Top Five Left 4 Dead 1/2 Custom Campaigns

In August 2010, Chet Faliszek announced Valve would begin to rotate biweekly custom-made campaigns on the official servers of Left 4 Dead 2:

Every two weeks we are going to feature a new community campaign on our servers. We will feature one campaign at a time to make it is easier to find games. We’ll be keeping it featured for two weeks so people can familiarize themselves with the maps for competitive play.1

Though we wholeheartedly agreed with Valve on their choice to start their campaign off with 2 Evil Eyes, their subsequent picks have not been as bold as we had hoped, as the team has since gone on to pick Detour Ahead, City 17, Haunted Forest, Dead Before Dawn, One 4 Nine and I Hate Mountains. Now that the slow trickle of maps seems to have dried up – sans Cold Stream, of course, which is still a river running wild – we wanted to introduce to old and new players alike a list of five great Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 custom campaigns – that is, the best maps Valve is yet to highlight.

We applied a loose criteria to this list of Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 maps. First and foremost, each level was to be available for both games. Second, we expected proper playability on the “expert” difficulty setting. Third, all these levels enjoy a degree of popularity in the community, so as to make finding servers and players easier.  Fourth, we did somewhat consider artistic merits like overall look and feel, setpieces, setting and brushwork.

Fifth, we also sought out campaigns that would adhere to the gameplay standards and Left 4 Dead fiction as defined in practice by Valve. This meant no nasty surprises, traps, or major changes to campaign flow. The reason all the campaigns below have been tested and completed on the “expert” difficulty level is because we found that this particular setting best reveals the extent of balancing (or lack thereof) in terms of campaign length, pacing and structure.

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  1. http://www.l4d.com/blog/post.php?id=4194 []

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Dear Esther Review

2008‘s Dear Esther, a Source modification developed by thechineseroom, originally a research project group at the University of Portsmouth, was perhaps the most singular game release of that year. In a sense, its arrival brought with it some degree of legitimacy to modifications with narrative and writing in mind.

Encouraged by the game’s overwhelmingly positive reception and feedback, and the initiative of esteemed level designer Robert Briscoe, writer and designer Dan Pinchbeck set out to remake the original, which has now been released on Steam. At the end of 2011, Dear Esther’s popularity and anticipation had reached a deserved fever pitch due to Briscoe’s amazing visual work, and indeed, just a mere six hours after release, the developers had already successfully recouped their investment from the Indie Fund.

Yet here I stand, a review copy in hand, feeling a puzzling hesitance over reopening the metaphorical wounds inflicted by the original. Certainly, I had nothing short of thrusted the ghostly modification upon all my videogaming friends, toting its expert writing and unrivalled narrative exposition. Nabeel Burney wrote about the specifics of the mod here on the Slowdown.

Like Nabeel, I too enjoyed – if that be the word (probably not) – the game immensely. That was not the problem.

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UDK Hat Trick: The Ball, The Haunted and Sanctum

Ever since Epic Games announced the Unreal Development Kit in November 2009, with UE3’s market penetration, a $99 starting price and comparably modest licensing terms (0% royalty on $5,000 and 25% above $5,000), the big step for aspiring mod teams to take in moving over to the commercial side of video game development has considerably shrunk.

In fact, there are already three promising Unreal Tournament 3 mods that have not only made the jump over to the UDK but also gone commercial, and curiously, UDK is not the only factor that binds all these three projects together. Each these teams also took part in the Make Something Unreal 2010 contest arranged by Intel and Epic Games. (In fact, two out of three of the above projects are included in the UDK showcase.)

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Open Outcast

Open Outcast is a to-be free total conversion of Crysis Wars, planned as a successor to Appeal’s original 1999 release Outcast, a game that remains in many ways the artistic pinnacle of voxel-based graphics. While Novalogic’s series – Comanche and Delta Force – were always the best-known trumpeters of the technology, and though voxels have been utilized in a far lesser role in various strategy games and even in the level editor of Crysis, it was Outcast that made the world of volumetric pixels all its own.

Though the original never saw its promised sequel after the Belgian company went out of business (you can see existing screenshots of the project at Unseen64), the ageless gem is now fortunately available at GOG.com, in full working order – if you’re interested in running your old mothballed copy, the OpenOutcast team have a good tutorial.

The original remains utterly beautiful to this day mostly thanks to its stronger-than-most audiovisual direction and rare feeling of “being there.” The same, however, can also be said of the new fan version:

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Eyeing E.Y.E.

E.Y.E. is a dystopian cyberpunk/sci-fi/fantasy “50% FPS, 50% RPG, 100% immersion”1 game from French bedroom developers Streum On Studios, who have, much like Natural Selection, Red Orchestra, Killing Floor and Nuclear Dawn, decided to undertake the long hard road from modification to full retail game on the Source engine.

Halt. Enter The Metastreumonic Anarchist Conspiracy Movement website.

Confused yet? I know I am. The only thing that’s absolutely clear is that E.Y.E., by all means, is a labour of love (do check out the fantastic concept art above). In the game, players become a planted spy seeking to discover a traitor in E.Y.E., a twofold group of Secreta Secretorum monks fighting against the Federation:

The story takes place in a dark future that has seen unending wars between the Federation – a several worlds union, and the Metastreumonic Force – an ancient and mysterious power.

The player embodies an infiltrated spy in E.Y.E – a group of elite monk warriors – made up of two rival factions in constant internal power struggles, themselves serving the Secreta Secretorum you work for: a multi-thousand-years-old secret organization desirous to steal power from the Federation. The organization ordered your infiltration to control and survey E.Y.E actions, as well to unmask a traitor to the cause.2

Metastr…? Secretoru…? (Scivela…?) Though there exists a wealth of background information on the game’s website, the more I learn about the game, the more confusing it gets, as much of the material available is multifaceted and obscure.

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  1. http://eye.streumon-studio.com/press/press_kit.pdf []
  2. http://eye.streumon-studio.com/index.php?page=game_details []

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