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Okay, we're here with Chet from Valve Software, talking to him about Left 4 Dead 2. Chet, thanks for hanging out with us today, can you explain to us a little about your role on the game and your role at Valve?
Well at Valve we don't really pigeonhole people into one category because we all have to do a bunch of stuff, but if you had to give me a role, it would be writer
. So I write words like "reloading", "Medic" in TF2 - you know, the classics (laughs).
Okay I'm not sure how much you've been asked this at E3 already, but it's something we've staggered across over the last few days and it's that the [Left 4 Dead] community seems to be in a bit of turmoil at the moment. We understand there are a lot of people who're irate there's a Left 4 Dead 2 already, so we're wondering how you guys are responding to that, and really, what do you think about that?
Well, you know, everyone has a gut reaction when they hear some news, and if I was a customer of Left 4 Dead the first thing I would think is "hey, what the hell's going on, this is way different for Valve", sure I understand that. Fair enough, right. But if you look at the reaction when we released The Orange Box; before it came out everyone was proclaiming it a rip-off - it's only got TF2, Episode 2 and Portal in it right? Then once t was released everyone was like "oh my God what a bargain, this is the bargain of the century", and we think this is a lot like that, and people always seem to have initial reactions like that until they learn more about it, learn what's going on with it and then they're not going to have that reaction anymore. You know we even had that reaction with Left 4 Dead as well when we introduced the melee and fatigue - I had one person contact me and tell me they wanted their money back. And I said, let's go play online and we'll talk about it and that guy told me he'd sent that email before he got a chance to play and now that he'd played it he didn't even notice it. For this case, I think people are going to see more information and learn new information and realise we're doing it for the right
reasons - it's not some marketing decision, no one came from the top down and said "hey this is what we're doing", it's actually the team that worked on the first game and actually, we picked up more people for the team because they were, like, hey we want to do this thing that's a bigger and better singular statement than just a couple of maps filling in.
Initially we wanted to do the Survival Pack because we had this idea for survival mode and now we could finally do it, but for actual story and the world of Left 4 Dead, it's more than just making a map; it's more than just tossing those four survivors who've just met onto the moon, or something - you want to have some concrete things in the world, because the world is real to us; we have rules for the world, fiction for the world and we want to keep exposing that to players. And so to do that we wanted to go to a new place with four new characters, you know, and so we have five campaigns into the Deep South where you're going to get a different perspective into the infection. The infection there is a little different in fact; we've got things like the Charger and we have some other special infected that have mutated even further. And you know, it's our love for Left 4 Dead that made us want to do Left 4 Dead 2 and it's our tools like the Director that allow us to do it quickly.
So I think once people start learning more about it and getting more information about it, they're going to relax. I've already seen that; day one was a split between excitement and apprehension and now I'm seeing more and more excitement and you know, people have been writing me all through E3 and Gabe (Newell) always encourages the community to write him and he'll forward them to me and people get excited about that. Steam Chat, I had to go on there the other day and talk to some people and just let everyone know we're listening and we're not trying to hide anything or put a spin on anything, we feel this is the right thing to do and we're excited to be doing it but if people wanna talk about it, they're free to talk to us and we'll listen. We haven't responded on the forums yet because we've been busy with E3.
Yeah, absolutely. And we can see this move really as a commitment from Valve to the IP as a successful new platform to express yourselves. But one of the key things that has stemmed from this apprehension is that people were expecting promised content - were you guys just working on that and thought let's just turn this into a new game, let's progress the series?
Well partially. We did release the Survival Mode, so we did release some new content as well as we keep updating the game. We have an update for the PC in the coming weeks with a surprise in there (it's not a new campaign or anything, I want to be clear on that), you know, there's some cool new stuff that you're going to find. But after releasing the Survival Pack and sitting down and talking about the next update just talking about doing it in that same world with the same characters didn't seem to make as near as much sense as stepping back and doing this whole thing with this larger set of content. You know we have five campaigns - it's bigger than the original and it's going to take us some amount of time to do that, we can't just whip that out and also it's a year later and we wanted to update the Director so the Director does things like random weather events, it can do dynamic pathing, you know, he now has better control because he has more creatures in his stable, so now he send a Charger at at you versus a Hunter. And so all these things are kind of intertwined and none of them are things we can do in a month, it's like, we have melee weapons, well melee weapons change the gameplay; what do they mean, what do they mean to each other, how do they balance the gameplay? It's all balancing everything. If you had a special infected how does that affect gameplay balance? How does that affect versus? There's a lot of time and integration that needs to happen and it makes sense to take the time we're taking to add these things.
