Left 4 Dead Multiplayer

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

Filed under: Video Games 74 comments

Left 4 Dead offers a single-player mode but the heart of the game is clearly in the multiplayer. Single Player is quite fun, although perhaps not quite robust enough to justify the $60 $50 price tag on its own. The game is made with online or LAN play in mind.

I have the PC version. This past weekend I signed onto Steam to check out the multiplayer. I’ve never tried it before. Outside of MMO games, I don’t think I’ve played online with strangers since 2003 or so, when I used to play Unreal Tournament (original recipe) Capture the Flag. (I used to play with these guys. Can’t believe the site & server are still around, although I’m sure they’ve moved on to other games.) I clicked on the thing to join a game. Some people appeared. There was a long pause. Then somebody called us all “f**kers” for no discernible reason. I suddenly remembered why I don’t play with strangers and logged off. I haven’t been back since, although I still plan to give it another go.

Then there is this thread at The Escapist, where a player became frustrated with some random teammates who were most likely new to the game and struggling. Rather than communicating with them and expressing his frustration, he and a friend simply abandoned one and killed the other . His post is more or less a plea for ointment for his inflamed conscience. Most of his fellow Xbox Live players were all too happy to tell him he did the right thing, and brewed up a tray of rationales for him to sample.

My goal in this post is not to pick on that player. He’s a very typical XBL player and raging against him is about as useful as raging against the fact that people are usually rude in rush-hour traffic. It’s one of the immutable laws of the internet.

But it does seem to suggest that we need better tools for filtering out jerks and idiots. You can report users on Steam, but this is for serious, “I-will-hunt-you-down-and-rape-you” level misbehavior and asininity. Like rating sellers & buyers on eBay, it seems like we need a automated way to remark whether or not someone was a good playmate without resorting to flagging people as abusive. Simply having a system in place would probably cure a host of ills. If at the end of every game you had a chance to flag players as fun, neutral, or problematic, then over time the jerks would accumulate a large enough negative score that sane people would avoid them.

I will say I like the way XBL users can choose what sorts of people they want to deal with – hardcore, underground, casual, or whatever those pigeon-holes are named. I’d avoid “hardcore” types because they’re probably playing to win, while I’m playing to have fun.

At any rate, it does seem kind of odd that after all these years we’re still just leaping into a great big sea of random crazy people whenever we game online. And by “we” I mean, “all of you people who aren’t antisocial hermits like me and who socialize with other gamers”.

Do you have any tricks for filtering people before a game? How do you handle the inevitable idiot?


From The Archives:

74 thoughts on “Left 4 Dead Multiplayer

  1. Jack of Spades says:

    I only play anything remotely goal-seeking with people I’ve known face to face for years. That is, I pretty much don’t do multiplayer online stuff at all.

  2. Rutskarn says:

    Trying to filter the crowd you’ll get for a Left 4 Dead experience is like trying to pick out which people in a crowd won’t shiv you and take your wallet.

    Unless you’ve can spot people you already know, it’s really up to fate.

    Anyway, for the most part my experience with L4D has been fairly positive. I’ve had more decent, laid-back teammates than mouthbreathers.

  3. MadTinkerer says:

    “Single Player is quite fun, although perhaps not quite robust enough to justify the $60 price tag on its own.”

    That’s why everyone should check the Steam website every friday night for weekend deals. I have about a hundred games on my Steam account now (mostly parts of bundles, like the Id Super Pack which includes a few different versions of the original Doom and expansions for Quake), nearly all of which were purchased as part of a sale. Some, like Darwinia, were good enough to justify not waiting (and have a low base price anyway), but for the most part I got them from sales and most of those sales were weekend deals.

    I have every multiplayer Source game, though the only one I actually play regularly is TF2. (EDIT: and L4D of course.) The rest I got mostly for messing around in Garry’s Mod.

    Also, $50, not $60.

    “He's a very typical XBL player and raging against him is about as useful as raging against the fact that people are usually rude in rush-hour traffic.”

    Which is another reason I am very comfortable being XBox-less. Wasn’t it wonderful when the XBox first came out and 90% (it seemed) of the douchebags that were playing on PCs online migrated over? I’ll always be grateful to Microsoft for that. There’s still the occasional person who will repeat the same hip hop loop into his mic for rounds upon rounds until I want to TRACK HIM DOWN IN REAL LIFE AND MAKE HIM BLEED OUT SLOWLY, but for the most part I like the random people I run into online.

  4. Juni says:

    Half of the replies on the first page of that Escapist thread seem to assume that players of Left 4 Dead are actually in an apocalypse scenario, and not just playing to have fun.

    When you get matched with a jerk, I’d just say the pizza’s here and leave.

  5. I’ve only played maybe 10 or 20 games of L4D, and I basically never play online multiplayer games (though I do play WoW occasionally, I’m a soloer). My experience has been pretty different: it’s the only game I’ve played where people consistently weren’t asshats. I’ve run into a few people who didn’t play friendly, but I think the gameplay of L4D really discourages that.

    I encourage you to give it a few more tries, and make sure you’re not just getting some statistical anomalies. Don’t feel too bad about quitting a game with a jerk — at least your character gets replaced with a bot.

  6. Jordi says:

    I don’t think rating people will work, precisely because a lot of people are assholes and sore losers. I imagine a lot of players that are good enough to kick most people’s ass would probably have very low ratings. Maybe it would work if downvoting people would cost something (for instance, you can damage someone’s reputation by 2 points, but it will cost you one point of your own).

    Maybe it would be better if Steam would gather statistics for everyone and pits equally matched players against eachother.

