The Left 4 Dead 2 Conundrum

In light of all the announcements and all the amazing previews that came out of this years E3 I am very satisified. If there is one place that I have any true gripes, it is with Left 4 Dead 2. When rumors of this game being announced at E3 started flowing last weekend, I was skeptical. I thought that the timing wasn't write for a sequel and that Valve hadn't really delivered on their promise of DLC a la TF2 for the original. Even as I write this post I remain conflicted as to the necessity of this sequel so soon after the release of the original.

My first point of contention is the relatively minimal amount of content present in the original game. The original game shipped with a co-op and versus multiplayer mode spanning 4 champaigns (at least in the co-op mode initially), 8 total weapons (excluding environment weapons i.e. gas cans, mini-gun), 4 playable survivor characters, and 4 playable Infected characters. Call me crazy, but TF2 launced with 9 distinct  characters (they are really only 5 distinct character types in L4D), each with their own unique primary weapon, a slew of unique secondary weapons (sure the pistol and shotgun were repeated a couple times), ~8 maps, and a number of games types to change up the game experience. I am aware that this isn't a direct apples to apples comparison, but when you look at it, it seems that TF2 launched with more content and at a price point less than half of that of L4D  (and yes I realize that TF2 wasn't released as a standalone until a few months after the release of the Orange Box, but hang with me here).

This lack of content was acknowledge by most major blogs and game sites, but it was also dismissed as a minor complaint because everyone expected Valve to support this game in the same way that they have been supporting TF2. TF2 has been come something much more engaging and much more special through the continued support that Vavle has given to this game, and it is just a little disappointing that this hasn't happened for L4D. Judging a game based on content alone is a tricky thing to do as well. I know that I have spent tens of hours (not quite hundreds yet) playing L4D, so did I get my $50 bucks worth. Sure, when you compare that to other $50 retail games that only truly last for 12-20 hours. If you compare that to TF2 which I have spent at least 120+ hours on then L4D still comes up a bit lacking. 

While I may be peeved about this lack of continued expansion, I can understand why Valve is doing what they are doing. Chet Faliszek said in an interview (can't remember with whom at the moment) that when he presented this idea to Gabe Newell it was not accepted warmly. Gabe felt that that is not what Valve does, but he was willing to support the project if that was what the team was really passionate about doing. Gabe should be commeneded for his understanding of a team's passion, but I think it light of what we know maybe this game shouldn't have been a sequel. The way it happened I can't see a way to avoid doing this as a sequel simply because keeping such a large team working on a project that will be free add-on DLC can't be good for the bottom line. Vavle can afford the TF2 updates because it is a smaller team working on them and every time the release new DLC they see a bump in sales for the original game. With Left 4 Dead, you can't keep the entire team working on free DLC and expect to make other games that really help pay the bills.

Ultimately I really think that L4D should have been delayed to give the team some more time to really flesh most of these ideas, but then they would be able to give us the smaller DLC at a steady pace while working on another full scale game to keep the coffers full. As it stands Valve's biggest piracy deterant has been bucked so that the dev team can fullfil the dream they had for the original game.

It all comes down to:
The Good - We get a ton of L4D content just a year after the release of the original game and the developers get to create the game they wante to create in the first place.

The Bad - We get to buy all of this content again even though the original was lacking (although this can be debated).

The Ugly - Valve has to deal with a bunch of people that are going to complaing about anything and everything.

I'm still hoping that Valve will come out with something that can convince everyone (myself included) that this game is really worth the reinvestment and that are original investment in L4D was in vain.