It seems that E3 this year is turning out to be quite the event. Evidently, the organisers of The Little Convention That Couldn’t have turned things around and have produced a show that is well worth attending. If you can get your hands on a press-pass of course.

I would love to go to E3, I’m sure it would be an incredibly exciting event. Having the opportunity to check out all of the latest games before release, meet the developers behind your most loved titles and rub shoulders with the people you read about on Twitter and on your favourite blogs would be worth writing home about. Or at least, blogging about.

Having said that PAX would be all of that, plus webcomics. Hrm. Also, it’s open to the public. Also, Gabe and Tycho would be there, bringing with them some incredible musical acts, the Omegathon and the beauty that is a huge LAN. Double-hrm…

This year’s E3 has been chock-full of very exciting announcements. In my opinion, the most notable were the announcements and demos of:
Microsoft’s Natal,
Sony’s new motion control system,
Assassin’s Creed 2,
Brutal Legend,
Splinter Cell: Conviction
and Left 4 Dead 2.

Left 4 Dead 2 was quite a shocking announcement for a lot of people. I have heard and read many comments around this, from people I know and respect, don’t know and respect, and don’t know and might respect if I knew them.
By far, the most numerous is the following, from this post on “Why should we have to buy a brand new game after only a year?”.

My comment on the post sums my my feelings on the topic.

“Why should we have to buy a brand new game after only a year?”

It’s funny isn’t it?
Valve have been almost totally unique in their approach to DLC. No charge, awesome content updates, long-term purchase support. TF2 is the prime example.

But, when they decide to produce a paid sequel (we have no idea of the price as yet – the optimist in me wonders whether it will even be full price?) we complain.
Perhaps the question you should be asking is why aren’t more publishers releasing free content updates for their games?

Valve could have quite easily charged $5 for each of the class update packs. They wouldn’t have had the uptake on them that they have now, but at least they would be getting clear payments for the work that goes into the DLC. At the moment its good press and word-of-mouth that are making them money. “Dude! You should buy TF2 – its awesome! They keep releasing updates FOR FREE!” This leads to further purchases of the game itself, rather than nickel-and-diming current customers to death with micro-transactions.

Ok, so Valve are releasing a paid sequel to their game a mere year after its initial release – Just like _everybody else_. I imagine that this isn’t going to become a trend. L4D2 will most likely be their long-term platform for this game series.

(NB: This will be my last Valve post for a while – I’m starting(?) to sound like a fanboi)

Hands on with L4D2 at E3
Interview with Tom Leonard: “Why oh why a sequel, Valve?”

EDIT #2:
Microsoft’s Project Natal tech demo to Kotakuites prove my spurious scepticism unfounded.


Or, Why you should be playing Left 4 Dead.

Warning – this is my longest post to date – more of an article I guess?

Co-operative play is Something that we have desired for a very long time. PC gamers have long been jealous of the ease of access to co-operative experiences which console owners enjoy.

There have not been many games that have been released for PC which have co-operative play as their primary aim. Typically, PC gamers are required to wrestle co-operative experiences from games like a farmhand attempting to milk a surly cow. We have been required to utilise third party mods, laborious multi-player AI or to endure lazy first-party implementations which subject the players to a disjointed mish-mash of play due to the developer’s inability to work out how to get certain levels and cutscenes to work with two simultaneous viewers.

I’m going to put aside Real Time Strategy (RTS) games and team-based multiplayer titles for the moment. I am focusing specifically on games which are carefully crafted by the developers to give a group of players a co-operative experience against the game environment.

My first positive Co-op memories are of playing X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter over Parallel Serial/LPT cables at Nozz’s place. We had so much fun playing a game co-operatively for once that we just had to find more games which offered the feature.
We found other titles like Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Quake II, MOO 2, Diablo II etc. Unfortunately, we soon found ourselves running out of options. There were other titles available to us yes, but these required us to use unreliable (at the time) third-party patches like Sven Co-op for Half Life or strange contortions in order to fluke a level or two of co-operative fun.

The driving force in co-op games these days seem to be the consoles. Due to their nature, co-op is almost a requirement. “There are four controllers on there, so we’d better make games that utilise them”. Unfortunately, this means that PC gamers have to rely on dodgy ports in order to get a taste of sweet sweet co-op play.
Gears of War is a good example of this. Ported to the PC in July 2007, Gears landed on PC hard drives with a small amount of fanfare. The port was usable, but riddled with phrases like “Press A to continue” – not to mention the awful implementation of Windows (read:Xbox-Lite) Live. All this, after a full eight-month development cycle following the the Xbox 360 release!

Things were not looking good.

Then came Left 4 Dead.
Valve Corporation are a force to be reckoned with. The producers of arguably the best first person shooter (FPS) of all time, Half-Life, Valve have come to the market with great game after great game. I own the entire Valve back-catalog and I have not been disappointed with any of the games on the list. Most notably, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.

Left 4 Dead is a four-player co-operative FPS set during the Zombie Apocalypse. Do I even need to finish this post? How does that not sound awesome?!

The basic premise of the game is four human players join together as the Survivors. Their goal is simple: Get from one Safe Room to the next without being killed by HORDES OF THE LIVING DEAD. Sounds easy right? I mean, you get guns and zombies are just slow, shambling things aren’t they? Not true. The zombies in L4D are subscribers to 28 Days Later School of Incredibly Fast Locomotion.
If that wasn’t bad enough, add to this the inclusion of the Special Infected. This band of gory malcontents include:

  • The Hunter – a zombie with the ability to leap great distances and pounce on a Survivor’s chest, pinning them to the ground to await rescue from a team-mate,
  • The Smoker – A slow-moving zombie with an incredibly long, prehensile tongue that it uses to grab, drag and constrict survivors again necessitating intervention from a team-mate,
  • The Boomer – a bloated sack of bile which excels at projectile-vomiting on the Survivors, coating them in its sickly goo, or exploding in a spray of the same substance. The kicker (as the Americans say) is that any Survivors coated in goop attract a horde of the undead to their position.
  • The Tank: A huge, hulking monstrosity which moves very fast, punches survivors off into the distance in order to separate them and can tear up huge chunks of masonry to throw as a ranged attack. Tanks have an incredible amount of hitpoints and require the firepower of a full compliment of Survivors to take down.
  • The Witch: What you might consider to be an non-threatening emo-kid crying in the corner is in fact one of the most threatening zombies in the game. She sits in place, minding her own business unless startled. Once she is peeved, she will doggedly chase the offending Survivor until she reaches them and swipes at them with her huge claws. This will usually incapacitate a Survivor in one hit, or outright kill them on higher difficulties.

The beauty of this game is the fact that it requires you to work together. A group of Survivors who are greedy with health packs/painkillers, separate, or do nothing to protect each other are not long for this world. The inclusion of inherent voice communication means that players can communicate almost instantaneously, giving them all of the tools they need to work together. Incidentally, I highly recommend playing this in the same room as the other players, or changing your voice settings to always-on. This adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game as you hear every shriek and freak-out from the other Survivors.

I could go on. I could mention the fact that you can drop in and out at will using the (ever-improving) matchmaking system, take breaks without ruining the experience for the others by going to Idle and allowing the AI to take over for you, or the included eight-player Versus mode in which four other players take on the roll of the Special Infected(!) – but I won’t. This post just hit 1033 words so I’ll leave it there.

Long story short: Go and buy Left 4 Dead.