Left 4 Dead 2:
Exhuming the Horse for Further Pummeling

By Shamus
on Jun 11, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games

I thought everyone would be sick of the whole Left 4 Dead 2 controversy by now, but yesterday Blackbird71* cast wall of text at me. Several people chimed in and asked for my response. So, okay then.

* Looking in the archives, I’m fairly sure that Blackbird1 through Blackbird70 aren’t in use, if you’d like to trade-in for a lower number. (When I see a name like that it makes me think there’s an army of people with the same name who simply numbered themselves, like Harry Mudd’s androids.)

Ok, I have to admit, I’ve been a little confused these past few days. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I don’t play L4D (or anything else on Steam, for that matter), so I’m probably missing something. But until I figure out what it is, I have to ask one question:

Uh. No, actually you ask n+1 questions, where n is a ridiculous number. But I shall endeavor to answer them, because they are incisive and cut to the heart of this debate.

Is this site still run by the same Shamus Young? Is this the same Shamus who has often railed against developers for releasing games unfinished, unpolished, ahead of schedule or with incomplete content?

Yes. And while I haven’t talked about it before, I do think leaving the versus content out of half the game was a bad move on the part of Valve. I didn’t bring it up before because it’s just not on my radar. I don’t play versus. I tried it a few times and will save that rant for another time. Still, the point that the game was unfinished due to the lack of versus mode in half the game is a fair one, and Valve took a really long time to roll that out. A lot of people had played the game out and moved on months before Valve provided the ability to play versus on the final two campaigns. This complaint makes sense to me, although it doesn’t seem to be related to the ongoing L4D2 debate…

Who bemoans the incresing ratio of price point to game content?

Yes. And if I paid $50 for L4D and played for ten hours, then I’d be making that point again. But I paid $50 and played for 150+ hours. I would say this is a wonderful turnaround for the industry, a return to the bygone days of yore when games lasted longer than an open pint of milk.

Is this the same Shamus who opted not to buy a sequel of a game on the grounds that the original used “the same formula”?

You’re going to have to refresh my memory? The Doom games used the same formula, and I managed to enjoy those. Same with Serious Sam, both Fallout games, Max Payne, and lots of other titles. The two sides of this debate seem to be talking past each other on what constitutes “game content”, but I’ll get to that in a minute…

The same Shamus who has supported maintaining the longevity of a good game?

Yes, and if Valve is planning to erase Left 4 Dead when the sequel comes out I’ll be one of the first to throw an online tantrum over it. I’m certainly not in favor of getting LESS games because a portion of the fan base is still busy with the old one. (Stipulated: I did mention how dividing the audience of an online game is risky. It’s a fair point, but I’ve covered it twice now.)

Is this the same Shamus who has frequently advocated developers releasing additional downloadable content, and has encouraged game companies to maintain good relations with their players? Because all this seems just a bit backwards from the usual.

I do advocate DLC. I don’t demand it, though. But like I said before: They did give us DLC for L4D. And from now on I’m not going to debate with people who are going to stamp their feet and pretend that isn’t the case. You can say it wasn’t enough. You can say that you feel you were promised more. But if you claim there hasn’t been DLC for L4D then you’re not in the same conversation I am.

I suspect the problem here is that some people bought the game expecting more free stuff. They’ve alluded to Valve promises (a link to those promises in writing would be really helpful) unfulfilled. I bought the game expecting to get the stuff in the box and nothing more. The extra DLC was thus a nice bonus for me, not a down payment on an unspoken promise.

As I mentioned before, I don’t have any kind of stake in this issue, as I don’t play the games in question. As such, I’m something of an outside observer to the situation. It also means that I’m probably missing something, but just from reading the information on this site, let me tell you what it looks like from my perspective:

From what I can tell, a company (Valve) made and released a game (L4D). It was released early to hit the Christmas rush. As such, it was released minus some content, which was promised would be added later post-release (and it later was). It also seems that many of those who bought the game believe that the company indicated/promised that they would continue to support the game by realeasing even more “substantial” content. Exactly what this was seems to be up for debate, but at least some portion of the customers believes that a new campaign was specifically promised. The promise of future upgrades and content became a big selling point for many of these customers. Again, I can’t say how much of these “promises” are true, because I haven’t read Valve’s official statements, but for the time being, I’ll just have to assume this is at least partly correct.

I agree with you here. Certainly if Valve said, “We are giving away a free campaign” then they have yet to make good on that. Was this a real promise made by Gabe Newel or an internet rumor? The critics could greatly bolster their manifesto by giving us a quote, or a link, or something. Of course, even if this is true, it just means Valve hasn’t made good on the promise yet.

Now, with in a year of this first game’s release, after only releasing one minor piece of additional content (the portion that was supposed to be included at release), the company announces a sequel (L4D2) to be released in a matter of months. Those customers who were counting on further content for the first game are upset, because typically, once a game sequel comes out, support/development for the original stops. These customers feel they will never see the content they were promised. Since they bought the game in good faith that such content would at some point be delivered, they also feel cheated out of a portion of the price they paid for the first game.

This is a fair assessment, assuming Valve made that promise and assuming they never deliver on it.

Add to this the fact that based on what has been shown thus far, the new game doesn’t appear to be all that different from the first. It uses the same mechanics, the same engine, the same graphics, and the same general gameplay. All that has been added is a few avatars, a few more weapons, maps, and maybe a couple of new enemies. All of which would be about what one would expect from an expansion, but which hardly amounts to qualifying as a complete game on its own, yet it is being priced as such.

And this is where the other side stops making sense to me. What is it you need in order for a game to qualify as “new enough” for a sequel? New maps, characters, story, melee combat, weapons, enemies, music. There is almost no reused content at all.

I posed this question before, and I only got one taker. That person suggested Valve add “puzzles”, “or something”. Well, puzzles don’t seem to fit within a game designed for “infinite” replay. The first time they’re a bit of a diversion, and on every subsequent playthrough they are simple busywork with no further entertainment value. What is it this game needs? Dialog trees? A romance sim? Blitzball mini-game? This is a tightly focused and well-polished experience, and I’m not seeing what needs to be added.

Again, look at the jump from Doom to Doom II. Serious Sam to Serious Sam 2. Thief to Thief 2. What makes these games “sequels” besides the new maps, monsters, weapons, characters, dialog, story, and gameplay elements.

And here’s the thing: The critics say that:

A) The games are released too close together and,
B) The second is too expensive.

So… don’t buy it on day one. Valve will have a sale and you can get the game $30 cheaper six months later. Me, I’m willing to pay full price on day one, and I don’t see how that transaction detracts from your game in any way. (Player base division notwithstanding.)

Now, as a frequent and vocal advocate of the consumer’s rights in the gaming industry, I would have expected that the Shamus I know would have been among the first to speak out on this issue. I’d have thought he’d be denouncing Valve first for releasing an incomplete game, and then for failing to live up to commitments made to their customers.

I never saw any such promise, and I never bought the game with such expectations in mind.

I’d have expected to see some points about how Valve is failing to handle the bad PR being generated by this situation, and some suggestions on how to quiet the angry customers.