  7. vdgmprgrmr says:

    The rating system you suggest probably wouldn’t work.

    It appears the amount of people who would actually be reasonable when rating people is extremely low.

    For example, think of all the people who lose at online games and then have a total hissy-fit because they thought they should have won. Even if the winner is a nice guy who was taking time to give advice to the losing player, the losing player would rate the person as a douchebag instead of a skilled, yet nice person. The majority of players (the ones who think randomly insulting other players is just plain hilarious) will rate others within their group highly. Everyone has a different scale for good to bad, so using one universal scale would be impossible. Of course, I don’t know what could work in it’s stead.

    As for that thing on the Escapist… I read the entire first page, and I didn’t see a single person say, “Gee, maybe they were new to the game and didn’t know what to do? Perhaps you should have tried to walk them through the game and give them a better understanding of what they needed to do before team-killing them or kicking them.”

    This brings tears to my eyes.

  8. Stargazer says:

    I own the game, but have never touched it. I wasn’t there at the start of the game and from what my brother tells me, and what I read here, it seems this little gem has a really unforgiving player base, when it comes to new players, which is in fact keeping me from trying it out.

  9. MadTinkerer says:

    “I suddenly remembered why I don't play with strangers and logged off.”

    The Source games of today are nothing like the Quakeworld / Quake 3 / HL1DM games of yesterday. I couldn’t play those for long either simply because of the attitudes of the other players. They were developed by and for the John Romeros of the world, and I’m not a Romero.

    By the way, let me be clear: I’m a pretty laid-back player and can get along with pretty much any group. I do like to shoot virtual characters, because that’s part of the point, but for me it’s not really about being aggressive.

    If I’m in a mood to play Pyro and burny burny burny, but everyone else on the server I just joined wants to melee, I’m cool with that. If I end up on a server with a couple n00bs trying to learn the game, I’ll cut them some slack. If I end up on a server where it seems everyone’s better than me, I’ll try to stay out of their way (and everyone loves a competent medic or engie). If I get dominated repeatedly, I’ll congratulate my foe while secretly trying to figure out how to get revenge(in TF2 terms), and hey: maybe we’ll be partners next round.

    I haven’t played a lot of L4D online, but it’s mostly the same story so far. It’s way more intense, and you don’t have the option of switching to a class that will help your team out better, but there are similar roles: you might be the damage-sponge in front, the pill-slinger and/or molotov-slinger, the marksman shooting over the damage-sponge’s head, the ninja switching between helping each of the other three and so on. N00bs still need looking after, but the single-player is the perfect training environment to allow the average L4D session to be that much more intense than the average TF2 session.

    Incidentally, I prefer to join a friend’s game in progress whenever possible. Not just because of the Medic achievement I still don’t quite have yet, but when you know there’s at least one other player on the server you like, it really helps.

  10. Sean Riley says:

    Xbox Live does have a fairly neat system wherein you can choose to ‘prefer’ or ‘avoid’ players. It’s only usable after you’ve played with someone once, but if you’re an active player it can do a good job of funneling you into encounters with people you’ve met before and enjoyed playing with.

    That said, L4D really, really needs to be played with friends. It’s awesome that way.

  11. Ave says:

    I play regularly many games online (some through Steam, like CS:S and RO) and the point is to not play randomly against random guys but selectively against semi-random guys. What I mean is that pick your servers with care. Go around and leave servers full of jerks and experiment as long as it takes to find you the server (or couple of those) which you feel good to play in. And that’s why I avoid all kind of console gaming online. The moderation just doesn’t work so well and people are generally more jerky like Tinkerer said.

    Rating doesn’t work when there’s multiple players in server, could work in 1v1 game (like some RTS thingys). Better go somewhere where admins are active and ban jerks.

  12. Ave says:


  13. Mark says:

    Play only with people you know, or with people they know. Private servers are the only way to ensure a tolerable online experience.

    Incidentally, Shamus, if it’s a group of patient and pleasant Left 4 Dead players you’re after, I’m sure that many of your readers would be only too happy to oblige.

  14. Patrick says:

    Your post reminded me of this article that I read last week.

    @ joystick – http://www.joystiq.com/2009/03/13/alert-to-all-jerks-valve-to-rate-team-fortress-2-servers/

    @ 1up – http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3173260

    I am posting 2 links because I found the comments to the story more interesting (not necessarily well thought out and spelled correctly but interesting) than the story itself.

    To summarize Valve is attempting to rate server quality by tracking how often and how quickly people log into and out of the server. So a server that people log into and stay on for a while will be rated higher than a server that people pop on and off very quickly. The underlying assumption seems to be that people will only stay if they like the experience.

    I am not sure what I think of the idea. It seems to have some advantages. For example it is entirely objective (no players can rate down other players just because they are better/worse). It can be done automatically. It is easy to understand and share the information with all the players.

    There also seem to be some big issues with this plan. People can enter and leave a server for many different reasons perhaps “good” servers could get low ratings. Also the servers are getting rated not the players. Since the population is fluid once a “good” server gets a good rating wont all the “bad” players just go and wreck that server?

    I am not sure this is going to accomplish what they want it too but it is good to see them try. Hopefully it will work or at least help someone else come up the next thing to try.

  15. Lupis42 says:


    They are rating servers partly because they have seen issues with servers misrepresenting information to the server browser service. The idea of rating users to help keep jackassery to a minimum is still essentially unimplemented, except insofar as server hosts can restrict access.

