An Insider’s View of Left 4Dead 2

L4D2_4Zombie mania begins this Tuesday because Left4Dead 2 drops!  So we thought we would have a quick chat with Left4Dead 2 Senior Project Manager Erik Johnson,  and get the inside scoop on the games connection to the hit show “The Wire”, the melee mayhem, and how to get your avatar all decked in Left4Dead Gear…

C2: Left 4 Dead was a 2008 highlight and Left4Dead 2 comes out Nov 17. One of the biggest differences is the change in location, so why the set up in the deep south?

EJ: Well…uh you know as a backdrop for the game, it’s just kinda this great place with a ton of character. It’s a place that a lot of people haven’t set games in before and so there’s a certain element of it just being unique. That was really interesting for us. The architecture and kind of the surrounding area, specifically a place like New Orleans, is just incredibly interesting and fun for the team to work on. And then we like the idea of building four new characters that kind of fit in that space during a zombie apocalypse. So there are a bunch of reasons for us why it made a bunch of sense and hopefully our customers will think the same.

l4d2 survivor line up

These playas are packin!

C2: Tell us about the four characters of the game. I understand you have Chad Colman who played Cutty on the ‘Wire’ as one of the characters?

EJ: Coach is the one who people will find familiar. (For) fans of “The Wire”, he played ‘Cutty’ in that show. He’s a really talented voice actor. We’re really grateful to have him in Left 4 Dead 2.  One of the other characters is one named Elis and he’s kind of this young southern kid. The next is Nick who’s kind of a shady gambler type and then Rochelle who’s actually from the north east and is kinda stuck in the South with these other three.  (Rochelle) Doesn’t particularly care for the south at all so that comes out in her character a lot.

C2: There were rumors that unlike the first game that there will be character progression throughout the gameplay… what can you tell us of this?

EJ: Well you know it’s not so much about those four characters because we look at those four characters as the players themselves, so the progression is more about their skill and working together as a team. But there is a progression as you play through the campaigns as the infected, on the Zombie side,  where we kind of introduce what we call “Uncommon common”. So there’s the common horde of Zombies but from time to time somebody in that horde will be specific one. Not one of the specials, but it could be like a clown in one of the campaigns that’s set in a circus. So we kinda blended those in for the experience of it.


Don't axe me no questions!

NH Tell us about the added melee weapons? Is there an ax, sword etc.?

EJ: First off, if we’re gonna do melee weapons, not having an ax would be a tragedy, so of course there is an ax. There’s ah, I think around 10 different melee weapons that are different when you play them in the game. The goal primarily is to get it so that some people in this team of four are going to make the choice to be kinda the close quarters, up in front crew to fight off the zombie horde and so they have to rely on their teammates to protect them while they’re doing that. So they are really effective when they’re up close. Of course the melee weapon can’t do anything to anybody far away.  We’re trying to kinda build on the co-op mechanic with melee weapons and also give people an experience that’s actually pretty fun. To be surrounded by the zombie horde and to be able to do something about it.


Look Ma! A zombie fire sale!

C2: Tell us about the AI and what’s different about it this time around. Do the enemies change tactics when dealing with them in daylight?

EJ: The game changes actually in a few different ways, For one the obvious is you can see quite a bit more. So you’ll see enemy’s from further off. You get a chance to kinda see your surroundings little more and kinda have more of a sense of place. There is some infected that actually act completely different in the daylight.  The witch is an example of this. She walks around. So instead of her being a stationary target, she’s kinda roaming around the map a little bit.  Which gives the team of four a kind of unique and different challenge. Most of the game is still at night.  We’re not making a game where everything is during the day, but putting daylight in there is a way we can add a change in the experience that people are having.

C2: I also hear that you guys will be having Avatar Awards (that will be unlocked by playing the game)

EJ: Oh Yeah we are gonna do that.

C2: Wicked.  What kinds can we expect?

EJ: You know I don’t know if I am the right person to give you the specifics on it.  I do think you are gonna love it though.

C2: Tell us a bit about the controversy that’s been surrounding this game (or rather its cover art) in the UK.

EJ: The brand image on the package has a complete different meaning in the UK as we became pretty aware of . So we had to turn the hand around to hopefully kind of skirt that issue.


Zombie grip or a cultural curse?

C2: What about the controversy regarding rating problems in Australia?

EJ: Australia, there ratings board gave it a rating that would make it not successful, so we made a version that passed their ratings and it will be available retail in that form as everywhere else.

C2: So do you expect a kind of Left4Dead underground railroad so fans in Australia can experience the true game?

EJ: Yeah I would expect places like Amazon New Zealand to have pretty good sales of the game.

C2: Love the fact that this series doesn’t take itself too seriously  ie. the Over the Top horror movie posters in both installments. Anything more in this sequel that adds to that effect?

EJ: Those are the kinds of things that we have the most fun building in the game.  The kind of little details that people pick up on the second or third read  through the game.  One of the things that’s kind of fun…One of the campaigns is set in a circus and so you have like your kind of carnival game stuff and you can actually play the games inside the circus and you can be attacked by zombie hordes while you are trying to win a teddy bear essentially.


C2: With L4D series playing on the whole Zombie movie bit, has  Valve ever considered a Left 4 Dead movie?

EJ: No we’re pretty focused on just making the game.

C2: Finally, what are your Top 3 Zombie movies of all time?

EJ: Uh For me personally “28 Days Later” is on there “Shawn Of The Dead” is definitely one of them.  Probably the original “Night Of The Living Dead”. …That’s kind of a classic. You have to look towards that.

C2: Thanks Eric, It was awesome talking with you.


~ by consolecreatures on November 15, 2009.

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