Stolen Pixels #96: Left 4 Dumb, Part 14

By Shamus
on Jun 5, 2009
Filed under:
Column

Kill it! Kill it with fire!

Played a little Left 4 Dead last night. The last two weeks of spastic Team Fortress 2 seem to have blunted my L4D skills. At one point I ran into a teammate and thought, “AH! A SPY!” (In TF2, teammates are ethereal, while spies-posing-as-teammates are solid. In L4D, teammates are solid-ish. You sort of shove through them like they were made of water.)

Yes, I heard about Left 4 Dead 2. Yes, I heard about the controversy. I’m actually not too worked up about it. Yes, I’d rather they just released more content for the original game, but after logging 100 hours on L4D I can’t really call the thing “lacking in content” with a straight face.

Listening to the developer commentary, I can see how this sequel came about. The original game was made with the specific goal in mind of cutting down on development times. The AI director turned weeks of work into hours, letting them focus on making content. A sequel in a year is the fruit of that innovation.

This is a first for me: Whether or not I get L4D2 at launch or not will depend very much on what my friends do. There is no point in paying full price for the game just to play single player. (Or worse, play with the unwashed masses.)

There are a lot of concerns about the game. The L4D community isn’t all that big to begin with, and to have the player base riven by a sequel might very well drop both titles below the critical threshold needed to quickly acquire and populate games.

But allow me to stipulate: No matter how good Left 4 Dead 2 may be, we’re not going to forget about Half-Life 2: Episode 3, Valve. This doesn’t even earn you a reprieve. The community is waiting, arms folded, scowling and tapping their feet while you dribble out a stream of stuff for Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2. We are not so easily distracted. Every day you delay sees the erosion of goodwill and the intensification of expectations. That usually doesn’t end well.

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201939 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. ATMachine says:

    In other E3 news, Shamus, did you hear about the new Monkey Island series from Telltale?

  2. Zukhramm says:

    One problem I see with L4D2 is this:

    Me and my friends suddenly find ourselves in need for some zombie-blasting and decide to start up L4D2, we start up the game and play through one campaign. After this we wish to play another campaign, this time, one of the original ones.

    Will we need to quit L4D2 and start up L4D? That might not seem like much, but having to do it all the time will get annoying and that little extra effort required might easily make us say “Nah, can’t be bothered to play more right now”. This would be even more annoying if playing survivor, since the rounds are much shorter and switching between maps is more common.

  3. I really enjoy L4D, so I’m sure that I will get L4D2 as soon as it comes out.

    You’re always welcome to play with me and my husband, Shamus.

    Leslee

  4. B.J. says:

    I remember reading a review of Half-Life 2 once which was nothing more than a timeline of all the hype, press releases, delays, missed release dates, and re-release compilation packs of Half-Life 1, over the course of the 6 year development time.

    Then it ended with, “SO WHY IS THIS GAME SO GOOD?!?” By all accounts Half-Life 2, and Valve with it, should be a colossal failure. But they’re not. It seems Valve is the only company that can get away with this, however.

  5. lebkin says:

    @B.J.
    Valve isn’t the only one who gets away with super long development time. Their fellow PC powerhouse Blizzard does the same thing. We have already waited over ten years for a Starcraft sequel and will probably wait that long for Diablo 3 as well. But, just like Valve, the games will be worth the wait.

  6. Randy Johnson says:

    I will be buying L4D2 the day it comes out, so you will still have me to play with, Shamus.

  7. Gregory Weir says:

    Doug Lombardi has said “Trust us a bit, there’s more L4D content coming.” I also remember reading in a reputable source that they’re gonna try and put the original campaigns in L4D2.

  8. Wolverine says:

    A marketing blunder. If they had announced it as a stand-alone datadisk (remember them?), they would not get this outrage. They are well within their rights to create a sequel, but to call it L4D2 when all that will be new will be new characters, weapons and maps is a mistake.

  9. TehShrike says:

    DaytonLowell and myself will be getting it on release day, I’m sure – and we’ll want some people with skillz to help us beat it, eh?

  10. Snook says:

    Damnit, I couldn’t afford L4D and still got it. Now I need TF2 to play with some friends, a 360 to play with OTHER friends, and now L4D2. My budget can’t accommodate this!

  11. Pocket Nerd says:

    I’m sure I’ll grab L4D2*, so there’s one more to add to Twenty Sided’s survivor list.