  16. Mari says:

    Guild Wars is pretty much my only online multiplayer experience (mostly because I’m an anti-social hermit) worth noting. It helps that it’s a lot more low-key there. Plus, I have people that I know face-to-face that I play with a fair bit. But occasionally I play with strangers. It’s been…interesting. Several of the strangers I’ve played with have been really awesome. They’ve helped me learn how to play the game better (pointed out builds and skills I could use better, etc.) as well as making the current experience more enjoyable.

    But a few have been less pleasant. Yep, I’ve been a victim of murder one a few times and a victim of negligent manslaughter several more. When I figure out that I’m playing with those folks, I’ll usually apologize that my skill isn’t up to theirs and drop out. Then make sure to never play with them again and generally avoid the guilds they play with as well.

    I love the theory on that Escapist thread that before entering multiplayer mode you must have a mic and significant experience. How, exactly, does one gain experience if experience is a prereq to playing? Catch-22 much? Yet another reason for me to continue avoiding the game-playing public.

  17. Zel says:

    This is precisely why I don’t usually play the multiplayer part of games, and stick with single-player or coop. The only time I play online multiplayer, it’s with people I know. I know I’m missing out on many nice persons, but an experience such as the one you described (players killed because they were new) would be enough to make me quit.

    @16 : from what my friends say (Dawn of War/Unreal tournament players), you’re supposed to have finished the single player content on maximum difficulty before you can hope to have the slightest chance of winning or not slowing everyone down online. Basically, you’re supposed to do the campaign over and over, practice against the computer on the hardest setting for days, and when it’s all cakewalk, go get raped on the internet…

    When I consider the work they went through just to start playing online, I can understand their frustration when someone who has just installed the game shows up and messes with their 3v3 ranked match. I would have thought L4D with its multiple difficulty settings would limit the problem : hardcore roxxors play on insane or whatever, new people play on easy and casual players play on normal. Are there jerks insulting newcomers in easy and normal mode ?

  18. Peggy says:

    I do not play L4D because I am zombiephobic. BUT my husband who has no concerns for my mental health does. ;)

    He plays with his brother and their mutual friends only. If they’re not playing together then they’re just achievement grinding solo. Why? Because, yea, most XBL people are dicks. That’s really the only way to truly avoid the frothing controller gripping freaks.

  19. WanderingGrapefruit says:

    This is why I never ever play online.

    Local multiplayer for me!

  20. Lebkin says:

    I only play Left 4 Dead with people I know. As such, this desire made it extremely easy to decide to pick up the Xbox 360 version. The 360 version has split-screen co-op. It is amazing how much more enjoyable the game is even with just two human players instead of one. Split-screen lets us do this on the comfort of our couch. Even better, we can take the split-screen online for those times when we want to play with others.

  21. Danath says:

    I usually just leave the game and join another… I must say, my GENERAL experience in L4D has been good people, and even the bad ones arent offensive (stupid is fine, as long as they try hard). Sometimes you get lucky, although I will admit I tend to gravitate towards “expert” and “advanced” games which usually have people who are more open to failure and less overall dicks, although maybe im just lucky.

  22. Noggy says:


    That’s basically the system that I use to make my games more enjoyable. It also helps to use your friends and gamers you meet and like to find good servers.

  23. gahazakul says:

    Hey, I’ll say I would love to play some with you and at least fill one spot, love playing story mode. More than that, I like playing story mode as the game is completely meant to be played, screaming in fear and using no known glitches.

    I’m online all the time so if you are interested (or anyone else for that matter) here ya go.


  24. karln says:

    I agree with 7, a rating system would just get messed up by the asshats’ votes. I have sometimes wondered whether a simple web-of-trust type system would work, though. The idea being that when you consider someone for grouping, the system checks that player’s ratings from various other players and gives much higher weight to the votes from players you yourself rated highly, and ignores votes from those you rated as asshats. Trust can also run several levels ‘deep’, ie. if you like A, and A likes B, but you don’t know B yourself, then B’s vote for C also counts quite highly, but less so than if you explicitly liked B. And so on.

    Whether it would work depends on how much of the total playerbase can be covered by 3 or 4 levels of your friends of friends, I guess, and I have no idea whether it would be enough.

  25. RedClyde says:

    Sorry to hear, Shamus, but I’d say your experience was atypical. I’ve played dozens of L4D games and have only met jerks a few times. Eventually I made some friends and it got even better. (And I’m antisocial as well; I usually avoid online games.)

    Like someone else said on here, if you’re looking for L4D buddies, there’s likely several of us out here for you to survive the apocalypse with.

    I haven’t been on much lately, but feel free to add:

  26. mikeful says:

    Playing L4D on public server is probably stupidest thing you can do in the game. The game is meant to play with people in your friends list or known Steam communities.

  27. Lochiel says:

    I love the idea of L4D, but I usually find myself playing TF2 instead. I rarely run into true dickery, although I wouldn’t notice if someone called me a fucker. For the most part, its a positive experience.

    If you want to try L4D again, look me up as well.

  28. Rason says:

    I usually find myself in a gaming clan, so that is how I weed out jerks like that. Like Lochiel above, if you ever want someone to play L4D with, look me up. ((I have been lurking your site since you started DMotR)) http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561197968934567

  29. nilus says:

    Here is how I filter who I play with


    Its the best adults only game community I have tried. They are mostly 360 players although there are some PC and PS3 players as well. L4D is very popular at the moment and you can get a good group of players together for co-op or versus most nights.