I think Valve should just ask the lot of them what content they expect in a sequel that they aren’t already offering, and let them balkanize and bicker amongst each other when they realize they don’t have a unified answer.

He’d also be attacking them for selling a glorified reskin at a full game’s price point. Regardless of how he approached it, Shamus would be the last person I’d expect to see supporting the actions of the game company while mocking the actions of angry customers.

I would not call this game a “reskin”, a term usually reserved for superficial changes. Once you add three new monster types (to the original five) and twenty new weapons (to the original eight or so, depending on how picky you are with your definition of “weapon”) and five new campaigns (to the original four) then you have something that is much larger than its predecessor. This is certainly not a reskin, and I can’t think of a time when someone released an expansion pack that dwarfed the size of the game it was supposedly expanding.

At any rate, I’m not really mocking the angry customers. (Well, the Episode 3 boycott did satirize them a bit, but it was satirizing the “boycott” idea more than their grievances. Boycotting a game because is isn’t for sale is only slightly more silly than boycotting something because it sucks. (A “boycott” is supposed to be a refusal to buy an otherwise desirable product over principles. You don’t boycott crap, you just refuse to buy it.))

As a quick side note: I know that some here (including Shamus himself) have said that they’ve “gotten their money’s worth” out of L4D because they’ve gotten 60-100 hours of gameplay out of it, but I have to ask (because I honestly don’t know), how many hours of actual content are in the game? In my experience, multiplayer games like this get a lot more mileage because you end up replaying all the same content over and over again. Games like this will typically get by with a lot less content, and a lot less development, effort, and resources, yet they still price the same as games with more substance. Personally, when I buy a game, I prefer to pay according to how much material I am actually getting, not how much time I may or may not spend repeating the same material.

This is probably a big difference between the two factions. When I buy a movie, I care about how entertaining it is, not how big the budget was. If someone can keep me entertained for an hour and a half for less than a million bucks, I’m not going to demand they sell the DVD for $5 just because the movie was cheap to make.

Now, if you judge Left 4 Dead as a single-player game (maybe you’re on dial-up and can’t meaningfully play online, or perhaps (like many) you generally shy away from online play) then I’d guess the game is perhaps six hours worth of hard content, and a few more hours of replayability due to the dynamic nature of the game. That’s a fraction of (say) Half-Life 2, but about par for comparable mainstream titles. (Which isn’t very impressive.) If you’re looking for single-player fun, then I would say that neither game is worth full price, but L4D2 will be better than the original because it will have one more campaign. (So I’ve heard.)

Keep in mind that all the details I’ve gleaned on this issue have come from this site, I haven’t read about it anywhere else, not even so far as to follow links on the subject. My details may be incorrect, but most of what I understand of the situation has come from Shamus’ own words, with some support from descriptions given in the comments. What this amounts to is my perception of the events as I’ve read about them here.

With all that in mind, I have to ask: Shamus, what gives? Is there some major detail I’m missing that makes this situation so vastly different than all the others you’ve tackled? Are you getting softer and less “spicy”? Are you going easy on Valve because you like their games and/or their work as a company? I hope that no disrespect is perceived here, because I really don’t mean to be rude or offensive, but I know how meanings and intents can be lost or misconstrued in this medium. I’m asking this from a sense of curiosty born of honest confusion at the turn of events and change in tone here, and I really just don’t understand why.

I’m wondering the same thing about the protesters. I don’t think they’re stupid or spoiled or clueless, I just don’t get the whole “this should be an expansion pack” argument.

I’ve made the point before about the rising cost of game development. Games are shorter because geometric content (weapons, models, characters, and levels) is really time consuming to produce for current-gen engines. It’s also the part I’m most interested in. I want to see the levels, learn the story, meet the characters. Complaining that this is a re-skin of the original is (to me) like complaining that Mountain Dew is the same old Pepsi can, just with a different flavor liquid inside.

The sequel is going to offer me five campaigns worth of entertainment. That’s more than the original, and at the same price. Sounds like a good deal to me. The fact that they aren’t taking the polished gameplay I enjoy and grafting a bunch of cruft onto it is a nice bonus. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. I certainly didn’t complain that Fallout 2 was just “re-skinned Fallout”. (Although it was bug soup, alas. And I did berate it for that.)

For the protester’s position to make any sense to me, I would need to see a promise from an actual Valve employee promising an extra campaign for L4D, (or whatever) and a concrete explanation of what the sequel needs to have that it doesn’t already have. Then we’ll have some common ground to begin a conversation.

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  1. equinox216 says:

    What Valve hasn’t mentioned is that L4D2 is a distinctly separate game because it has the Portal gun.

    Moo ha ha.

  2. krellen says:

    I loved the subtle commentary of “Both Fallouts”.

  3. Drew says:

    I’m assuming Blackbird 71 is a reference to the SR-71 Blackbird, and not a numbering thing.

  4. Mordiceius says:

    It seems that these “boycotters” are just exhibiting a bunch of nostril flaring and foot stomping because they set their own high expectations and feel Valve is not living up to them. That is not Valve’s fault.

    Valve offered a lot of large free content updates for Team Fortress 2, but it is not like they have for Half-Life 2 or Protal. I am not including the Episodes to HL2 because they were not free. The only game recently that Valve gave so much free for was TF2 and I guess everyone just held L4D up to those standards.

    I do not think that people should EVER expect ANY free downloadable content for games released by any developer. Players should be allowed to expect a solid and relatively bug free game. If the company gives any free content, then that is just some extra icing on the cake. Even if Valve stopped all support for L4D the second L4D2 came out (which they already said they are not), they would still be one of the best developers out there.

    I still am guessing that they are going to sell L4D2 and HL2: Episode 3 bundled together in an Orange Box style sku.

  5. Yar Kramer says:

    Shamus, I really don’t think you should bother. If they haven’t noticed Valve’s reaction of “Okay, we understand that you’re upset. Trust us.” then the well-thought-out reactions of someone unrelated to Valve isn’t going to sate them. (Nor would they notice if Valve patiently asked them for clarification.)

    Or, in other words (to paraphrase a quote from an unknown author), you can’t reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into.

  6. TehShrike says:

    Nested parenthetical statements ftw.

  7. Lupis42 says:

    FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sr_71

    This is probably the source of the number in the user name.

    EDIT: Beaten to it by Drew

  8. Factoid says:

    Not exactly to the points you’re making in the post but: Versus totally sucks for the first 3 or 4 hours, but if you stick with it your fun times are basically guaranteed.

    Valve major league dropped the ball on player training in Versus mode. The little info boxes that remind you what primary and secondary attacks do is all but useless in learning how to actually play the characters. It needs a tutorial level where you can practice hunter pounces, wall jumps, smoker grabs, long distance boomer vomiting, etc…

    Thus the learning curve is steep, but it actually has a dramatic leveling off point. Going from Newb to Competent is painful, but once you hit Competent it’s a much gentler pace to go from Competent to Mastery and you’ll be having fun the whole time.

