Turtle Rock co-founder Phil Robb has explained why the Left 4 Dead developer decided to leave Valve, and what it's like working alongside the sometimes enigmatic Seattle outfit.
Speaking at a press event for Evolve, Turtle Rock's new co-op shooter that's found itself at publisher 2K after the closure of original backer THQ, Robb detailed how the relationship worked between the developer and Valve.
"Here's the thing, we had a really great working relationship with Valve for like six years as an independent studio," said Robb. "And then they bought us, and things changed - as they do."
Valve acquired Turtle Rock early in 2008 as the pair were working on the original Left 4 Dead. Turtle Rock became Valve South, and the game eventually shipped in October the same year.
"Co-developing and working on one product, when both teams, two super tight-knit teams, are 800 miles apart, it's a nightmare," said Robb. "There was a lot of tripping over each other. At the end of the day, after we shipped it, no-one was really happy with how it worked. So we sat down with Gabe [Newell] and talked about it, and it just made the most sense that, y'know, why don't we go back to what we knew worked, which is us going independent again, and certainly they'd have work for us."
The studio continued to work with Valve on the Left 4 Dead series, helping to create additional content for the 2009 sequel, and eventually Phil Robb and Chris Ashton re-formed the studio in 2010.
"For Chris and I, this is the best place we've ever worked," explained Robb. "We've worked at EA and all these other places, and we don't want that to end. Turtle Rock was almost like a sanctuary for abused game developers. It really was - all our guys were senior guys who've been in the industry for 10-15 years, and we loved it.
"Faced with the prospect of that going away, we were like, we're not businessmen, we don't know what the f**k we're doing, but I don't want to go and work for anyone else. Valve was kind enough to give us our name back, and that's when we did all the DLC that we did for them. Eventually that work dries up, and I thought if we're going to do something big, that's the time to do it."
Working alongside Valve wasn't without its frustrations, with the infamous 'Valve time' becoming an issue. "Whenever we were working with Valve, it was kind of crazy," said Robb. "They take their time, y'know? Valve time's a well-known thing, but for us it was like we want to get this s**t done.
"The culture changed a lot when we became Valve, and not all of it was what we felt was the right way to go, and it wasn't the way that we wanted to work. Once we came back out we got a lot of it back. We had most of the Turtle Rock guys who stuck with us, and for the most part that team's still with us. Our culture has changed, but I feel really good about the way things are going."
Evolve, meanwhile, is shaping up to be a continuation of Turtle Rock's co-op philosophy. We've got a handful more details on the site today.