  30. Volatar says:

    I only played L4D when it was avaliable in demo form for a little bit. Played alone once, twice with my brother, and once with my little circle of long time online friends. Good game, I would get it if zombie games were not disallowed in my house :(

    I do however, have plenty of other games on steam. I play TF2 and GMod sometimes, say hi some weekend :)


  31. SEGEEK says:

    I think a lot of people are right about the whole rating system not working if players know they are voting for someone, but it may be interesting to glean that sort of information by other means. For instance I tend to mute all the really annoying people I run into on XBox live, it would be interesting to see what would happen if grouping preference was on people who muted the same idiots. I am not sure what other types of information could be used for this purpose but it could be an interesting data mining assignment …

  32. GuiguiBob says:

    Just to defend XBox Live, well maybe not. But since I only play with friends, XBL permit me with the party chat to only hear them, wich is really cool. People I know are much friendlier and know I’m a noob so cut me some slack and beside we talk in french so we don’t piss nobody for doing so.

    So my advice to filter the jerks, play with people you know so you know if they are jerks or not.

  33. Julian says:

    I always take a look at the usernames, they help a lot. If you see someone with a name like, say, Nessun Dorma, or Ainulindale (real geeks should understand that last one), you know they’re probably decent people, no matter what skill level they are. xXxididurmomlolxXx is probably not a very pleasant teammate, even if he can solo the entire L4D campaign.
    Also, make sure to befriend (as in, add them to your Friends list) people you like playing with. This is particularly useful in L4D.

    1. Shamus says:

      For those who are interested. I found that once I jumped into the game I could no longer remember the list of people who’d kindly offered to play. To remedy this, I made one of these groups in Steam:


      It’s a public group. We’ll see if anyone is interested.

  34. Nixorbo says:

    As mentioned, XBL has the avoid/prefer player option, which is a wonderful thing.

    Also, I found it a boon to use the “mute everyone not on my friends list” option.

  35. Derek K. says:

    Dingo ate my post. Bah.


    L4D awesome. Multiplayer mostly good. Play with friends first, then allow others. Get a good clan.

    I’m #3 in the Steam Group! WOO!

    And Jesus God, I think I died a little reading that thread.

  36. Another Scott says:

    To avoid those unsavory individuals, I follow two rules when playing left for dead (I play on Xbox-Live):

    1) Try not to play right when the schools get out, most of the (but not all) of the problematic players are young kids.

    2) Always talk to everyone before beginning the match, if most of them can’t answer coherently just try somewhere else (or boot them if you are the host).

    It’s not perfect, but those two rules have significantly helped me avoid frustration.

  37. Neil Polenske says:


    Just to get THAT outta the way.

    The thing to note about L4D is that the nature of the game means it tends to weed out the XBL behavior much quicker and more organically than the average deathmatch FPS. You go to ‘jump in game’ with random strangers, of course you’re taking a risk, but after a very short while I’ve built up a sizable friends lists through this one game alone and have been able to find out who is and isn’t fun to play with and have removed accordingly, but you just have to be willing to stick with it. I was and I was greatly rewarded for it.

  38. jerm says:

    Sorry that this is somewhat tangential:

    I fell in L-O-V-E with multiplayer left 4 dead. At least in part because the format of the game promotes solid team based play, unlike Counterstrike and its ilk, in small part because I’ve had pretty damn good luck finding descent people to play with online. Sure, there are *always* morons lurking out there, just waiting to grief your game, or just make it generally unpleasant, but there’s a lot of fairly descent folks who just seem to be interested in killing some zombies. I’ll hit up the steam group!

    And of course, more to the point of your post, Shamus… linky

  39. acronix says:

    As Julian said, the best way to avoid this kind of people in any kind of online game is to look at their names. I have played quite a number of online games, and I found that most bullying people had names with numbers, “x” or other symbols at the end and final (like Julian`s example), insults, or self-praises (like “RealPro” or “MepwnsU”), or everything at the same time.

    On the other hand, I found that kind, forgiving and ussually nice people use names with no numbers or weird symbols and start with a capital letter. It may be me and my luck, but people that had names of book characters were always nice people.

  40. CrushU says:

    tl;dr all the comments, read about half before I felt the need to clarify a few things.

    The designers of L4D spent a lot of time trying to get the game right so that you HAVE to be a team player to survive. If you go through the commentary you can really understand it. This said, if you’re starting out you should really, REALLY do the normal Campaign mode before you try Versus. (The game tells you this is the better idea, and it isn’t kidding.)

    You cannot go out alone in the game, you’ll get murdered. You can’t stand still, the AI will eventually rape you. It takes a while to find the right balance of MOVE MOVE MOVE and SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT. It also helps in the beginning that you get more visual cues, and as you play more often it tends to relax them so it doesn’t clutter your screen with needless information.

    The hardest part of the game is playing Versus as the Infected, because it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about how best to play. Whereas on the Survivors, you’re told ‘Use this minigun’ ‘Stay near your teammates’ ‘Melee to knock someone out of Smoker grasp’…

    But anyway. My point is: In Campaign mode, you can’t win unless you play as a team, so most people play as a team. For the jerks that can’t, there’s always votekick. (And they tend to end up dying themselves anyway, so that’s a plus as well.) In Versus mode, not so much.

  41. BeAuMaN says:

    Sweet, you did a Steam group. Joined.

    I actually e-mailed you, Shamus, back in late January about Left 4 Dead being a must-play. I LOVE playing this game at the local LANcenter, however I play online quite a bit. That said, I’m a rather tolerant guy, and usually take charge with “Loud Confident Voice (TM)”. I generally join “Games in Progress” in Versus mode. This usually means I’m replacing a “Ragequitter”, or a player that quit most likely because they got beat so bad… which isn’t how you learn, sadly. So I end up expecting to join a game where either the players are new, disorganized, or the team is just having a stroke of bad luck.

