Left 4 Dead 2

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Short Description

Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) is a survival horror first person shooter where players have to cooperate in order for their characters to stay alive until the end of the round. Set in a zombie apocalypse, you play one of four human survivors who have to fight through hordes of common zombies, known as the Infected (and a few special ones) to the safe houses which also serve as checkpoints. L4D2 has been built upon the Valve’s proprietary Source engine and the game play is controlled by the “A.I. Director 2.0”.


Game’s website: http://www.l4d.com/game.html


Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

Technology: L4D is built on Valve’s proprietary 3D video game engine Source. Source provides developers with tools such as a rendering system, a modelling and animation software, a map creation tool, a physics engine as well as other features.


Mechanics: L4D2 is a cooperative first person shooter where players have to fight through different maps where the key objective is to get all your team members to safety in the safe house in order to escape the zombies that are chasing after you. Along with rifles, guns and grenade launchers to reach zombies at a distance, L4D2 also provides players with melee weapons which are effective for clearing your way through enemies. The two distinctive ways of killing zombies give players the choice of different playing styles or simply allows them to use their weapons as the situation requires.

Story: The game took place after the “Green Flu” pandemic, where most of the human population had been transformed into zombie-like creatures due to the virus infection. In relation to the prequel, the events in L4D2 are set after L4D and the story started with the characters in Georgia. While some of the characters have back stories which are explored through the dialogue, players are kept in the dark about the source of the virus and the events of other parts of the world.

Aesthetics: L4D2 had nice graphics. Most of the game had a daytime setting which lights up and displays the level of detail of the game. The movement of the Infected looked realistic as they run towards the characters. The injuries sustained by the zombies are also in such detail that one could see the exposed internal organs of the zombie. For those who are not fans of graphic violence, there is the realistic flowing water to look out for in the “Swamp Fever” campaign.


Lens #18: The Lens of Flow

L4D2 seems to present the players with a good flow as they constantly communicate with one another and still stayed focused on the game. However, I personally felt that there is no cycle of “tense and release” as mentioned by Schell, as I felt constantly tensed during the game and the only release was after the map when we were shown the leaderboard.

Lens #25: The Lens of Goals

L4D2 has very clear goals to the players. The game requires the players to work towards goals that are pretty instinctive, namely to try to stay alive until the end of the map and eventually, the campaign. Considering the challenge of completing the campaign, it could be rewarding for the player. However, if you are playing in the Versus mode, those playing as human survivors will try to stay alive and the others who are playing as the Special Infected will try their best to kill the human survivors. In this case, the reward would be beating the other team by making more progress on the maps.

Lens #32: The Lens of Meaningful Choices

Besides the various strategies that players can formulate and then choose for themselves, the gameplay offers players a small amount of meaningful choices. For weapons, players have to choose between carrying a pistol which has a longer a range or a melee weapon which is more deadly; a med pack for healing or a defibrillator kit for reviving a dead team member; pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails or the bile bombs which all have some sort of area effect. If players choose to take longer and more difficult routes, they’ll be rewarded with better weapons. Getting to choose the ending would not be a meaningful choice as most players would choose to stay alive throughout the game.

Lens #38: The Lens of Competition vs. Cooperation

L4D2 provides an entertaining mix of gameplay that encourages both competition and cooperation among the players. In the 4 player Campaign mode, cooperation is heavily emphasized as it would be difficult for the players to reach the end of a map or complete tasks if they are playing alone. Players also have to look out for one another as they can heal another team mate with their first aid kit or damage the others with friendly fire. Every team mate (who is still alive) also has to make it into the safe house for the map to be considered complete.

The game allows the players to compete in the form of individual score. At the end of a map, a leaderboard will show all the players of that map which human survivor got the most kills or did the most damage.

The interesting aspect of the competitive gameplay would be how 8 players can play simultaneously in a 4v4 Versus Mode in which 4 players would play as human survivors and the other 4 will play as the Special Infected, zombies with other abilities that make them more dangerous than the Common Infected. In versus mode, players would have to communicate and cooperate with one another better to launch combination attacks (for the Special Infected) and to stay alive (for the human survivors). The team competition in the Versus Mode combines competition and cooperation in the game.


Team Fortress 2


Team Fortress 2 (TF2)[1] is an online competitive First Person Shooter (FPS) that consists of 9 distinct types of character classes. Each 9 classes have their advantages and disadvantages against one another, just like the simple game of rock-paper-scissors. Two teams, Red and Blu (not Blue), will compete against each other to achieve an objective. For example, Blu will push the bomb cart to a destination and Red will try their best to obstruct/stop them. Or, both teams will try to enter opposing team’s intelligence room to steal their briefcase and head back to home base to score a point.


