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E3: Valve Talks  Left 4 Dead 2 's Quick Sequel Strategy
E3: Valve Talks Left 4 Dead 2's Quick Sequel Strategy Exclusive
June 3, 2009 | By Chris Remo

June 3, 2009 | By Chris Remo
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    14 comments
More: Console/PC, E3, Exclusive



Valve's big E3 announcement -- that last year's hit Left 4 Dead would be followed up with a PC and Xbox 360 sequel this year -- was a surprise coming from a studio that has never delivered a full sequel in such a short timeframe.

It was made even more notable by Valve's oft-stated strategy of supporting its multiplayer games with new content and updates for many months or even years after their release, as exemplified by the ever-evolving Team Fortress 2.

At E3, as part of a longer forthcoming interview, Gamasutra caught up with Tom Leonard, Valve developer and project lead on Left 4 Dead 2, to discuss the reason for the quick turnaround -- and the fate of the original Left 4 Dead.

"There's definitely not a change in policy," said Leonard in response to Gamasutra's inquiries as to whether this move represents a new direction for Valve's multiplayer efforts.

He pointed out that Valve has always experimented with different types of development and distribution. "With the various things we've done -- Half-Life 2, the big splash game that takes forever; or the episodic content; or the [Team Fortress 2] updates -- as a company we try to explore different ways of delivering value to the customer," he explained.

"For the team I'm working on, it was perceived that the best way to provide value was to provide this big experience."

Development on Left 4 Dead 2 began almost immediately after the first game shipped, following a short break, but the idea of a standalone sequel was borne out of necessity and practicality.

"The team got back together in early November, and we were all really excited to continue to expand the Left 4 Dead experience," Leonard recalled. "We hit the white board and came up with ideas about how we could expand the experience -- new characters, new locations, new positioning on the timeline of the infection, new game mechanics."

"As we started talking that through, it became clear that we weren't really talking about incremental updates; we were talking about a whole experience. And it would be hard to deliver that totality of experience in incremental bits."

"So I proposed to people, 'Why don't we try to make a sequel and do it in a year?' Everyone thought I was crazy, but as I talked them through the strategy of how to do it, the team collectively said, 'Yeah, that's interesting.'"

Leonard and the rest of the team discussed the idea with marketing VP Doug Lombardi and studio founder Gabe Newell, and were given the green light to proceed: "They said, 'Sounds great, if that's what you want to do.' Basically, the team was motivated to create an entire package."

But what about Left 4 Dead, which some players expect to fall by the wayside in the wake of its sequel?

Leonard declined to commit to there being more Valve-created content for the game, instead pointing out some upcoming functionality tweaks and the potential in user-created levels for the PC version. "We are doing updates across the summer, adding new matchmaking features, and new features to facilitate user maps after the SDK is out," he said. "Certainly, user maps will be part of the ongoing Left 4 Dead 1 experience."

"Additionally, those maps can be transported into Left 4 Dead 2. With regard to more content, it's hard to say, because the timeline for Left 4 Dead 2 is so sensitive, and the team has a head of steam right now for the game."


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Comments


Joshua Sterns
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I am going to be hard pressed to shell out another sixty bucks for L4D2. The first game is a blast, but it is also light on content. Will the sequel have more then four characters and campaigns? Will all of the campaigns include versus? Can this FPS measure up to CODMW2, HaloODST, and Bioshock2?



I also can't help but think that the 360 version of L4D1 will die out. There is no user generated content like the PC, and I doubt Valve will support the game with a sequel in the works. I feel like a sucker for spending sixty bucks on L4D1. If I had gotten it for the PC, then I would have paid less and gotten more.



Oh well, live and learn I guess.

Peter Dwyer
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I fel your pain Joshua. It's like I've just been conned. The sequel has 5 stages and four different characters. Some tweaks in the way the witch behaves and the same set of zombies i.e. boomers, hunters etc. etc. I think they added something called a charger, which is effectively a half formed tank.



Basically L4D2 is nothing more than an upgrade to L4D1. The addition of melee weapons doesn't actually work as the hoards mean you get overwhelmed quickly. The new weapons are simply re-designs of the existing weapons.



It's very sad to see such an obvious thoughtless cash-in coming from a quality software house like Valve. I fear this may be the start of a downward spiral for them.

Andrew Dobbs
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Agreed

Joseph Cook
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Left 4 Dead and the survival pack easily gave me enough gameplay to justify the price. I'll have probably put 50 hours or more into playing with my friends long before L4D2 ever comes out.



Left 4 Dead 2 has a lot more content than Left 4 Dead and the survival pack put together. More campaigns, more weapons, updated systems, more gamplay modes, etc.





Left 4 Dead 2, in and of itself, will no doubt have enough content to be worth the price, and worth being called a full "sequel".



However, it is absolutely true that Valve did promise more content beyond the already-worth-the-price base game, and I will be incredibly disappointed if they break that promise. Regardless of L4D's worth, regardless of L4D2's worth. If they make a promise and break it, or refuse to do it justice in some other way (discount, etc.), then it will be the first immensely disappointing thing that Valve has ever done.

Christopher Wragg
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@Peter Dwyer

I believe they're adding 3 new special infected, just the charger is the only one that's been spoiled thus far. Those 3 plus the original 3 (excluding tank and witch for a moment) will probably make for some quite dynamic match ups, and also make it harder to be totally prepared for everything. Also, from what I've read the melee weapons are supposed to be nutso good close up, but you have to drop a primary weapon for it. They're also adding new types of ammunition, again the only type that's been spoiled is incendiary ammo.



