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We're fast-approaching the celebration of gluttony and cheap costuming that is Halloween, wherein we scare ghosts and demons back into the spirit world by dressing up like political figures and scantily clad nurses. Left 4 Dead 2 is a little on the spooky side, so Valve is letting you trick your treats with a free weekend of the game.
The free period begins on Thursday, with the whole game available to try out. You can begin pre-loading the game now, if you want to jump on the opportunity. For you old hands at L4D2, it also includes a new achievement to chase. The "Good Guy Nick" achievement rewards you for helping a free weekend player survive a campaign. You'll just have to suppress your frustration when they keep shining their flashlight straight at the Witch.
Attentive horror fans may have spotted the bilious Boomer and other Left 4 Dead monsters snuck into Joss Whedon's delightful scare 'em up movie The Cabin in the Woods, but L4D's involvement was once supposed to be far greater. Director Drew Goddard has revealed that a CitW expansion was planned for Left 4 Dead 2, but sadly got scrapped. Plainly, this post contains spoilers for the film, which you really should see if you haven't.
"We actually were going to do a downloadable L4D2 expansion pack, where you'd fight in the Cabin world, but then MGM went bankrupt so the delay squashed it," Goddard said in an 'Ask Me Anything' on Reddit. "But the people at Valve were still cool enough to let us use some of their monsters to fill the cubes in the background (I had a lot of cubes to fill.)"
He added, "By the way -- the game was gonna be amazing. You were gonna be able to play in both the upstairs 'Cabin in the Woods' world and the downstairs 'facility' world with all the monsters. Believe me, I HATE all video games based on movies, they always suck, but porting Cabin into Left For Dead felt like the right fit. It pains me that it didn't happen."
Here's the scene where the Left 4 Dead monsties appear:
Steam is putting its Workshop tools to work once again, this time with Left 4 Dead 2. The update is planned for sometime in mid-October, giving creators more tools and users more variety of content to sample, along with one intriguing-sounding method of integrating the content.
A post on the Left 4 Dead Blog promises that you can browse, rate, discuss, and easily install mods, par for the course with Steam Workshop titles. It's even offering an expanded scripting tool that can layer modifications on top of existing maps, similar to mutations. But L4D2 will also be experimenting with some way of folding content into the world "even more seamlessly." That vague hint is all we have to go on now. The Workshop will be available across PC, Mac, and Linux.
If you've been waiting for the right time to bite on Left 4 Dead 2, your patience has paid off. Valve has just released a hefty new update, just as it puts the game on sale for 75% off. This also comes among a tease of several new L4D-related updates coming soon.
The Cold Stream update is a community created campaign in which you'll battle zombies while avoiding a watery grave. The update is free, and also includes the L4D1 campaigns Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air, and Death Toll. Meanwhile, you can also now play with all Mutations all the time. The Xbox 360 version will be updating soon as well, but will require the Passing DLC for access to the Mutations.
Other announcements include L4D2 as a Games on Demand title on Xbox 360, the impending release of the game on Linux, a Minecraft-inspired community campaign, survivor skins coming to the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft, and the addition of the characters to the Source Film Maker.
If you're tempted to get the game, be advised that it's $4.99 for roughly the next 24 hours on Steam. You would be wise not to wait.
Valve has muttered and murmured about bringing Steam and its Source engine to Linux before, and now it's revealed the plan--port Steam and Left 4 Dead 2 to Ubuntu 12.04, then work from there. Steam will come to Linux in all its glory, and Valve's building a speedy OpenGL version of Source it can use for more of its games too.
The Valve Linux Team already has Steam and L4D2 up and running natively on Ubuntu, the 11-person group formed in 2011 explains in its first blog post. They need a bit more work before we can all play with them, though, and Valve notes, "Our goal is to have L4D2 performing under Linux as well as it performs under Windows."
Why Ubuntu? The team explains, "First, we're just starting development and working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities."
Depending on how well it goes down, the team will look at bringing Steam to more distros. And, naturally, Valve wants to bring more of its games to Linux.
Linux users have enthusiastically supported efforts to bring proper games to its platform (sorry, Tux Racer), consistently paying far more to the Humble Bundles than Mac and Windows folks.
After over a year of public testing, Valve will officially launch Left 4 Dead 2's 'Cold Stream' DLC later this month. It packs versions of original Left 4 Dead campaigns Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air and Death Toll, as well as the community-made Cold Stream. On top of that, a patch launching alongside will make all of the game-altering mutations available at all times.
The DLC and accompanying patch will launch on July 24, Valve revealed in a blog post. Valve put Cold Stream up for public testing last March, followed by the remaining L4D campaigns (No Mercy had launched before). Now, thanks to the wonders of Valve time, it's finally ready to roll out.
Valve has been rotating mutations weekly since February 2010, with only one available at any time. Their weird and wonderful effects have included turning all enemy infected in Versus into tanks with 'Taaannnkk!,' the infinite ammo M60 madness of 'Gib Fest,' and mode-mashup 'Versus Survival.' When the new patch launches in the 24th, you'll be able to play any of them whenever you want.
While the Cold Stream DLC will be free on PC, Valve will most likely charge on 360.
Update: Valve comments on the DLC.
Overkill Software promised it was working on a Left 4 Dead thing. Well, here it is.
The developer has released a new video, showcasing Payday: The Heist - No Mercy. There's no word on what it is exactly, but it appears to be a DLC expansion of SOE's online shooter.
