# Left 4 Dead 2 Demo Impressions, and How To Shorten the Ad

October 29, 2009

I played a few rounds of the coop L4D2 demo, once alone and once with three friends. On the solo run I played on normal, just to get a feel for the map.

This time around they seem committed to providing multiple paths through the environment. The longer path generally appears to be more dangerous, but there are usually better weapons available for the brave. For example you’re given an option to cut through a diner to get into a back alley. You’re given tons of cover to clear the horde, and the only real danger you’re in would be from a boomer or spitter willing to go kamikaze to do modest damage. Or you could go around the corner on the street, out in open under high pounce perches,  ledges, and open windows. At the end of the street you’re treated to a desert eagle, a pistol that will one shot kill any common infected and is more accurate when incapacitated.

The other new weapons seem to be high-res models ripped from counter-strike. So far I found an automatic sniper rifle (rifle 6 for Counter-Terrorists I believe), a heavier auto-shotgun, and the much requested AK-47 (or possibly the Defender). I found the recoil on the AK-47 hinder the gun beyond being useful in hordes, but I imagine the range for two shot bursts will make it effective against special infected. It’s nice to have more options, but my initial impression is that the balance is off. In versus I think people will rely on the deagle and autoshotty.

I haven’t had a chance to figure out how to play as the special infected yet, but from what I observed in game roles have changed slightly. The jocky is a great hybrid between the smoker and the hunter, but the AI never attempted/landed a damage pounce; I have to wonder if they can. The spitter is a direct-damage boomer; she’s seems to be pretty straight forward to play. I think it’s interesting that the AI controlled charger behaves exactly as the AI controlled tank did in the last game. The tank is now smart enough to try to incapacitate multiple survivors instead of pounding one to death. The charger doesn’t seem capable of that kind of flexibility.

At this point the PC demo does still have some bugs in it, but I didn’t run in to anything game breaking.

I did get annoyed with the ad that plays every time I finished the campaign. I decided to do something about it.

This file will replace the long ad that reminds you to buy something you’ve already paid for with five seconds of the image you see here. I thought it was best to leave some ad in, as Valve obviously wants there to be one. Let’s call it a compromise.

Download the file and put it in \Steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead 2 demo\left4dead2\media\. You may want to back up the original l4d2_upsell.bik just for posterity’s sake.

The file contains no audio in the interest of file size.

# Modern Warfare’s Intro Leak

October 28, 2009

I think this would be referred to as a “Hard M.” I really wouldn’t want to see kids playing this, but let’s define terms here. To me a kid is someone who can’t sit through Schindler’s List or Apocalypse Now. The 16 year old who goes, "Oh cool! Look at all the blood!" is a kid. The 16 year old who can understand the implications of the scene and the reasons it may be important for the mood of the piece probably is not.

This does cross an ugly line; but not the one I think most people will think of. I would say what happens in these 8 minutes speaks volumes about the human condition. It says more about real world tragedies more than a memorial wall ever could. You will witness every school shooting, every suicide bombing, and every sociological killer. You’re given a glimpse of how awful those scenarios are. Infinity Ward has dumped a lot of disturbing truth about the grotesque things people are capable of into the player’s lap. It’s not pretty, and it will take a mature mind to grapple with it.

EDIT: Screw it, I’m embedding it here.

# Piracy, Communities, and Irritation

October 28, 2009

Right now I have Borderlands coming down in uTorrent.

To understand the magnitude of that statement you must know that I’m a huge fan of PC gaming, and I am more than willing to put money behind products I’m interested in. This is the first game I’ve out-and-out stolen, ever.

I bought Red Faction: Guerilla for PC a few weeks ago. Despite having months to perfect the PC port the game was buggy to the point of being unplayable. A few levels in a demo would have let me know if the game worked or not; but there wasn’t one.  In a period where I’m running a new operating system, a game without a trial is just too risky. A $60 purchase is an investment, and I’m typically not allowed to do any first hand research. Another instigation that motivated me to raise a middle finger to the gaming industry is Activision/Infinity Ward’s decision to avoid private servers in Modern Warfare 2. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I enjoy becoming a member of a community that has built up around a server. Clans aren’t just groups that game together, they’re a congregation point for people who seek out a certain atmosphere during their games. I haven’t heard a derogatory term in a PC game for years; being able to choose the group I play with is a big part of that. That doesn’t even mention the PC’s greatest, unique feature: customization. I love Left 4 Dead; so much so that I wrote an application to fix things I didn’t like about it. I wrote modified server configurations to change the core game mechanics, which created completely new game play experiences with a few lines of code. I built my own map (only the first level exists, thanks to a hard drive crash). My cohorts and I were able to squeeze out more than$50 in value of the game as a result of my efforts and those of like-minded individuals.

Now some companies want to take that away. They want to limit us to the console experience. They want us to play the game they made, only the game they made, and only with content we’ve given them money for. They don’t want to compete with people who’re willing to give out content for free. They disguise their moves by saying they’re trying to avoid the pirates. I submit myself as an example of the opposite being true.

Games like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Defense of the Ancients (and thus the entire tower defense genre), and any of the hundreds of games based on the Source Engine are examples of the power of community modifications. I have to wonder where Valve, Blizzard (an Activision company), and iD would be without communities who changed their games into something unrecognizable.