    Depending on the players, I’ve found that like previous people have said, there’s a number of players who are unforgiving to new players. I’d definitely recommend playing one or two campaigns on single player or with a good friend before trying to play versus online. The other thing is that often new players won’t mention their new (Which is natural, I mean, you don’t want them to know you’re the new blood, right? ;)), but then it’s just assumed that said new player is stupid or doesn’t want to work together with the team, since no one knows they’re new.

    As for the best filter method, I generally play random games, and if I have one session that I find rather enjoyable BECAUSE of a certain player(s), I add them to my friends list (You can remove them at any time). That way, when I boot up the game, I can go and hop into one of their games at any time.

    Anyhoo, hope you get better players next time, because this game is a real gem.

    Anyhow, hit me up if you’re ever l;ooking for players:

  42. Minkus says:

    I already had a few friends on Steam who prefer to enjoy the game instead of griefing others all the time when I got Left 4 Dead, but playing a public server is always a gamble.

    My worst experience was jumping into a game already in progress and I was assigned a character who had nothing but a pistol and about 1/3 original health. Everyone else just yelled at me to get over to their position at the safe house while a Smoker drained what was left of my health. They didn’t respond to my frequent cries for help and when I died they said I was a horrible player. I don’t go on to public servers much anymore.

    Still when I’m playing with friends and their extended friends, this is one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had. Survival mode is being added in the next update so if you haven’t played L4D yet this is a good time as any to jump in!

  43. Sam says:

    The only way I’ve found to filter the constant stream of idiocy that is online gaming is to play games that aren’t very popular. Which is why I’m only playing City of Heroes right now. All the idiots migrated to WoW years ago, and only the fans of the game are left. Which is nice, because most of the players are fairly competent instead of morons spewing random letters and typing with alternating lower case and capital letters. And they don’t hound you to join a team. If you want to solo grind, you can solo grind. That’s why I like CoH far more over WoW or any other online MMO.

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks to everyone who joined in this evening. I had a blast.

      I suck at being a zombie, though. I wish there was a way to practice that offline.

  44. vbigiani says:

    It’s not you. Zombie mode IS hard, unless you’re playing with a well-coordinated team and/or vastly superior to the survivors. That’s why Valve is constantly buffing the zombies ;)

    website is my id, but there aren’t realistical options of playing together because I’m in Italy, and latency DOES matter in L4D (differently from what happens in TF2).

    Also, you do know about votekick right?

  45. Stuart says:

    I haven’t had a problem with l4d on XBL yet, but I haven’t played with a headset. The problem I see with an end of game rating is that people will be rated for skill or biased by one mistake rather than ‘fun-to-playness’

    The xbox should already do the skill balancing task, though I don’t know how good it is.

    Maybe there could be something like a web of trust developed: you play a game and say “I had. Fun with this guy” then if your friends are ever playing him they can see the verdict from a friend. It’s a preliminary idea but the point is to try and avoid the global bashing of rating.

  46. Conlaen says:

    I was not even aware of the group system. I joined the twentysided group. Will see if I can join some games sometimes.

  47. Johannes says:

    Seems I’m already too late to enjoy a first round of twentysided group play! I’d like to join the group, though. It being US-based might pose a problem, due to the time at which I can play…

    I’m not going to say much new, just agree with all the others that already asserted that L4D is a pretty balanced multiplayer game. Had some negative experiences (got kicked yesterday by some guys trying to be funny), but not much. Mostly, my experience also is that misbehaving players get kicked/leave the game within reasonable time.

    Plus, trying to teamplay and complimenting on others’ good actions is appreciated and seems to work to your advantage (which is nice, since I’d more or less expect that from what I consider social behaviour). I always compliment people for what good things they do, try not to ragequit etc. (played a round of Blood Harvest once against a good team; my entire team must have ragequitted at least twice, but I just didn’t feel like doing that ;)).

    There really are lots of nice, social players out there. Guys that keep laughing at a funny situation, even when the survivors’ team just perished. Guys that don’t call you a n00b each time you ‘fail’.

  48. vrittis says:

    I really dislike playing with strangers on this game, because it’s much more intimate than say TF2 where you’re around twenty people per map.

    I think i’ll give your community a go. be aware though that i have a voicekit and that i’m a french speaker so i’ll probably lose my marbles in stress and mutter about those sacrebleu boomers… :)

    see ya

  49. Zel says:

    Nice little thing this steam group. I couldn’t help but browse to your personal stats and see that you have more than 30hr of play for Left 4 Dead. Since you said you only started multiplayer this week-end and I doubt you’ve been playing non-stop for two days, I’ll assume you’ve spent most of that time in single player.

    Would you recommend it for its single-player value then ? The 4 small campaigns look like quite repetitive when played with computer bots as teammates.

  50. Picador says:

    There was a long pause. Then somebody called us all “f**kers” for no discernible reason. I suddenly remembered why I don't play with strangers and logged off.

    Shamus, not that I don’t agree with you that multiplayer games are full of trolls, but is it possible you’re being a little overly sensitive? Using four-letter words in a game about slaughtering hundreds of zombies doesn’t really strike me as terribly abusive or inappropriate. I play L4D with some friends every weekend, and I can assure you that we call each other much worse, regularly. Perhaps that style of conversation rubs you the wrong way, but in that case we’re not really talking about filtering out “jerks” or “idiots”, but rather “people who don’t adhere to a very specific code of social conduct”.

