Sat in an underground nightclub beneath London Bridge we met up with Valve’s Chet Faliszek, one of the lead writers and designers for Left 4 Dead and the upcoming sequel Left 4 Dead 2. Just moments before, we’d been playing through a brand new build of the game and sipping on some of the Long Island Iced Teas that were being handed out by waitresses dressed as zombies.
It was, in other words, a good event – one we were eager to get back to in fact, after our quick chat with Chet...
bit-tech:So…how to bring this up? The obvious place to start is really with the Left 4 Dead 2 boycotts and the fan reaction – were you guys anticipating that at all?
Chet Faliszek: Yeah, we weren’t anticipating that. We went with Left 4 Dead 2 to E3 and there was this thing where; we’d been keeping Left 4 Dead 2 secret, we’re not good at keeping secrets, but we’d tried to pull it off anyway. That was all kind of exciting for us.
It was all about the product though, right? Equally, a month later we bought out a big Team Fortress 2 update, but we didn’t go to E3 talking about the TF2 update – we concentrated on Left 4 Dead 2. So, what I really think it is is that people thought that because we were talking about Left 4 Dead 2 and not Left 4 Dead 1 that we’d kind of abandoned it. That’s not true; we’re still supporting it, still updating it.
I think that as people learn more about Left 4 Dead 1, as well as Left 4 Dead 2, it will become less of an issue.
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BT:And have we seen most of the new content for Left 4 Dead 2 now or is there still a lot left to unveil?
CF: Oh, no no, all we’ve shown is the Charger special infected. There are three to four new special infected, they are all playable in Versus Mode. We’ve only shown a couple of the melee weapons too, we have new things like incendiary ammo, more items besides pipe bombs and molotovs. We’re just giving a little sample out for now.
BT: So, how do the melee weapons work exactly? We’ve had one quick go on the game so far, but we weren’t fast enough to grab the fire axe on our first game.
CF: The melee weapons work so that you pick them up and as long as you are holding them, you have them. They have to be in your hands. It's kind of like the gas cans in Left 4 Dead 1 - to get your guns or healthpacks out you have to throw them away.
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BT:Do they break or degrade at all?
CF: No. We did originally have that whole breaking mechanic when we were first designing them, but it just ended up feeling really cheap. Players were constantly saying "I was having fun, I was using that, why did you take the fun thing away?" So, we tried to think of a different system for that, but we just cut it in the end.
BT:One of those things that sounds like it would be fun, but then in reality it’s just a pain in the ass.
CF: Yeah, exactly.
BT:You mentioned some new zombies and one that we’ve seen today is the, well, is it supposed to be the CDC? The zombies in the hazmat suit?
CF: Oh, so those are what we call the uncommon common. There’s a lot of common infected that you fight and there’s a lot of variation in there. There are thousands of variations you’ll see. With that though, we want to have some characteristics that were unique for each one to kind of create a broken-up experience. In Left 4 Dead 1 you might kill about a thousand zombies in a campaign at the high end, but here you’ll kill around two thousand zombies. You kill a lot of zombies, so we have to kind of mix it up and keep it fresh for everybody. So, we had this idea where you’re looking at the hazmat guy and he’s fireproof, so you throw down a molotov and he has no reaction to it. It changes things about just a little and each campaign has some new little thing like that added in.