Darwinian Overlay: Evolve Enters Open Beta

You might be aware of Evolve, which has quietly been developing in closed beta up until today. It’s a fairly neat piece of software for gamers: an open gaming platform with various functionality such as chat, VOIP, partying systems with integrated VPN, stats and achievement tracking, and so on. With the big companies trying to corner their bit of the PC market with their own digital download system and accompanying social doohickeys – Steam, Origin, Battle.net etc – this is one way to centralise your social gaming stuff while remaining independent of a publisher’s platform. I mean, hell, I only use one IM chat client, and this serves much the same purpose. Evolve’s mandate is to offer a system that exists alongside the diversity of PC games and digital distribution systems, offering the various systems you might want and it’s a pretty good attempt at doing that. It even has screenshot and video recording in there. As an overlay it already offers a bit more functionality than Steam, especially with older games that can use VPN setups. It still needs a lot of work, but it’s worth taking a look at the open beta, is what I am saying. Evolve have created a special RPS group sign up page here.


  1. Tams80 says:

    Just what I was looking for!

  2. jezcentral says:

    Possibly the most important thing in social gaming to appear since Steam?

    I’d love a WIT of the beta, as I want RPS to have a close look at this before I start doling out my Steam details. (This is the first I’ve heard of Evolve.)

    • Mr_Initials says:

      WIT is that it has potential but there are not enough people on it. Really no use when I had steam to use. I do like the VPN, but I never got very far with it.

  3. Richard Beer says:

    Video recording, you say? Does this work with Origin, too?

    i.e., could I start playing BF3 with Evolve and record video of my game? Likewise Skyrim etc in Steam? That seems a bit too good to be true (and possibly signals the death of Fraps).

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I haven’t tested the video capture, but I will have a look a bit later.

    • Richard Beer says:

      Cheers Jim.

      This incredibly boring YouTube video suggests that it works pretty well, even recording audio of people with annoying voices who don’t know what they’re talking about: link to youtube.com

      Would love to know your thoughts, though, rather than relying on that.

  4. jezcentral says:

    Also, what’s the business model? A subscription? Ads?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I think there’s a premium version of it you can sign up to. No ads so far.

    • jezcentral says:

      Cheers. I’m actually very excited by this.

      Alas, I’m betting GFWL coverage will be a big, fat No from Microsoft.

    • mamu says:

      We plan on charging for (not yet introduced) premium features in the future, like broadcasting, unrestricted screenshot sharing, and so on. We don’t intend to introduce any obtrusive advertising, although promoting games via the service may eventually become one of our revenue streams as well.

    • Tams80 says:

      Sounds like it could be good for games journalism (like Total Biscuit or Blue Xephos), with everything in one place.

    • Nice Save says:

      I like that you don’t include RPS in your examples of games journalism.

    • icehouse says:

      Yogscast/TB are great, hilarious guys but I wouldn’t call them journalists by a long shot.

  5. Megagun says:

    Please tell me they’re using something like XMPP without locking it down, so that we could at least connect to their IM network via one of many XMPP clients available. If they’re using their own proprietary instant messaging protocol, I don’t see them getting anywhere..

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yes, it would be nice to finally have an in-game communicator which doesn’t require the others to launch Steam or X-fire specifically to reach you.

      (Although having a smartphone next to the computer significantly reduced my need in this matter.)

    • hexapodium says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s XMPP compatible: it can definitely connect out to other XMPP servers, and contacts on those are functionally equivalent to ones on Evolve (i.e. you can reply ingame to any received message, including those that aren’t using Evolve)

    • mamu says:

      We’re definitely planning on opening up XMPP support for chat in the future. As was pointed out, you can actually add various XMPP accounts to the client, although we don’t yet officially support using third party XMPP clients to chat on Evolve. It’ll be coming soon, though! And we totally agree that closing off the chat network would be a bad idea. :)

  6. Gnoupi says:

    I remember trying this in closed beta, but had some issues with games I was running in a window.
    Will give it another try, to see what changed in the meantime.

  7. Synchrony says:

    Impressive that the RPS group is currently over 10% of the total user base

    • Gnoupi says:

      That’s because they were part of the closed beta which occurred a few months ago.

