Quitting (again) - longish post on the problems with narrative
I first quit about a year ago.
This was after the introduction of the (utterly inevitable) "surprise" zombie
which turns up when a Tank arrives.
You're looking at the Tank, you begin to kite, hey - you can't move, Tank hits, zombie hits you, which just doesn't make for a fun game on expert.
I've been getting increasingly annoyed with this and the game I've just had
took me over the edge. L4D2 is for me now more annoying than fun.
We were by the Sugar Mill. It's a fairly long, fairly narrow strip of land.
We'd cleared out the area leading to it and walked almost to the end. We're
all looking forward. A Tank then spawns.
I am then about one or two seconds later hit from behind by a zombie. Playing
on expert and low on health so he takes me down (and in fact we then all died).
Given the length of the strip of land, given we'd walked directly up there
without pause, given we'd cleared the area out, the only way that zombie
could have got there, given the pace they move at, was if he was spawned
just out of sight, behind us, the moment the Tank spawned.
Shortly afterwards, during our next attempt, I was inside the side buildings.
I was looking back through a doorway, the other three players in front of me, firing out of a door.
I watched my door for a little while, then turned for a moment to check them and at
that moment was hit by a zombie. It'd come through the door I had been watching.
I killed it. I watched the door some more, then turned again to check the
players. I was hit again at that moment by a zombie.
It seems clear to me that the game was spawning zombies just out of view when
it knew I wasn't looking and since by the topology of the rooms, just out of
view was very close by, so the moment I looked away, I was hit by a zombie.
The problem here is that L4D2 is basically a realistic game. It seeks to
maintain a consistent narrative. We do not see zombies turning into chickens
or flying pigs. It's post-apocalyptic for sure, but has a viable story line
(virus turning people into zombies), a realistic physical environment
(physics as we expect) and political environment (military evacuation).
The central premise of the narrative is a fantasy, but it's a self-consistent
fantasy which is coherent with our real-world experience and expectations.
The exception to this is how much damage players take from friendly fire, which players
understand and accept as being necessary for gameplay.
As such, we are as players looking to play the game in a realistic fashion -
by that I mean to say that we expect the world to behave rationally. If it
does not, the narrative of the game is harmed and by that harm, immersion
So for example if I clear out a room and there are no other exits and I stand
outside the room, I do not expect a zombie to emerge from that room.
To the extent that the game deviates from its realistic narrative in ways
which are obvious, immersion is harmed. In particular, I think humans when
they play compartmentalize the area around them into safe and unsafe regions.
Materializing zombies conflicts with that approach and by that is
harmful (and for this particular behaviour I think very harmful).
Playing L4D2 as it is now requires players to adopt a style which understands
that the game will spawn zombies nearby in locations where they are not looking.
It pays then for everyone to keep looking in different directions, to reduce the spawn rate.
This is not realistic. It's certainly an unintended consequence.
Personally, I find this zombie spawning deeply frustrating and annoying.
Playing on expert is challanging. To be taken down by zombies specifically
materialized nearby when you are known not to be looking is just completely
demoralizing. You play carefully, you play with skill - and the game
behaves in totally unrealistic ways and by doing so kills you. That's not
fun. It's anti-skill even, because the skill you must learn to cope with
how the game behaves is most peculiar - to keep everyone looking in different
directions, to remember hordes can spawn from empty bathrooms, that a Tank
will automatically spawn a zombie behind you, etc.
That's not cool.
I feel good playing well and dealing with realistic challanges in the game.
I do not feel good having to remember the zombie auto-spawn will occur when
the Tank arrives and I have to watch out for it - or, worse, forgetting and
having twenty minutes of very careful gameplay thrown away. That's *VERY*
frustrating and annoying.
And so once again I uninstall. I guess I might come back in another year.