@Joshua Sterns

Between my small gaming group we've easily racked up over 100 hours on L4D1, so while it may be light on content it's replay ability is stupidly high. Considering how the new game has 1 more campaign than the first, along with some other possible game modes hinted at (think things along the line of survival but with an actual objective). It should provide an even greater play length.



So overall I look forward to this game with eager anticipation, and can't help but think it'll be worth every penny.

Peter Dwyer
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@Christopher



Yea there are around three new infected but, it's cheap ass gameplay mechanics. Like the charger knocking you away and also acting like a boomer to attract a hoard to you. The hazard who is pretty mich fire proof so incindiary rounds don't do much.



The director is supposed to be able to set the level in light or dark and bring in some pre-fabs to effectively re-route the path through the levels.



None of this is anything other than an upgrade of L4D1. The basic gameplay of 2 is identical to the first one. The whole feel of the game is just plain samey. After a 10 minute stint with the demo I couldn't see amy differences, apart from it seems harder to accidentally down your teammates during a firefight. The first of the five new scenarios just felt like a re-hashed first level of the old game.

Daniel Ferlise
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L4D2 needs to be marketed as a stand-alone expansion, NOT a sequel, and should be released, I think, similar to The Witcher's enhanced edition. A LOT of L4D players feel like beta testers now for the "real game" considering L4D2 seems to be offering a lot of what L4D should have had from the getgo (melee weapons is the first thing that pops into my mind).



There'd better be some major deals going down, at the very least for retail/Steam PC purchases, allowing us to buy L4D2 for basically $10 or even have it offered as a free DLC (or at least, assuming they do this, "enhanced" original campaigns that include the new infected, features, etc.). Valve will shoot themselves in the foot with their original player base, especially the original pre-order crowd (the 2 level demo was basically 90% of the game at launch, it really... really was) if they try to market this as a full fledged game deserving a $50 price tag. Even the XBox 360 purchasers deserve something very special, but kniowing Microsoft they'd get screwed somehow. Still, at the very least, owning the Steam version or the PC retail version (with CD key) of L4D1 should knock L4D2 to no more than a $15 purchase, since it looks very much a L4D v2.0 than a real sequel.

Dan Kantola
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Hey they could always release stuf for the first one after they settled down with L4D 2? :)

Arthur Protasio
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I too felt somewhat disappointed in Valve because I truly expected more from their post-release updates/patches as is the case for Team Fortress 2, for example.



Though I won't go as for as boycotting the game (http://steamcommunity.com/groups/L4D2boycott), I certainly won't buy it if I don't feel the need for an "expansion pack" sold at the price of a full game.



I am not against improvements brought by L4D2, but Valve did promise post-launch support and content for L4D (http://www.videogamer.com/news/valve_details_post_left_4_dead_lau
nch_plans.html). Perhaps the extra content could even be sold as DLC for L4D users, but the way it seems it looks like they are relying primarily on user-generated content.



Thankfully, as a modder, it looks like they'll support the L4D SDK (which currently is still in beta). Truth be told, this is not a dream world in which all softhouses release content the same way CD Projekt did. "The Witcher: Enhanced Edition" favored all users (old and new versions alike) and it definitely would be nice if other developers followed this example.

David Rodriguez
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Well, this is going with there ever changing business strategy. Thats one thing I've always admired from them is their broad, limitless span of ideas that are always fresh. It does sound like a quick buck scheme but they've already proved countless times they produce only quality so I'll back them up on this.

steve roger
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I have been following the hate and anger brewing over on the forums. What is laughable is reading the comments of the moderators who shameless plug Valve can do no wrong comments in to threads as the lock, edit, merge, delete, put people in time out and ban angry forum members. The most common statement by the mod's is that the forum said that they didn't want Valve to change the original L4D title with updates like Valve did with TF2.



What the moderators fail to admit that there is a huge difference between updates that fundamentally alter and ultimately unbalance gameplay and providing additional content like maps and campaigns.



The L4D community is starved for new campaigns and Valve by the comments made in this article confirm the worst:



L4D WILL BE L4D.

Gustavo Lima
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"one of things that's really helped grow the community is the continuous updates, where we release new maps, new character classes, new unlockables, new weapons."



"So we'll do the same thing with Left 4 Dead where we'll have the initial release and then we'll release more movies, more characters, more weapons, unlockables, achievements, because that's the way you continue to grow a community over time."



by gabe newell in 2008 http://www.videogamer.com/xbox360/left_4_dead/news/valve_details_
post_left_4_dead_launch_plans.html

Gustavo Lima
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sorry for the couble comment I though I could edit it after submit :/

watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQWylFmqnwM

and join this:

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/L4D2boycott



9.500 members in 5 days.

Maarten Heintz
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Despite the fact that I understand the arguments given and don't really know what to think of this move by Valve myself, I would have really expected them to receive a bit more of the benefit of the doubt here. Even if it's looking as if they're doing the wrong thing now, or even if they are factually doing the wrong thing, I severely doubt they will truly end up screwing over the gaming community as much as people are making them out for. In addition, the doomsaying about what this means for Valve as a company is almost laughable, especially on Gamasutra.



The psychology of this situation would probably be interesting as hell for marketing psychologists though.


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