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Left 4 Dead Got A Sequel So Fast Because The First Game Was Extremely ‘Broken’

Valve’s co-op zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead 2, launched just a year after the original game. If you know much about Valve, you know that’s a shockingly fast turnaround for a sequel. And according to the lead on the original Left 4 Dead, the sequel came so quickly because the first game was a “broken thing” that nobody at Valve wanted to continue working on.

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The original Left 4 Dead launched on November 18, 2008. And then, almost exactly a year later, Valve’s follow-up shooter, Left 4 Dead 2, launched on PC and Xbox 360. At the time, there was some backlash from fans who felt Valve was abandoning the original game rather than supporting it like the company had done in the past with games like Counter-Strike. Other fans blamed greed. In reality, the sequel was created as a standalone game because Left 4 Dead’s engine was a broken mess that likely would not have supported robust modding and new features or big updates.

In a recent interview with Game Developer, Left 4 Dead lead Chet Faliszek talked about the origins of the first game and the messy development process behind the popular co-op shooter.

“I don’t think outside people can appreciate how broken the Left 4 Dead engine was but still shipped,” Faliszek said. “It loaded each map two or three times in the background.”

Apparently, someone at Valve did try to fix some of these issues but nothing worked, and sometimes those efforts to repair it led to new, different problems, like survivors disappearing from the game. According to Faliszek, this is why Valve made L4D2 a standalone, self-contained sequel and not just a big update or expansion for L4D1.

Left 4 Dead was such a broken thing that nobody wanted to touch it,” Faliszek explained. “That game iterated so quickly that if it meant breaking something horrible, where you had to load a map [two] or three times but you could playtest it today, we did it. That meant at some point, you had to pay for that debt. There was no way you were going to support mods for Left 4 Dead in the same way we did for Left 4 Dead 2 without a big reset.”

Why didn’t Valve tell players any of this?

At the time, in 2009, Valve didn’t explain any of this to the public and even promised to support Left 4 Dead alongside the sequel (which it sort of did, before just porting all the maps and content into L4D2 later). This didn’t stop some fans from being mad and suggesting players boycott L4D2.

So why didn’t Valve just explain the situation? According to Faliszek: “When people kill themselves to ship a game, you don’t really want to say that there were problems with it.”

In the end, Faliszek wanted to be “appreciative” of all the work that devs had poured into getting the game out the door. So not explaining the situation was a way to make sure fans and gamers were mad at Valve higher-ups (like Faliszek himself) and not at the devs, who had just worked very hard to make something.

“I’d rather just have somebody mad at me because they thought it was my idea,” Faliszek said.

Xbox / Stray Bombay

The lead on Left 4 Dead and its sequel has since left Valve and is now building his own spin on the zombie co-op shooter genre, The Anacrusis, which is set to leave Early Access on December 5. According to the former Valve developer, who left in 2017, The Anacrusis is focused on what he believes fans of the genre care about most, based on stats he saw at Valve: Working together through levels in the game’s main co-op mode.

“So my focus [on Anacrusis] was, making it about friends hanging out together, playing together,” Faliszek said. But when he’s not working on or playing his new game, Faliszek does go back to Left 4 Dead 2, where fans continue to impress him with their mods.

“It’s still fun. It still clicks,” explained Faliszek, “and there are so many crazy mods. Oh my god. You can have an understanding of how the game works and then turn it on its head, and it’s just fun and goofy. If you just let people have time with something for long enough, they’re gonna go insane.”

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