  9. Lee says:

    In my pool of gamers, the game people complaining are the same people who, for weeks now, have been using third-party utilities to idle in Team Fortress 2 servers 24 hours a day, because superficial hats are available for the game AND THEY DON’T HAVE THEM UNLOCKED YET. Yesterday, I heard one mention he’s idled 281 hours so far, and he’s furious that others have more hats than he after idling only 180 hours.

    The closest I’ve come to consensus is this: They seem to feel that it doesn’t matter how much of a Total Conversion (to use a ten-year-old term from mod-making) L4D2 is; it’s not a “game” unless you do something you couldn’t have done as a code-light modification to the previous engine. I find that silly, because it takes more than twelve months to write a renderer, the engine IS heavily modified on the under-the-hood-gameplay side, and as you pointed out, the end result is more content than the original game.

    How do these people tolerate a universe where the Madden games exist?! Are they equally in arms about Mario Galaxy 2, a game that was originally designed to have Mario go through the EXACT SAME levels as MG1 but with a few new mechanics? (Interviews reveal that the designers had so much fun making new content that only 10% of the levels are revisited, and 90% are new.)

    My first guess was that it boils down to a knee-jerk reaction of “it’s not prettier.” That is, however, a gross oversimplification.

  10. Good grief, people. L4D & L4D2 are GAMES!!!

    Remember games? Those things that you’re supposed to play with and have fun.

    People happily purchased Cabbage Patch Dolls, and paid full price for tickets to the latest “Saw” iteration (which, for the record, was one of the crappiest horror movies I’ve ever seen) yet we’re going to endlessly debate and boycott a computer game??

    I might be a little peeved about paying full price for Catwoman, but come on… this is Valve.

    And it’s just a game.

    Leslee

  11. The S Ninja says:

    I just want more Half-life. T.T

  12. Galenor says:

    So i can feel useful in this heated debate :D :

    “I suspect the problem here is that some people bought the game expecting more free stuff. They’ve alluded to Valve promises (a link to those promises in writing would be really helpful) unfulfilled. I bought the game expecting to get the stuff in the box and nothing more. The extra DLC was thus a nice bonus for me, not a down payment on an unspoken promise.”

    The critic’s main fodder against this argument will be this quote from Gabe, quoted on http://www.videogamer.com/news/valve_details_post_left_4_dead_launch_plans.html

    “So we’ll do the same thing (as Team Fortress 2) with Left 4 Dead where we’ll have the initial release and then we’ll release more movies, more characters, more weapons, unlockables, achievements, because that’s the way you continue to grow a community over time.”

    …which can then itself be countered by quotes from Doug Lombardi from here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/06/04/valve-on-l4d2-trust-us-a-little-bit/

    “Beyond (Free DLC), we plan to continue updating Left 4 Dead. We’re not done with that title, it’s not over. The SDK stuff just came out. I think we mentioned to RPS that if you’re using the SDK and making maps for it, those will work for L4D2 as well. We are trying to keep the community together – we’re going to be doing more stuff about keeping the community together as we get closer to launch.”

    Chew that over as you will. :)

  13. Daniel says:

    As a quick side note: I know that some here (including Shamus himself) have said that they’ve “gotten their money’s worth” out of L4D because they’ve gotten 60-100 hours of gameplay out of it, but I have to ask (because I honestly don’t know), how many hours of actual content are in the game?

    This is probably a big difference between the two factions. When I buy a movie, I care about how entertaining it is, not how big the budget was. If someone can keep me entertained for an hour and a half for less than a million bucks, I’m not going to demand they sell the DVD for $5 just because the movie was cheap to make.

    I think this analogy is slightly off the point. The objection is not to the inexpensiveness of the content but to the fact that it is repeated content that provides value. It seems like a relevant question would be “would it be justified to pay the same price for Dr. horrible as a full-length movie, assuming that I like Dr, horrible enough to watch is over and over.

    I could see reasonable people disagreeing about this — one could say that what they’re really paying for is hours of entertainment and it doesn’t really matter if those hours come from repeated viewings. Another reasonable person could hold that they are paying for the content of the movie and it simply does not make sense to pay full price for something that short, even if it is good enough to watch repeatedly.

    Thinking about the protest from this point of view makes it make a bit more sense, at least to me. The use of the term/strategy of a “boycott is still a bit absurd, however.

  14. Jabor says:

    I just want to say that this is the third keyboard I’ve lost to nasally-ejected beverages after having Shamus’ blog titles pop up in my feed reader.

  15. Mechakisc says:

    I was pretty ticked when Orange box came out.

    I bought Half Life 2 initially for one reason only: so I could support TF2 development, which I had assumed would be released as a free or reasonably priced addon for HL2. Being forced to spend more for the Orange box wasn’t a hardship, but it felt wrong. It really, uh, hurt my feelings. I didn’t like Half Life, and I didn’t like Half Life 2. I liked QWTF, TFC, and TF1.5. I wanted to play TF2, and so I bought HL2.

    OOOO so I can give away my old HL2 to someone? WHO CARES, it was three years old by then, it was ancient history. To get any of the new content they were gong to have to spend money for the orange box anyway.

    This feels the same, to me.

    But, like BB71 said, I’m not really a part of this question anymore. They burned me with the Orange box, and there are no grenades in TF2. I wish Valve all the best, but they can be the best without me.

  16. Rutskarn says:

    Mechakisc: At what point did Valve give the impression that TF2 was going to be released as a free add-on to HL2?

  17. GuiguiBob says:

    We should all point these gamers to the UFO-X-Com Series, there are only two good games in it and after that it’s a downward spiral… the second game was a reskinning of the first with a few improvements.

  18. MintSkittle says:

    I’m gonna agree with Mordiceius. TF2 has received massive amounts of free DLC, while L4D got it’s previously missing content, and a bonus play mode. The people were assuming L4D would be supported. We’ll see where this goes.

    Now if L4D2 does come with a Blitzball mini-game…

  19. Mechakisc says:

    Rutskarn: How should I know? I thought that five years ago :)

    Note that I said free or reasonably priced – that is, expansion priced.

    I could have waited, but I didn’t want to wait, I wanted in on the release. I didn’t think it was reasonable that I should have to wait to get it at expansion price, particularly given that I helped support the development process by purchasing a game I didn’t want anyway.

  20. Nathon says:

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m just as ignorant on this subject as blackbird. I haven’t played any steam games since the steam beta.

    Here’s what I think of when I think expansion: Neverwinter Nights and Diablo 2. Both had expansions with tons of new content. Nwn’s expansions were whole new games. The only things in common were the character classes (and there were even more of those for the NWN expansions). Diablo 2’s expansion came with a new act, new quests, new classes, and loads of new items. There were even new kinds of items.

    Neverwinter Nights was an expansion because they used the same game engine. The expansions consisted mostly of the kind of content users could create. It was high quality, and the new classes weren’t user-creation-friendly, but the majority of the content was made with their published tools for content creation.

