Left 4 Dead 2, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Valve

Remember the computer games of the 90’s?  Remember when a videogame was successful,  sequel could be expected within the year, often on the very same engine as the first game?  I don’t – I was too busy clicking various parts of the screen on Castles 2 until I either got to fight something, or build something – but I’ve heard it was great.  The first two Fallout games came out in 1997 and 1998, a year apart.  Warcraft came out in 1994, with Warcraft II following in ’95.  Command & Conquer: Red Alert came out in 1996, one year after its predecessor.  The first four games in that series were all released within a six year timespan, including various expansions and spin-off titles.  All of these games are today considered classics, and in every case the sequel is lauded over the original game.

I’ve never heard of any protests against this kind of development cycle in the golden age of PC gaming.  A developer made a game, it’s critically and commercially successful, and they make another game very quickly, which fans are more than willing to shell out [insert 90s equivalent of $60 here].  So why the sudden protests against Valve releasing Left 4 Dead 2 so soon after the first title?

Well, the internet’s a funny thing.  Valve, you see, were the developers behind the Half-Life series, Team Fortress 2, and Portal, all of which were hailed as brilliant, all for different reasons.  With Team Fortress 2, one of the major draws was Valve’s commitment to releasing free downloadable content (DLC) for the game fairly regularly.  Within the lifespan of the game, these updates have included new weapons, new class abilities, new maps, new gamemodes, and, most recently, new hats.  Now, disgruntled fans claim that Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve Corporation, promised consistent updates to the game, which exists almost in its entirety in multiplayer cooperative mode, including new weapons, characters, infected, and campaigns.  So far, this video is the only real evidence I’ve seen to support these claims:

Choosing to overlook the blatant unprofessionalism of this video for a moment, the “promises” made here all sound like these people don’t have any concrete plan.  There are no promises made, only vague “maybes” and “probablys”.  Many customers feel that, because of these claims that Valve might sometime put out DLC for Left 4 Dead, and hopes to do it on a regular basis, they are somehow entitled to these things, because they purchased the game based on that knowledge.  Their fear is that, with Left 4 Dead 2 coming out only a year after the original release, Valve will stop updating the original game, thereby going back on their promises.  Even if all support were to cease after L4D2, Valve has already released DLC that included a new gameplay type and maps, and with even more on the way.

But support will not cease with the release of L4D2.  Gabe Newell has stated many, many times that he still wants the L4D community to be supported, and this includes new releases for the original game, as well as modding tools becoming available.  Other companies have proven that it is possible for old games to garner support, the clearest example to me being the original Everquest, which is still getting expansions even after its sequel came out in 2004.

And either way, basing a buying decision off of pre-release hype is a very dangerous route to go, anyway, as Peter Molyneux proves time and time again (still can’t get Dungeon Keeper working, by the way).  As a general rule, any developer will lie through his or her teeth to sell a game.  Not that they’re all necessarily corporate scum, often they are just very enthusiastic about a new product, and take the “OMG this game is gonna be awesome look at all this stuff we’ll hopefully get done and bug-free in the next four months!!!!!!”  In this respect, Valve has been historically, and is being now, very responsible when it comes to promises (Half Life 2: Episode 3 excluded, which is OK, since I have yet to finish Half-Life 2.  Take your time, guys!)  Not buying a new game because the last one was a disappointment is valid.  Organizing a boycott and clamoring on about “consumers’ rights” is nonsense.

American colonists boycotted English tea because they thought they were being unfairly taxed.  Gandhi boycotted foreign goods because he felt they were contributing to Britain’s domination of India.  Several countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s military aggression in the Middle East.  41,497 people (as of this writing) are boycotting a video game because it came out too soon after another, similar videogame.

Discuss, which of these groups do you think needs to rethink its priorities?

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