Not killed enough undead monstrosities this Christmas? Let Valve fix that for you. Left 4 Dead 2 is now free on Steam. In case you've missed it thus far, Left 4 Dead is blooming brilliant. You and up to three human buddies fight through 90 minute missions set in different zombie-infested locales across America. The zombie throngs are managed by an AI director, which measures your health and stress levels and doles out varying degrees of punishment to match your perceived mood. Watch out, also, for the special infected - hideous supermutants with unique ways of punching/eating/melting your face.
The Left 4 Dead 1 maps have all been ported into the sequel, making Left 4 Dead 2 the definitive entry in the series. There are also plenty of fan-made campaigns and mods on the Steam workshop, including a Helm's Deep Lord of the Rings map and a mod that turns your party of survivors into Velociraptors.
According to a Left 4 Dead 2 Steam announcement, the game will be free until 10AM PST 26/12/2013. Go, go, go.
As mentioned in yesterday's highly speculative Half-Life 3 news, people have been scurrying through Valve's project management database JIRA again. Now, NeoGAF user 'angular graphics' has posted the full list of Valve staff assigned to the still unconfirmed Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 development teams. If nothing else, it's a rare glimpse into the company's internal working, and what happens to its employees after they're sworn to the Valve code of silence.
The Half-Life 3 team contains lead writer Marc Laidlaw, series composer Kelly Bailey (seemingly having returned to Valve after leaving in 2011), and series designer Steve Bond. It also lists Adam Foster, the creator of Minerva (as well as the Portal 2 announcement ARG). The other instantly recognisable name is Portal writer Erik Wolpaw, who appears on both Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3's lists.
If anything, the Left 4 Dead 3 team is the more surprising. It contains not only familiar Valve names like Chet Faliszek and composer Mike Morasky, but some of their more notable newer hires. Both Clint Hocking, of Far Cry 2 fame, and Doug Church, of System Shock 2 and Thief fame, are attached to the project. Now more than ever, I'm pretty damn excited about the possibility of shooting up some zombies.
Standard caveats still apply, the most notable of which is that we don't know how accurate this data is. At best, it could represent a single moment in time for each project, as Valve plays its endless game of musical chairs. And, of course, people working on a project is now indication of when that game might be announced.
By announcing SteamOS yesterday, Valve declared that PC gaming is more than desktop gaming, that Windows is not our master, and that—finally—cats can own Steam accounts. The free, Linux-based, cat-friendly operating system is designed for gaming on living room PCs, because PC gaming according to Valve isn't about WASD and DirectX—it's about openness and collaboration.
We're free to choose our hardware, our software, our mods, and soon more than ever, how we play, where we play, and whether or not Microsoft gets a cut. If SteamOS takes off, PC gaming will undergo one of its most dramatic changes ever—possibly one more significant than the introduction of the free-to-play model and crowdfunding. That's thrilling, but also scary as hell, so we've worked through our fears with a list of SteamOS pros and cons, followed by deep breaths in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement.
It's free. If you have a living room PC, or plan to build one, you can ditch Windows for free. That feels really good to say, but the adoption rate hinges on SteamOS launching with native support for everything we want in a media and gaming center. Streaming games from a secondary PC is neat, but we'd rather run them natively on the machine we paid to put in our living room. It also needs native Netflix and Hulu apps, and all the other media services offered by the consoles.
Valve says it's got this covered, announcing that it's "working with many of the media services you know and love," and that "hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS," with native "AAA titles" to be announced in the coming weeks.
It encourages competition in the console market. May the best Steam Box win! Windows isn't designed for TVs, so neither are many PCs. Now Valve is giving away a platform for games, movies, and music, challenging hardware manufacturers to make systems that are powerful, quiet, and inexpensive. It used to be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo fighting for the top of the living room ecosystem's food chain—soon it may be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Everyone.
It should run some games better. One of the few advantages consoles have over PCs (whether or not they always make the best of it) is an OS specifically designed for gaming. Meanwhile, we have Windows, which is clearly not designed to be an ideal gaming platform. With SteamOS, however, Valve claims it has "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing," and is now working on "audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level."
Last year, Valve posted a performance test of Left 4 Dead 2 running on Windows 7 and on Ubuntu, and the Linux build came out ahead, saying that the test "speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL." This isn't close to being an objective experiment—and we'll look forward to making our own evaluations—but it is encouraging.
