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After playing through the campaign, we must admit we are impressed. Right from the beginning, it showed off impressive amounts of quality. We are eagerly looking forward to the full release. —FilePlanet Staff (by e-mail)

Posts Tagged ‘difficulty’

Nov2

Advertising and notifying

Posted by Nicolas in General, Progress

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Just a quick note to tell everyone to try the Suicide Blitz campaign for Left 4 Dead 1. We don’t know the guy who made it, but kudos to him, we were asbolutely thrilled when we played it yesterday. The campaign is brilliant and beautiful, full of details and sweet lighting. Plus, the ambience is really great, the difficulty high enough for a great challenge and the optimisation is quite good too. The five maps and the overall campaign are a bit too long (took us almost 3 hours in advanced) but it’s definitely worth a try. One of the best campaigns we stumbled upon for the moment.

Aside from this, we’re still working hard on the campaign. And as you can see with the semi-chaotic release of Dead Before Dawn a few days ago, we were absolutely right when we talked about how bad Left 4 Dead 1 was supporting custom campaign. That encourage us to wait more and more, until Valve releases the patch they’re talking about for months.

On the bright side, our maps are finished. Two of them are in the optimisation process, four of them are in the final navigation meshing process, and then it should be finished for good. We won’t give any hint on a possible release date for the moment, we’re not planning anything since there’s too much unanswered questions for the moment. What’s sure is that we won’t release anything until Valve fixes Left 4 Dead 1 for good. But for the moment, they still have some time.

PS: Ok, the guy’s named R.T. Frisk, see in the comments.

Oct22

Could someone fix Left 4 Dead please?

Posted by Nicolas in Development, Lamentation, Media

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As you may already know it, we’re almost done with the big stuff (ie: level-design and gameplay). What’s left is mostly bugfixes, sound effects and little details here and there, which will still take some time. But I’d like to point a few things I’m not really happy with recently and that most people don’t understand when they contact us.

I’m not gonna make a pamphlet about Valve, but the situation around Left 4 Dead custom campaigns is seriously fucked up. Sorry for the harsh words but, it’s been nearly one year since the game was released and six months since the SDK was added to the game, and still… half of the features are still bugged out or simply not supported. That’s something people heavily discuss on the Left 4 Dead Mailing List, but nothing seems to move on Valve’s side. What’s still impossible to do, you ask?

  • You can’t embed custom music in your campaign VPK.
  • You can’t embed custom sounds in your campaign VPK at all because players would have to rebuild the whole Left 4 Dead sound cache each time they install a new campaign, and when it doesn’t simply mess up everything, it takes almost 10 minutes to complete.
  • Custom models are crashing the game randomly when embedded in the campaign VPK.
  • You still can’t embed custom particle effects, in the maps or in the VPK.
  • The sound system is ruined and plays random sounds at random events, like an alarm sound when you set zombies on fire and such…
  • We can’t make custom game instructor messages and as we can’t record survivor voices ourselves, there’s mostly nothing we can to to help players understand what to do.

And believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, what I’m saying is that more than 11 months after the release of the game, we still can’t make elaborated custom campaigns. Should we see a deliberate method of pushing players and modders to Left 4 Dead 2, I don’t think so ; but there’s something seriously wrong in there. So, if you’re waiting for our campaign, you might as well wait for the next bugfixes. Until then, here’s a few widescreen action screenshots of the first three maps!




















Sorry for the quality of the darkest ones, the JPEG format doesn’t like big dark areas. And by the way, what I said in this article is my own opinion, and not the team’s one (even if I know they agree with my opinion) and I know there’s some campaign out there that do have custom sound/music/models, but it mostly relies on hacks and exponentially increase the campaign size. And our campaign contains a hell of a lot of custom content.

Apr27

Balancing the difficulty

Posted by Geoffroy in Development, Media, Progress

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Two weeks ago, we talked about the manor level and why we decided to do things the way they are right now. This week, the focus continues on the third level, the underground and on the overall campaign difficulty.

When Nicolas wrote the game design document about the campaign, one of the key elements was to build a rather long campaign with changing environments and gameplay. The goal was to provide players with a non-monotonous campaign that would work perfectly well as a whole, but also when playing each level independently. The global path had to be logical, but the gameplay type (open space/close combat) and the environment (exterior/interior) had to change beetween each map, following this approximative pattern :

Gameplay and environment evolution

As you can see, when you combine the different elements that make a Left 4 Dead level more or less difficult, we get the overall difficulty of each level. In game, this is pretty much correct for the moment, when testing we feel that each map is as difficult as it should be, and the third map is really difficult. Much like every official campaigns, we tried to balance the difficulty around the third map. The campaign starts slowly, progressively reach a crescendo at the third map (No Mercy’s sewers, Death Toll’s church, Dead Air’s construction site, Blood Harvest’s bridge) and slows down until the final arrives. But our third map is really hard.

At start, the underground level was supposed to be a catacomb-ish level, with crypts, coffins and all the extra cliché things you can think about. But when the prototyping time came, it was clear that it would never work the intended way. No one would ever want to walk in an endless network of catacombs and crypts during half an hour, plus that didn’t seem very realistic from the start. That’s why we decided to mix several underground environments in the same level. This choice was not really popular among the team until we all actually saw the result when the level reached a decently polished state. The different environments blended together perfectly well and if you didn’t pay attention to it, you didn’t even notice the changes until the end. For the moment, the level is composed of four different underground environments and architectures.

Iterative screenshots of a part of the underground level

The underground level was entirely made in a really short time, I’d say three weeks. Prototyping, gameplay tests, architecture and prop flooding were all completed in a matter of weeks. The only problem with this level is its length. For the moment, this is the longest level I ever played on Left 4 Dead. Taking the shortest path, it takes 3 minutes to run from the beginning to the end, while it only takes 2:25 on the longest Left 4 Dead level (No Mercy’s sewers, which is already a quite difficult level). For the moment, we believe the map is good as it is, because we’re able to finish it using the expert difficulty, but we are not against the idea of cutting a whole part if it’s really too long and difficult.

One of the key elements of making a level more or less difficult without interfering too much on its length and geometry is to tweak the item/weapon spawning. Unlike Left 4 Dead official campaigns, we decided to give more than 4 first aid kits in this level. Because the crescendo event is located in the middle of the level, you often reach it in an already bad shape… thus, you leave it in a terrible shape (if not dead), and there’s a whole half of the level left to do. That’s why we decided to give more than 4 first aid kits, because we know every player isn’t the best player in the world. The trap here is that we’re not really giving 4 extra first aid kits just before the crescendo event, so there won’t be enough for everyone… We believe it will force players to play efficiently and work as a team (or they will just insult each others and keep their first aid kits for themselves).

That’s all for the underground level, we are against spoiling everything before the release, so you probably won’t get more details before the release. On a side note, a few people asked us if we could give an approximative completion percentage for each level, so here it is:

  • Forest: 90%
    What’s left: soundscapes, items/weapons tweaking, nav tweaking
  • Manor: 60%
    What’s left: exterior, sounds, event, items/weapons, nav
  • Underground: 95%
    What’s left: soundscapes
  • Lumberyard: 50%
    What’s left: detailling, event, sounds, items/weapons, nav
  • Lakeside: 15%
    What’s left: everything except prototyping and ambient

Stay tuned for more developer banter until the release.