Interview

Left 4 Dead 2 Interview (PC)

You may recall a few months back we braved oddballs pretending to be zombies to chat to Valve Marketing VP, Doug Lombardi. Like a ravenous zombie thirsting for fresh, bloody meat, we sniffed out Left 4 Dead 2’s writer, Chet Faliszek to lend us some extra insight into the eagerly awaited sequel, which is so close to launch we can almost taste its stinking, rotten flesh. Read on, if you dare…

Strategy Informer: If you could just start by telling us all about the new stuff you’ve got for Left 4 Dead 2.

Chet Faliszek: We’ve been over the four new characters, but if you saw them at E3, they’ve already changed since then. We always keep refining and reiterating our characters. We’ve shown all five of the campaigns now and today we’ve been playing Dark Carnival, which is the second campaign where the finale is on a rock stage and you use fireworks and the pyrotechnics of the stage itself to fight off zombies.

We’ve added a bunch of new melee weapons, so we’ve got the chainsaw in there, cricket bat, baseball bat – all kinds of great stuff to beat zombies with.

We’ve revealed a little bit more about how the stories are linked together across the world, so you start in Savannah and as you work your way to New Orleans, you’ll actually know what happens in between and what’s going on. And we’ve started showing a lot more weapons, so things like the grenade launcher, laser sights and items like the defib(rillator), which you can use to bring someone back to life. Then there’re the canisters of Boomer bile, where in places like the Swamp setting a Tank on fire isn’t the most helpful thing. If you cover him in Boomer bile, you’ll attract a swarm of infected that’ll slow him up.


Chet Faliszek, writer. All round nice guy and owner of one of the finest beards ever.
The brand new Scavenge mode in action. We can’t wait to experience even more intensity than before.

Strategy Informer: When you’re introducing so many new gameplay elements, are you at all worried that you might upset the balance that was almost pitch perfect in the first Left 4 Dead?

Chet Faliszek: Well, we have outside playtesters as well as playtesting ourselves all the time. And we’re always balancing the new weapons, the new creatures – we have a new game mode, Scavenge – it was all about balancing everything in there as well. In Versus and Scavenge, we’ll often make slight changes just in those modes because they have some different needs. But yeah, it’s about playing it all the time and making sure as we’re doing it, that if you’re new to the series and you’ve never played before, you can still jump in and you know what to do. Shoot zombies.

Strategy Informer: Can you tell us a bit more about Scavenge, the new game mode?

Chet Faliszek: For Scavenge, we wanted a really fast, intense game mode. Versus games sometimes go on for hours and it’s cool – that’s a really nice experience and I have a joke that it’s the game you play with a beer on your desk. You can take a sip of beer while you’re waiting to respawn – figure out what’s going on. Scavenge is really intense. You’ll forget the beer is even there. There’s like a minute-thirty, and the clock just starts ticking down and you’ve really gotta react fast and it’s about the survivors having an objective, which is filling up a generator with gas, which sounds really mundane, but it’s the zombie apocalypse. You have all the common infected, the specials, they all come and it’s a battle for you to do that.

On the infected side, you get to play as the three new specials. You’re gonna play as the Spitter, the Jockey, the Charger as well as the other special infected. It all ends up being a really tight, fast, intense game.

Strategy Informer: Are we going to see the Witch become playable in Left 4 Dead 2?

Chet Faliszek: No. Because the Witch, we really want her to be understandable. She sits on the ground and cries – it’d be kinda boring to play. You’d just be sitting, going, “Come on! Come on! Piss me off! Piss me off!”

Strategy Informer: Yeah, I guess that would be pretty dull. But I actually thought that the Witch was more mobile in Left 4 Dead 2.

Chet Faliszek: It depends on the campaign. One of the things we wanted to make sure we did was ensure every campaign plays and feels different. One of the things we did was time of day, so if you’re playing during the day, you’ll actually see the Witch get up and wander around and that can lead to all kinds of chaos. You’re used to being able to shoot everything at this level and know you’re safe, but all of a sudden in the distance, there’s going to be the Witch and you’re going to hit her and she’s going to come flying at you and rip you up.

Strategy Informer: It’s kind of old news now, but you might remember the boycott thing that circulated amongst some of the fans. How did you personally respond and what were your thoughts on all of that?

Chet Faliszek: We originally started talking to a bunch of people involved in it as well as just people talking about it, and then realised that we really have to stop talking and just wait. We’re going to have bunch of stuff come out, then it’ll all make sense. I think we’re at that stage now, right? They’ve got to see it, everyone’s got to play the demo, we see our preorders are through the roof compared to Left 4 Dead 1 and so I think it’s a positive reinforcement that we’ve hit the right notes and people understand what we’re doing. It was always like, “just trust us, but equally I understand, so that’s fine but just wait and we’ll keep doing our stuff.” And that’s what we did.


Coach: looks like Uncle Phil, but is apparently voiced by Dennis Cutty from The Wire, fact fans!
Who lives in a house like this? Frankly, we don’t want to know.