    Diablo 2’s expansion was an extension of the existing story, so it really didn’t fit into the new game concept. It did split the user base like a new game, though. WoW’s expansions followed a similar path, adding loads of content and a new race here or a new class there but not preventing base game users from playing with expansion users. StarCraft’s expansion added 3 whole new campaigns for the single player on top of a pile of game changing new units.

    Diablo 2 was decidedly a sequel to Diablo. It had a new engine, a new skill system, and a new campaign on top of extra classes.

    That might help explain why some people think you need a new engine before you can call a game a sequel.

    I, for one, don’t see anything inconsistent in your behavior, Shamus. You’ve been complaining loudly that developers focus on better prettier graphic engines and don’t have time to actually make content. This seems like the opposite of that.

  21. BaCoN says:

    @Shamus: Maybe he was born in 71? That’s what a lot of people do when they have numbers in their names.

    Point of fact, what DOES qualify for a sequel? Fallout was released in 1997, and Fallout 2 was released in 1998. Point of fact, Fallout 2 is heralded as one of the greatest games of all time, but it was the same game style.

    Oh, sure, there was new story, new weapons, new characters, new setting, new music, a few gameplay tweaks. But SURELY that’s not worth a SEQUEL, right? R…Right?

    Valve made their game, plenty of people bought it, and it was great. We played a lot of hours(a LOT of hours) and Shamus is STILL making comics about it, and we more than got our money’s worth. Even if you’re JUST buying the game now, there’s STILL a huge community of players, and you’ll STILL get in more than your fair share of playing time for however much you spend on the damned thing.

    Saying that Valve turned their back on the community is ridiculous. I stopped playing L4D because it couldn’t hold my fragile attention for more than it did – and it held it for pretty long, in honesty – but I’ll happily pay for L4D2 if it gives me as much content as it’s promising. Even if it’s not all immediately available on release.

  22. EL Quia says:

    @GuiguiBob: I didn’t find X-COM II nearly as fun as X-COM I: the changes made in the mechanics (some weapons couldn’t be fired over the surface, the interception continued without fighting over the continents, some researchs couldn’t be made unless you have an specific piece of technology AND a particular kind of alien on the same base, etc), the change in map/mission design (maps that were way too big to turn gaming, mission that were divided into three horribly frustrating parts), the setting (PURELY underwater, except for terror missions) and the graphical changes (X-COM I was far prettier than X-COM II), just turned it into a game that I didn’t enjoyed nearly as much.

    On the other hand, X-COM III apocalypse was mighty fun, even though at first I hated it. It was later that I realized that this was a different game and that I couldn’t play it in the same way I played the other two: The scope and the gameplay were different, and it was clearly designed to be played in real time.

  23. Jeff says:

    Personally, I’d say L4D had about 14 hours worth of gameplay for me with my friends, 2-3 hours per campaign, and some time on survival.

    The funny thing of course is that everything in L4D2 is basically “more movies, more characters, more weapons, unlockables, achievements” …which is in that quote for L4D.

    Seriously, the whole thing reeks of expansion pack rather than sequel. There’s no new gameplay elements, which is what I would consider a sequel. New weapons in L4D would be easy – reskin, new models, and tweak the damage/penetration values, and there you go. A new “setting”/”story” certainly isn’t that much either, it’s just a campaign. There’s pretty much nothing they couldn’t have released as an expansion, other than new characters (interactions, dialog, animation).

    FO1 and FO2 plays differently, although at this point I can’t recall the difference, other than going from FO2 to FO1 was really bloody annoying. Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 were very different, as was Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 (although again I can’t recall why – but they were different engines too, weren’t they?). Then look at the ToB expansion for BG2. KotOR1 and 2 are different, although the second one sucked. Like Deus Ex 1 and 2. System Shock 1 and 2 were very different. Same with the Gothic series, and Fable, which you reviewed. Heck, the Resident Evil series. Similar, but very different. Space Empires? RPGs have a slightly different standard, because a rich plot is generally enough to be different, but comparing something like Spiderweb Software’s Exile series’ “story” with L4D is a huge stretch.

    Compare the Heroes of Might and Magic series with each incarnation, and the expansions. The expansions offer new movies, new stories, new characters, new units, new weapons and equipment. Even new graphics tweaks. Each sequel however, offered engine improvements, new strategic elements, new tactic changes…

    The same applies for Warcraft 1-3, and the expansions they had. Each series ‘tick’ is considerably different from the expansion additions. Even with Diablo, compare expansion vs sequel.

    L4D2 looks like an expansion selling for retail. It’s annoying, but I’ll probably end up getting it anyways.

    (Don’t get me started on the sports games. Idiots (yeah, I went there) who buy the yearly game is wrecking it for everyone else, since monolithic corporations see they can make money doing nothing more than updating stats (so-and-so are now on THIS team!) and making graphics look ever so much more like the real thing.)

  24. briatx says:

    “So we’ll do the same thing (as Team Fortress 2) with Left 4 Dead where we’ll have the initial release and then we’ll release more movies, more characters, more weapons, unlockables, achievements, because that’s the way you continue to grow a community over time.”

    Ah, so I think one of the reasons that people are so upset is that the content being promised for L4D2 is exactly the kind of content they expected to get for free for L4D. And they *have* gotten at least some of this type of content for TF2. Your question still stands of course, Shamus: If this is the kind of content the fans expect for free then what kind of content do they think it’s fair to charge for?

    In some ways, I think Valve is the victim of their own good reputation here. People really expected them to add new maps, characters, weapons, etc. for free when they would not have expected anything like that from any other developer, (even if the head of said hypothetical developer had delivered Gabe’s quote above). Maybe the fans have an entitlement issue, but if so it’s because Valve has trained them to expect a level of polish and support they wouldn’t expect from others.

    Also, I think that because Valve is usually so slow and because they are relatively small developer, there is a sense that this is a zero sum game. If they’re working on L4D2, then they *aren’t* working on DLC for L4D, and they *aren’t* working on Episode 3, and they *aren’t* working on Portal 2. The fans are waiting for a lot from valve, and this is what they’re working on?

  25. Lupis42 says:

    Jeff,

    What quote for L4D? (EDIT: This? http://www.videogamer.com/news/valve_details_post_left_4_dead_launch_plans.html)

    I’ve been a little confused by this whole thing as well, partly because what I’ve heard (from the rumor mill, not reliable sources) is that part of the reason that L4D2 is a new game and not free DLC is that there are contractual limits on the amount of free DLC that can be offered for a 360 game.

  26. BaCoN says:

    Actually, Jeff, I think I can kinda see what you’re getting at, and I kinda even get behind it, there. L4D2 IS almost expansion sounding, but what do you call it? Left 4 Dead: The Redeadening?

    Is it still worth the price at that point, though, is the real question? $60 IS a lot for an expansion(we’ll call this an ‘alternate’ game), but the original isn’t required for the SeqSpansion(I read that as Sexspansion, I should probably come up with something better), which is a selling point for people who are new.

    But for return customers, $60 is, actually a lot for more of the same with different tricks, I suppose.

  27. Vladius says:

    I think his name might be in reference to the SR-71 Blackbird, an awesome retired spy plane.

