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Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.


By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

What Works And Why: Nonlinear Storytelling In Her Story

My Idea For An ‘Unconventional Weapon’ Game

From Gunpoint To Heat Signature: A Narrative Journey

The Cost Of Simplifying Conversations In Videogames

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

The Suspicious Developments manifesto


GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole


Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint


Understanding Your Brain

What Makes Games Good

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script

The Left 4 Dead 2 Demo Is Here, And Subpar

Left 4 Dead 2 09

Setting aside that Valve have gone back to the bad old days of seeming as surprised as anyone when their stated release dates come and go without event, now that Left 4 Dead 2 is playable I sort of wish it wasn’t.

I stayed up late for the grand, long delayed unlocking on Steam because it’s a Valve game, and Valve games are automatically Events. That’s partly because of the communal sense of excitement as they unlock all over the world at precisely the same time, and partly because they’ve established a level of quality that almost guarantees I’m going to love anything they deem worthy of release. It’s why they can get away with restricting access to this demo, for the time being, to people who’ve already paid for the game.

Left 4 Dead 2 02

I don’t doubt Left 4 Dead 2 will be obscenely successful, and I don’t doubt that the full game is far better than what they’ve put out here. But this is the first time since the advent of Steam that getting to play a new Valve game has been a disappointment. It’s the first thing they’ve released in that time that doesn’t have that special Valve feeling: the sense that this is not only something new, but something exquisitely well crafted in every aspect. It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s also the first thing in that time that they’ve developed quickly.

I loved Left 4 Dead’s structure and systems and look, but was never entirely satisfied with its rattly, insubstantial feel. My hope was that Left 4 Dead 2’s dismemberment and frying pans would fix that.

Left 4 Dead 2 04

Instead, dismemberment adds little – I wouldn’t notice if a server had it disabled. Melee weapons are unconvincing: swift swipes that pass through everything, and vague staggers from the zombies inconsistent with the hit. And the new guns, which is basically all of them, are worse than the old ones. Almost comically so, in some cases. I had the urge to video some of their puny rasps and feeble gibbers to demonstrate how wrong they’d gone, until I reminded myself everyone would see them.

It’s also truly shoddy, in its current state. After the three hour delay, the first thing that happened on starting it was a command prompt that closed itself. When it finally got as far as the highly cinematic intro, it quit to desktop at the end to announce “Installation complete!”. In-game, the matchmaking ditched me on a 200 ping server at the very end of a map. The engine locked up every few steps for five to ten seconds, looping sounds angrily until I switched to windowed mode. Melee hits frequently make no noise, several zombies forgot where ladders ended and kept climbing into the sky, my character got stuck with his hand protruding gropily as if he longed only to fondle the hordes – as you’ve seen – and then the game crashed my PC completely.

Left 4 Dead 2 05

I’d love to say whether the disgusting new infected types add anything to the actual mechanics of the game, but since they’ve repeated the bizarre mistake of the original Left 4 Dead demo and only included half a campaign, there’s nothing approaching a finale to judge them on. In regular play, all three new types seem trivial to deal with – as of course are Hunters, Smokers and Boomers at that stage in a campaign. As I said before, this is as stupid and obtuse as releasing half of a song to promote an album – it doesn’t condemn the full experience, but it marks it with the sour taste of irritation and anticlimax while completely failing to communicate its presumed strengths.

I am baffled by what they’re doing with this. What they show here doesn’t suggest a bad game by any means, but it’s making it look like a clumsy step in the wrong direction. I’m just going to write as much of it off as lag, rushing and a terrible choice of demo as I possibly can.

Left 4 Dead 2 07

Mr Chug: Weird delay/launching/cinematic start aside, I really enjoyed the demo on the 3 or so times I played through. To be fair I had none of the issues you've mentioned- the matchmaker dropped me onto a low ping server at the start of the maps every time, and aside from the occasional hang before I tweaked a few settings I didn't really have any technical issues.

To be honest, it feels like L4D 1 with an extra year of development, plus a couple of new bugs thrown in for good measure. I don't know if it raised my anticipation of the full game, but it certainly didn't dampen it.

vladh: I must say that I had none of those problems and I rather enjoyed it. The length was unsatisfactory though.