    Not that you’re not entitled to want to play with a specific type of person, but you need some kind of pre-set social networking feature (like the Steam group you’ve set up) to deal with it. And you should probably lay out your particular sensitivities in the group’s terms of membership, lest rambunctious but perfectly good-natured people will find themselves being kicked out of your group for no discernible reason.

    1. Shamus says:

      Picador: The problem wasn’t the language, the problem was that this guy walked into the room and the first thing out of his mouth was an insult without reason or context. Someone who thinks calling you a f**ker is a good way to greet someone has all sorts of deeper problems that will manifest during play.

  51. Scourge says:

    My first online experience was in Diablo 2.. and it was surprisingly well.

    I met someone who gave out free items, back then I was still new and so they were super for me, even if they were mere normal drops for him.

    My theory is that the first experience one makes is important and will influence the way people will play then.
    Bad experience = Bad behavior
    Good experience = Good behavior.

    It also reminds me of Empires, a HL2 mod, which combines egoshooter, some RPG elements, and RTS. I was forced to be the commander, a quite unfun job, and people kept nagging and complaining how I sucked etc. My only response: “I don’t remember you volunteering to do the job, so, just shut up or at least give some advises.”
    They did shut up, and some even gave me advices on what to research and do.
    We still lost, and I will never be commander again because it is no fun, but well, it gave me insight into the Commander job and I never complain about Commanders ever again.

  52. Russ says:

    I’m a big advocate of rating people I play with using the Xbox avoid/prefer method. After you mark a player to avoid you will never have to see them again.

    I’ll join the twenty sided steam group when I get a chance. Right now I’ve only been playing with my friend. We love coop games and blasting zombies is always good, so this game hits a sweet spot.

  53. Leonardo Herrera says:

    Seamus: your multiplayer skin has thinned off with the years :-)

    I love Left4Dead, thought given the bad latency I have (I live in south america) I feel like a newbie every single game. I’ve even been voted out of some games, althought I’m a really competent player in other games (I consistently score 100+ kills in a normal team deathmatch game of Call of Duty 4, for example.)

    Most of the time, thought, I’ve played with really nice guys. I don’t like to use the mic because I have a thick accent, and that more often than not triggers really bad attitude (no, I don’t want to discuss that.) So far the worst experience I had was with a little pottymouth girl that went to great lengths to make the game difficult to me; the fact that I was getting mad at a little girl made me realize that I had a choice, so I just logged off.

    But it has been mostly fun.

  54. Lagged2Death says:

    If at the end of every game you had a chance to flag players as fun, neutral, or problematic, then over time the jerks would accumulate a large enough negative score that sane people would avoid them.

    I humbly submit that Steam has a far simpler mechanism that does more-or-less this very thing: The friends list. When you bump in to some fun players, you can easily friend them (the interface lists “people recently played with” for just this reason). Later, when starting a new game, you can, with a single click, look only for games your friends are participating in.

    There are network effects. If you mostly (or only) join games where a few friends are playing, you’ll meet your friend’s friends, boosting your chances of finding people who have the same attitudes about the game that you do.

    I’ve been playing far too much TF2 over the past year, but I can’t remember the last time I played a pick-up game with an entirely strange group. I can always find some friends instead.

  55. Matt P says:

    “Then there is this thread at The Escapist, where a player became frustrated with some random teammates who were most likely new to the game and struggling. Rather than communicating with them and expressing his frustration, he and a friend simply abandoned one and killed the other . His post is more or less a plea for ointment for his inflamed conscience. Most of his fellow Xbox Live players were all too happy to tell him he did the right thing, and brewed up a tray of rationales for him to sample.”
    I have an account at Escapist and I was ready to go over there and give that poster some (polite) what for, but the situation is more complicated than you represented it. Later on in the thread the friend explains that they tried communicating with these people but they didn’t listen or respond, as they had no microphones (probably not their fault, but perhaps it was) and seemed to be unable or unwilling to listen to advice from the other two – he guesses they didn’t know how to turn on the ‘listen to other mics’ setting. They seemed to be totally new to the game and the map; they couldn’t open doors and had no idea where to go. This wouldn’t have been a game-killing problem if they weren’t also either unable or unwilling to listen to the fellow players’ advice via mics. How can you help someone you can’t communicate with?
    They apparently considered kicking the two players but decided against that, reasoning it would be a split vote. From the sounds of it, that would be untrue, as the other two players probably wouldn’t understand what was going on anyway, but that’s by the by. In the end they decided on team-killing; and it should be mentioned that at first they only team-killed in a way that made good sense if you understood the game, which the newbies didn’t – and so they responded in a violent fashion, thereby setting off a 2 on 2 brawl that obviously the veterans won.
    For my money, I would have given up and started afresh with this friend but not with the micless and hapless other two. We can go on all we like here about those mean, nasty hardcore players picking on the newbies, but in this case – two players going online without mics, the option to listen to mic communication turned on, or even the most basic understanding of the game – the facts seem a lot greyer on who was to blame. I won’t side with players who will turn to griefing to get the ‘nubs’ to leave, but I have no pity for players who enter online multiplayer with no clue how to play and no possible way of learning from others. It’s really not that hard to get your sea legs offline before going out to play with other people. We should remember that in online L4D if your teammates aren’t at even the most basic level of competence – ie, know how to open doors – and can’t or won’t be taught, then you won’t have fun at all, unless your definition of fun correlates with success not at all. In other words, if you go online without a basic understanding of the game or the tools to figure them out (a mic for instance, or a friend explaining things over your shoulder) then you’re ruining other peoples’ fun because you lacked the patience and courtesy to learn.
    In the circumstances the two better players chose the meaner of the two options presented to them – quit or force the others to do so – but all the nicer options had been closed by the two new players’ apparent unwillingness to help themselves, or help others help them, at all.