Strategy Informer: So there will be continued support for the first Left 4 Dead then?

Chet Faliszek: Yeah. I think in fact, there’s an update coming out soon for it (this should now be available as you read this) and so yeah, I think a lot of people are confused by that, but we’re also a company that has Counter Strike 1.6 and Counter Strike Source going.

Strategy Informer: When we talked with Doug (Lombardi, Marketing VP), we put a suggestion forward that the Xbox 360 community might like to see a downloadable collection of the best PC mod maps. Do you think that’s something you could see being offered in the future?

Chet Faliszek: It’s definitely something we’ve talked about and thought about. The problem there is to get the game (right) in performance. Even on the PC – mid to low-end PCs - most of the modders aren’t proficient in that and even at Valve, not everybody is proficient in it. We have people who are especially into that and so often we have the community say, “why did they block so the Hunter can’t get up there? That’s stupid!” And it’s like, “well, no. It’s because it’d bring your frame rate down to like 3 frames per-second.” And so our balance there would be to do these performance paths and there’s been a lot of time spent doing that, so we’d have to do that with the community maps. Not to say we wouldn’t help teach those people – like in the TF (Team Fortress) world we’ve taught them how to do it on those maps. Those had to be simpler maps that are a little easier to do.

Obviously there’s been some great content released, especially recently, so getting that into more people’s hands would be great. We’re always looking to reward the people who make content like that.

Strategy Informer: Of the mods you’ve seen for Left 4 Dead, which would you say are your favourites? There are quite a few good ones.

Chet Faliszek: The bad thing is, I haven’t got to check any of them in the last month, so we’ve seen things like Dead By Dawn release and a couple of other high profile ones and I’ve talked with them and I’ve gotten to play some of their Alphas, but I haven’t got to play any final stuff yet. When I get back to the States – I mean, I’ve been gone for two weeks now – I’m gonna play.

Strategy Informer: It must be quite a rewarding feeling to see such an active mod community building so many unique L4D mods.

Chet Faliszek: Yeah. There’re some guys that we… I’m the person that invited them to come into the Beta when we first started working on it, and then we worked with them and kept giving them feedback, they can email us and we’ll make sure we get other people involved, so it’s been really great to see their final products. Some of these mod teams are really small, but they’ve still done some really cool stuff.

Strategy Informer: What single element would you say you’re proudest of in Left 4 Dead 2?

Chet Faliszek: Single element…(long pause) There’s so many things that came together. I’d say it’s how much fun Scavenge mode is. It sounds so simple, until you start to play it. We were at the Eurogamer festival for London Game Fest and we had people play there and we had the team that had actually played us for Left 4 Dead 1. They were playing and they were like the best Eurogamer team playing against the third best Eurogamer team at Scavenge. It was watching them play and watching those epic battles happen. It was really exciting to see. These are the games internally that we play, so it’s great to see it out there in the wild.

Strategy Informer: Are you at all concerned that you’re releasing Left 4 Dead 2 so close to Modern Warfare 2?

Chet Faliszek: We got released last year near Gears of War 2, so there’re always a lot of games around this time of the season, but there’re a lot of gamers. Modern Warfare 2 is going to be a great game and the Infinity Ward guys are smart guys, but we offer a different thing: something for when you want to play with groups of friends. There’s Assassin’s Creed II as well, so there’s a lot of stuff coming out. It always happens this time of year.

Strategy Informer: What kind of future do you imagine for the Left 4 Dead franchise? Is it something you want to continue to pursue for quite a while?

Chet Faliszek: I definitely want to live in the world of Left 4 Dead for a while yet. We’re not done. I think people will see that we have some bigger things than they first realised and so what that means for gamers, we’ll see. We’re at the point now where we’re talking about what we’re going to be doing next, so…

Strategy Informer: Finally, a question you must get asked frequently I would imagine. What’s happened to Gordon Freeman? When are we going to hear from him?

Chet Faliszek: We’ll be seeing that later. We’ll see.


Mr. Zombie Clown never was much good at Countdown.
“Everyone listen up. I need to axe you a question!” Comedy Coach at work.

Strategy Informer: And that’s all you want to say on the matter?

Chet Faliszek: Yes.

Strategy Informer: OK! Thanks for your time!

Interview by Richard Walker.


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Comments

By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 12, 2009
Kres
When is that demo coming out for us who didn't preordered it?
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Nov 12, 2009
JamieSI
Should be ready now for you :)
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Nov 14, 2009
BlitzKrieg
i tryed the demo all i have to say:pure freaking awesome dude, but it lacks an aim which upsets me, but maybe they'll put it in by the time its out.
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Nov 15, 2009
stuntkid
it's been out for a good week or so!
By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 16, 2009
Kres
Ah right I didn't noticed. Unfortunately, my Windows 7 high ping issue is kicking in and I can't enjoy it in its fullest. It appears to be ok, but they've changed the graphics engine somewhat from what i can see, and it sure looks a bit strange now...