It means more Linux games, and more couch-friendly PC games. SteamOS is as much about ditching Windows as it is putting PC gaming in the living room, so it affects even those firmly planted in their desk chairs. If SteamOS achieves the install base it needs for developers big and small embrace Linux, the Microsoft shackles may be broken forever.
Steam Boxes may struggle to compete in price. A PC designed to run SteamOS skips over the Windows fee, but unlike a console, the manufacturer can't rely on game licensing fees to recoup costs—that money goes to Valve. Sony and Microsoft, however, can price their consoles competitively with that revenue in mind, which gives them the advantage. Valve itself could price hardware this way, but that would undercut third-party hardware manufacturers and could turn out to be anti-competitive. Unless, of course, Valve makes the unlikely move to subsidize the cost of these systems.
It could increase development costs. Major game developers aren't going to ditch Windows, the platform with the world's largest install base. If SteamOS becomes a competitive gaming platform, competitive developers will have yet another version to make, soaking up more resources.
The pessimistic angle is that this can only result in either lower quality games or more expensive games. The optimistic angle is that SteamOS will be embraced and prioritized by developers with the same enthusiasm as the consoles.
It could further fragment games and smother certain genres. If SteamOS eclipses the popularity of desktop gaming, developers will have less incentive to develop desktop games. Just as developers rushed into mobile and Facebook development, we could see a flood of controller-based Steam games that push niche and classic-style PC games into the slums.
It's a scary thought, but when we un-jerk our knees and really consider this scenario, it's a very minor concern. Crowdfunding has proven without a doubt that there's still a huge appetite for old fashioned mouse and keyboard PC games. The positive—and more likely—angle is that we'll see just greater diversity in the Steam library.
It gives Valve even more power over PC gaming. Valve isn't PC gaming. We know that, and millions of League of Legends players, World of Tanks enthusiasts, GOG.com users, modders, and more know that. But Steam is the most popular digital distribution service, and soon, it will be a platform. SteamOS may be free, but it's only as open as Valve allows. We don't know yet if we can use SteamOS to play non-Steam games, or if Valve will make exclusivity deals. We've asked, and Valve's answer will be a huge indicator of its intentions.
If you've got a passionate thought about SteamOS, we'd love to include it in our next issue of PC Gamer. We're always listening at email@example.com.
Like the zombies it's filled with, Left 4 Dead 2 just won't stay down. Valve continue to update their co-op FPS with new features - this time shoring up the game's Steam Workshop support with an official release of their Extended Mutations. In effect, they've mutated the mutators to provide advanced scripting tools to the community, allowing them to tweak rules and create new game modes. Like adding tiny, shrunken undead. They'd be cute if not for the biting.
Valve say they'll be highlighting some of the best mutations on the official blog later in the week. For now, they recommend Holdout: "It is a multi-map Mutation that includes the concept of resources and buildable items. It was created to showcase some of the functionality of EMS and as a byproduct, it is pretty damn fun." Valve plan to continue supporting the top community mutations through official servers.
This latest update also marks the full release of other beta features, including Linux support - which has now been rolled out to allow testing on further builds and distros. You can find the full patch notes here.
Just as promised, Steam Trading Cards is now live. The virtual cards can be earned by playing participating games on Steam, trading with other users, or buying on the Steam Marketplace. Complete a set to create a badge, earn rewards and XP, and level up. The user with the highest Steam level at the end of the year gets to high five Gabe Newell while announcing Half-Life 3. In space.
In other true facts, I'm already hearing from users playing the Steam marketplace to profit off the cards' initial popularity. One user I spoke to has been buying low and selling high to pad his Steam wallet, even creating scarcity by buying up low-value cards in quantity. I'll keep an eye on marketplace prices as more users start trading the collectibles.
I was hoping to find a good deal on a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but unfortunately, baseball isn't a participating game. You can see which of the games you own are participating here.
Here at PC Gamer we like to play PC games. Sometimes, we even like to play them with other people. That’s why we’ve got a huge lineup of game servers hosted by GameServers.com. Feel free to hop on whenever, or join us on Community Friday or during our other random events.