  56. Macil says:

    Hey Shamus!

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I found this post deliciously ironic! I own the PC version of L4D and I’ve found the multiplayer pool to be, eh … confrontational? I’m an experienced FPSer (TF2 addict), having played games like Q3A, Enemy Territory, Tribes 2 and Jedi Knight 2 actively in the past, and I can honestly say I’ve never been so repelled by the multiplayer aspect of a game as I have with L4D. A lot of the players I’ve encountered have made the experience really sour, particularly as you’re learning to harmonize with the teamplay experience.

    I don’t expect a high-degree of teamplay or competitiveness in a pickup-game of L4D, so I tend to play this game for fun and not to win. That said, I’ve had more than a few players yell over chat and/or mic at me/other players and that’s not why I play video games after work.

    I haven’t played enough to make any sweeping generalizations about the multiplayer base of L4D, but booting up a multiplayer game with anyone but friends has become a losing proposition for me due to the frequent hostility of the other players. I think the game is fun (more so in cooperative than versus), but don’t think the $50 tag is justifiable. I would recommend the $20 TF2 (and would pay $50) over L4D in a heartbeat.

  57. Matt P says:

    From the sounds of it, the better two are still kinda jerk players, though. Just saying, the neebie two weren’t just playing innocently by themselves when someone came over and kicked over their sandcastle. I’d add that in my first post if the edit timer were still running.

  58. Cineris says:


    Similar experience here. Particularly strange from a longtime Unreal Tournament player, which inspired the following timeless cartoon: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/

    In about two days of gaming on L4D I experienced more bad behavior and ragequitting than I have in UT2004 over the course of two years. I suspect that these people just buy new games as they come out, play, get more and more aggravated, and eventually quit for the next newest game.

    I’ll be honest though, the more I play L4D (in Versus) the more frustrated I become with it. The gameplay itself needs some serious changing, because the community has already worked out the optimal strategies. If you’re playing against these strategies it becomes extremely painful, since you cannot do anything. If you’re playing these optimum strategies it becomes extremely boring, since it removes the thrill of “zombie apocalypse!” and turns the game into, “Ok guys, lets go move to the next corner.”

  59. Simon_Says says:

    I’ve been playing L4D since it came out, and I’ve rarely had problems with jerk players. Then again, this might be due to the fact that I have collected a massive list of people on my friends list. If you find a nice player, latch on to him, and invite him to latch on to you. Chances are that they have other friends as well who are also nice. When you play again, you can play with people you know are at least polite, and they’ll likely have friends who won’t question your sexual orientation. The basic rule is this: friendly people have friends, assholes don’t.

    Also, I really suggest against playing versus without the majority of the server beings friends or friends of friends. Competitive servers attract competitive jerks, to put it simply. When playing campaign publicly, search on advanced or expert difficulty. The assholes tend to avoid legitimate challenge when they can in favour of being a prick. On expert, you’re virtually required to at least play nice with your team just in order to survive. Also, going up against the survivor meat-grinder that is expert mode is a great way to make friends.

    And lastly, if you’re hosting a lobby, or if the person hosting the lobby has some measure of common sense, ask for microphone communication in-lobby. You can actually judge people pretty accurately by how they’ll speak to you. If they don’t have a microphone, at least try to get them to communicate over text. Friendly people will speak amicably, assholes won’t, whether that means being obnoxious or totally silent.

    Also that person came, insulted, and left. I don’t think that’s a reason to log off. The people who are willing to stay are likely ones you want to play with.

    There’s my two cents.

  60. Derek K. says:

    @Zel, re: Difficulty: In L4D, there’s no difficulty settings on Versus. Co-Op has easy through expert, but Versus is just Infected vs Humans (technically there are server side settings for diff, but you can’t see them until you’re actually playing and getting beat down by killer zombies).

    @Nilus, re: Agerocks: I’ve found that the best communities out there are the ones that are focused on adult gamers, or family gamers. They say things like “We’re here to have fun first, win second. We know you have a life, a family, and stuff going on. If you can play, we’d love to have you. If you can’t, we’ll be here when you can.” And that’s what I prefer. I like to win, but I’d rather lose a good game with good people than win a game playing with l33t3rs while being called queer the entire time (as an aside – seriously, the best insult you can come up with is that someone is homosexual? I mean, really? That’s it? As though being gay were somehow still a horrible thing, filled with shame and loathing? I’m especially amused when they call my wife a homo).

    My current Steam group is the Old Timers (forums.oldtimersclan.com) – they’re older games. They’re actually a lot more restrictive than I am would usually pick – no cussing, low levels of snark, no blue names, sexual references, etc. Personally, I cuss from time to time, I’m snarky as hell, and I’ll laugh at someone named “Dog’s Bollocks” or the like. In fact, people often say “Oh, I didn’t realize you were a Christian server.” Which we totally aren’t, but apparently only religious people are against cussing. ;) In fact, we often have young kids (7-8 yrs old) who come play with their parents, because you can trust the people there (and man, do we have some active admins).

    Because of them, I never play in a game that’s not at least 50% full of people I know, and it makes my gaming much much much better. The few times I just jump in a random L4D game, I quickly remember why I hate people as a whole.

