You may not have heard of Turtle Rock Studios but you most likely have played games they helped to developed. The company has team up with Valve Software on a number of projects, including the popular Counter-Strike: Source port. Now Turtle Rock has announced plans to release their own first person shooter. FiringSquad got a chance to ask some questions with company founder and CEO Michael Booth to find out more about Turtle Rock as well as other topics.
First, for people who may not be familiar with Turtle Rock, how was the company itself formed?
I founded Turtle Rock Studios in early 2002 after becoming disillusioned with the short sightedness and stifling atmosphere of big corporate game development. Seeing passionate, talented people become pigeonholed and embittered time and again proved to me that this was the wrong way to build games.
I have always believed that real collaboration between talented people results in great things. People pay lip service to this, but very few actually practice it. When schedule pressure hits, and the suits need your product for fiscal quarter revenues, the safe game design is chosen and everyone is sent to their cubicles to hammer it out. Ongoing discussion is discouraged, and there is no time for design iteration.
Real collaboration means having artists, engineers, designers - everyone in the studio - feel like they can genuinely discuss the game with everyone else, have some actual debate, and end up with a better game as a result.
That is the reason and principle on which I founded Turtle Rock Studios. We playtest, discuss, and iterate on our games almost every day.
How did the name of the company come to be chosen?
I wanted an enigmatic and weirdly memorable studio name without being sophomoric. I didn't want the name to be too specific to a type of videogame because I have a wide range of project ideas.
Finally, the neighborhood where I live encircles "turtle rock hill". The name seemed to be just what I was looking for.
The company's first project was the official Counter-Strike AI bot, but you quickly branched out by assisting Valve on the Counter-Strike Xbox game and the PC title Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Were you surprised at how much work the company had to do in such a short amount of time?
Definitely surprised, but in a good way. It was refreshingly encouraging to see the amount of belief and trust Valve had in my fledgling studio for them to trust such a huge set of projects to it.
What can you tell us about Turtle Rock's work on Counter-Strike: Source?
We worked closely with Valve during the development of Counter-Strike: Source before its initial release. While we had been finishing work on Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, an internal team at Valve had built Counter-Strike: Source to a functional state. We then joined the project and helped finalize and polish the initial release.
Since its release, Turtle Rock Studios has taken the lead with respect to ongoing development of Counter-Strike: Source and has continued to add content and new features, as well as fix bugs and exploits.
How hard is it to port a game that has such a massive following and one which will likely nitpick every change and alteration made to the original game?
It is absolutely a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it is awesome to be able to work on a game that has such worldwide appeal and such an active online community. You know that *every bit*
of detail you work hard to add to the game will be noticed, dissected, and debated.
On the other hand, you have to harden yourself a bit against the very vocal and flammable minority of the CS community that hates everything you do. According to these folks, every release "ruins the game", every new map "sucks", and any new art that is added is "lame". They have been predicting the demise of Counter-Strike for nearly a decade now, in spite of the ongoing growth of the overall community.
I frequently read the various major Counter-Strike forums (as do many people at both Turtle Rock and Valve) and have learned to take the good with the bad. As painful as it can be sometimes to wade through threads of flameage, there is no substitute for getting clear feedback on how an update was received and what the perceived gains and losses were to the game experience.