Summary: Zombies! We love this game already. JCal finds out what more there is. Read on, Macdead.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea for Left 4 Dead come about?
Michael Booth: During the past few years while collaborating with Valve on Counter-Strike and the CS Bot, we've been experimenting and iterating with co-op game designs, all of which have gravitated toward the survival horror theme. Left 4 Dead represents a growing collection of the best features and ideas we've come up with during this iterative design process.
FiringSquad: Why zombies as the main enemy instead of things like aliens or monsters or counter-terrorists?
Michael Booth: The concept of being surrounded by hordes of rabid, dangerous creatures is a natural reinforcement for co-operative play. I also find the idea of a horrific civilization-disrupting pandemic frighteningly plausible, which adds to the drama and atmosphere. Plus, it's fun to shoot zombies.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the main human characters in the game and how different they are in terms of gameplay?
Michael Booth: In Left 4 Dead, players may assume the role of any of the four Survivors or one of four "Boss Infected." Our AI technology allows games of 1 to 8 players - bots will assume the remaining Survivor and Boss Infected roles when human players are not available. The four Survivors have the same abilities and weapons available to them at the beginning of each campaign. However, it's the weapons you find and the tactical choices you make that define your role on the Survivor team.
FiringSquad: You can also play as zombies (or as you call them "infected"). What can you tell us about the different types of zombies in Left 4 Dead?
Michael Booth: First, there are mobs of AI-controlled Infected raging just about everywhere. Then there are five "Boss Infected" (Witch, Boomer, Hunter, Smoker, Tank) - four of which may be played by human players (all but the Witch). The Boss Infected have suffered unique mutations that can be leveraged in interesting ways by the player. The Boomer, for example, is filled with methane gas and can blast nearby Survivors if shot in close quarters, causing him to explode like a bomb. Alternatively, he can empty his gullet by projectile vomiting onto an individual Survivor. This vomit attracts a horde of common infected to attack whoever is coated by it.
FiringSquad: What will the environments and locations be like in the initial release?
Michael Booth: Left 4 Dead takes place in modern settings where a new and highly virulent strain of the Rabies virus spreads through the human population. Through the course of their missions, Survivors traverse urban and rural areas, and obtain weapons you would find -- and perhaps create (Molotov) -- in today's world.
FiringSquad: What are the main goals in each round of the game? Is it just to stay alive as a human or destroy humans as one of the infected or are there other goals as well?
Michael Booth: Similar to Counter-Strike, the goal of the environments and objectives are designed to present immediately recognizable situations that also allow for unique combat, even when played multiple times. In this case, each of the four campaigns included in the first release are of the "Escape and Survive" variety for the Survivor team. However, each mission is set in different geographic places which naturally lend themselves to varied play styles and challenges.
Michael Booth: Left 4 Dead is designed as a co-operative experience from the ground up. As such, all modes and features are available on- and offline. In addition, we're working with Valve to expand Steam and Source's out-of-game features, adding stats and ranking functionalities. So, your L4D successes (and failures) will go down on your permanent record and travel with you from server to server, building up a kind of "reputation" for others to see.
FiringSquad: How will the game's AI work when a person plays a single player game of Left 4 Dead?
Michael Booth: At the core of Left 4 Dead's gameplay is a set of technologies we refer to as "The Director." Whether you're playing a game with 8 humans filling out the available roles or playing in "single player" mode, The Director is in charge of monitoring the pacing of the game. So, for example, if your team has been bombarded with Infected hordes and bosses, The Director will schedule a break in the action. If your team is chewing through Infected like bubble gum, The Director will send a few Boss Infected your way, and so on. And all of this is done procedurally to insure no play sessions are alike -- there are no triggers, generators, special flags, or other human-placed information in the environment that specify where to place the Infected. As a result, the Survivor team can never predict when or where they will encounter anything.
FiringSquad: What other unique gameplay elements will Left 4 Dead have?
Michael Booth: As one of the first titles developed expressly as a co-operative experience, we've included several subtle gameplay elements unique to L4D that we've found to be very successful with players. These include the ability to revive a fellow survivor, helping someone hanging from a ledge, shooting off the tongue of a Smoker attempting to asphyxiate one of your friends, knocking a Hunter off of a friend who he has pinned to the ground and is shredding to bits, and sharing items with teammates. Other cooperative systems include an integrated voting system, and a context-sensitive vocalization system that enhances communications between Survivors.
FiringSquad: Are there any new graphical features that are being put into the Source engine for the game?
Michael Booth: In addition to the new stats and ranking features, we're also working with Valve to include support for multi-core processors. We've added physics-based animation to Source for things such as the Boomer's jiggly belly full of blood, flexible hair that moves naturally, and floppy bits of clothing. We're also leveraging the new particle system coming to Source for enhanced effects. That's just some of what's coming in the first release.
FiringSquad: After the game is released on the PC will there be any additional content released for Left 4 Dead as has been the case for Counter-Strike Source?
Michael Booth: Absolutely. We already have ideas for additional missions, features, and content that we hope to ship in future releases/updates to Left 4 Dead. In addition, an L4D-specific update will be made to the Source SDK so members of the community can make their own missions, characters, and L4D MOD content.
FiringSquad: The game is also due out for the Xbox 360 several months after the PC release. Are there any plans to support Microsoft's plans for Live Anywhere and have players from two versions play against each other?
Michael Booth: We haven't yet revealed any details regarding the 360 version just yet. Please stay tuned for more.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Left 4 Dead?
Michael Booth: Everyone at Turtle Rock Studios has been excited to see the encouraging feedback from the growing Left 4 Dead community. Thanks to everyone for their interest and suggestions, and keep them coming!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|