    Also, as stated above: Friends list. I friend anyone I play with that’s civil, and interesting. I don’t care if they’re *good*, just if they can use full sentences, don’t need to insult people who are winning or losing, and don’t treat the game like it’s the only thing that is keeping the world from ending.

  61. Katy says:

    The Gamers With Jobs http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/ forum also has a Steam Group, and a private server where they play Team Fortress 2 and other games.

  62. Izzy says:

    My girlfriend and I LOVE L4D. We are both pretty damn good too. I am often in the top two of everything positive and bottom of everything negative at the end of an act in game. And she’s right up there with me. Yet, I still encounter Dbags that just start out in a new act shooting us down for no reason. It’s obnoxious. And seriously puts me off online play.

    I have for the last several years favored single player games for just this reason. But a zombie shooter multiplayer survival type thing…? I couldn’t pass that up. So I FOOLISHLY tried again. *sigh*

    I wish the xbox version had favorite servers or something of the sort you could use to insure your play experience would be enjoyable.

    For now, I’m back to single player games. Which sadly are a dying breed.

  63. Derek K. says:

    “I am often in the top two of everything positive and bottom of everything negative at the end of an act in game.”

    I can’t ever get to the bottom of the ‘damage taken” category. I’m always the person that has to lead the charge, and convince people it’s okay to move. ;)

  64. Kotenku says:

    Regarding the question posed by the post.

    I tend to deal with idiots with condescension, elitism, bigotry, and by being a grammar nazi.

    It doesn’t really do anything to foster world peace, but it’s satisfying, and for goodness sake, it’s not like I’m hurting /actual people/.

    (I am not sure if this is actually self-satire or not.)

  65. msgoldcup says:

    I read that thread; I thought that there was no real way to communicate on xbl except with a mic (there is no keyboard and I don’t believe the character shout commands are very detailed at all).
    If I’m not mistaken, then they had no way of clearly communicating the plans or why they shot them.

  66. Al Shiney says:

    Similar to what others have said, I avoid playing with XBox Live idiots by gaming with a good sized mature community of Gamers … http://www.geezergamers.com.

    They’re the best thing that has happened to my gaming hobby and I wouldn’t have lasted on XBL for more than a few days without them. I have little tolerance for the vast wasteland of intelligent thought that is XBL, so these 30+ something folks have been a Godsend for me.

  67. Yar Kramer says:

    Hmm. Well, I don’t play games in multiplayer, for precisely this sort of reason. Getting insulted by random strangers who learned their interpersonal skills from Beavis and Butt-Head ain’t my cup of Earl Grey, Hot.

    The other problem is that I like to have overstimulation, multitasking between half a dozen other things, and especially in a game like L4D, spending two minutes looking at even one another window just isn’t something you can do with any degree of safety.

  68. Chris says:

    I rarely ever play with random people. I only really play with friends that I know. The very thought of jumping onto a server and playing a game with strangers is just…nah, I’d rather play single player than that.

    I’ve developed enough friends across the Internet that we ALWAYS have a party going, even if everyone is playing a different game. We play together because we love to talk together, so even if someone isn’t as good as everyone else, there aren’t any hard feelings. It’s more like playing with your friends than anything else.

    I’m honestly tempted to friend you on Xbox Live now, since I think you’d probably enjoy the multiplayer aspects of games with the sort of folks I play with than you might otherwise.

  69. Taellosse says:

    My method of filtering out the crazy and stupid people in online games is to stick to single-player games. ;-) I’m anti-social and hermit-like when it comes to video games to an even greater degree than you are, Shamus–I also don’t play MMOs hardly at all. I have played a sum total of 9 weeks of MMO games, between the week of open beta on World of Warcraft I got just before it launched, the free month of City of Heroes when I bought the game but was unwilling to pay the subscription, and the free month of WoW I got for buying the Warcraft 3 battle chest about a year and a half ago (the copy I played when it was new was my brother’s, so I needed my own when I got the itch to replay the single-player missions). And since I mostly played those games like single-player games as well, they got kinda dull. Although the character creator in CoH was really fun to play with, I have to admit.

    Aside from that, though, I haven’t played a game online since Starcraft was new, and that was enough to teach me that strangers on the internet are not really worth playing games with.

  70. rekres says:

    “If at the end of every game you had a chance to flag players as fun, neutral, or problematic, then over time the jerks would accumulate a large enough negative score that sane people would avoid them.”

    Problems with such a system:
    1) All the jerks will be giving the nice guys a negative rating because “They’re all a bunch of noobs anyways!”
    2) Griefers giving everyone negative ratings across the board…

  71. Ertwin says:

    I will be the first to admit that I love being a jerk when I play Left 4 Dead. I won’t swear or insult people, in fact I mostly won’t shoot them unless I can make it look like it was an accident. However I will make newbish decisions, that will eventually get my entire team killed, unless they abandon me. I only do this on XBL and only in versus when I’m not on my friend’s team. But I’m posting this because what I do is EASY. Without giving off overt cues that I’m working against them I can easily have my entire team lose do to my seeming incompetence. This is very likely the reason why everyone seems to be a jerk in L4D on XBL, incompetence gets you killed, if one person is lagging behind due to incompetence or griefing, it’s very likely you won’t make it to the safe room unless you leave them behind. 95% time if I’m playing as a team, the only time I’ll die is when I go back to help someone.

    However all that being said, my experiences with being a jerk allow me to differenciate between jerks like me and genuine newbs, so I will actually help out genuine newbs.

    Although I usually prefer playing as the infected, as it usually doesn’t matter if your teammates are jerks when you’re a zombie. That and playing as a zombie is just good ol fashioned fun

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