Lens #2: The Lens of Surprise

  • Each holiday seasons Valve[2] will update the game with new weapons, gameplays, skins and/or hats. There is always something to look forward to at every Christmas, New Years, Halloweens, Easters, and other western holiday seasons.
  • Once in a while when a player dies in-game and waiting to re-spawn, random weapons or hats will be given to the player.


Lens #16: The Lens of Player

  • TF2 is a typical FPS game with the main objective having to kill the opposite team. In general, players like to shoot with different types of guns in different playable maps.
  • Players would hate to see similar gameplays with a limited range of weapons to choose from. Therefore TF2 has different objectives, a wide range of maps, and updates for new weapons and accessories in every holiday seasons.


Lens #27: The Lens of Skill

  • The most fundamental skill is aiming, obviously. For Sniper to deal a large amount of damage, a headshot is required; getting either instant kill or 95% of the life chipped off from the opponent’s health. The rest of the characters also require good aiming skill, though not as essential as a Sniper class.
  • That aside, to kill without a good aiming skill is also possible. For instance, the Engineer can build a Level 3 sentry gun and sit by one corner and drink his beer; that sentry gun will shoot all incoming opposite team at 100% accuracy. The Engineer just needs to resupply the ammo and repair the sentry gun. Medic needs to point at his healing target at a general direction and he can heal the target already. Spy needs to get behind an enemy’s back and stab them. Demo-man lays down some sticky bombs and waits for his opponent to walk by before detonating them. It’s about trickery and mind games, too.


Lens #38: The Lens of Competition vs Cooperation

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being competitive and 10 being cooperation, TF2 would be a 7. Though skill is a necessity in a FPS (you can’t be winning if your aim is off), it’s the cooperation of the team members that will enable the team to complete the objective.
  • Players are given a choice to play either competitively or cooperatively, and the outcome of the match will depends on the ratio between competitive players and cooperative players. If there are more competitive players on a single team and there are more cooperative players on the opposing team, then the latter have a higher chance of winning the objective. But of course, there has to be a good mix between competitive and cooperative players; being competitive will motivates but the player might die easily while being solo. Being cooperative will help each other during difficult times but the motivation to finish the objective isn’t as great as a competitive player.
  • TF2 doesn’t have a campaign or story mode; hence in all the gameplay it has to offer, it is the competition of who can achieve the objective faster.


Lens #76: The Lens of Character Function

  • There are in total 9 different types of characters in TF2; Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demo-man, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper and lastly, Spy.
  • All of them have strong points and weak points, which balanced out nicely in the end.
  • Scout is strong when the terrain is big and against slow-moving classes, but weak whenever he is in open ground.
  • Soldier is strong against low health classes while weak against Sniper.
  • Pyro is strong against Spy, while weak against medium and long range weapons.
  • Demo-man is strong against low health classes but weak against long range weapons.
  • Heavy is strong against low and medium health classes but weak against Sniper and Spy.
  • Engineer is strong against anyone as long as his sentry guns are up, but is effectively a sitting duck.
  • Medic is a healing class which helps to keep his team alive. His primary role is not to kill and run away whenever possible.
  • Sniper is strong against anyone who is far away, but weak whenever he is in range of others’ killing zone.
  • Spy is strong against anyone whose back is facing him, but weak whenever he is spotted.
  • And since every character has both strong and weak points, it is absolutely essential that the whole team must compromise with each other to achieve their objectives.

[1] http://www.teamfortress.com/

[2] http://www.valvesoftware.com/

League of Legends VS Defence of the Ancients 2

Disclaimer: I am aware that I am risking my life by writing this post. If you are a hard-core fan of DotA 2, take note that this post favors League of Legends. If you want to argue why DotA 2 is more suitable for you, please write your own post (I play one DotA 2 session for every three League of Legends sessions. For me both games are great, but one is better than the other)

League of Legends (gameplay-video) and Defence of the Ancients II (gameplay-video ) are undoubtedly the most popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games (link). There are myriad of non-stop arguments on the internet about which game is the best. Both player communities have their own opinions why the game they play is better than the other. I have played both games for a considerable amount of time (each > 4 years if DotA I is considered). Having played both games, I believe I am in a prime position to share my opinion on how both games hold up to each other

For the benefit of the inexperienced, I will briefly describe the gameplay of both games. Both games – LoL and DotA 2 – need each player to control a character in a 5 VS 5 game. The characters spawn (and revive) on their base, and their goal is to destroy the opponent’s base. There are several rewarding tasks that must be done by every character to achieve the goal:

  • Creeping – killing enemy computer-controlled troops to gain money (money is used to buy equipment to further strengthen the characters) and experience (characters can gain level from experience and learn abilities/ get stronger)
  • Killing – killing enemy player-controlled characters to gain money, experience, and to punish them (loss of gold in DotA, and absence from the game field for several seconds in both games)
  • Pushing – destroying enemy defensive structure to allow troops to further attack their base
  • Customization – learning abilities and buying items are two main means of getting stronger

Among these two games, statistics has declared that League of Legends is more popular and commercially successful compared to DotA 2 (link1; link2 ). DotA 2 did indeed experience a rapid growth during its opening, but it was due to burst of players who are familiar with DotA 1; however, League of Legends player statistics has been proven to be growing for four years.

