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Developer's commentary - Left 4 Dead

Zombie nods and undead winks
“Everyone on the staff are fans of horror or zombie movies. For example, for a while we were trying to work in an Evil Dead 2 reference – if you remember they filmed a scene by putting the camera on a 2x4in piece of wood and running through the forest. The intro to Death Toll is a tribute to that. Also, as you’ve spotted, there’s a reference to Braindead [aka Dead Alive] in Blood Harvest. The guy who does the destruction animation is from New Zealand, and he wanted the lawnmower and the pool of blood in there as a reference to Peter Jackson.

“There’s non-movie references too – like the subway advert for the ‘Erik’s Autumn Flannel’ event. If you see Erik Wolpaw today, he’ll be wearing a plaid shirt. He’s a big fan of plaid.”

Specialist infected
“The specialised zombies came out of us thinking we needed to do certain things to the team. For example, if the team is super-tight together and really hard to get at, the Smoker can pull one of them out, and you’ve got this panicky event of ‘We were all together, and crap – now we’re not!’ A Boomer attack means that some of your guys are blind, everything’s coming at them and so you’ve got to cover them. The Hunter, well if someone goes off on their own then he’s going to own them. Then obviously with the Tank, everyone has to shoot him together as if you go one-on-one with him, you’re going to die.

“All these things were built because co-op wasn’t just tacked on – they’re examples of us thinking of ways to reinforce it. We want you to have to help each other, we want to stop you from running off on your own. And, even if you are working together, we still want you to be fearful and have these moments when the chaos breaks everything apart.”

Josh and banter
“We ended up recording 8,500 lines of dialogue, compared to Half-Life 2: Episode Two that had around 2,500. The released version of L4D has about 6,200 lines – some stuff didn’t work out and some stuff we’re holding back. A lot of it you won’t hear unless you play a lot. There are a few references here too, for example in Evil Dead 2 there’s a pretty famous reference to shotguns, and if you play L4D enough you’ll hear an exchange about that. Zoey and Louis both know those movies, this isn’t a game where the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Louis even talks about Counter-Strike at one point. Francis and Bill don’t watch zombie movies.”

The zombie left behind
“One Infected that was closest to getting in, but then got incorporated into another one, was the Screamer. The idea of the Screamer was that if you saw him you had to kill him, because he would be about to holler, and have all the zombies start rushing you. Really, he got incorporated into the Boomer, since when he vomits on you it does something similar. Also, originally the Smoker just smoked – he was simply about obscuring your vision and making you move slowly. The minute we gave him the tongue we thought ‘OK, we’ve always had a problem with people bunching up and now we can break that...’”

Only the beginning of the end times
“There’s a bunch of zombie types we’ve been thinking about, and ones that we’ve shot around that we may resurrect too. But really, the biggest thing about downloadable stuff would be new maps, new scenarios, new places. A big part of L4D is the initial exploration and we want to keep that going. Hopefully there’ll also be a lot of user-made maps, and we’re purposefully doing a lot of work to help people make them. In a way, I think it’s a call back to the old Doom days, where everyone made their office, their home, and their school in the game. We want people to do the same thing, put their life in the zombie apocalypse.”

Feb 9, 2009