All servers hosted in the US. We'll update this list with PC Gamer UK's servers as soon as possible. CS:GO Arms Race
The in-game matchmaking system only lets 10 players duke it out in Arms Race. Our server has room for 24 players with the latest and greatest custom Arms Race-compatible maps from the Steam Workshop. CS:GO Classic Casual
Our very first community events took place on the server we like to call: The Psychedelic Den of Map Experimentation. Try out some of the best maps available on the Steam workshop in our 24-player, 128 tick server. Rising Storm
Join the Axis or Allies as we battle it out on PCG’s Rising Storm server. Territories mode is the name of the game with our soon-to-be ranked server. Battlefield 3
Vehicle enthusiasts can drive around in our 64-player Battlefield 3 server. Watch out for mortars! DayZ
Part of the public hive, our DayZ server is a great place for you to scavenge for loot, meet new friends, or hunt down some bandit scum. Minecraft
A 32-player Minecraft server with the Tekkit Classic mod installed. Download the Tekkit client before jumping on to play! Team Fortress 2
Show off your hats and other accessories on the PCG TF2 server. We’re running the official maplist with support for 24 players. Left 4 Dead 2
If you’re looking for a reliable dedicated server for your co-op zombie escapades, look no further than the PCG 8-man Left 4 Dead 2 server. Pick your favorite flavor of L4D2 and murder some zombies. Unreal Tournament 2004
A staple of the PCG offices, now you too can join in on the fun with our 32-player UT2K4 server. GoldenEye: Source
If it wasn’t already clear, PCG loves mods. In fact, we love them so much that we’ve set up a 16 player GoldenEye: Source server for you guys to play on. Natural Selection 2
For whatever reason there’s a 10-slot maximum on our Natural Selection 2 server. We like to think that this encourages teamwork. Killing Floor
Another co-op zombie classic, jump into our 6-player Killing Floor server to play with other PCG community members.
If you’ve got server requests, plugins, mods, or other suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Good community content continues to flow from Left 4 Dead 2, a game we can't seem to stop championing for its healthy modding scene. Our latest praise is aimed at GoldenEye 4 Dead, an adaptation of the 1995 James Bond film and Nintendo 64 game that isn't afraid to bring original ideas to a setting most gamers are deeply familiar with.
Watch my playthrough with Tyler above.
Download links to featured mods
Download GoldenEye 4 Dead campaign Download S&W Model 29 revolver weapon mod Download Stevens Model 620 shotgun weapon mod Download Lightsaber weapon mod Download Desert Recon FN P90 weapon mod Download Mountain Dew pills Download Captain Price character mod Download Hitler Hunter character mod Download Glowing One Spitter character mod Download Raptor Ellis character mod
After three years of labor, French development team Elseware Experience is finally ready to release DNIEPR, a custom Left 4 Dead campaign placed in the bleak Soviet-era ghost town of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. I can't believe I didn't realize before now how perfect the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat (also the subject of STALKER: Call of Pripyat) would be for zombie hordes and rampaging Tanks. Now that I’ve seen it in action, it’s chilling how much photos of Pripyat already look like set dressing for The Walking Dead.
This project is the kind of thing that makes you love gaming on PC. Three and a half years after Left 4 Dead 2 released, here we are with another completely new campaign with four new maps, an original story, an original soundtrack and custom models. If you'd like to show your support for the "hundreds and hundreds" of hours Elseware took to create DNIEPR, you can send them a donation at the bottom of this page.
DNIEPR will be available for download on May 20. If you haven’t played L4D2 in a while, this is a perfect excuse to reinstall and jump back in. If you need even more reasons, we've covered a plenty of great content mods for Left 4 Dead before.
There may come a day when preparing for the next chapter of a Left 4 Dead game will include wiping down your sweaty palms and taking a deep, deep breath. If you don’t, the zombies will get faster.
In remarks during the 2013 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo (via VentureBeat), Valve’s in-house experimental psychologist—Wait, hold on. Did you know that Valve employs an experimental psychologist? I wonder if he has lunch sometimes with the economist.
Anyway, Valve’s in-house mad scientist, Mike Ambinder, discussed experiments where players’ overall nervousness and agitation were measured, in part by recording sweatiness. If players began to show signs of nervousness or fear, the game would speed up. This new control scheme—mouse, keyboard, sweat-measuring skin pads—added another way for the player to interact with the game. Shoot zombie, reload pistols, keep calm. Signal for rescue, throw molotov, keep calm.
Ambinder also described other experiments in game design and biofeedback—which Valve has been talking about for a few years—including a version of Portal 2 that was played via eye tracking. Exploring the next generation of possible gaming inputs shows once again that Valve continues to operate, and plan, on a whole different level.
So good for you, Mike Ambinder. Just stay away from the mega-baboon hearts and everything will work out just fine.