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Peter König is a concept art legend. Over the past quarter of a century his creature designs, sculptures and animation work have been featured in blockbuster hits like Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers and Cloverfield.
Which is all well and good, but he's also spent the last four years working as a concept artist, modeller and texture artist at Valve, where he's lent his talents to the Left 4 Dead series, Portal 2 and DOTA 2.
While there sadly aren't any images from Portal, and only one from DOTA 2, König's Left 4 Dead stuff is a treasure trove of the walking dead, rotting flesh and rejected designs for special infected that involved shooting rats out of a zombie's stomach.
You can see a nice collection of König's body of work, both in games and cinema, at his personal site.
Iain Andrews' site Steam Postcards has long been my wallpaper supplier of choice. Why? Because he plays games and takes screenshots that aren't the kind of thing you'd find in a magazine or popular internet video game website.
He instead takes, well, postcards. Scenic shots of the background, or the walls, or the sky, or whatever, finding stuff that just looks good, instead of stuff that makes the game look good.
His current subject of choice is id's RAGE, but scroll down the Tumblr page and you'll see games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mirror's Edge, Mafia II, Team Fortress 2, Red Orchestra and even Kane & Lynch.
The images maybe aren't nice enough to print out and frame, but like I said, they're perfect for wallpapers!
Steam Postcards [enwandrews]
The importation of original Left 4 Dead maps into Left 4 Dead 2 rolls on, with the latest update to "Dead Air" delivering a new version of the Terminal map. Valve says the update brings matters "pretty close to being complete" but "at this stage what we really need is more testing." It's found a way to get you to do that.
Play a complete game of Versus in "Dead Air" and you will get an achievement, Valve says. When 60,000 people earn that achievement, the beta version of "Blood Harvest," the next map to be released, will be unlocked the following weekday.
"60,000 is going to be hard," L4D2's team writes on the official blog. "You can't rage quit and you need to work together."
Valve asks that gamers who get the achievement help others reach it as well, and post feedback and bugs to the Steam Forums and on the game's Facebook page. Progress toward 60,000 will be announced via Twitter.
Connecting Flights [Left 4 Dead Blog]
Toy company NECA revealed at Comic-Con today that its range of merchandise based on the intellectual properties of Valve will start shipping in 2012. Oh, and they also let us know what they'll be!
While there are sadly no pictures yet of the figures or merch, here's what you'll need to be saving your money for next year:
Gordon Freeman action figure
Atlas & P-Body action figures, replica Portal gun, "resin and plush" weighted companion cube
TEAM FORTRESS 2
Pyro, Heavy & Demo action figures
LEFT 4 DEAD 2
Boomer & Smoker action figures
So, mostly good news then! Bit of a shame about the L4D ones, though. I'd have liked to see the humans, Bill especially, up first.
Earlier this week, Valve issued a challenge to the Left 4 Dead 2 community: if 20,000 players beat the in-development "Cold Stream" campaign by Sunday, they'd get the re-release of "Dead Air" early. That goal was met in about four hours.
That means Left 4 Dead 2 owners will get the tweaked Left 4 Dead campaign early. No later than July 22, Valve says—barring an outbreak of Valve Time, naturally. The developer says its testing and finalizing the "Dead Air" re-release, as it's not yet ready for prime time.
Also interesting is that the Left 4 Dead team says it's "working on and testing a new version of the 'Dark Carnival' finale and some gameplay changes for finales in general." Dark Carnival clearly has its own final quirks, but I'm interested to see what Valve has planned for other finale changes.
Spoiler alert? Only if you planned to play community made campaign "Suicide Blitz 2" in Left 4 Dead 2, currently the officially featured fan-created add-on for Valve's zombie horror first-person shooter, the game that has a very neat Portal 2 Easter Egg buried within.
Watch as two Left 4 Dead 2-loving ladies discover the existence of a portal into the world of Aperture Science, commenting excitedly along the way about every machete, Companion Cube, propulsion gel and special infected zombie they run into. Really, you may want to turn the volume down just a notch.
You can grab the "Suicide Blitz 2" campaign right here, straight from Valve.
In a bit of pre-E3 flirtation, Sony Online Entertainment has announced Payday: The Heist for the PS3 and PC, a squad-based cooperative shooter that casts players in the role of a "hardened career criminal" attempting to orchestrate a number of dicey, large-scale heists. Developer Overkill Software promises prospective gamers the chance to raid a bank vault, manage hostages in a hijacked armored car, and infliltrate a top-secret, high-security facility.
The mission structure appears reminiscent of Valve's Left 4 Dead; law enforcement agents—rather than zombies—will spawn in waves, their deployment and behavior patterns guided by a "dynamic" and "adaptive" scripting system. SOE's press release describes "FBI agents repelling down on ropes through the skylights, SWAT teams crashing through the windows...special units crawling through the ventilation shafts," and emphasizes the importantance of cooperative teamwork in repelling foes.
Players will be encouraged to revisit missions in order to develop their character along a "massive progression tree," and will be given the option to select one of three specialties: assault, sharp-shooting or support.
Payday: The Heist is due to launch later this year on the PlayStation Network and PC via digital download, and, according to Sony, will run for "less than half the price of a retail game."
We've been told that we'll get a taste of the game at SOE's booth at E3— we'll try to keep you posted on the how the title shapes up.
The pint-sized ceramic co-star of Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 may be deserving of his own video game, as evidenced by the trailer for the sadly nonexistent Gnome Chompski: The Game.
Expertly crafted in Garry's Mod by the folk(s) at Fine Leather Jackets, Gnome Chompski: The Game has everything we now demand of our video games: jet packs, zombies, miniguns, dinosaurs, driving sequences, pointy hat-wearing figurines of German origin. Hell, there are a few memes thrown in for good measure, ones that we're not even that tired of yet!
Please, someone with the talent to make video games playable, make Gnome Chompski: The Game playable.
Earlier this week, Valve released the beta version of "Cold Stream," the community-made campaign coming to the PC, Mac and Xbox 360 in the next big Left 4 Dead 2 update. Let's see what it looks like, shall we?
Cold Stream is a mix of things old and new. There's no real story to speak of in this four chapter campaign, but it does offer a mostly fresh-feeling outdoor setting. You'll face Uncommon Common infected types like Mudmen and Riot Police Zombie throughout the campaign, plus you'll see a few new tricks, like the opportunity to be washed away by strong currents.
The campaign is currently in public beta. Valve is accepting bug reports from PC and Mac users. Cold Stream is planned to ship alongside three campaigns (Dead Air, Blood Harvest, Death Toll) from the original Left 4 Dead at some unspecified date, hopefully sometime this year.
If you haven't already played the beta version—which is very clearly in beta, due to its sometimes funky textures, geometry and other quirks—see it in 32 screen shots and one video in the gallery above. (Click on "expand" in the bottom right of each image to see full size.)
As you start the fourth chapter, Cutthroat Creek, you'll call for rescue from the safehouse. I've had zombies spawn in here with the door closed, something I hope is a bug. Anyway, that's your rescue vehicle. Just kidding. It crashes.
Here's a not-so-great playthrough of the first two chapters of Cold Stream, just a taste.