    Other than that, I completely agree with your article. How all of you people find the time to write these gigantic blocks of text about things of such little consequence is a mystery to me.

  28. Gahazakul says:

    In response to being asked directly about this Valve responded,

    “Doing a sequel in one year is new for Valve. But providing ongoing support for our titles after the initial launch isn’t – it has been part of our philosophy since Half-Life was released ten and half years ago,” said Valve president Gabe Newell in a statement to Kotaku. “We see no reason to change that and will continue to support the over three million customers in the L4D community.”

    “E3 is a trade event where developers and publishers come to announce new games for the coming year. L4D2 — like any new product — requires an appearance at the show,” Newell said.

    Valve says, it will continue to support the original with continued updates.

    “Some in the community are concerned that the announcement of L4D2 implied a change in our plans for L4D1. We aren’t changing our plans for L4D1.”

    Whether that will allay fears that Left 4 Dead will be left behind by some community members remains to be seen, but Valve notes that it hasn’t abandoned the original.

    “In addition to the recently released Survival Pack, we are releasing authoring tools for Mod makers, community matchmaking, 4×4 matchmaking, and more new content during the coming months for L4D1,” Newell says. “We also agree with our customers that there needs to be an interoperability plan for players of L4D1 and L4D2, as multiplayer games are driven by the cohesiveness of their community.”

  29. WWWebb says:

    I’m going to have to agree with Nathon on this one. With HL2, Valve already established that games with new content on the old engine/gameplay are “episodes”. Games with shiny new graphics engines are sequels.

    If they’d called it “Left 4 Dead episode 2” and knocked 5 bucks off retail, they wouldn’t have a problem. Heck, then they could have sold a bundled “ultimate” version for $75 to bring in some new sales of the first one, and not have to worry about dividing the audience.

  30. Vladius says:

    Huh, that’s interesting. If they keep adding content to the original Left 4 Dead and have both fully supported at the same time, it would really feel like the Pokemon games. They’re roughly the same, but have different content for inexplicable reasons.

    Left 4 Dead: Sapphire

    Left 4 Dead 2: Opal

    Left 4 Dead 3: Rhinestone

    etc.

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Just a comment about what is considered a sequel and what is an expansion:

    Compare civilization 4 with its expansion beyond the sword.You get new units,leaders,dialog,maps,music,gameplay changers along with a few mods that can be considered full new games(some of these mods couldve been released on their own just like colonization),yet it is still just an expansion.

  32. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Also, there’s a new director in L4D2 and new ability to control weather and music.
    I see an xpack as being playable with a mix of base and new. L4D2 seems not to be.

    And honestly if L4D2 was instead an xpack, how many people would be pissed that it was paid, not free?

  33. “The Shamus I know?”

    He don’t know you very well.

    As for this whole “sequel vs. expansion” debate thing, let me share this. It’s obvious that every developer and every customer has a differing definition of the words.

    To try and define them universally… that way lies madness. Good luck.

  34. acronix says:

    Jeff: Just as a clarfication, on Baldur´s Gate series, the engine was the same, but it got polished for the second part. Also, what made them overly different is how the roleplaying was adjusted. In BG1, you talked to an npc and you got the quest ala mmorpg style: no dialog choices, just a “finish conversation” button and the quest in your journal. On BG2, to get a quest you ussually had to use a conversation path instead of an automatic acceptation, and you could talk to the npcs while refusing to get their quests.

    On the original topic:
    The problem is that, we can´t use the same reference to measure expansions and sequels for different kind of games. Warcraft/Starcraft were RTS, and what clasifies as an “expansion” or a “sequel” is a bit different than what clasifies for a RPG or a FPS. They have, however, a shared base:

    -A sequel must stay in the same universe. (If Warcraft 2 wouldn´t have been in the world of Azeroth, it wouldn´t have been a Warcraft sequel.)
    -A sequel must keep the same theme. (HL2 wouldn´t have been such if it suddenly became an RTS, or if it hadn´t a story based on “fight evil alien invasors”.)
    -A sequel must add quite a few gameplay elements, without changing it completely. (Dawn of War 2 changed the traditional army gameplay used in DoW1 for a squad based one, but staying in the RTS field.)

    And then, there´s the “society” points:

    -A sequel must be better graphically (Most players are used to get better graphics with every new game, damn graphaddicts). Most sequels clasify for this, except Fallout 2.
    -A sequel must be released not before T time after the original one was released. If a game is released before T time, then the developers should have made an expansion.
    T time is ussually a year or two, depending on player expectations for support. L4D2 seems to be the only example right now, but there may be others.*

    *This last point is caused “naturally”: players are used that expansion packs are released after the original game release, but without long gaps of time between them. And we are also used that sequels take longer to be released than expansion (except for sports game: they get sequels every friggin´ day…)

    That´s my two cents worth text wall.

  35. Vegedus says:

    While I agree with your overall point (especially the point about no expansion pack dwarfing the vanilla version in size), I’ve realized now that I am in a very different outlook on the whole sequel in general. As I see it, there’s basically 3 kinds of sequels, ordered after how different it is from the original:

    The first is a kind of rework. Usually a sequel to a quite old game, everything has been built up from the bottom. The game might even have slided in genre. This game might have new strenghs and weaknesseses compared to the old one, so it might not be a better game overall. Fallout 3 is an example.

    The Second is alike to the old, but signifigantly different. Both the graphics and mechanics engine might have been built up from the bottom, but made to resemble the originals. The game has mechanical roots in the original, but there might both have come and gone game modes and the like. Generally, little if any actual content (weapons, levels, music, character models) is recycled directly. The Numbered Final Fantasy series is an example. While it’s clear every game is in family, due to similar game design, story progressions and themes, there’s pretty much nothing that is identical in the games.

    One is a sort of large expansion pack. It’s bigger, better, fuller and more refined product than the original. But it is ultimately the same. Few mechanics have been changed, though some might have been added. The graphics is probably not upgraded either, though there’s sure to be new skins and models. L4D2 would be such a sequel, and so would Fallout 2 you mention. The upshot of such a kind of game compared to the others is that it’s almost always better than the original, since it’s the same++. However, it is also a less ambitious kind of game, and just because you get double as much content, doesn’t mean you get double as much fun or playtime.

    Personally, I’m often slightly tired of a game before I’ve completed it. Not tired of a dismal selection of weapons, or monsters or whatever, but tired of the very game and the way it plays. It is usually for the story or the sense of completeness that I complete them for. This also means that if I play a sequel that is mechanically identical, no matter how much new content there is, I will be tired of it the moment I start playing it. Most change enough that I get bored around half-way.

    Off the top of my head I can only think of one game where the gameplay outlived the gamecontent to such a degree that I more than gladly would have some new weapons, some new levels and some new enemies. L4D was such a game for you, I suppose.

  36. Vladius says:

    Personally, I think it’s a sequel if you say it is.

    It’s an expansion if you need the original game to play.

  37. Shamus says:

    I really should have named this post: “Exhuming the Horse for Further Pommeling”, because the pun would be so offensive that people would forget all about L4D2.

