When gamers heard about upcoming multi-player zombie slaying sequel Left 4 Dead 2, many were more than a little upset. Thousands signed an online petition registering their discontent with Valve, the game's developer. over 41,000 gamers have joined the Steam group. The goals of the group include:
- Holding Valve to its promise of free, continual updates to Left 4 Dead in order to build and sustain the community.
- Keeping the Left 4 Dead community together in order to improve the quality of online gaming.
- Supporting the model of continual updates Valve has set forth with its staple products like Team Fortress 2.
The idea is that L4D2 is basically an expansion pack and will split the multiplayer community.
In response to this community activism, Valve invited a couple influential members of the "We protest Valve!" community (Walking_Target and Agent of Chaos) to Valve's corporate offices to tour the facilities and play Left 4 Dead 2.
The gamers came back with glowing previews of the game, saying:
"As for L4D2, things seemed balanced and 'tight' and did not feel like a rushed job. While we were visiting their offices we personally witnessed what can only be called a small army of artists, coders, mappers hard at work, which explains the rapid transformations in artwork that we've all seen.
What we can say with confidence is that the quality of gameplay in Left 4 Dead 2 is not in question; and it will only get better (from what we understand, almost daily testing of game builds by most of the staff at Valve)."
Although Walking_Target vows "We're not giving up just yet though, we will both be here up until our individual concerns are addressed and sticking with you folks," the pair's tone is a far cry from the fiery, revolutionary, anti-corporate rhetoric of some posters on the Valve group.
So did Valve buy some positive press for the small cost of a studio tour? Maybe. But I think it's more likely that Walking_Target and Agent of Chaos have learned a little something about the complicated relationship between money and emotions in a capitalist society. It's hard to be a "radical" in any sense when presented with facts.
It's easy to accuse a video game company of not "caring" about its community, and only caring about money, but in terms of multiplayer video games, money and community are almost the same thing. If a game company isn't making money, it doesn't have a community, and it is very hard to make money with an online game without building a strong community. So the two aren't mutually exclusive. And Valve, it has to be said, has always seemed to take quality and community more seriously than other game companies.
But is Left 4 Dead 2 a rip-off? That's up to gamers to decide in November when it hits shelves.