerging from the Spore cloud.

Scorpid running me over.

Me cupcaking a Hunter who was hiding in tree roots with a Concussion blast.

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We focused on Hunter gear this milestone.

Here is the concept for the binoculars in the game. Hank uses one to call down the Orbital Barrage and Cabot uses one to call in the Radioactive Dusting. I think we decided on the top left concept.

Originally, Character Perks were going to be visual. Here we see the four characters with ceramic armor added. Eventually we would have so many character perks, and some that didn't make any sense to have visuals, that we abandoned the idea. When we broke out to twelve Hunters instead of four, that buried the idea for good.

Before Lazarus, we had a simple defibrillator. Lazarus is much cooler.

Nowadays, the dropship brings reinforcements on its own, but back in the day Hunters had to plant a beacon and defend it until the dropship arrived. The beacon would shine a bright laser into the sky so the pilot (Sunny) could find them. The monster could also see the beacon, and if it was destroyed before the dropship arrived, the monster could stop the reinforcements.

We would struggle to balance this mechanic for probably about a year. While it had some fun moments, the big problem was that dead players were dependent on their teammates to get them back into the game. If live players were on the run, the beacon could be planted and destroyed over and over for ten, twenty minutes and nobody else would get back into the game. We wanted to guarantee that players could get back in, or the game would end, within two minutes of dying. Ultimately this lead to the current automatic dropship deployment timer.

The first idea for the Shield Projector just put the shield out in front of the player ten feet or so. The idea was that you'd stand next to your buddy and project the shield in front of you both, protecting you from incoming attacks. But the realities of the game are that everyone is moving around like crazy. Having to get next to someone to shield them was too difficult and the beam version that Hank now wields, was born.

I read this article about scientists driving mice around using their equilibrium. If you can make the mice feel like they are falling to the left, they will compensate by moving to the right. This is now, real world stuff. So we thought that would be a viable way to "mind control" wildlife. The idea was for Hunters to tag a bird with this, and then fly the bird around to look for the monster. Or tag an Armadon, and go attack the monster. Sounded fun, but the reality is that it's a lot easier for Bucket just to pull his head off and fly it around as a UAV. And guns damage the monsters easier than an Armadon does. It's one of those ideas that sounds cool, but really doesn't have long term viability.

Here is Maggie's Harpoon Trap Gun concept. Stood the test of time really well.

Before we had classes, health was a simple affair. Everyone could carry one of these health syringes and you could use it on yourself or your buddy. And OMG was it impossible to get your teammate to stop so you could heal them. Val's Medgun is soooooo much better!

Here's another idea that sounds really good on paper, but doesn't really pan out so well. The netgun was suppose to tangle the monster in a net, slowing its movement. Executing on the visuals would have been a huuuuge technical challenge. We would have spent many man months trying to get this to look good and the reality was that a simple tranquilizer dart would do the same job and only take us a day to implement. So Val's tranq dart was born out of the net gun.

The jetpack used to be an option. Can you imagine playing Evolve and NOT having a jetpack? It was so fun, and so effective to jetpack around as a Hunter that we had to make crazy OP gear to try to compete with it. Everyone took the jetpack and we felt like the Evolve experience was better with it, so eventually we made it standard equipment.

A couple concepts for Griffin's Sound Spike. We chose the one on the left and it hasn't really changed. It proved immediately successful in the battlefield. smile

Originally we thought a concussion weapon that would knock the monster down would be cool. Turns out, being able to bulldoze the monster makes him not feel like a monster. Getting knocked down was a low point of the monster experience so we did away with the idea. Sometimes you have to take a step back and remember what you're making. In a monster game, the monster should be the one doing the knocking around.

Flame Thrower concepts. As cool as these were, I sure like it being part of Hyde's glove.

We concepted lots of different types of hand grenades. Yes, Bait grenades were supposed to make wildlife go agro on the monster but you know what? He didn't care! "Come to me food!"

Heavy machine guns. This is the birth place of Hyde's Minigun and Hank's Laser Cutter.

We built these directional land mines. They were the predecessor to Markov's Arc Mines. You could deploy up to five, and trigger them to detonate with the clicker. When detonated, they would send a blast a specific direction. Turns out, that's really over complicated (simplicity, I have learned, is key to good design) and hard to use. You'd set up some mines and the monster would come from the other direction, so the first thing to go was the directional blast. Triggering them was also frustrating. Sometimes you only wanted to blow up one. Sometimes you wanted to trigger them all. There was no way to choose. Making them trigger automatically made sure they were always effective when they went off. Now all the player need to do was focus on good placement.

