Left 4 Dead 2 – dev interview

Why did you decide to focus on adding melee weapons?

It’s a classic horror film thing, it’s a classic zombie thing. You pick up what’s next to you and you smash the baddie in the head. There’s a lot of fun things you can use to hit zombies, from Gordon Freeman’s crowbar to a guitar. Chainsaws are something you have to have in a zombie movie.

Beyond melee, what other new weapons are you adding?

There’s the Boomer bile you can throw, mainly in the first campaign. It’s an alternative to the pipe bomb.

We have a multitude of rifles available. The classic assault rifle from L4D1, a new one they used in Desert Storm that fires in three-round bursts, the AK-47 that’s really good up close but not so good farther away.

There’s multiple pistols, including a magnum which is super-powerful up close. We wanted to give you a bigger range, so you can choose your style. For instance, the grenade launcher... it very much changes your style of play. You can’t shoot too close to your friends because of friendly fire, and what do you do if your buddy has been jumped on by the Jockey? Take him out too, or run up with a melee weapon?

Can you modify those weapons?

You can pick up a modifier to add a laser sight that not only lets you see where everyone is aiming – which is really helpful – but also helps your accuracy a bit. You can tie that with the AK-47 and you’ve got this really cool weapon. You’ve got ammo upgrades, like incendiary ammo or explosive rounds, and you can carry that with you and decide when you want to play it. There’s a bit of deploying time, so you have to be strategic when you want to pull that out.

How do you balance all the new ingredients without overwhelming the player?

This is where the AI Director comes in. The Director can give the team that’s not understanding what they’re doing a bit of a break, let them regain their wits. Even brand new players, as long as they stay together and help each other, they can do OK. They can get through this. The Director is constantly tweaking, deciding what spawns when.

We’ve introduced the idea of the defibrillator. You can bring people back from the dead. The AI Director will look and say, “Oh my God, is someone about to die? They’re going to need the defibrillator now instead of giving them a healthpack.” So more than even the first game, the AI Director really balances the experience. Everybody gets this thrill of almost dying.

What did you learn most from L4D1 that you’re trying to apply to L4D2?

After we launched, what we saw was people starting to optimise not for the funnest way to play it, but for the fastest way to play. That would be hitting a button and hiding in the corner, or melee bashing. With L4D2 we wanted to start with the mantra that the funnest way to play it is the best way to play it, so you’re not getting yelled at to go stand in a corner. Moving, fighting and killing is the best way to play it.

Oct 23, 2009