The Anacrusis: Left 4 Dead + sci-fi + persistent AI, coming to PC, Xbox this fall

SEATTLE—The makers of new game The Anacrusis, as revealed during today’s Summer Games Fest presentation, are happy for you to mistake it for something like Left 4 Dead, only transported to a ’70s sci-fi universe. The new game’s co-creator, former Valve designer and writer Chet Faliszek, is banking on it.

“I was the project lead on Left 4 Dead 1 and Left 4 Dead 2, and those are two of my favorite games ever made,” Faliszek says from his home office in Seattle. “Clearly they’re influential to me in deciding what does and doesn’t work in co-op games. Having done those, and having worked on Portal 2‘s co-op mode, I have a good understanding of how players interact and talk, and mistakes we made, in ensuring that people work together. If you like those games, I had a close seat on them, and we’re taking that to the next level.”

The resulting project, which Faliszek is leading alongside Kimberly Voll (Riot Games, Fantastic Contraption) at their indie studio Stray Bombay, is slated to launch “this fall” on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Steam, Windows Store, and Epic Games Store. All versions will be connected with cross-play. In a conversation ahead of today’s reveal, Faliszek emphasized the game’s social thrust, along with a new AI “director” that expands on a similar concept from the L4D series. The director’s goals are to satisfy players and scale to various play styles.

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#gaming-culture, #left-4-dead, #stray-bombay, #the-anacrusis

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One zombie of a chance: Looking back at 2009’s Left 4 Dead 2 boycott

Bill looks over the boycott's corpse to determine if it's still a threat...

Enlarge / Bill looks over the boycott’s corpse to determine if it’s still a threat…

The following piece, originally published in late 2009, looks back at that year’s somewhat quixotic attempted boycott of Left 4 Dead 2—and how that effort eventually fell apart. Flawed as it was, that movement would serve as a precursor to more frequent attempts by organized fan communities trying to bring change in the game industry. The most famous example might be the outcry around the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 in 2012, where the developers actually released a downloadable patch changing the conclusion of a franchise-sweeping narrative to placate vocal fans.

This report and over a dozen more are collected in Save Point, a new collection from Ars Technica Senior Gaming Editor Kyle Orland. The book looks back on video games as they were between 2003 to 2011, a sometimes-uncomfortable “awkward adolescence” period where the industry did its best to grow up with the young audience that had grown up with games as their entertainment of choice through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. The pieces collected in the book analyze how games were learning from their past and influencing the future, report on some of gaming’s growing and myriad sub-communities, and examine how the business of selling and marketing games was evolving alongside the explosive growth of the Internet.

Save Point is available exclusively as part of the Spring Getaway Games Bundle through May 13.

In general, gamers aren’t very effective at organizing to effect change in the game industry. Sure, there are hundreds of online petitions demanding everything from a Full House game to a generalized end to game hacking, but the vast majority fail to garner much attention or support. Even well-organized and well-publicized efforts, like those seeking LAN support in StarCraft 2 or further support for the Earthbound games are met with official responses ranging from polite refusal to teasing hints, and rarely with real change.

But this year, many gamers took a different tack to protest what they saw as a betrayal of a publisher’s past promises. Mere hours after Valve announced the planned November release of Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) at June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, a group calling for an L4D2 boycott popped up on Valve’s Steam user community. The group’s first public message asked a simple question that would come to define its cause: “Where’s all the content and the updates you promised for [the original Left 4 Dead], Valve?”

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#book-excerpt, #boycott, #features, #gaming-culture, #history, #left-4-dead, #valve

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Back 4 Blood alpha test: Building decks, killing zombies, having co-op fun

Blood from other zombies' faces, making it slippery to reload during a terrifying moment in <em>Back 4 Blood</em>'s solid closed alpha test.

Enlarge / Blood from other zombies’ faces, making it slippery to reload during a terrifying moment in Back 4 Blood‘s solid closed alpha test. (credit: Turtle Rock Studios)

The face of co-op gaming was changed forever by Valve’s Left 4 Dead in 2008 at a time when playing games with online friends usually meant killing each other or killing other teams of real players. Left 4 Dead had a different idea: take the fun of a solidly scripted single-player battle against AI zombies, then make it crazier with squadmates and randomness.

In every mission, your team of four had to traverse a linear, apocalyptic series of levels, pre-constructed with paths and cinematic events but remixed for each playthrough with new enemy and item configurations. Your crew could memorize some of the challenges, but an AI system would always watch for slip-ups—then pounce with dangerous, AI-controlled enemies for your foursome to contend with.

Entire co-op subgenres have emerged in the 12 years since L4D‘s launch, but few have aped its exact structure (with the obvious exception of 2009’s Left 4 Dead 2). Hence, the most obvious selling point for this week’s gameplay reveal of co-op shooter Back 4 Blood, slated to launch June 2021, is simple: the L4D formula is back, and it’s coming from a team that co-created the original. But is that good enough?

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#back-4-blood, #gaming-culture, #left-4-dead

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