Wednesday, 22 July 2009

How can you kill that which has no life?

Today I thought I would comment on the row that has blown up over Left 4 Dead 2. I realise I’m several weeks late, but whatever!

My initial feeling on hearing about the imminent release of L4D2 was not one of outrage, anger, or injustice; in fact, I was excited. Left 4 Dead was a good game, and they looked to be improving on it and adding a shed load of more stuff for the sequel. All good, right?

This was not the response of a great many videogame fans (well… the boycott group still has less than 40,000 members, not really many in the grand scheme of things). Their first thought was ‘Where is the rest of the free DLC I was entitled to?” See, it turns out that, as it was released, Valve assured the videogaming public that, yes, while L4D doesn’t have a huge amount of content, it would be bolstered by free downloadable content in the not too distant future. And for a while this seemed to be the case; a new (awesome) game mode was added for those who didn’t want to sit down for a whole campaign, and Infected modes were added for the second two campaigns (arguably something that should have been in from release).

However, at E3, Valve announced their plans to release a sequel later this year, to a general reception that this was a cynical cash in and a betrayal of the fans that were expecting more free stuff.

It’s the sense of entitlement that really bugs me; why would you buy a game on the understanding that they provide you with more free content at some point in the future? If you do, you’re a fool to yourself; either wait for the extra content to appear, or enjoy the game for what it is and treat the DLC as a bonus. Even then, the original game wasn’t that lacking; if we say a couple of hours for each campaign, plus maybe an hour to go through the two campaigns as the infected online, we’re already at 10 hours. Factor in the replayability of the game, the price I paid for it of £25 seems very reasonable indeed.

They’ve given numerous reasons for the decision to bring out their new content as a sequel, compatibility with people without the new content being a big one. However, I would be happy for them just to say “Shut up, and let us work on our game.”

And since when have they been wrong? Valve have never let me down as a consumer. For a start, check out the games they have developed (I skipped a couple of the smaller multiplayer ones):

  • Half-Life
  • Half-Life 2
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two
  • Counter-Strike
  • Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
  • Counter-Strike: Source
  • Day of Defeat
  • Day of Defeat: Source
  • Team Fortress Classic
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Portal
  • Left 4 Dead

Not a duff game on the list; in fact, not only are they all critically successful, they’re all immensely commercially successful. Further to that, their Steam service (although shaky when it first started) is now almost essential for PC gamers. The Orange Box, containing not just Portal, Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 but Half Life 2 and Episode One as well, is quite possibly one of the best deals in videogame history*.

On top of all that, Valve have even said they’re going to continue supporting the original L4D, with additional content (and, if you’re sensible enough to be a PC user, you’ve got the Left 4 Dead Authoring Tools to tide you over; there’s bound to be some good user generated content out at some point).

Bottom line: if I’m willing to give any developer the benefit of the doubt it’s going to be Valve (with CD Projekt a close second). My prediction is that the whole mess will blow over when the game comes out later this year and it inevitably turns out to be brilliant.

* The four best videogame deals are officially (well, according to me, which makes it semi-official, right?) as follows:

· The Orange Box (Obviously)

· Baldur’s Gate box set (more than 100 hours of beardy roleplaying goodness; I got Baldur’s Gate, Tales of the Sword Coast, Shadows of Amn, and Throne of Baal, all for a penny less than £10)

· Fallout Collection (2 of the best games ever made along with Fallout Tactics, now available for five of your British pounds)

· The Witcher: Enhanced Edition (mainly for the armful of free stuff, and also anything to help support CD Projekt :D)

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