    * Kinda sounds like R2D2’s sibling, doesn’t it?

  12. ngthagg says:

    This part of the protest caught my eye: “L4D2 is too colourful to fit in with L4D1’s visual aesthetic”

    Please say that this isn’t the rainbows and unicorns complaint again.

  13. Rob says:

    The L4D2 trailer makes it seems like we won’t have unlimited pistol ammo anymore, which makes me sad. The last thing I want to do in a zombiepocolypse is have to fight them in hand to hand.

    I’m not entirely happy that L4D2 is coming out so soon I want to enjoy L4D more and feel that the game deserves a longer shelf life than one year. I don’t know if I’ll be getting L4D2 when it comes out, I’ll probably wait until it goes on sale.

    I also worry that this time next year Valve is going to announce L4D3 instead of supporting L4D2 and I really don’t want L4D to turn into a Madden NFL.

  14. Vladius says:

    “L4D2 is too colourful to fit in with L4D1’s visual aesthetic” from the “Manifesto” of the boycott group.

    WAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAAH!

    Seriously, do gamers ever quit whining about something that doesn’t matter? They also whined about “fiddle music.” If they want people to join their cause, they shouldn’t attack every petty little grievance they have with a game that they will still probably buy because they’re fans of the first. These boycotts never amount to much.

  15. Johannes says:

    My bad feelings come from the fact that they made it seem like there’s going to be more blood & gore. Well, I don’t mind that, but there’s going to be a limit to the way I’m willing to rip apart humans (ok, humanoids, that’s the nice effect of de-humanization – after all, we’re talking insane, infected human-alikes now). And in L8D, what will we have? Axes, baseball bats, and even a chainsaw, with which we’ll be able to go harvesting limbs and what not. Sounds a little too sadistic to me, and that’s definately not what I’m playing this game for – that has always been the very strong multiplayer component.

    Also, the semi-religious hints at the start of the trailer was a big let-down for me. Didn’t like the cussing – the g-words (s-words and f-words are no problem) – in L4D, don’t like out-of-place references to religion now.

    Well, that, and the new characters… they just don’t convince me, from the footage I’ve seen so far.

    Lastly, in my eyes the clips released show a game that’s not polished. Daylight levels that somehow don’t feel as haunting as the original L4D levels (there you go, the colorful level argument!), weapons that emit toyish sounds… Valve’s not having much more months before release. Seems prone to recieving bad reviews to me. Very un-Valve…

    @Rob: there’s a gameplay clip that features the text “pistols have unlimited ammo”. So my guess would be that your fear is unfounded… Which would be fortunate indeed.

    @Vladius: oh yes, I almost forgot. I too think that the music I heard in the L8D footage sounds way more ‘fiddlish’ than the very strong soundtrack L4D featured. I often find music in video games in general very much lacking of good quality and depth.

  16. Caliban says:

    I’m definitely getting L4D2 when it comes out, I’ve had too much fun with L4d1.

    Haven’t really been able to get into TF2 – the server is either full/empty or I get frustrated after 10 minutes of walking out of respawn and dying within 30 seconds from a spy/pyro/sniper I didn’t see. :p (Which is kinda sad, because years ago I was really into Team Fortress Classic, was in a clan, knew the maps backwards and forwards, etc.)

  17. Dayton Lowell says:

    As TehShrike mentioned, I will be getting L4D2 on release day. The 5 new campaigns alone will be enough for me.

    I’m hoping they do decide to bring the L4D maps into the sequel so I don’t have to switch games.

    I’m very interested to hear about the new “mode” that they haven’t provided any details about.

  18. Rob says:

    @Johannes: That’s good to know, and after watching some gameplay vids I can firmly say I’m definitely not sold on buying this on release as opposed to waiting a month or two for the 50% off sale during winter break.

    This seems more like an expansion than a new game and I as much as I love L4D, L4D2 does not seem like something that is worth full price.

  19. SatansBestBuddy says:

    I think the problem is that people can’t seem to grasp what makes this game so different from the first that it’d need it’s own number.

    Right now, people hear, “5 new campaigns, new melee weapons, daylight levels, new characters!” and they think, “While, why can’t this just be DLC?”

