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Professional Left 4 Dead | How E-sports failed to notice a truly unique experience

Gamingtodaynews1f - Professional Left 4 Dead | How E-sports failed to notice a truly unique experience
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Take whatever I am about to say with a grain of salt. Anyone more involved in the left 4 dead community will be far more qualified than me. I am just talking about my observations in the past week or so of watching competitive Left 4 Dead (L4D) videos on Youtube.

Quick summary of Left 4 Dead and Versus mode

Left 4 Dead allows you to play in a team of 4 survivors going from Point A to Point B. The map is filled with zombies and "Special Infected" that have special abilities (e.g. hunter pounces on you, disabling you and doing damage over time. Spitter spits acid that covers an area for a few seconds, doing damage over time).

The "Versus" mode in L4D has 4 human survivors vs 4 special infected. The special infected have a cooldown of 20 seconds between each life, giving the survivors some breathing room. Teams rotate, so the end of the round switches the teams. A score system tracks the distance the survivors make it before either (a) reaching the end (full points) or (b) getting wiped and all dying. You can only score points playing as survivors. Special Infected's entire goal is to reduce the number of points survivors get.

What a pub game of Versus mode looks like

If you've never played Versus in L4D, you've never experienced what I call "Doing your time" syndrome. This syndrome occurs because playing as the SI is just so much more fun than playing survivors. The only reason I personally play as survivors is to get to play SI the next round. There is a lot of fun to be had playing as survivors, but it is very stressful and requires a lot of teamwork and communication. L4D has a fairly toxic community so the teamwork tends to just not exist.

It's a lot easier to play SI as, even if you work alone, you can potentially do a lot of damage if the survivors aren't paying attention (to help each other).

The average game goes like this:

  1. One team randomly has the better players at the start of a match
  2. That team manages to get through the survivor round without getting wiped out
  3. That team proceeds to cause a lot of damage as SI, making the losing team rage quit slowly
  4. The game continues as the winning team hits a stride and the losing team keeps haemorrhaging players

The importance of teamwork

A lot of the SI having disabling abilities. This means that, once a survivor is grabbed/attacked by this SI, they are helpless and rely on the other survivors for help. This immediately drastically increases the importance of communication and spacial awareness. There would be multiple tiers of this:

Tier 1: Knowing when your teammate is disabled and going to help them

Tier 2: Knowing when your teammate would be vulnerable and sticking with them to protect them if something happens (stick together basically)

Tier 3: Knowing where the SI could attack from (SI can only spawn outside survivors' line of sight) and adjusting your positioning to compensate

Tier 4: Actively blocking the SI from spawning by maintaining line of sight on dangerous spawn points until your team is clear of the area.

Tier 5+: I don't know. I'm not a professional L4D player.

Doing all this, while trying to move forward in a map and constantly killing normal zombies (common infected) in your way, can lead to some real chaos. All the SI have to do, is increase the chaos and capitalise on it. If you've played any pub game of anything, the inherent chaos is already there. Playing outside of Versus mode (i.e. survivors only against AI SI), and the survivors still get wiped all the time. With humans behind the SI, you would imagine the odds will always be in SI's favour.

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What happens when you throw coordinated players into the mix

What happens when the survivors know the game well, have stellar aim and precision, have practised positioning and coordinated movement (blocking SI spawns, sticking together etc…) and communicate well?

Well you need to nerf the survivors.

Competitive L4D is fascinating because, with teamwork, the survivors actually become a force of nature. So much so that competitive L4D nerfs the survivors in a multitude of ways (only allows tier 1 guns, no healing kits, no bhopping, removing certain (or all) grenades).

What you then see is the coordination required swings into the burden of the SI.

Now, the survivors are likely to get to the end of the map probably without taking a single point of damage, like Navy SEALs going through a kindergarten. Solo SI charging in get killed instantly and EVEN the Tank (a once per round SI boss with a ridiculous amount of health and doing a ton of damage per hit) has to cower and hide behind objects and wait for support from other SI, lest they get gunned down without even landing a single hit.

Each SI team must come up with plans on the fly based on which types of SI the 4 of them are, where they are on the map, and how they should attack. Then, they must execute and time their attacks perfectly to stop or at least delay the other survivors from helping the attacked player. Even TICKS of damage is valuable to the SI as the survivors can really resist some crazy pressure.

How I personally see Competitive L4D

I've been watching YouTube videos of competitive L4D and, without even knowing any of the teams or players, I have audibly reacted to some insane plays/moments.

In almost any other competitive team based game, a single excellent player can clutch a round and turn the tide. I have yet to see that happen in L4D competitive. To succeed, teamwork is a necessity, not a luxury.

Seeing the different methods survivors employ to stay alive and keep each other alive is fascinating (e.g. rotating players to block SI spawns as they move forward, or baiting SI attacks in a variety of ways to make the next part clear for the next 20 seconds).

Likewise, SI need to be accurate and time their attacks perfectly. A survivor only needs half a second to free their friend and if you don't stop them, then that friend will be able to free whoever you are currently disabling.

The speed at which both teams work and coordinate is incredible. It's like watching two speedrunning teams actively compete against each other.

Where it appears to stand today

As far as I can see, competitive L4D has died down in popularity (never having reached an incredible peak to begin with). The casting that I watched seemed fairly professional but also clearly still a production by a few people doing their best. They are working with what the game has to offer and doing their best to balance it.

If the game received the level of support that some other E-sports get, I think it would really push this e-sport into a really special place. The production value of the streams would show off some more amazing detail, the players would be further incentivised to come up with new strategies and push the limits of their capabilities and we would be in for some incredible entertainment.

In just a ~week of watching matches, I have picked up on so many nuances that I have not mentioned here (hittables, crowning the witch, 2/2, scoring system, rock tanks) that it really is worth checking out a game or two. I really wish this community the best.

Source: Original link


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