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.
Valve's quest to inject original Left 4 Dead episodes into Left 4 Dead 2 continues. Today's Left 4 Dead 2 update includes the new version of the Terminal Map for Dead Air, the game's official blog revealed.
To entice people to test the update, the team at Valve is offering players a prize: the beta version of the Blood Harvest campaign for Left 4 Dead 2. Getting the prize won't be easy, however, as players will have to accomplish a difficult task together.
A new achievement, dubbed "Connecting Flights," has been added to Left 4 Dead 2, which unlocks when players play "a complete game of Versus in Dead Air." When 60,000 people have earned the achievement, Valve will unlock the beta version of Blood Harvest on Steam "the next weekday."
This time, Valve is making it harder to accomplish the goal. "60,000 is going to be hard," the official blog noted. "You canât rage quit and you need to work together. Once you get the achievement, help others get it as well."
Valve has been making comics around some of its biggest properties for months for free online, but now the company has partnered with Dark Horse Comics to bring them out in print. Comic Book Resources (via Gamasutra) reports that "Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories" will go on sale November 16 for $29.99.
The collection is a bit pricier than the average comic collection, but it's also more than three-hundred pages long and sports a hardcover. That makes it hard to complain. It will include stories from the worlds of Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. All indications are that this is a compilation of comics you can already find online, but it wouldn't surprise us if Valve slipped a bonus or two in there.
Last week, Valve promised to release the Left 4 Dead 2 version of classic Left 4 Dead episode 'Dead Air' if players helped beta test new community-made map Cold Stream, setting a target for 20,000 playthroughs. Good news! "You started playing at 10am on Wednesday morning. Four and half hours later you surpassed the 20,000 target," Valve revealed in a blog post. "By 5pm you passed 30,000. By this morning at 10am â" a mere 24 hours later you hit 60,774!"
"We are going to try and release it as early as possible but will release it on July 22nd the latest," Valve said. "It isn't currently ready for release as we have been working on The Terminal and Finale maps and need to test them more internally."
The developer also mentions working on a new version of the finale in L4D2's 'Dead Carnival' episode, "and some gameplay changes for finales in general." As ever, the changes will hit PC and Mac first.
Once the changes have been given a good testing, and Cold Stream and the rest of the original L4D episodes are finished, it'll all head over to Xbox 360 too. "What date is that?" Valve asks. "Hard to say but with your help it just got closer."
Once again, Valve is offering early access to a game if its fans jump through a hoop or two. This time it's Left 4 Dead 2, and the offer is a piece of the Cold Stream downloadable content. A blog post outlines the details.
The developer is currently in the testing phase, and is offering an incentive for the community to become bug-finders. If 20,000 people earn the "Stream Crosser" achievement by the end of the day on Sunday, July 10, Valve will release Dead Air (from Cold Stream) on July 22. Stream Crosser is awarded for surviving a campaign of Cold Stream, so it shouldn't be too unobtainable. If you don't own the game yet, it's just $5 until 10 am PST today.
Valve previously offered early access to Portal 2 in exchange for playing indie games. This netted users the anticipated game about 9 hours early. Unlocking DLC for an existing game probably isn't quite as exciting, but early is early.
Valve is also soliciting opinions and suggestions from players. The work-in-progress campaign will be available for all to play "in the next few weeks," and a forum has been set up for feedback and suggestions. Valve explains that following the story-heavy DLCs The Passing and The Sacrifice, this new pack will add no new story or audio, so if you have an idea which calls for neither, head on over to the forum and suggest away.
The yet-unnamed DLC will be released for PC, Mac and Xbox 360 "sometime after Portal 2," which launches on April 20. Valve says that it will be subject to "Valve Time," the process whereby projects take as long as they take rather than being rushed to deadlines, noting that this "is a good thing, not a bad thing."
If you still haven't experienced the joys of shooting the undead with friends, the latest Steam sale is an awesome excuse. For the duration of the sale, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 can be purchased for a mere $6.79 each, or bundled together at an even deeper discount of $10.19. And of course, you get all of the delicious DLC with the PC and Mac versions for no extra charge, including 'The Sacrifice.'
Those playing the game on the Xbox 360 are also able to download 'The Sacrifice,' but it's 560 Microsoft Points ($7). In fact, when compared to the current Steam sale, it's more expensive to buy all of the console-based series' DLC than it is to purchase both full games (which include all DLC for free) for either PC or Mac.
While there is one real conclusion to the story, as evidenced in the previous DLC "The Passing," players will have the opportunity to re-write history and select which team member will fall in "The Sacrifice." It won't change the franchise's canon, but it'll make you look totally badass.
Watch the video on Shackvideo.
"The Sacrifice" will be available for free for PC users and for 560MS Points ($7) on the Xbox 360 when it launches on October 5.
While Valve has kept silent on a previously reported Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2, the trailer lists "OS X" as one of the DLC launch platforms. Looks like it's happening after all.
"'The Sacrifice' is the prequel to 'The Passing,' and takes place from the L4D Survivors' perspective as they make their way South," reads the press release. "In addition to advancing the story, 'The Sacrifice' introduces a new style finale featuring "Sacrificial Gameplay" where players get to decide who will give their life so the others may live."
In L4D, 'The Sacrifice' will include the campaign and maps playable in Versus and Survival. In L4D2, the DLC will yield the same campaign, which is played using the L4D characters, and the first game's 'No Mercy' campaign as an added bonus. Both campaigns will include L4D2 weapons and Special Infected. The maps will be playable in Versus, Survival, and Scavenge modes, as well.
PC Gamer, which correctly placed the DLC's release on October 5, also reported that 'The Sacrifice' would launch alongside the Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2, but Valve made no mention of this in its release. Shacknews has asked Valve for more information on a Mac launch for L4D2 or L4D.