Evolve and Left 4 Dead creator Turtle Rock has announced a new co-operative shooter with strong dark fantasy elements for free-to-play online game publisher Perfect World (Neverwinter, Star Trek Online).
"We're focusing on what we do best," studio co-founder Phil Robb told GamesIndustry.biz, "heart-pounding moment-to-moment online co-op FPS action."
The game has no revealed name but will use Unreal Engine and be released 2018. Platforms aren't mentioned but PC is a given.
"There will be plenty of baddies to shoot up but it is not a 'zombie game' or anything post-apocalyptic," Turtle Rock general manager and president Steve Goldstein added. "What we can say right now is there's a strong dark fantasy element to it."
A free-to-play business model isn't explicitly confirmed but, given Perfect World's portfolio as well as Turtle Rock's evangelising of F2P following Evolve's transition, is highly likely.
"We can't overstate how helpful [F2P] is to us as developers," said Goldstein.
"With a service-based title we can react to players' behavior instantly. If we see something that players don't like, we can modify it in the next patch. Same goes for things that users are enjoying or playstyles that we didn't anticipate. With Evolve: Stage 2 we were releasing an update every week with changes to the game that were based on our users' reactions. We expect to implement this process at the outset on our new title.
"To us, boxed product is like a speech, a developer is telling something to its audience and they have to listen. With free-to-play, it's a conversation and we love that dialog with our players."
Turtle Rock has two virtual reality games in development - Other Worlds and Face Your Fears - but hasn't decided on VR in relation to the new IP yet. Apparently eSports isn't on the agenda.
Turtle Rock, an independent studio, numbers around 70 people but wants to expand to 100, and aims to have multiple projects on the go (one big project plus a couple of smaller projects, presumably).
Earlier this year Turtle Rock walked wholesale away from Evolve, the 4v1, humans vs. monster co-operative shooter that charmed at game shows but struggled to sell. The lesson Goldstein took from it all was that "the triple-A boxed product is just not a welcome home for independent developers". "It's now a nearly impossible proposition, actually," he said.
"The major publishers out there are spending [over] $100 million on developing the next iteration of a franchise... and at the same time, they are increasingly hesitant to spend on new IP."
Even if an independent studio sells a new IP to a publisher, the budget won't be able to compete with a blockbuster - though it will be high enough as to be "almost impossible to receive any royalties" on.
"Your best prospect in making a new boxed-product IP is to hope you sell enough units that a sequel is greenlit, which again will be at an even higher budget than what you had on the first title. The cycle continues and you still won't be profitable," he added. "We are now at a point where a $60 asking price will be solely left to the domain of already-established franchises."