Random Life Stuff and Left 4 Dead

When I started doing the video posts, I scheduled several of them weeks in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about posting every day.

Currently, I’d like to post every monday to friday, but mondays I have classes pretty much all day, and friday I have work pretty much all day. I don’t have much excuse for not posting tues-thurs other than being distracted by (mostly) school-related stuff.

My big Comic Project for Comic Book Design class is going to be Garry’s Mod based. Like Concerned. It’s going to be a bit like 1Fort, except I’m actually going to be making a comic using Team Fortress 2 characters and not just blogging about a completely unrelated character in a completely unrelated game. And even if I was, I’d update the completely unrelated weblog more than once a month. Because the Internet deserves more Nondrick.

In any case, because I spent a little too much time doing something I was supposed to be doing over the course of the whole semester and not quite enough time doing something else that’s due on Monday, I’m in a bit of a crunch between now and Monday morning. I forsee this sort of thing being quite likely to happen again (though I’ll try to avoid it), so I’m going to change the schedule back to “randomly”. I might update three times a week. I might update five times in a week. But I might update just once. It will depend on how much pressure I’m feeling to do more important things.

Part of the problem is that I have no decent workspace at home, which really needs to be fixed ASAP, and even at the Library it’s not easy to get a sufficient amount of privacy. My family doesn’t exactly help: it never ever ever crosses Mom’s mind that I might actually have something more important to do than some random errand she spontaneously decides I need to do instead of schoolwork. My middle brother is pretty good as he gives me plenty of space and even lets me in his room when I need the Internet (long story short: I can’t get wifi in my room, but I can in my brothers’ rooms). My youngest brother can best be described as the moniker I gave him at the gaming table: “Mr. Psycho”. And the cats are darling little sweethearts, but don’t have the capability to actually help me.

But this is supposed to be a gaming weblog now, so I’ll stop complaining.

I’m becoming more intrigued by Left 4 Dead (Left 4 Dead 411 site). Up until a little while ago I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was like “Gee. Zombies. As if there aren’t enough zombie-themed Half Life 2 mods I can download for free.” It’s genuinely different and neat and new, though:

1) It’s entirely co-op based. Like playing through Ravenholm with Alyx, Barney, and Father Grigori at the same time.

2) Lots of procedurally-based content. Being a big fan of how Sin Episodes: Emergence genuinely played differently according to how you set the sliders (translation for those who haven’t played: you could set the proportionate amount of enemies that would come after you, how much base ammo and health packs were lying around and how often you “found” stuff you desperately needed when you needed it), once I realized Left 4 Dead was taking these ideas to the next level, I was definitely interested.

3) Zombie horror movies are far from my favorite genre. Action movies I like, which is part of why I’m writing a whole long manifesto about HL2 and it’s sibling games. But if you’re going to make a horror movie-themed game in the Source engine, it better be darn “cinematic”. Which, apparently, Left 4 Dead is.

4) At the very least it is something to tide me over until Portal 2 and HL2 Episode 3. This was initially the only reason I was paying attention at all, but combined with the other reasons, I’m actually looking forward to L4D.

Then there are several more very interesting things I learned from the video on the front page of that site:

5) It’s the first Source engine game to use the latest advancements in physics simulation, combining the animation of the ragdolls with the physical forces acting on them. Previously, and in all current Source games, objects are controlled and animated either by their AI or by the physics engine (Scanners, Rollermines, and Manhacks being exceptions only because they have extremely simple animations). This is why the souped-up Gravity Gun kills Combine instantly (and why the normal Gravity Gun won’t let you grab anything “living”): it can’t not kill them instantly because the limitations of the engine won’t let you toss around “living” things with realisitcally-animated movement.

6) The Director AI is so smart that it can actually affect the lighting of a scene. The other things it can do (adjusting the monsters dynamically according to how well the player(s) are doing and so on) are pretty impressive. But messing with the mood via lighting as you play is pretty darn neat.

7) The latest Super Duper Wangle Smoobling (a.k.a. “Self Shadowed Normal Mapping”). The Wangles in this version of Source are going to be really Smoobled, and they’ll probably be Smoobled in Episode 3 and Portal 2 as well.

8) The whole thing is an attempt to re-combine the aspects of single-player and multi-player gaming that have been more and more strongly segregated as time went on. That’s something I can definitely like.

9) The “Tank” in the trailer is exactly like the Super Mutant from Sin Episodes, except that it can be controlled in multiplayer. Sweet.

In case the embedded video has shuffled off the front news page of the above link, it’s also here. (I’m not sure how to embed it.) Pretty much any video and in-game commentary that has Gabe Newell explaining something is an instant hit with me, and this is no exception.

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