- We're particularly interested in the development of pace, setting and characters. How much of the development is given over to that? Out of story and background, weapons and mechanics and quality of graphics, audio and so on which do you feel is most important to the atmosphere? Assuming things can be split into those categories.
While the entire Left 4 Dead 2 team weighs in on all the aspects, it is hard to separate out all of those points as each is executed by different people. So some people work on characters from day one to the end of the project, others might work on weapons for the same length.
As for story and characters, besides just writers and modelers these also involve artists, animators, level designers, game play, etc. We try and not define these things with just one aspect of the game, but use the game as a whole to do it. The same could be said for atmosphere, we don’t look at it from just one discipline but the amalgamation of all the disciplines.
- What are the big differences between the storyline of this game and the original L4D? There's been talk of campaign's occurring consecutively, with a more obvious story arc and links between the campaigns (like Crash Course had)?
While we always want to make it so the minute you start playing you can jump to the last campaign and play with your friends, we did add more for those who wanted additional narrative. You start with the characters as they meet each other. They learn each other’s names. They learn the infected names. And as they move across the country, you know where they just came from and where they are going.
- What made you choose New Orleans? Is it a city you know well? What do you mean by a “fictional” rather than “literal” representation?
Once we started talking about swamps and the South, New Orleans was a natural fit. A few of us have lived there others had visited, it was a city well known by the team. As for fictional representation, that just means we don’t try and reproduce the city brick by brick, it is more influenced by the city of New Orleans than actually being New Orleans.
- Tell us a bit about character development. Can you tell us a bit about the process of choosing characters? How many do you start with?
Character development is a long process that involves many people. We first start with concept artists and writers pitching ideas. Each generates ideas for others, so short bios become sketches, sketches become bios. These are reviewed by other artists, animators and modelers.
We start with hundreds and whittle them down to maybe 20 candidates. We then mix them up into groups to see what they look like as a team. Here we will often find we have 3 that work well, but one still needs work. We keep going back and refining until everyone is happy.
The next step is finding a body model. Since we use actual people as reference for the models, we need to find the person who will become that reference. Lastly, using the body model and descriptions we cast a voice actor to be the voice of our character.
- How much are the characters tied up with the location and story – would it have been possible to keep the original L4D characters? What influenced your decision not to?
The original four had their story in the Northeast, they went from roughly Philadelphia to Erie PA. They were from that area and were designed accordingly. The new location brought new character designs for who you would find in that location. The infection is bigger than just four people, so we wanted to broaden the world with additional characters, but the story of the original character isn’t over yet.
- What about characters that don't make the cut? Might they appear in DLC or sequels? Why didn't they make it?
If they didn’t make the cut, they didn’t make it out of the concept stage. So no work has been done on them or their model. They have an equal chance as any other design if we make new characters.
- Tell us a bit about Coach. What's his story? Does he have some kind of goal or motivation?
Coach has a big heart, a positive attitude, and a wicked swing with a chainsaw. After a knee injury ended his career as a defensive lineman in college, Coach salvaged his degree-barely-and landed a job teaching health at the local high school in his hometown of Savannah. Working as a defensive coordinator for the freshmen team might not be the best first step to landing a pro coaching career; but it's come in pretty handy in guiding a group of Survivors to safety.
- What about Rochelle?
As a low-level associate producer for a big-name news station, Rochelle's job mostly consisted of lugging cables and fetching coffee. But when the outbreak hit and staff started calling in sick, Rochelle got her break: producing a segment from Savannah about the evacuation center located there. She was still setting up the cameras when her big story became a war zone. But she's not letting go of her dream job. Surviving a zombie apocalypse is just something else she can use her wits and drive to produce the hell out of.
- What about Nick?
A lifetime of drifting from city to city, finding back-alley card games and trying to stay out of jail has taught Nick two valuable lessons: Don't trust anybody, and Look out for number one. He'd come down to Savannah looking for some gullible fish on the riverboat gambling cruises. Instead he found a city about to be engulfed by infection, and three new friends he's going to have to learn to trust if he wants to survive.
- What about Ellis?
Ellis is a mechanic with a love of life, a firm belief in his own immortality, and the ability to treat any setback as a fun dare to impress his friends. Born and raised in Savannah, Ellis divvies up his time working at the local garage, hanging out with his buddies, and dropping by for Sunday dinners with Mom-why'd anybody want to live anywhere else? Then the zombies had to go and spoil it. Now Ellis is looking for new things to occupy his time, and finding plenty. It turns out the zombie apocalypse is one big dare, and there's no shortage of crazy stuff he can try to impress his new buddies.
- This is the second set of characters where only one is a woman. Is that just the way it worked out or is that a deliberate choice?
The gender and racial mix-up of the group comes through the design process. We had no constraint of any numbers we wanted to hit, this was just the natural break down that came out of the design process.
- What about NPCs? We heard something about a Cajun boatman? Are there others? Do they have proper, speaking roles? How do they tie in with the plot?
We can’t give away everything! We’ll just say you meet some locals who will help you on your way.
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Left 4 Dead 2 Q&A Answered By: Chet Faliszek - Writer
Posted 18 November 2009 - 04:53 PM
Answered By: Chet Faliszek - Writer
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