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PAX 09: Valve's Faliszek:  Left 4 Dead 2  Works As 'Cohesive Single Statement'
PAX 09: Valve's Faliszek: Left 4 Dead 2 Works As 'Cohesive Single Statement' Exclusive
September 4, 2009 | By Chris Remo

September 4, 2009 | By Chris Remo
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    11 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive



As the November release of Left 4 Dead 2 approaches, developer Valve has been continually revealing new gameplay elements, and the initial internet outcry about the co-operative zombie action game's close proximity to its predecessor has largely receded.

This week, the company detailed the new Jockey boss infected character, which leaps onto survivor characters and briefly "pilots" them around the map. Following the game's latest showing, at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Gamasutra sat down with Valve's project lead Chet Faliszek.

Faliszek touched on the game's increasing complexity, Valve's growing familiarity with its systems, and why in a procedurally-driven game like Left 4 Dead 2, a standalone sequel works better as a "single statement" than individual content packs.

"Balance is really important," Faliszek said. "Trying to do piecemeal stuff in DLC, you have a real balance issue there where you're going to have to go back and keep nerfing or expanding elements as you go on. That was one of our original thoughts when we were looking at Left 4 Dead 2, this want to have a cohesive single statement.

"The Jockey's not nearly as cool as he would be when he has the Spitter, because they work together really well" he explained, "and the Spitter's not nearly as cool without the new director AI and the Charger."

"It's all the systems working together that make it work, with all the new ammo and everything else. That's why we wanted to do it as one statement. You need to have all the pieces together to really do it big," he added.

The AI systems benefit from that in particular; Valve has learned more about "making the infected AI act like the players play" -- for example, "the Jockey will walk you into the Spitter's goo, or it'll find the Witch and walk you into the Witch."

Since it began working on the Left 4 Dead series, Valve has had to become much more familiar with that kind of interaction. "The original [game] was this interesting thing in terms of how it was so procedural -- it was strategy on the fly, because you never knew what was going to happen," Faliszek said, and that attitude was different to what the Valve team was accustomed to.

"When we first starting doing Left 4 Dead at Valve, we were just saying, 'Oh, well we normally do it this way,' but we realized people play these maps hundreds of times or thousands of times, and the experience needs to be different every time."

For Left 4 Dead 2, Valve has added scripting capability for the AI director -- functionality that will be available to modders, a community Valve still values highly.

"Talking with them and with our own level designers, it's what they wanted to have for that experience happen. It all ties in together with the AI", Faliszek concluded.


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Comments


Bryson Whiteman
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Eh. No way I'm spending another $60 on Left 4 Dead.

Andrew Dobbs
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I already spent my money on Madden 2010, but I think Left 4 Dead 2011 could win me back.

Chris OKeefe
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I didn't really feel like I got enough out of L4D. They promised to continue supporting it and to provide content, and it's all well and good for them to decide that it'd be 'a better experience' to just make L4D2, but I'm sorry, that doesn't nullify the fact that Valve essentially lied to their paying customers and are expecting them to pay -again- for the same game, redux.



'Well this is how we should have done it... pay us again.'



Even one or two new campaigns for L4D would have gone a long way toward soothing the nerves of people who bought L4D expecting the continued support that Valve promised. But no. We got barely anything. A couple of balance patches. The Last Stand mode which came with just one new level(and a tiny level at that).



So no, I don't think L4D2 will be on my short list of games to buy. I've already got titles on my list for the rest of 2009 and early-mid 2010. Maybe I'll get it when it's on sale. For half off. That's about the price of an expansion, right?

Janne Haffer
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I've played more than 100 hours of l4d according to the steam stats, more than any other valve game on there. And more than any other fps shooter in recent years, I don't understand how people feel it didn't give any value for the money.

Chris OKeefe
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I understand where you're coming from David.



However, when you buy into an online game with promises of content and support to come, it's not the same thing as simply picking up a single player game. Especially since a lot of people felt that L4D didn't contain enough content out of the box, and many people bought the game with full expectation of more to come.