  38. Mordiceius says:

    I think briatx brought up a good point in Valve being a victim of their own reputation. It comes to a point for some psycho fans that if Valve does not bend over backwards providing loads of free content, they have exhausted their good will as a developer and are completely garbage. I just do not understand it.

  39. lebkin says:

    I think the expansion / new game talk is misleading. It does not matter if the game is labeled as a new game or as an expansion pack or as DLC. The method of adding 5 new campaigns to Left 4 Dead is unimportant.

    I think what IS important is cost. I think all this grandstanding about what qualifies as a sequel or not is simply a debate about how much L4D2 should cost. The value people place on it appear to range from $60 to free. Those who argue it is a real sequel stand at the $60 price point. Those who argue it should be an expansion pack, probably in the $30-40. Those looking for it being small DLC fill out the the under $30 range.

    So it all comes down to how much you will pay for Left 4 Dead 2. Me? While a lot depends on my L4D friends (I only play with a select group, so I’ll buy when they do), I will probably buy it for full price. I found the first worth my money, and I assume the second will too. Everyone has to decide for themselves if it is worth it.

    The moral of this whole story is to NEVER buy a game expecting anything other than what is in the box. This goes for games with lots of bugs, limited content, broken multi-player, etc. You simply can not rely on post-launch support from anyone. Buy a game for what is there, not what might be there later.

  40. Barron says:

    I agree with Jeff. L4D2 looks to me like a $50-60 standalone expansion. Based on what I’ve seen, I just can’t see myself being interested in buying it. New skins? 3 new boss infected? The new maps that were promised for L4D1? It really sounds like an expansion pack at most to me. As for the promise of new DLC, this was the second hit when I searched Google for Left 4 Dead DLC:

    “The company plans to add new scenarios to the game’s initial 4, as well as new bosses and weapons. “There were strong hints at a flamethrower coming not long after launch,” 1UP reported after talking to Faliszek.”
    http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/54485

    We’ll see. Maybe they still will. But so far they have not, and have made no recent announcements that they intend to. And yet they have announced a sequel. So it seems reasonable for people to assume they decided to charge for what they had originally planned on releasing for free

  41. Robyrt says:

    Cavedog, like Valve, released constant free updates to Total Annihilation back in ’97 and ’98. When they rolled them all up into the Core Contingency expansion pack, along with new campaigns and maps, fans whined about not getting enough new content. As a bundle, the expansion was about the size of L4D2 compared to L4D1 – but fans had already been spoiled.

  42. Blackbird71 says:

    Wow. A whole blog entry for my questions. I feel special :) Thanks Shamus, for taking the time, sorry about the “wall of text,” sometimes these things just get away from me.

    As a quick note, yes, Drew (3) and Lupis42(7) (Edit: and Vladius (27)) got it right, my screenname is in reference to the Lockheed SR-71, the greatest aircraft ever designed, built, and flown (in my humble opinion, of course), a marvel of engineering yet to be surpassed. But that’s a discussion for another time.

    So anyway, it basically seems like the issue at hand is a question of what was or wasn’t promised by Valve, and the details on that seem a little hazy. It seems that if these “promises” were more concrete/verifiable, you’d have a different take on the issue. Fair enough, that makes sense.

    Yes, I suppose I did ask a lot of supporting/clarifying questions, but the main idea at the heart of the matter was “why is everything so different this time?” Still, sorry if I went overboard, I didn’t mean for you to have to answer each query individually.

    Anyway, I thought it only fair to answer a few of the questions you posed in response to my comments.

    For starters, as to the quesiton of a sequel with the “same formula,” I was referring to your decision to not buy a Civilization sequel in this post: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1337. It seemed that you turned down a sequel because it was essentially the same as the original, regardless fo whethere it had new content or not.

    As for the DLC issue, if the only DLC they’ve given so far is content that was supposed to be included at release, then no, I don’t consider that “new content,” I consider that fixing a mistake. If I go into a restaurant and order a cheeseburger, but am brought a hamburger, then ten minutes later the waiter brings out a slice of cheese, I don’t look at that slice of chees as some extra bonus that the restaurant is giving me out of the goodness of their heart; it’s something I was supposed to get at the start. Everyone’s definition of “substantial” is going to vary, but I have to contend that material that should have been there at the start does not qualify as “substantial” additional content. To me, it amounts to the same as post-release bug fixes and patches, something that the developers owe to those who paid for their game (and it’s content).

    Now, if Valve has introduced additional DLC beyond this that I don’t know about (which is very possibly the case, as once again, I don’t play the game), then that’s entirely different. However, I haven’t seen a mention of such content here, so for ow i have to assume that they haven’t.

    As to the issue of what promises were or weren’t made, this is definetely an area that’s vague on details. However, I would maintain that even if there were no explicit promises given, but if additional material was simply alluded to, intimated, or implied, then the developer has an obligation to the customer to provide such content. Why? Because publicly made statements by developers or their representatives, are given a bit mroe weaight than casual conversation, and those statements will influence sales. If such statements are not fulfilled, then it can be construed as false or misleading advertising. Once again, I have no personal knowledge whether any such statements were made, I’m just postulating a hypothetical that may apply to this situation.

    What do I need to qualify a game as a sequel over an expansion? Well, in my observation and experience, most sequels I’ve played come at such a time that the software/hardware has improved to a point as to allow more than was previously possible. As you’ve already written, graphics have reached a point that improvements are minisule and come at great cost, so no, I’m not looking for anything in that department. But I do expect more capability/functionality; a sequel has to be able to do something different than the original. Improved physics, more innovation in the combat system, etc. New weapons don’t really cut it, every FPS has a lot of weapons, but the selection of weapons doesn’t make that big of a change in the gameplay. New characters just amounts to an appearance change: I could go to fansites and download thousands upon thousands of avatars for any number of FPS games. Maps are in the same category here. Three whole new enemies? Hardly a major gameplay-changing addition. If they completely changed the way all the enemies fight/behave, alter the A.I., etc., that would be something, but just adding a few more zombie types to the existing mix is definitely expansion material. Music is nice for atmosphere, but I honestly hardly pay attention to it, and I wouldn’t consider new music qualification for a sequel. Of course, I wouldn’t consider re-using old music disqualification for a sequel either, it’s sort of a non-issue. New or additional story is exactly what I’d expect from an expansion.

    My best example of all this would be the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series. Each sequel in that series was a new generation of gameplay; each one made more possible than its predecessor. When they just added a bit of story, new characters, new enemies, new weapons, maps, and multiplayer options, without changing the game itself, it was sold as an expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, and was priced less than a full game. As far as I can tell, this is exactly the situation of L4D2.

    Mainly what I look for in a sequel falls along the lines of what you tell developers to provide in order to stop pirates: they have to give me something bigger and better than what I can get for free, which in this case is content created by other players.

