Back 4 Blood is the spiritual successor to the much-beloved Left 4 Dead games. Since the closed Alpha has ended, some fans feel that Back 4 Blood is either too similar to, or too different from, Left 4 Dead and that Valve should have been the company to publish the game. However, Left 4 Dead’s journey from Valve to Turtle Rock Studios is something that may change the way that you look at Back 4 Blood—and might be the reason you should play the game.
The story of Back 4 Blood, Turtle Rock Studios, and Valve’s involvement go all the way back to 1999 with the first Counter-Strike game. If you weren’t aware, Counter-Strike originated as a Half-Life mod, a mod that Turtle Rock Studios’ Chris Aston worked on. When Valve bought the Counter-Strike mod, Ashton was offered a job, which he ultimately accepted.
However, Ashton’s love of classic cars and hatred of Seattle rain forced him to leave Valve to co-launch Turtle Rock Studios with Phil Robb. Valve asked Turtle Rock Studios to continue contributing to Counter-Strike’s development. Turtle Rock Studios did so, but there was a thirst for something different, something that Turtle Rock could call it’s own. In an interview with Game Informer in 2014, Turtle Rock Studios’ co-founders discussed how they came to be the creators of Left 4 Dead while working on Counter-Strike.
As it turns out, the staff at Turtle Rock had been getting increasingly competitive with each other while playing Counter-Strike around the office. It got to the point where personal grudges were beginning to develop, so Robb and Ashton looked for ways that they could play together, on a team, against AI. This idea led to a Counter-Strike mod where the terrorists would carry knives while the players would attempt to survive. Eventually, this mod would become the Left 4 Dead that we all know and love. When Robb and Ashton showed Valve what they were working on, Valve decided to fund the project and purchase Turtle Rock Studios.
However, the two studios struggled to work in unison and amicably split in 2010 with Valve maintaining the rights to Left 4 Dead but giving the Turtle Rock Studios name and logo back to Robb and Ashton. Gabe Newson, managing director of Valve at the time, was actually the one who suggested that Turtle Rock become independent again and continue to work as they had been—an idea that Robb described as “freakin’ awesome.” When asked if he missed having control of the IP for Left 4 Dead, Robb said, “Yeah, you know, sure. But uh, you know, I mean, that’s games.”
Turtle Rock continued to work with Valve, but as an independent studio once again. The next IP that Turtle Rock would work on was a game called Evolve, which was purchased by Take-Two Interactive for $11 million when THQ—the publisher that originally bought Evolve—filed for bankruptcy. After getting good reviews, though, Evolve began to lose players and Take-Two ultimately ended its support for the game.
From 2016 until now, Turtle Rock Studios had been working on several different VR projects, until Warner Bros. Studios announced it would publish Back 4 Blood. From Half-Life mod until now, Turtle Rock Studios has been the team behind the Left 4 Dead games that have stuck in our minds all of these years. Now, they are back to finish what they started with Back 4 Blood.
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