Posted on August 3, 2007, Shawn Sines Gaming Today Q&A: Chet Faliszek of Left 4 Dead
Its not every day an interesting new Source based game can grab the attention of jaded players but Left 4 Dead, the upcoming co-operative multiplayer survival horror game from Turtle Rock Studios and Valve is garnering a lot of attention. The collaboration of the two studios previously produced Counterstrike: Condition Zero and with the new game the focus is more on survival of the fittest.With QuakeCon in full swing this weekend, we took the opportunity to conduct an interview with Chet “Mr. Awesome” Faliszek who is a writer and contributor for Left 4 Dead who works at Valve.
Gaming Today: Now, Left 4 Dead is not your typical Zombie shooter. It has a very different approach. Can you talk a little bit about how Left 4 Dead sets itself apart from games like Resident Evil.
Chet Faliszek: Left 4 Dead is more along the lines of a classic zombie movie, a group of survivors against overwhelming odds. The emphasis is on team play.
This is coupled with our procedural game design. Each time you play Left 4 Dead it will be a unique experience. One time down a street you might encounter a boomer whose puke attack brings a horde of 40 infected for you to fight. The next time, the street might be eerily quiet as you only encounter a few wandering infected.
GT: I’ve read that the game features an interesting variety of enemies, can you describe a few of them for us. Which is your favorite and which frustrates you most as a player?
CF: Two of the four Boss Infected that players may control are the Hunter and Smoker. The Hunter has the ability to leap and wall jump, letting him move quickly to the rooftops and hard to reach areas. He can attack with simple swipe attacks, or lay in wait and ambush a survivor with a Hunter Lunge that incapacitates the survivor until a teammate rescues them.
The Smoker has a 50-foot prehensile tongue that allows him to grab and choke a survivor. While they are all fun, there is just something very satisfying when playing as the Smoker to grab a straggling survivor and teach them the lesson of staying with their team.
No one infected group frustrates me for long, as player strategy keeps adapting. As soon as someone learns a trick or strategy on the infected side, the survivor side comes up with a counter. The strategy is constantly evolving and avoids being frustrating.
GT: How does the Co-operative gameplay work for the survivors? Obviously no one survives a zombie apocalypse alone but you’ve taken that concept to heart and really gone after the concept.
CF: With Left 4 Dead we are focusing on game mechanics that require players to work together. New players quickly learn it is nearly impossible to survive alone. Not only do you need your teammates to cover your back or work with you to take down a Tank, but several attacks are completely incapacitating and require a friend to save you. As a survivor, it is better to risk yourself to save another player than to try and turn tail and run for it on your own.
GT: With teamplay being such a big factor in the feel of the game, what can solo players expect? Is this a game they will appreciate?
CF: Left 4 Dead is built on a set of technology we call â€œThe AI Director.â€ The Director is in charge of monitoring the pacing of the game. It makes no distinction if you’re playing a game with 8 humans filling out the available roles or playing in “single player” mode. It will create the same peaks and valleys for single players as it does in multi-player.With survivor AI bots playing along side you, the single player mode will deliver the same experience as online co-op, just with no one to share the stories with afterwards.
GT: The game is powered by the Source engine, how did you leverage the engine to best fit your game concept? Were there systems or concepts that required any radical reengineering of the engine to work for you?
CF:We have all the new tech Valve has created for the Orange Box like Motion Blur and the new particle system and some of our own. One cool new feature we added to the Source engine is physics-based animation.
This gives a natural movement for things such as the Boomer’s jiggly belly full of blood or Zoeyâ€™s hair whipping around as she moves her head.And with the new Steam community features, we are introducing support for matchmaking, scheduling, rankings, and more.
GT: The initial game will launch with how many gametypes and maps? Are you using the environments to enhance the gameplay in any way, for instance does the map play into the survivability of the players?
CF: There are 4 campaigns each with five maps. The environments in each campaign differ to give survivors new challenges. In the city you might fight in cramped close quarters, needing to react quickly to enemies coming around a corner. In the rural maps, you might be able see the infected off in the distance and react sooner, but you will find yourself without the safety of a room or hallway to retreat to and stage your defense.
GT: When can we expect to be able to get our grubby, zombie obsessed hands on the game? Is it going to be released through retail as well as Steam?
CF: The game will be available at retail and on Steam some time after the holidays.
Thanks for speaking with us Chet. Left 4 Dead is on display at the Valve booth during QuakeCon this weekend and attendees get to see the game in action. We here at Gaming Today will continue to give updates on the title as well as hosting screens and videos as they are released.