Valve announces Left 4 Dead 2! This is pretty exciting. The game looks like it has the potential to be a strong follow-up to the first game.
So why am I tearing my hair out, pissed off at this announcement?
Up until this moment, I was planning on making a custom Left 4 Dead campaign. I’m a long time counterstrike mapper, I’m in to Half Life 2 modding, and I love L4D. I was going to spend the summer working on a new campaign, taking the time to make sure it would be really solid. And hey, Valve picks the best Team Fortress 2 maps and releases them officially; maybe if I put my back into it, I would make a campaign that Valve officially supported.
But it appears Valve is throwing all of that out the window with this announcement. The L4D SDK has just been released as a beta a couple weeks ago, and only a handful of custom maps (no full campaigns) have been made so far. The modding community for the game is in its infancy. In about six months, I would have predicted it gaining momentum and turning into something big.
But instead, Valve comes along and announces a sequel to chop the mod community in half in six months.
Let me put it this way: there is no way I’m going to waste 4 to 6 months on a campaign, only for Valve to come out and say, "Surprise! Your work is obsolete now!"
At this point, what incentive is there for the mod community to support L4D? I see absolutely none. I hope I’m wrong – I hope Valve has some ace up their sleeve that will calm me down; but I honestly can’t image any reason I should make a campaign for L4D anymore.
To be fair, Valve is making an effort to smooth the transition from L4D 1 to its sequel. On their SDK mailing list, they sent an email confirming that all L4D campaigns will be fully functional in L4D 2.
Problem solved? Not exactly. Read the latest press releases, or watch the new gameplay footage. It’s doubtful that Valve’s level design is going to be the same in the sequel. The implementation of alternate routes alone is enough to create a tremendous divide between the design of L4D 1 and 2’s campaigns.
So while I could choose to spend my summer creating the campaign I have planned, and then port it to L4D 2, why should I? Being able to port levels designed for a different game into L4D 2 is not exactly a fantastic feature. Imagine that you’re playing L4D 2: do you want to play maps that "function," or do you want to play maps tailored to the game?
There are so many aspects of a L4D campaign that may or may not translate to the sequel. Are the campaigns the same size? Are levels as wide? How many side paths should there be? Are the zombies and survivors balanced differently? Is the level of graphical fidelity the same? Etc. etc. What this means is that even if I do create a L4D 1 campaign and try and modify it to fit the sequel, I’ll end up with an awkward, sub-par campaign. Most likely, I would need to redesign levels wholesale to come up with something worth playing.
L4D 2 will probably be a great game – I don’t doubt that. But I’m very disappointed in Valve for seemingly disregarding the mod community. Valve has done a great job facilitating the community for games like Counterstrike Source and Team Fortress 2 – why is the same not being done for Left 4 Dead?
What Valve should be doing is working on a sequel quietly, while at the same time supporting L4D with DLC. They’ve done it with their past games, and the mod communities for those games have grown in leaps and bounds. But with Left 4 Dead, Valve is simply giving modders the cold shoulder.
Unless of course, as I mentioned above, they do have an ace up their sleeve. They haven’t revealed everything about the game, so it’s possible my ramblings are uncalled for. Until then, though, I remain less than optimistic. Thank you Valve, I’ll play Left 4 Dead 2, but I’ll quietly back away from modding for it.