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MPC: How about the new weapons that you’re showing off today?
MB: So the biggest tweak is the pipe bomb. The pipe bomb before was very realistic, so it exploded like a real pipe bomb would. But in terms of gameplay mechanics, especially with this game, it wasn’t actually very functional. There are so many zombies that are coming at you from all directions that having one even fairly big explosion didn’t help in a lot of cases. So what we did is we McGuyvered it a bit. Now, there’s like a labeled battery strap on the bomb with a beeper and the beeper sound just drives the zombies nuts. They have to chase the sound. So you can pull out the pipe bomb and set it off and it starts beeping faster and faster and all the zombies in the area chase down the pipe bomb like a dog chasing a bone. They kick it around and after about six seconds the beeper keeps getting faster until it explodes. But of course it’s completely surrounded by zombies at that point. So it becomes very tactically interesting. You can use it to get out of trouble. Like if one guy is dead and two are incapacitated and you’re going over to heal them, there’s probably a huge hoard coming at you. But if you have a pipe bomb you can use it and throw it far away and it’ll just basically absorb that hoard and you get a “Get out of jail free” card.
MPC: Can one of the player-controlled Boss infected kick the bomb back at you to send the hoard in your direction?
MB: We’re still experimenting with exactly how the Boss infected can react to the pipe bomb.
MPC: And then the other big change we’ve seen today is the look. All of the characters have been redesigned and the game has new post-processing effects. Can you talk about that?
MB: As you know at the first of the year valve acquired Turtle Rock studios so now we’re Valve South and the biggest thing that the acquisition brought is just a ton of new resources. A lot of our game design assumptions changed. Before this time there were basically 12 of us building this game and we were leveraging as much as we realistically could using props that we had built for Counter-Strike. But now we have all this additional talent with Valve as a whole. Everyone sat back and said ‘This game is really fun. People really dig this game. Lets give this game its own look.’
What happened was a re-evaluation of our development and a whole bunch of effort going into giving the game its own unique art style. We are able to do things that we couldn’t do before like changing the low-level Source Engine assets because we had our hands full in just making the game itself. But now, we’re Valve! So now we have much more interesting shadows and flash lights and we have the vignette-style post-processing and the color correction.
MPC: So what is the “look” that you’re going for?
MB: What we’re trying to do is make you feel like you’re in a horror movie. It’s a very cinematic feeling. Something that we’ve noticed just with the game in general is that people tend to like just to watch; they like to be spectators. Because it’s kind of like watching that horror movie where you want to shout ‘No, don’t, No! don’t go in there!’ We’ve really pushed for that in the vocalization – the way survivors talk to each other. We also wanted to make it look as filmic looking as possible.
It’s a challenge because there’s this single-player narrative element and structure, but it’s also a multiplayer game that is meant to be played over and over again.
MPC: Any details about the actual story behind the zombie infection? Is that something that will be revealed through the acts?
MB: We’re trying some experimental things with the story but we’re keeping it vague right now. The idea is as you play the game more and more the kind of things the survivors say will give you little hints and tidbits of the story. So you may have played the game for a long time and then Bill says something off hand that you’ve never heard before. We have plans in the future to continue to add to this world a lot.
MPC: Will the game be moddable?
MB: That will be interesting to see how that works out. In some ways the game is really moddable in that you can make a map and you won’t have to populate it because the director does that for you. You basically generate what we call a navigation mesh and you decorate a few areas indicating where the players start, where the safe room is located, and where the finale will take place. The Director will go through and populate it all for you. And the director is there and available to be messed with but of course all it knows is how to make a zombie game so it’s not a completely malleable piece of AI that could say make My Pretty Pony or something.
MPC: My Pretty Pony would be pretty weird.