It has been nine years since Left 4 Dead 2 released and without any solid evidence that we'll be getting a Left 4 Dead 3 anytime soon, I thought all hope had been lost for the revival of one of my favourite co-op shooters. Thankfully developer, HoloSpark have stepped up to keep the torch burning with their new title, Earthfall, which they're describing as Left 4 Dead, with aliens.
We had the opportunity to chat to Collin Moore, HoloSpark’s Senior Community Manager, to talk about Earthfall’s Left 4 Dead influences, how Early Access has shaped the game and which updates we have to look forward to.
GameWatcher: Can you give us a brief overview of Earthfall, please?
Collin Moore: Earthfall is a four-player co-op shooter. It's coming to Xbox and PlayStation this Spring and it's also available now on Steam Early Access. The easiest way to describe it is Left 4 Dead with aliens. We are not afraid to compare ourselves! We are huge fans of Left 4 Dead and we just wanted to put a modern twist on it and put our own flavour to it.
GameWatcher: Which other existing games have you taken inspiration from when developing Earthfall
Collin Moore: We've played a lot of different games in this kind of genre, our team is largely built from people who worked on first-person shooter games: Destiny, Condemned and F.E.A.R. Our pedigree as an office is built on first-person shooters. We have just really enjoyed playing those games, and we play everything under the sun like Left 4 Dead mods, Fortnite and some other games. We like a little bit of every flavour that's happening right now in the gaming space.
GameWatcher: What new features have you added to Earthfall to refresh and update the co-op survival shooter genre?
Collin Moore: One of the biggest things that we've added to Earthfall compared to other games in the genre is we actually have barricades that users can use and deploy and put into something, like, let's say a door jam. That will allow the user to either refill their health, help another player out, or potentially reload their weapon. This could potentially give them the extra four or five seconds that could be the decider in a life or death scenario. The other thing you can do is you can actually print weapons on 3D printers. When you are in the world, you can find a 3D printer. If it has power, you can go and print a weapon out. We find that that’s more of an interesting twist than just having weapons scattered around the world.
GameWatcher: On the Earthfall forums I noticed that a few people have requested that you include a wave survival mode. Is that something that you’re looking to add to the game?
Collin Moore: We are thinking about what we are doing for DLC and we haven't announced anything at this point. We think Horde is a really exciting and fun genre. This is something we'd love to do in the future.
GameWatcher: How has Early Access impacted development?
Collin Moore: Early Access has actually been really huge. There are pros and cons of releasing a game when it's unfinished, but the one thing that's been a huge positive is the feedback that we've gotten from our community and our fans. We are a small team, we can't find every bug in the game so people trying out the game really helps. We’ve also had additional feedback of what works and what doesn't. In addition, we have passive data, so we have data servers that actually record games, so we can investigate where players die, what their favourite weapons are and things like that. It gives us a great deal of data to be able to figure out what's working and what isn't. It's been great to be in Early Access. It is also a challenge of course. You have to change the way you make games, and that was an adjustment for all of us on our team, but we feel that it’s really important to be out early and get it in front of our audience.
GameWatcher: What sort of difficulties have you encountered while developing Earthfall?
Collin Moore: The biggest challenge was staying focused on trying to work on the game, versus making the game better. We had to continue making progress rather than focus on the immediate needs of what the community was telling us that we should be working on, whether it was a bug or something else. For example, we may have had a handful of people that would be saying something on the forum versus us saying, "we want to get this feature done, when we get this feature done it'll be really cool, but you want us to work on this other thing that we will probably work on as well but we need to make sure we are diverting resources in the most appropriate places".
GameWatcher: With all the data you've got, knowing where people die and what they like, does having access to that data get annoying? I'm sure at certain points you do want players to have a challenging moment, but you might get players saying it's too difficult.
Collin Moore: That stuff helps us fine tune the game and find places where the audience's emotion isn't being backed up by data. There have been situations where people have been like "it's way too hard!", and then we'll go look at the data and be like "in the last two weeks, ninety-eight percent of games have been completed". There's a disconnect in some places. It's finding those sorts of anomalies and figuring out what the data is telling us that we have to look at to decide on what we should and should not be working on, or paying attention to.
GameWatcher What sort of updates do we have to look forward in the next few months?
Collin Moore: Our biggest update is that the game is going to be out! It comes out this Spring, and it's coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, too. We are really excited to be coming to consoles, it's a totally new market for us. With that update, we are also releasing three new maps where there's a bunch of performance improvements, but that's going to be our final release for version 1.0. We haven't announced anything for DLC but we do plan on supporting the game moving forward.
GameWatcher: Will you be supporting modding at all on PC?
Collin Moore: User-generated content is something that we are always interested in. It takes a fairly significant amount of resources to do it correctly. Our focus right now is making the best game with our content as possible. It's something that's on our wishlist for the future, but it does take a lot of resources to do it well. There's wanting to have it and there's wanting to do it well. If we do it, we want to do it well.
GameWatcher: It's funny that you played the Left 4 Dead mods but your game doesn't support mods.
Collin Moore: The big difference is that Valve is a team of five hundred people. We have 27 people working on Earthfall. We have to be very calculative of where we put our resources into working on things.
GameWatcher: You mentioned Fortnite earlier, and one of the main things that comes to mind when talking about Fortnite is cross-platform play. Is this something you've considered for Earthfall?
Collin Moore: It's something we’ve looked into. Technically our game runs on peer-to-peer, so one of the players is the servers. We don't have dedicated servers. If we had dedicated servers, we could potentially explore doing cross-play. Depending on how successful the game is, it's something we may revisit in the future. Especially for other countries like Oceanic, getting into Australia, New Zealand, stuff like that, making sure people are getting strong, solid connections.
GameWatcher: What sort of PC specs will be needed to run Earthfall on max settings?
Collin Moore: We were actually really shocked at PAX last week, we were running the game at over thirty frames per second on an integrated graphics chip. You will be able to run Earthfall at 1080p/30FPS on a fourth-generation Intel processor, like an i5 4xxx series with a GTX 750Ti, something in that range. AMD just released the 2200G which is the Vega chipset with Ryzen built in. We are working to make sure that that screams, because being able to build a computer for $400 and be able to get 1080p/60FPS would be pretty awesome.
GameWatcher: When is Earthfall scheduled to release?
Collin Moore: We have not announced a release date but we will have that news soon.
If you’re a fan of Left 4 Dead, you will not want to miss Earthfall. If you’re as impatient as us, you can even begin taking out these crazy alien species with your friends right now, as the game is available on Steam Early Access.