    I did hear something about adding wheather cycles to the AI directer, which could make for more interesting use of the daylight campaigns lighting than night time does. (cloudy at night is the same as not cloudy at night)

    I’ve also heard they’re trying level layouts that changed depending on how well/badly you’re doing. (think the wall in No Mercy that’s sometimes there, sometimes not)

    Now, imagine a scene in a graveyard during the day; if you’re doing poorly when you enter, then it’ll be bright out, you’ll find some health packs and ammo, and be able to shoot through a small horde through the straight path to the exit; now, if you’re doing well when you enter, the place will be foggy and hard to see, the straight path is now a maze of gravestones, and you can hear a witch somewhere but you can’t see her…

    That’s something L4D1 can’t do, can it?

    And how do we know that’s everything, anyway?

    I’m betting Valve is keeping something close to it’s chest, and what we’re seeing right now is carefully chosen propaganda that’s meant to throw us off of what makes this so different from L4D1.

    Valve doesn’t do sequels that are exactly the same as the first; you’d think HL2 and TF2 would be proof enough of that.

  20. Julian says:

    I dislike how this whole L4D2 scandal is overshadowing the most important gaming news of the millenium: Monkey Island.

  21. Mark says:

    They should’ve called the sequel “Left 5 Dead.”

  22. Biscuitslayer says:

    I’m actually going to like this more than L4D1, simply because I’m really tired of zombie games that take themselves too seriously. This is why I will play Dead Rising as opposed to Resident Evil.

    This could actually be better, because due to the sheer amount of zombie related merchendise, be it movies, video games, or other items. I’m so sick of the traditional slow zombie, where the survivors seem to think that the only good time to attack them is to come out at night.

    I’m looking forward to having COLOR in my zombie games.

  23. Davin Valkri says:

    I am infinitely more interested in Half-Life 2-3 than Left 4 Dead 2, even though this E3 has shown nothing about it. I want the One Free Man back, dammit!

  24. Johannes says:

    @SatansBestBuddy: I think that’s Valve’s concern right now, people not being convinced… I, for one, am not. Yet. Of course, the new dynamic level layout etc. etc. sounds cool, but the way in which it’s presented…

    Oh, I’m not one of the it-should-be-a-DLC-camp, by the way. Would however be nice if the game wouldn’t be full-priced. :)

    But let’s see what they’ll show us in the near future! Oh, and I understood Gabe reads all his emails, so I guess I’m going to write him my thoughts…

  25. Corsair says:

    Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. You’re missing the real question. At this rate, by 2012 there will most likely be a third and fourth release. So the real question is…

    What the hell are they going to call, and do for the box art, for Left 4 Dead 4?

  26. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well,to be honest,HL2 was also a year late,but turned out to be excelent,so Im not so unpatient like you.

    Great comic by the way.

  27. RedClyde says:

    I really don’t get people. They complain that Episode 3 is taking too long, then L4D2 comes out a year later and it’s too quick? What do you people want?!

    I also don’t get the concern about L4D3 possibly coming out at the end of next year. That’s supposed to be a bad thing? Well, I’m sorry if I dislike having to wait years for good games to be released.

    I’ll also be picking up L4D2 as soon as it’s out. I’m just trying to get all my L4D1 achievements before then! Only three left. >.<

  28. krellen says:

    I really don’t get people. They complain that Episode 3 is taking too long, then L4D2 comes out a year later and it’s too quick? What do you people want?!

    We want Episode 3 released. That means we want Valve to devote all possible resources to it, rather than wasting resources on L4D2.

  29. Bret says:

    Well, yes. I would go back in time and kill Ghandi to get Episode 3 sooner, but lets face it. Valve isn’t structured in such a way that the Left 4 Dead 2 team would have been working on Episode three anyway. (By the way, part of the aforementioned Ghandicidal impulse is the fact Adam Foster is working on map design. Play Minerva metastasis some time and see exactly what that means.)

    Still, most of my current zombie needs are supplied by plants vs. zombies. Dang but that game is addictive.

  30. BlackBloc says:

    That means we want Valve to devote all possible resources to it, rather than wasting resources on L4D2.

    And I want Valve to devote all possible resources to this new interesting L4D IP instead of milking a rather overrated and obsolete franchise… I guess we’ll just have to compromise.