  8. HexagonalBolts says:

    The problem with trying to create a social gaming platform is that, as with a social website, it’s useless unless a large percentage of your friends have it – most especially if another website has a large percentage of your friends. At the moment steam is the only website that offers a large enough variety of tempting offers and games to guarantee that every single gamer I’ve ever wanted to socialise with has it. The social parts aren’t even that well thought out on steam (there’s no status option – I’d love to be able to broadcast ‘anyone up for a game of xxxx ?’)

    • mamu says:

      The cold start problem is a very serious one for any social platform, ours included. But we’ve tried to deal with it by being as open as possible and we’re aiming to be more open in the future. Currently, that means you can chat with friends on nearly every major IM network (no Steam chat support yet, but we’re pondering it)–which saves your friends from having to join Evolve to make Evolve useful for you (at least as a chat client) (sorry for all these parentheses)

    • Xerian says:

      (Its okay)
      Also; Damn me and my terrible memory. Just recalled that I got into the closed beta but never actually used it… Which just made me recall that I’m in the Tribes: Ascend beta aswell… Oh god, Ensemble Online alpha too D:
      … Dear god, I just realised I’m an idiot… o_o’

  9. Kaira- says:

    So, it’s a bit like Xfire, except more of everything? Sounds good.

  10. sinister agent says:

    But I haven’t tried the first two Evolvs yet.

  11. Crimsoneer says:

    So hold on, isn’t this a lot like x-fire, which is a lot like Steam? What does this actually add to my life that Steam doesn’t already do?

    • mjig says:

      Nothing, really. I downloaded it in beta and tried it for a few hours before realizing that it doesn’t really need to exist. I am sure that some people who are obsessed with “community” and being able to show other people their stats all the time will enjoy it, but not good for much else.

      When was the last time you logged into xfire or raptr, really? How many friends do you have on there? This is no different.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think vlan is the major difference.

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      That was my initial thought. “Oh. Aren’t there like 3 or 4 other things like this I’m already not using but wish worked really well and all my friends used?”

  12. SandmanXC says:

    I’m using Raptr. Any reason to switch to this?

  13. airtekh says:

    I installed this ages ago when RPS first mentioned t it. The virtual LAN stuff works like a charm.

    Their matchmaking is what interests me the most though. Hopefully this open beta can give it what it desperately needs: more players.

  14. quaunaut says:

    The problem I had with this, is it’s a bit of a RAM hog. Digsby is already pretty bad about that, and it’s between 40 and 80mb lower than Evolve all the time, let alone when you’re doing anything. And that was the base client, without being logged in on all my IM protocols.

    If they can get that lower, say to around 100mb? They’ll have me. But anything more and I just can’t justify it, honestly.

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      The base client is taking 68MB of RAM on my PC. Thats about the same amount of RAM Skype requires.
      And 100 or 200 MB of Ram in times where you can get 8GB for 40 bucks?
      Of course, not every application should be a RAM hog but I really don’t see Evolve being one.

    • mamu says:

      We’re very much not as low as we’d like to be for RAM usage. We’ve been mostly focused on rolling out new features over the past year, but we’re finally settling in for some serious polish and reducing memory usage is one of our major goals in the coming month or two.

      That said, we’re unlikely to be able to reduce it to much below 100MB — perhaps 70-80MB will be the target for a normal range.

  15. MuscleHorse says:

    None of the games I’ve tried with it have played ball (Saints Row 3, Dungeons of Dredmor, Skyrim) but I’ll keep it installed to see how it… evolves over the next few weeks.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      I haven’t installed SR3 or Skyrim yet, but Dungeons of Dredmor do not support even Steam overlay for me (that’s one reason why I play it in window). I know about the supposed solution (adding -opengl or something similar to the command line) but it didn’t work for me too. So the game is quite resistant to such… extensions.

  16. BAshment says:

    video capture is a desirable feature especially if it is a free. Something tells me that steam will offer this eventually. They have already added a screen shot feature it seems like the next logical step.

    • InternetBatman says:

      How often does Valve release new features for Steam? I know they did Steamguard this year, but are they steadily developing anything right now?