    You do seem to be making a huge issue out of calling this a “boycott” I honestly fail to see the problem. You claim a difference between a boycott and refusing to “buy crap.” The only difference I see is that a boycott is when a group of people all refuse to buy the same crap, which seems to be exactly what is going on. Yes, many well-known boycotts of the past have been based on some higher principle, but that’s not required to fit the definition. Still, I think there is something of a principle here, one of customer support/satisfaction. Those supporting the boycott seem to think that the arrival of L4D2 signals the end of support for L4D. It may not be the most lofty of principles, and I can’t even say how correct it is, but I don’t think you can say that there is no principle or purpose to this boycott. It is intended to convey the customers’ dissatisfaction to the developer, in hopes of effecting a change in plans, which is pretty much what a boycott is designed to do: deliver a message. As I understand it, the message is that they want more content/support for L4D instead of a sequel, and actively boycotting said sequel seems to be a perfectly legitimate method of getting that message across.

    As for boycotting a game that is not yet out, it makes sense to me. There were people boycotting Spore and ME:PC prior to release over DRM issues. Game companies often sell games before they’re out, so why not boycott them early as well? Plus, if you don’t boycott it before it’s finished, how are you going to get anything changed?
    They’re not boycotting it because it isn’t for sale, they’re boycotting it because they don’t want it for sale (at least not in it’s current form). They’d rather that the resources were allocated to the existing game.

    AS to the cost:gameplay issues, I don’t so much care about how much it cost to make the game, but I do care about how much is in it. As you’ve often pointed out, a game can be very low budget in terms of graphics and all things “shiny,” yet still deliver good gameplay and plenty of content. I wouldn’t pay full price for a game with 6-8 hours of content, I doubt I’d even pay $20 for it; I’d pay $10, maybe $15 tops. Yes, I probably do ahve a different style of play: single player campaigns are key for me, while multiplayer is something used on occasion over a LAN. I don’t play FPSes online because I don’t care for the typical attitude/maturity level of the online community. I don’t play FPSes multiplayer often or for very long specifically because I quickly get tired of doing the same thing the same way over and over. As far as I’m concerned, hours spent on the same multiplayer maps does not qualify as content. It may be factored into replayability, but even that wears thin without a large quantity and variety of maps, something typically provided by the community, and therefore not something the developers can take a lot of credit for. Providing the tools for the community to create content is one thing, and it’s great for extending the life of your game (which can sell more copies), but it’s not the same as providing actual content included with the game.

    So it seems that we’ll have to disagree on some of the finer points of the situation, but in the end I understand your point of view on the validty of the supposed promises, and I appreciate you taking the time to explain it. Hopefully my responses give a clearer view of my take on the matter.

    Thanks again, Shamus.

  43. locusts says:

    Exhuming the Horse for Further Pommeling! Shamus that would have been awesome. Although it took me a moment to see the Pommeling/Pummeling change that you proposed.

    :D

  44. grasskit says:

    well to put it simply the whole debacle is just a bad case of managing expectations

  45. Vladius says:

    What Blackbird 71 should do is cast a wall of text at every post, thereby dooming us all.

    Nevermind. Forget I said anything.

  46. Neil Polenske says:

    “I posed this question before, and I only got one taker. That person suggested Valve add “puzzles”, “or something”. Well, puzzles don’t seem to fit within a game designed for “infinite” replay. The first time they’re a bit of a diversion, and on every subsequent playthrough they are simple busywork with no further entertainment value. What is it this game needs? Dialog trees? A romance sim? Blitzball mini-game? This is a tightly focused and well-polished experience, and I’m not seeing what needs to be added.”

    THEN WHY DID YOU ASK!?

    Really Shamus? I mean…really? Ignoring the remarkably insulting tone you took in response to my suggestions – unless your talking about someone else, in which case you blew right past my post – the POINT I was attempting to make was that the ability to expand upon the initial idea and create new gameplay experiences IS possible. Why would a pursuit like that be worthy of derision?

    Though it typically be said in irony and self-awareness, I’m being completely straight when I say: I thought I knew what kinda person you were, and I guess I was wrong.

    • Shamus says:

      Neil Polenske: Ah. I re-read read what I wrote and I can see why you’re irritated at what I said. As the only person (still!) to have answered the question, it seems unfair that I’m picking on your answer. I was picking on it because it was the only one given.

      As to “WHY DID YOU ASK?”

      Basically because if many people provided similar answers, it would give me some insight as to where the ire was coming from, and if not it would demonstrate that there WASN’T any coherent answer. (Although to be fair, I expected a bunch of contradictory answers, not a lack of them.) The point I’m getting at is that everyone is asking for “more stuff” without any real firm idea of what that “stuff” should be. I think that’s an important part of this discussion that’s being overlooked.

      Sorry if I offended you.

  47. Blackbird71 says:

    Ack! Just read through my last post, and found it’s full of hideous typos. It’s too late to edit, so my apologies to everyone!

    I really don’t mean to do a wall of text every time, I just type for a few minutes here and there, and by the time it’s ready to click “submit,” well, you see what happens :P

  48. pkt-zer0 says:

    Of course, even if this is true, it just means Valve hasn’t made good on the promise yet.

    Not really, since they also promised that the new campaigns/weapons/bosses would be rolling out at a rate faster than that of TF2’s updates. They were fairly specific about their post-release support. And they actually seem capable of delivering on them – it’s simply that they’re charging 50$ for it now.

  49. krellen says:

    L4D2 is a sequel, not an expansion. There is a blissfully simple way to tell: if you can play the new game without owning the old one, it’s sequel. If you need to own the old one, it’s an expansion.

    I love when things are simple.

  50. Blackbird71 says:

    @krellen (50)

    Yes, that is a simple way of differentiating it. However, I don’t think the discussion hinges on whether the game is a sequel or an expansion, but whether the amount of content/changes are worth being a sequel or an expansion (and therefore carrying the corresponding price tag). It’s a subtle difference, I know, but a difference all the same.

  51. Jeff says:

    krellen:
    There are plenty of standalone expansions, mate.
    DoW comes to mind, with 3 expansions that are all standalone, but can be combined for multiplayer and skirmishes.

  52. Sam says:

    I applaud your comments, Shamus. These gamers nowadays are so pissy about sequels. If they think this about L4D and L4D2 (which I’m almost considering purchasing despite my utter hatred of FPS games), then why not think the same about the Mario franchise, or the Madden franchise, or the Zelda franchise? Each of these games is (as they’d likely put it) a “reskin” of the old game, with all of the main goals of the games the same. But you never hear people complain about these franchises. So why L4D? I honestly don’t know. I played the demo a few months back, and found it entertaining. And I watched the E3 video you posted, and found that enjoyable. But these “fans” feel like crucifying L4D2 because it’s got the same gameplay as L4D? It makes no sense.

    To quote Yahtzee (from the end of all of his videos from the past few months): “Fans are whiny, complaining dipshits who will never, ever be grateful for any concession you make.” So true.

    Oh, and I so very thoroughly enjoyed the title for this post. Top drawer, sir. Top drawer.

  53. Doc Kirzner says:

    (I’m envisioning a Left 4 Dead that included a romance sim ending up like some romantic zombie comedy hybrid ala Shawn of the Dead.)