Yeah, on the one hand people regularly pay full price for stuff like this. On the other hand, there were some blatent lies about the future of L4D, and a lot of customers who bought the game with those lies in mind, came away from this whole thing feeling burned. What they are essentially saying is that L4D was a full price beta, and now you get to buy it all over again now that they've sorted out the things they want to do differently. To me, that's not being honest with their customers, and it's enough to turn me off of buying L4D2.



It's the principle of the thing. And Valve should learn that they can't just tell their customers whatever they want to hear and then pretend they didn't say while holding a hand out for more money.

Walter Lippman
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"What we wanted was a single, cohesive revenue strea....I'm sorry, 'statement.' Yeah, statement is what I meant."



Come on now, game companies are corporations like the rest of them, complete with an obligation to increase revenue. Let's be real about all this, shall we?



Maybe feature some commentary as well. Except that, since normal journalism just regurgitates the statements of government officials, I guess we can't expect any more from games journalism. Can't bite the hand that feeds and all that.

Christopher Wragg
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I'm sorry but David has the right of it. Back in the day we'd get a teeny expansion to a game or a sequel (read clone) and love a company for it, literally worship the ground they walked on. How is it that these days when a producer spends time and effort building something bigger than the original game as a sequel, rather than appreciating the effort, so many people start screaming and shouting that everything should be DLC. I'm of the opinion that today's gamer is becoming spoiled. If you enjoyed L4D1 (and if you care enough to complain bout L4D2 not being DLC, you probably did), you'll buy the second, enjoy the additional content, and love valve again, despite your spoilt brat impersonations here.

Chris OKeefe
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Wow, that was randomly hostile. Speaking of spoiled brats.



How difficult is it for you to understand 'false advertising.' Look, Valve promised, again and again, to support L4D over the longterm. They completely and totally went back on that promise. L4D is an online game and its primary draw was cooperative and competitive online play. People were expecting support in the same way Valve supports TF2. You don't see them selling a brand new full-price copy of TF2 every year, do you? No.



They promised support like TF2, and they never gave it to us. For some people that's fine. For others, no thanks. And if you think my choice to not spend 60 dollars on a game is 'screaming and shouting,' then you have bigger issues to work out. I'm not obligated to buy games that you support, and my reasons aren't your business. If you don't agree, don't agree, don't start insulting people's character.

David Rodriguez
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Bottom line, if you want your L4D upgrade; you will buy it. Yah, they said something and now they're going back on it. We're talking about VALVE here by the way, you really think they're gonna take your money and give you crap back? they have good rep, they'll deliver. I think so far people are assuming this sequel is gonna be the assets that were promised for free...which does sound somewhat true. I still think the game will be good.



On a similar note, everyone here is gonna complain but STILL buy all 3 versions of Starcraft 2.

Andrew Dobbs
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I think one of the problems with the L4D issue is that this is all happening after the glory of the Orange Box, when gamers felt like they got a ridiculous value for the money.



L4D just wasn't worth the money they charged. Many people knew it was light on content and expected Valve to deliver more. Instead, they put their focus on the sequel. Will they make more money this way? Probably.



As a consumer, it was frustrating. If people don't speak out about these things, companies won't think twice about doing it again in the future.

Sean Thom
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Well, first of all, I got my copy of L4D from Goozex, so I didn't pay full price for it. However, I can honestly say I would've had I known how fun it was going to be. About Valve's promise to support it, well, obviously recent announcements have proven they've kept their promise, as they always have. What I find so distressing in this dilemma is that when Valve, for the VERY FIRST TIME, announced a TIMELY SEQUEL, people went off on them, saying they were lying, money-grubbing opportunists. Wow. After taking into account just how blissfully AWESOME Valve has been to its user-base over the years with oodles of free content, how endlessly supportive they've been of their modding community, the fact that they decided to IMPROVE upon a game beyond the parameters of simply adding to what was there in a bonafied sequel, AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE start ragging on them like they're ActiBlizz. Wow. Way to thank the people responsible for so much past joy, way to shit on all that good will they've showered on their fans from the very beginning, way to show your loyalty to a company that has been way more loyal to their fans than just about any other game company out there. All you ungrateful gobs can go suck it, I'M gonna be having fun playing BOTH L4D & L4D2.


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