"Have you ever wondered how the Left 4 Dead series began? It started with a heist," the video's description teases.
Mercy Hospital is a level from the first Left 4 Dead game, and is likely "one of the first places to have handled the Infected" according to Wikia. Could your actions in this DLC expansion accidentally cause the zombie outbreak in Valve's series?
After the original video was pulled, Valve's Chet Faliszek offered a comment to Kotaku, saying the mission description is the result of "over-excited marketing guys."
"This is a 100% Overkill made mission for Payday: Heist simply set in no mercy hospital from the Left 4 Dead series. It is not telling the origins of the Infection and is not canon. There is a little cameo from one of the L4D characters (the comic should give you a hint) and a fun little easter egg with a payoff later in Left 4 Dead. Just us having some fun with a studio we are friends with and who have also made a great co-op game."
It's all go at Payday: The Heist developer Overkill Software these days. As well as working on a sequel and DLC for its coop crime caper FPS, and being acquired by Starbreeze Studios, the Swedes have revealed they're working with Valve on something Left 4 Dead-y.
"We are working on a very cool blend of Payday and Left 4 Dead. I am sure it is so exciting that it will have some players check into the hospital before we are done."
As for what this'll actually be, who knows? Payday clearly took a few hints from Valve's zombie 'em up, so it wouldn't be too jarring for the worlds to collide. Valve characters often make appearances in other games, but that probably wouldn't meet the "in-depth" requirement. Might that mention of the hospital be a cheeky nod to Left 4 Dead's 'No Mercy' campaign, set around an overrun hospital?
The original group of Starbreeze has three projects in the works itself.
It seems like Valve is committed to bringing its prized digital distribution service Steam to Linux users at some point in the relatively near future. Recent news indicates that Valve has not only hired Linux developers to help port Steam and the Source engine to the OS, but Valve's Gabe Newell is now overseeing the port.
Phronoix.com's Michael Larabel recently spoke with Newell about the porting process, and claims that Steam will become available for Linux in the next few months.
"Gabe's vision to support, embrace, and promote Linux are amazing, assuming they execute, which looks to be very high probability at this point," Larabel said. He goes on to state that although Linux development has been going on at Valve for some time, Newell's personal involvement in the project (including relocating his desk to the Valve Linux Development camp), bodes well for the project reaching critical mass more quickly.
As far as the Source Engine port goes, Left 4 Dead 2 is being used as the test case, largely due to the solid nature of the game's code. Despite a few snags, Larabel asserts that the project is moving along at a good clip, and notes that the developer's flat management structure is at least partly responsible for contributing to delays in the port's development.
Larabel also claims that Newell isn't a big fan of the nearly ubiquitous operating systems like Windows or OSX, or the upcoming Windows 8, in particular. "His level of Linux interest and commitment was incredible while his negativity for Windows 8 and the future of Microsoft was stunning," Larabel said of his meeting with Newell.
While it's reasonable to assume that a number of folks will be excited about finally getting some Steam in their Linux, the port of the OS could have larger implications. For example, one needs only look as far as the news that Valve has been exploring the possibility of creating some new gaming hardware and wearable computers.
When Left 4 Dead first introduced its new brand of co-operative zombie-slaying, it didn't take long for a rabid fan-base to develop. In a recent interview, several Left 4 Dead luminaries, including writer Chet Faliszek and then-Turtle Rock CEO Mike Booth, reminisced about how the Left 4 Dead series came to be.
The team revealed that Left 4 Dead's DNA actually came from a Counter-Strike mod. Shortly after Turtle Rock Studios had shipped Counter-Strike: Condition Zero in 2004, CEO Mike Booth showed a mod called Terror Strike--ostensibly a never-ending zombie-attack mode on the CS_Italy map--to Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, who both fell in-love with the concept. Later that day, Valve CEO Gabe Newell conscripted Faliszek and Wolpaw to team up with Booth's Turtle Rock (purchased by Valve in 2008) to develop the concept further. Early in development, Booth explained that the team understood they "had this nugget of gameplay where a small co-operative group had to deal with hundreds of melee monsters."
Years of playtesting and iteration helped the team focus on trying to create an experience for players that was both "emergent and yet structured." Out of this focus came the game's procedural population system, which constantly adds and removes zombies from the game world to create the illusion of never-ending hordes of the undead. (The first game only allowed 30 on-screen zombies at a time.) According to Booth, the zombies' non-aggressive ambient behavior (such as when they're just standing or laying around) was also based on fears brought about by the potential 2005 bird-flu pandemic.
We kind of pushed on that with the wandering infected, how they stumble around and vomit and just look like they're having the worst flu ever. We wanted that combination of pity and 'it could be meâ with 'this is horrible' and then 'Oh my God, here they come, we have to survive.'
The game's now-famous AI-director--which modulates when and where zombies and item pickups will appear, based on a real-time assessment of player performance--was also created in aid of a more dynamic, less predictable experience. Booth explained how Left 4 Dead's AI-director evolved along with the series:
We needed to make sure that certain tempos and pacing happened on a regular basis to keep people's excitement and attention going. For L4D that was basically just me and some C++ code making that happen. In L4D2 we generalised it into a larger tools framework.
The Left 4 Dead retrospective, which also touches on competitive multiplayer and how the team designed the game to encourage players to cooperate in a world where co-op was still a relative rarity, can be found here.