So were you guys working on this from the release of the first one? Was it always maybe in the pipeline?
Really, it was probably from January this year. Well, we started talking about it then but the original team that worked on Left 4 Dead and then released the Survival Pack and stuff like that, they're a small team, they're the same size as a team we usually leave to work on a game after it ships, like the size of the team left working on Team Fortress 2. So it's not like we instantly abandoned it and didn't put any resources into it - we did, and that team kept working on it and we're at a pretty good point, I mean that team have some content coming as well as the new matchmaking, you know, the four vs four matchmaking; we're still taking care of the product.
It really does seem like nitpicking to me. Moving on though, I'm going to call you on your "role" at Valve (since there are no roles) and hope you can answer this - no Half-Life 2: Episode 3 mentioned at E3, why is that?
I don't know. I don't know. It's weird, people are complaining we're not updating one franchise fast enough and the other too fast?! "Oh dear God!"
AGN: But seriously, are we expecting anything anytime soon?
Chet: We're not talking about that. I'm not the guy - I don't know what goes on, on that side of the building.
AGN: When can we expect to see this (Left 4 Dead 2), and any new features for PC and/or console we maybe haven't touched on yet?
Chet: We have the melee weapons you know, we have chainsaws this time around. We also have things like the Perks system where you can get incendiary ammo, that kind of ramps it up for a bit - you can set everything on fire. So that's kind of an example why we can do the whole game in this short period is we're making you super powerful, you know, if you're killing all of these zombies, well the Director is going to see that and he's going to send you more zombies, so that helps us iterate on that quickly. We've changed the director, we have five campaigns, we've got versus, survival mode and co-op - all out of the box. And also a brand new game-mode that will be introduced then. And you know, the brand new game-mode meant we had to make some changes to the director which meant we had to do a lot of testing to do, so it kind of makes sense.
If you play online, you can play online with me - I sometimes play with a fake account so I get the real experience, but otherwise you can friend me, I play as Chetonvalve, friend me up, we'll play online. But you know, ultimately a lot of the things you wish you could do like set that on fire or use a chainsaw - you're gonna see those things in Left 4 Dead 2.
AGN: And release date?
Chet: So November 17th in the States, but I don't know how that works out in Australia...
AGN: With Steam it's usually not very long. But November 17 means there are still quite a few months, and really that takes it up to around a year since the original released. But finally Chet, Louisiana - was that a no-brainer?
Chet: You know, one of the things we started talking about as a team when we were talking about the game was one of the level designers was "I wanna do swamps, I wanna do swamps" --
AGN: Zombie alligators?
Chet: No. Zombie dolphins do exist though. But the idea was cool and I lived in New Orleans and we had swamps nearby there - we used to go out in canoes in the swamps and have fun with alligators, not crocodiles like you guys have which, they actually just roam your cities right?
AGN: I have a pet one at home - it snaps at me all the time...
Chet: So we were, like, hey New Orleans is a cool city, sunset savanna, and we kind of looked at how evacuations and that kind of thing work in that area and it kind of made sense to set it there for the story so we went with that. It's weird because the Deep South is not really represented in games at all. It's in movies a lot but you don't see it in games and once we realised that we started going down there and doing a lot of research and we knew it was perfect.
AGN: When I saw the game at the Microsoft press conference and saw it was set there it just made perfect sense, so to all the naysayers out there - just relax.
Chet: Exactly relax. Take a check on it and just keep checking in, we'll give you some more information soon and again, if you're still really upset email us; you know, we always respond to the community - I'm a little behind on emails right now since I'm here but we wanna make you guys happy.
AGN: Awesome, thanks Chet.