  31. Krellen says:

    I don’t see the compromise. L4D fans are getting what they want, and HL2 fans are not. From the outside, it looks like they are devoting all resources to the L4D IP, with a sequel announced less than a year after the original, while HL2 fans are sitting around waiting for even word of their series.

    It’s easy to call for compromise when you’re already getting what you want.

  32. Gandaug says:

    There are two main arguments from those that are upset about L4D2 that make sense to me.

    1. Valve has not supported L4D the way they promised to. As detailed here in a video made by the Steam Group boycotting L4D2.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQWylFmqnwM

    2. All this new stuff is great, but they are talking about including the original L4D maps in L4D2. While it will be nice to see the new stuff like the AI Director 2.0 in the original maps why exactly are we forking over another $50 a year later? Those that bought L4D will have handed over their money for absolutely no benefit cost-wise.

    These complaints are related of course. I haven’t fully jumped on the hatred for L4D2 bandwagon, but I do find those complaints compelling.

    In the end my acceptance/outrage will be based on further detail from Valve on things like price. Owners of L4D should at the very least get a price break on L4D2.

  33. errolian says:

    I’ll definitely be getting it, and it’s not that long since I got the original. Valve have said that there is DLC for the original still coming (and not like their hasn’t been some already). They also said that the new engine is something they can build a platform from, with much more DLC, game types etc. to base from it – something that the current engine isn’t really capable of.

    Left4Dead 2 isn’t simply the same thing again with new maps as has been stated above. Out of the box it will have a new gameplay type to start with that they haven’t divulged yet.

    How many games have you bought that have the longevity of many Valve games, that keep you interested in playing them anywhere near 12 months? Paying for a substantial sequel a year on isn’t robbery when thought about like that.

    If they include the original maps on the game disk that nullifies a lot of objections I hear. As for the new characters, why the hate? Zoe, Francis, Bill and Louis were strangers to all of us before, as will the new bunch – who will be getting more of a back story this time around. And who knows, maybe the original gang of four will be playable in some of the game modes.

    We’re still 5 months from release, and lots more information will be available in the interim – and meanwhile we can all enjoy the fantastic original game.

  34. Bryce says:

    The fiddle-based horde music is extremely disliked

    yep…fiddle music is my final straw when it comes to gaming.

    Actually, I’ll pick this up.

  35. Shadow2336 says:

    On two conditions, I’ll get this game.

    1: When it’s cheaper than 25$
    2: If the original campaigns are included

    I’d rather not have to load up L4D in order to play Dead Air. I find that really annoying.

    What would be nice, is if they update the old maps to be with the new maps. Like the AID2 and melee weapons.

  36. Inigo Montoya says:

    I’m forgetting about Half Life 2 Episode 3. Just like I’ve forgotten about Episodes 2 and 1. Just like I’m trying to forget the atrocity that was Half Life 2.

  37. Roy says:

    Oh, you iconoclast you.

    I’m not boycotting anything, but neither am I as excited as I wish I was. It stings a little to drop full price on a game that you’re expecting to get significant support for, only to be told months later “Hey! We’re releasing the sequel in a few months!” Games like TF2 and Counterstrike were the basis for understanding the type of support we could expect from valve for a multiplayer game, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable that some people were expecting years of support, not months.

    I really don’t get people. They complain that Episode 3 is taking too long, then L4D2 comes out a year later and it’s too quick? What do you people want?!

    I want recognition that the expectations and desires I have for a single player episode are not the same as the ones I have for a multiplayer online game.

  38. toasty says:

    “I’m forgetting about Half Life 2 Episode 3. Just like I’ve forgotten about Episodes 2 and 1. Just like I’m trying to forget the atrocity that was Half Life 2.”

    *blinks*

    But Half-Life 2 was… so good…

    Except the part where you have to free Eli Vance after you’ve met up with Alyx. I. HATE. THAT. LEVEL. I swear I broke a cold sweat trying to beat it.

  39. Inigo Montoya says:

    “But Half-Life 2 was… so good… ”

    No, it wasn’t. I assure you. There’s the problem that HL2 had a lot to live up to. I could probably deal with it as another first person shooter if it weren’t for the six hour long driving sequences. Screw the fan boat, screw the buggy. Also the lack of interesting weapons kinda made the game suck.

    Then there was the graphics and physics that were supposed to be amazing and probably would have been if they had released the game in a timely manner. In stead games like Far Cry ended up doing them first and better.

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