On Zombies and Wolves

It’s hard to avoid the news of the uprising of avid gamers against the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2). Left 4 Dead (L4D) was, and still is a very successful game. Never has killing zombies been this stressful yet this entertaining. Say what you want about Resident Evil (or even Call of Duty: World at War), Valve struck gold with L4D. Now it would seem that the once beloved developer is being driven by the love of the dollar instead of the love of the game. I’m not sure if I entirely agree with the 20,000 plus gamers that have joined the revolution against L4D2.

First things first, Valve could be right. The design choices they are choosing to implement simply could not be possible with the engine currently supporting L4D. The experience they want to bring gamers might suffer if they tried to issue a patch/upgrade to “behind the scenes” stuff and could break the game. It’s entirely likely that they considered a downloadable update to support the mechanics of the sequel but it would have been far too complicated. We may never know. But what we do have are statements made by Chet Faliszek, Project Lead on L4D stating that Gabe Newell (Uber Valve Deity) among other important people had reservations about the sequel. Ultimately, if he gave his blessing to the sequel, that’s enough for me to hold back the torches and pitchforks. If they managed to get Microsoft to allow their update to be released on Xbox Live for free, I think that combined with their stellar track record of previous title support has earned them enough capital for me to be on the “wait and see” bandwagon. The announcement does raise an eyebrow, but I we don’t know enough yet. Obviously that will not stop hordes of gamers from acting like zombies themselves and swarming to the next big trend, which this week is a revolt against Valve. Right now there are too many questions and not enough answers to support the outrage we are seeing.

I do, however, think that both the amount of support this petition is getting and the immediate responses Valve is issuing is a good thing. We the gamer are hyper-aware of what is going on in our industry. After all, we are the ones who decide what to support with our money. If for some reason they were unaware, Valve now knows that there is even more pressure to deliver a quality game. I hope they succeed. Not just to stifle the rebellion, but because if the game is a hit then everybody wins. Right?

Sure, you can point to the continued support for Team Fortress 2 (TF2) and say “why can’t they just do that?” It’s a reasonable question, one I’m sure the code-monkeys have debated ad nauseam. But I ask both for the sake of argument and because I truly don’t know the answer: Has the core of TF2 changed while all of these updates that have been issued? There have been achievements, and some new weapons and maps, but the experience is driven by the user. The game is influenced by the players, not by a complex series of 1s and 0s known as The Director. L4D is a different beast, and I’m not sure if a simple title update would be enough to accommodate the future of that franchise.

You are all familiar with the constant complaints about Nintendo no longer caring about the “Hardcore” gamer, right? Can you imagine what would have happened to Nintendo if they had listened to us? What if they never taken the road less traveled with the Wii? Do you think they would still exist as a company if all they released was Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Metroid games? I realize that’s a gross mischaracterization of the software they offer, but Nintendo is more than the franchises they established in previous generations. We the gamer are just in denial about that fact now. If they listened to just the “hardcore” complaints and never tapped into the rest of civilization with their consoles do you think Nintendo would have what it takes to compete with Sony and Microsoft on the same battlefield of 60fps and 1080p? Maybe we aren’t as all knowing as we like to think our GAF Usernames would suggest we are. Maybe, just maybe, we are wrong about L4D2 and Valve will prove that they knew what they were doing all along. Nintendo took a risk despite the criticism that they had to know was coming their way, and did they ever really lose the “hardcore”? Are you NOT going to buy Super Mario Galaxy 2?

That’s the thing, I hear all of these complaints about L4D2 and they sound eerily familiar to the ever-present cries of wolf from Nintendo faithful. But how many of those gamers complained about lack of core gamer support yet still purchased Mario Galaxy, and will still purchase Mario Galaxy 2? How many gamers that have signed the L4D2 petition will still preorder that game over Steam? I hear all these complaints, but there’s rarely any action behind it. Keep crying wolf people. One day We the Gamer will truly be ripped off beyond belief, but no one will take the complaints seriously because as a demographic we don’t have the resolve to act on our words and intentions. As far as I’m concerned that 20,000+ can pound sand until they pass out, or grow a backbone.

I can’t help but think that we are all acting a bit to irrationally about all of this. The statements that this is a big money grab feel like a knee-jerk reaction. Something to say whenever we are not initially satisfied. Just like all the people that complain that Nintendo doesn’t care about the “hardcore” gamer will still be there Day 1 for a new Mario or Zelda game: We need to calm down. Valve has so rarely disappointed gamers before, and I have no reason to believe that they want to end their streak of success.

Sources: Ars Technica, Some Site that likes to Talk About Games

Fact #1: I am Spartacus. Fact #2: This post has been featured on Talking About Games

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