    • DevinH says:

      @InternetBatman They’ve been promising Big Picture Mode (for using on an HDTV) for a while now. That one might be appearing soon.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      I wouldn’t trust Steam with “features”. Steam has screenshot ability, and it’s worse than FRAPS. Steam has voice chat, but it’s worse than Skype, not to mention specialised services (I have 2 sec lag when I use that chat while playing L4D on LAN, and I have troubles connecting). Steam has synchronising service named Cloud, but it’s the worst synchronising service I know, without any settings and with very small size limit (and buggy as hell). I’m pretty sure than if Steam added video capture, I would have to disable it to not embarrass myself. Steams good features are achievements, some community aspects and sales (for customers) and DRM and marketing abilities (for publishers).

  17. abigbat says:

    Evolva 2??

  18. ZIGS says:

    They’re making an xfire competitor at a time when xfire is all but dead (mainly thanks to Steam). Good move!

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      Lacking support for Dx10/11 games didn’t help Xfire either.
      I think the demand for such a tool is there. Xfire just killed itself.

    • Gnoupi says:

      The fact that you could only use xfire’s overlay with the games from their list was what killed it for me.

      I play a lot of games which are not in the COD series, or other starcraft. And I got tired of waiting 2 weeks to get a game added by them to be able to use the overlay in there.

      Steam came and allowed me to add almost any game to the list, and use their overlay in it, that’s all I needed. Never opened x-fire since.

    • ZIGS says:

      Exactly. Both Steam and being sold to new owners was xfire’s demise

  19. CaspianRoach says:

    But I can’t turn Steam off because I need it to open my games and why would I want two overlays/game clients running at once?

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      Well, its not really a game client. Think more of it like an IM client that works as one central social hub. You can link your Steam and Xbox Live (and whatever) profiles there so friends can see your progress/achievements and playtimes in all your games without checking verious websites. Also it’s one central hub where you can chat and talk to all friends, no matter which digital distribution plattform or game client they are using. (Someone only playing Blizzard and EA games will most likely not be using Steam)

      Of course for some people it might be redundant, for some it isn’t.

      I (and surely others) have been waiting for some kind of “centralized gaming IM” for some time now as Xfire went the wrong direction recently.

  20. meloncrab says:

    Can anyone who’s used the virtual LAN function compare its performance to services like Tungle oder Hamachi?

    • InternetBatman says:

      I second this. I’m using Hamachi right now for D&D and not terribly impressed with it. Is the vlan better on this?

    • mamu says:

      We may still have a few issues in Evolve’s party system (the VPN), but we think we’re a bit better than Hamachi. For starters, we don’t use the 5.x.x.x IP space, instead opting for normal private addresses in the 10.x.x.x space (like your router, although we do our best not to conflict). This makes a fair number of games play a bit nicer.

      We also have a forcebind feature that can be use to make the VPN work in games which require adjusting adapter priority and/or mucking out with your routes list. We’ve not enabled it on too many games just yet, but we’re continuing to enable it as necessary.

  21. Bobtree says:

    Does Evolve not have voice chat? I would try it but I’ve been using Xfire almost since it launched for group voice chat during my weekly game nights.

    Xfire has had some bad snafu’s lately. It now prevents some GFWL games from logging in (see link to xfire.com), and the Xfire in-game overlay does not stay globally disabled when it is restarted (the option is ignored until you re&un-toggle it again), so I have to manually disable in-game for every game to prevent it from running (because I use D3Doverrider to force triple-buffering and a conflict with the Xfire overlay will crash games).

    No-hassle VPN between friends for gaming is definitely the killer feature, but there are already dedicated systems like GameRanger for this (and makeshift ones like Comodo and Hamachi). Can anyone compare Evolve’s VPN feature for us?

    • Synchrony says:

      Evolva does have VoIP and the VPN, in my experience, is as good as hamachi but way easier to use. Also linking in to loads of IM programs and web based IM’s (facebook, google talk etc) and having a built in, completely free, fraps-a-like is quite good.
      Devs are also very friendly and are usually around to answer any questions/help out with any issues. they’ve been in the rps group chat room nearly all day.

  22. cronach says:

    I would have loved for something like this to have existed in the Quake days. My Quake 1/2/3 frags must have numbered in the MILLIONS after all those years of playing those games constantly. I was like a Quake Stalin essentially.

  23. Slaschnikoff says:

    Is anyone else having trouble logging into the site? I can’t login to the website nor the client… (changed my pword like 3 times lol)

  24. Ezhar says:

    “Quit playing with yourself” did make me smile a bit.