While a portion of DotA 2 supporters argue the reason of LoL’s popularity is due to it is an “easy game”, I have my legitimate arguments that probably will be easily dismissed by them if they have not played both games for at least a year.

The Lens of Simplicity/Complexity

DotA 2 supporters often claim that DotA 2 offers more “complexities” than League of Legends. I cannot argue with that. However, it does not imply at the slightest that to excel in DotA 2 is harder than to be good at LoL.

There is a fallacy that DotA 2 complexity makes it more competitive and in-depth. This is totally untrue as the complexities are innate – they are not the products of game dynamics. These innate complexities make it extremely hard for a new player to learn DotA 2, as they carry the burden of knowledge – that is – to win a game, knowledge is more important than skill. Even mechanically speaking, these innate complexities are not intentional in the first place; it is the legacy of limitation/presets of Warcraft III on which DotA 1 stands on.

Here are some examples of innate complexities that are epitome of burden of knowledge for DotA 2 beginners (Note: this section may interest ONLY experienced reader):

  • Orb effects – whether an attack modifier item work together with another attack modifier is totally arbitrary as it is originated from Warcraft III.
  • Black King Bar Spell Immunity – it repels damage from all abilities, but does not make your characters immune to other characters’ ultimate abilities’ effect (another Warcraft legacy)
  • Imbalanced distribution of complexity – some characters are totally easy to play such as Skeleton King which only has an active ability, while some others are really complex such as Chen which has five abilities, and needs to control other characters (neutral creeps) with their own abilities. Beginners who are oblivious of this fact can accidentally choose a very complex character.
  • Damage type – normal, pierced, siege, hero, spell, chaos, pure, composite, etc. each damage type is reduced by different resistance and is very confusing for new player (compared to normal, spell, and pure damage in LoL).
  • Thundergod’s Wrath – deal damage to all enemy characters and reveal them, but stealth characters are only revealed, not damaged. A failed programming attempt made into innate complexity.

In comparison to DotA 2, League of Legends does not have these so-called complexities. Complexities in League of Legends arise from dynamic action of the characters. A good example will be “denying”. In DotA it is possible to deny (kill) your own troops to prevent enemy from getting experience and gold. It is not possible in League of Legends. Some argue that this make DotA 2 more complex, however the reality dictates otherwise. In DotA 2, a player will try to monotonously deny his/her creep while in League of Legends a player will devise a complex way to prevent their opponent from creeping such as nuking and zoning. Ingenuity on usage of abilities and items is needed to compete in League of Legends.

The Lens of Pleasure

Another thing that makes League of Legends more popular than DotA 2 is the pleasure it guarantees to its players.

In DotA 2, when you kill a player’s character, you will gain gold and experience while the killed player will lose gold. This makes early kill really game-changing in DotA 2. If a team manage to secure its dominance in the early game (first 10-15 minutes of a 45 minutes game), it is very likely to win the game. This is because the team whose players are killed frequently will not be able to gain level/ buy better equips while the dominating team will keep getting stronger from the kills. Moreover, if a character dies he can immediately be revived by paying. Winning team can confirm their victory, since a blunder – that allows other team to win – can be redeemed.

The experience of a common DotA 2 public game is described as follow: 10-15 minutes of anticipation and excitement, another 30 minutes of bullying/ or being bullied. This will make a game slightly fun, and later either it becomes boring since a win is guaranteed, or it becomes depressing since a loss is imminent. Although this does not apply to every game, this commonly applies to general public games. (Note that professional competitive scene in DotA 2 is very different from public games)

Meanwhile, League of Legends do not penalize killed player by reducing their gold. This way, early kills do not assure victory since the opposing team has a chance to strike back. League of Legends also disallows instant reviving. The suspense never ceases even until the end of the game since a mistake from either the winning or losing team can be the end for them (eg. The winning team players’ characters are all killed in a teamfight, and the losing team rushes to destroy the base). League of Legends still reward early dominance but it introduces negative feedback to the winning team.


It is clear to us now why League of Legends is more commercially successful compared to DotA 2. Firstly, it is because League of Legends does not have a lot of innate complexities as in DotA 2. This makes the game easier to learn by beginners. Secondly, in public scene, League of Legends provides more pleasure to both the winning and losing players by creating continuous suspense; while DotA 2 aims only to please the winner.