    But on point, Blackbird71’s characterization of the Left 4 Dead DLC as “fixing a mistake” is patently false. Consumers knew full well going into the purchase that they were ordering a game with full co-op functionality for four campaigns and verses support for two. And it was an excellent experience that stood on its own (they were ordering a hamburger and they liked it, to put it in terms of the restaurant analogy).

    Many of those consumers said, “it would be really nice if verses support was included for the other two campaigns as well.” Valve delivered (and yes, probably meant to have that support there in the first place, but that’s not what the customer initially paid for). Then, Valve went way above and beyond with the inclusion of an entirely new mode that proved quite popular.

    By now, fans have been accustomed to getting a free lunch, and expect more. That’s what this comes down to.

    As for the expansion vs. sequel debate, if it delivers a full game’s worth of content, why should it not have a full game’s worth of pricing attached to it?

    Regarding gameplay alterations, speaking as someone who has actually played Left 4 Dead, looking at the 3 new enemies, 4 new campaigns, and a slew of new weapons (particularly the melee weapons), I can attest that these will represent fundamental changes in the way I will play the game, and I’m more than willing to pay full price for the privilege. (Though I can understand where you’re coming from. Thinking back to the Jedi Knight and Dark Forces games, yes, a few maps, new enemies, new weapons…those wouldn’t represent any major gameplay alterations, and would best be put in an dependent expansion.)

    I do recommend that you play Left 4 Dead; you’ll be glad you did, and we’d love to have you join us in our trek through the zombie apocalypse.

  54. Kalbron says:

    @Sam:

    Huh? What planet do you live on? EA and other similar companies are (albeit rich) hated laughing stocks of the gaming community and derided for their sequel clones. Perhaps you don’t hear it as often because people are used to them being screwed over nigh constantly, but mention EA and what’s likely the first complaint you’ll hear? “They spam out their games.”

    That being said, it’s completely Valves perogative if they want to act like EA. I personally don’t care, given that I tend to trust a company’s word as much as I trust a politician. However if you want to act like EA for the sake of money, you have to be prepared to get EA’s reputation: Activision is living proof of this.

  55. Burning says:

    @Blackbird 71 (51)

    I agree with you that the discussion is probably really about whether the content is worthy of a sequel or not. However, krellen’s definition is to the point, because he’s addressing what a lot of people are actually saying. They are speaking about the expansion/sequel distinction in terms of the content defining what the release is, as opposed to it forming their opinion about what the release should be.

    I think it is worth it for the sake of clarity to call people on their language when they are saying something that seems different than what they (probably? possibly?) mean.

  56. Cineris says:

    I don’t buy the “I got X hours of entertainment out of this game, therefore it was worth my money.” I sincerely doubt anyone could get a realistic command of the gameplay as a whole in under 15-20 hours of play. Sure, if you’ve got prior FPS experience you’ll get the basics quite quickly and can instantly move on to understanding the dynamics of the weapons, levels, enemies, health, spawning and scoring systems. But you really have to try out a variety of different combinations to understand what’s going on, and Versus mode adds a bit of a wrinkle with its four Special Infected that operate under entirely different rules.

    My problem with the game has always been that once you’ve put in the time to understand these things, the gameplay itself is just not that compelling to me.* Once you’ve learned to move to a corner and melee you have discovered the secret to success for 75% of the SP/CoOp game. Now, once the melee cooldown timer was added to Versus it actually changed that and made Versus legitimately playable and interesting. But it’s still a huge component of the game, and in my opinion too prominent. But then again, I’m not sure how its importance could be reduced without causing other major issues — The game is a little too reliant on binary situations, and the melee is perfectly fine when we’re talking about some of the really dangerous outdoor areas in Blood Harvest, but extreme overkill in the narrow indoor corridors elsewhere.

    * At least, not compelling when I’m constantly getting frustrated by terrible hit detection and other issues that severely detract from my enjoyment of the game.

  57. Lupis42 says:

    Would people be happy if it was an expansion, at the same price?

  58. Danath says:

    @Shamus

    Check post #47 I think, Licaon_Kter’s, I’m at classes and can’t really check it myself, but it seems to be relevent.

    Also a couple of early posts linked interviews that pretty much stated that they would release more content, or compared it to how they released content for TF2, thus creating the expectation that L4D would recieve the same treatment.

    Valve not NEEDING to isnt the point, its the expectation and implied promises that matter.

  59. Aergoth says:

    Repeat after me: It’s just a game, I should really just relax.

    Seriously

  60. Blackbird71 says:

    @Doc Kirzner (55)

    I appreciate the invitation to join the L4D crowd, but I’ll have to decline for two reasons: 1)I won’t run Steam, and 2)I know I don’t enjoy multiplayer FPSes enough to get enough gameplay out of it for the purchase to be worth it to me. Nonetheless, thanks for the invite.

    This does bring me to your point though about “deliver[ing] a full game’s worth of content.” I think we’d probably disagree on what qualifies as a “full game’s worth.” In general, to me a full game would be a minimum of 20, preferably closer to 40, full hours of gameplay (not replay). For an FPS, I’d probably expect something closer to the 20 hour mark, but definetely not less. Even then, I’d probably wait for it to hit the bargain bin before I bought it. I realize that fewer and fewer games meet these marks, which is probably one reason why I haven’t bought an FPS in years.

    So, by my standards, it sounds like neither L4D nor L4D2 would qualify as a “full game’s worth” of content.

  61. jackdawjack says:

    With regard to what else one might reasonably ask for in L4D2, i was vaguely hoping for something like procedurally generated levels. Some extension to the ai-director concept which not only pushes more baddies at you but pushes you through different paths, more cover, less cover, open spaces, a maze of twisty passages depending on how the level is going.

    It might make the experience a little more realistic feeling, if you’re just fleeing for your life one is going to pick any old perhaps dangerous route whereas if things are momentarily calm you might devote more effort to thinking out where to go.

    This would allow for even more play-through and less of an “on-rails” feeling. it could be done so as to keep a coherent feeling to the different campaigns and the levels could still contain set pieces just shuffled around.

    Perhaps someone has already suggested this, i have only skimmed the comments on the various threads.

  62. Blackbird71 says:

    After reading through a lot of the comments, and in particular, some of the posted links, I do have to state that it appears Valve has made some very specific promises about what content would be released for L4D in the future. In my opinion, A public statement about future actions made by an official representative of the company to a press outlet does in fact amount to a promise.

    As of now, it appears that several of these promises have yet to be delivered upon. This is not to say that these promises will not be kept at some future date, but the fact that they’ve announced plans (and have shown demo footage) of similar content to be used in a sequel certainly seems to indicate that they already had the means and opportunity to fulfill their promise, but chose not too. It’s not yet completely damning, but it is definitely discouraging, and I think justifies at the very least some suspicion on the part of the players.

  63. The Defenestrator says:

    jackdawjack, there’s already going to be something like what you said in L4D2. There’s apparently a graveyard which is laid out depending on how you’ve been doing so far. If you’re doing poorly, it’ll be a straight shot, but if you’re impressing the Director, it’ll be a narrow, winding path filled with zombies.

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