If you remember, we were looking to have visual changes apply to the monster when they chose different abilities. This was cool, but ultimately it presented a ton of problems. Aside from the massive amount of extra work it created, we had to find a location for each monster ability. Scorpid's claws were heavily used, but he only has two. So now we had to put restrictions on players and limit them to only two claw based abilities at any given time. And we needed both left and right versions of each of these claws because we never knew what combination of claws the player might like. We built the system, but it was complicated, costly and confusing for players to use. And as a Hunter, you simply didn't notice the model changes.

For Charge Attack, we gave Scorpid a new head piece.

For Spore Cloud, we attached a new tail piece.

And here are some of the claw based models. Poison claw on the top. Grabber claw in the middle. And concussion blast on the bottom.

And since people seem to really love the wildlife concepts, here are some desert wildlife concepts.

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Where were we? Oh yes, milestone #9. This milestone was mostly in-game stuff.

Here's a quick look at the first versions of Abe, Caira, Parnell and Cabot. At this point in time, they could take any gear. Caira wasn't a medic, and Parnell wasn't Assault.

Spotters showed up in the game for the first time. They used to get startled by Hunters too, but that proved confusing for players when they'd set off sound spikes because everyone would just assume that the monster was there.

Scorpid claw model modularity was hooked up.

The environments were starting to look more detailed, but it would still be a while before we figured out how to make the environments feel more foreboding.

The dropship sequence used to be a bit different. You didn't see the interior of the dropship. Instead you saw it in third person while you chose the gear that you wanted to take. Then you'd ride the gondola down to the surface. You can still see the gondola in the dropship interior today, swinging from the ceiling. It's no longer used because we have jetpacks!

Scorpid 2.0 was now in the game and functioning.

And here is some early Parnell pownage! Charge Attack for the win!

In London this weekend


Some NPC concepts:

Ebonstar Soldier. These guys made it to the final game. If you played the Monster tutorial in the beta you got to kill some of these guys.

Ebonstar body. Cause, you know, Monsters.

Christopher Lind. We built a "fuel cell" mission where a transport ship carrying Armadons somehow wound up with a Scorpid on board. The monster wrecked the ship from the inside out. The ship went down, jettisoned it's fuel cells and an SOS was sent. Our Hunters came to save the day. They had to search for the scattered fuel cells that were procedurally placed each round. When you picked one up, you couldn't do anything but carry the fuel cell, couldn't shoot unless you dropped it. Had to bring three fuel cells back to the ship, load them up and then Lind could fly away. All the while Lind would be on radio communication with the Hunters and you'd learn bits of the story. This was strictly a co-op mission against AI monsters. There were three of them roaming the map. If they came across a fuel cell, they'd swallow them, gaining energy over time. If you killed it, you could get the fuel cell from its dead body. Anyway, the mission had its moments, but you couldn't play it in versus mode and it was boring in between monster fights. It didn't have that sense of urgency that Hunt, Nest, Rescue and Defend all do.

Dr. Alan Miles. We also experimented with POI's (Points of Interests.) These were procedurally spawned goodies that could show up in any map. Sometimes it might be an ammo cache (back before we had unlimited ammo). Sometimes it might be a downed Ebonstar Ship with a soldier you could rescue (or eat if you were the monster). Sometimes it might be a medical outpost with a crazy doctor who would give you first aid (back before we had medics.) Alan Miles was one of those. Eventually a lot of these ideas would get rolled into campaign effects for Evacuation mode.

Additional Parasite Monster concepts. If you scroll up you can find an earlier concept. The idea was that this monster would command a bunch of parasites instead of use abilities. You would carry the grubs on your back, and when you pressed the ability button, they would jump off and go attack whatever you aimed at. During the ability cooldown, more grubs would be growing on your back to replace the ones you just sent.

Basic Grub. These little guys were just straight forward fighters. They were fast, could jump pretty far and would do decent damage.

These egg layers would jump on a Hunter's back. If they weren't shot off by a teammate, they would lay an egg in the Hunter. If the Hunter didn't use a medkit in X amount of time, the egg would hatch, dealing damage to the Hunter and spawning a new egg layer grub that would try to attach again to continue the cycle. This was a horrible idea! lol It was the worst. smile

Mine grubs would attach to objects and just sit and wait for a Hunter or wildlife to walk by. Then they would explode, dealing massive damage. These were really fun.

Some prototype Evolve footage ten months into production. Footage is taken from milestone videos that we used to make at the end of each month. This was some of the earliest playtesting in co-op mode against an AI controlled Monster. The Monster in the video is Scorpid, an earlier version of Goliath. The "monkeys" eventually became Reavers. Cupcakes and steaks were placeholder food models for the monster to eat before the code was able to support eating ragdolls. You can also see some prototype Hunter UI, weapons, equipment and models here.

Trappers "hook"
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