David: I would disagree with you on the 'sub-par' assessment. When the original came out, I played it to death. Every lunch hour I would hop into a game with my friends/colleagues and play as much as possible. Play dwindled after about 6-7 months.

Now that the demo of L4D2 is out, I'm in love again. What the demo does really well is show off all the little changes. It gives you a taste of the new special infected, the Uncommon Commons, a running crescendo event and a subset of the melee weapons. There are other tweaks that I loved too, like the old music reappearing with a Southern feel. Or the female Boomer model.

I have to say that I had none of the technical problems you have listed (although I couldn't rejoin a game I'd previously left for some reason) and the new guns don't bother me at all. All the old guns are there too, but you have to re-play the level several times to discover them all.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the demo. I've already bought the game, so my opinion may be moot at this point, but now I definitely can't wait for the full release.

Alex-chan!: I personally havent had any technical problems, but i do fully understand your annoyance with the guns, i dont know what it is but they do just feel... pathetic... however i have enjoyed the melee weapons, and i cant wait to use some more. It's good fun but the release problems have tarnished it for me, you seem to misunderstand that it was initially slated for a tuesday release at 8pm but was instead held back until midnight on the weds/thurs without any explanation, alot of my freinds have just gone to bed because they assume it wont be released or they're too tired.

PleasingFungus: I've played through it twice now - each time with three friends - and found it completely amazing. Even on Advanced, it's extremely challenging in a way the original game's long since ceased to be for me, and the new guns (well, specifically, the silenced SMG) bring a tear of joy to my cheek. The Charger is interesting to play against, the CEDA boomer-bile is interesting to use...

The melee weapons have issues, yeah. I agree with you on that.

But the rest feels amazing.

PleasingFungus: (amazing amazing... sorry, should have proof-read that.)

Just wanted to add that I also encountered the "groping" bug, briefly. It was odd.

The_B: Owch - sorry to hear you've had what appear to be mainly technical problems. I played the demo twice tonight, and again didn't run into quite as many problems as you said, but the matchmaker did drop myself and my friends into a server we can only assume was in Australia as we all had +600 pings. A return to the lobby to try again however actually proved fruitful, the next server saw all our pings sub 30.

I agree a little with the weapons. I dare agree though that the scattershot nature of the demo was really detrimental to itself - weapons seemed like they were at every corner with no real rhyme or reason other than to try them for thirty seconds before the next one, and removing any sort of 'role' play that I've grown accustomed to. And yeah, the initial shotgun I found was particularly weedy. I dare say it's going to take a while before everyone knows which weapons are the best etc, but some sort of more obvious indication would have been nice. I think the scattershot approach made the levels feel far less well designed as well and more of a patchwork feel with none of the flow Valve games usually have. Bloody loved the Frying Pan though, as satisfying as it was made out to be for me.

Got to say though, the Spitter I think for me proved to be the best of the new infected at least in this demo - proved to nearly be our undoing more than a few times in the more cramped areas, even managing to separate one of us just before we got into the safe room. I do agree I look forward to seeing it more in a proper finale though.

What made the demo for me was the simple act of including Jonathan Coulton's RE: Your Brains on the jukebox. Hearing that made me nerdgiggle for the entire length of one playthrough.

Davie: GAAAAHH. AHHH. AAaaah. Ah.
I'm sick of this. We STILL don't get a full campaign to try out? I'll certainly try it when it comes out for us lowlifes who didn't preorder, but it sounds awfully limited. And rushed. Valve and rushed are two words that should never be in the same sentence.

GGX_Justice: Hmmm... I also haven't had any of these technical issues, nor have the three mates I'm playing with. We're thoroughly loving the demo, replaying it constantly. It is very strange they made it so short though, yet the L4D demo wasn't much better in this regard either.

As for the dismemberment adding little, I can't tell you how many times our group has stopped in shock at the virtual damage we've visited against some poor soul - it's really made us gag a few times it's that visceral.

My advice - chuck a pipe-bomb and look at the aftermath. Wow.

Jazmeister: Grim news indeed. I was always gonna wait on this one, because I'm a total wuss and can't stand gore until I've sheepishly peeked at it for a while. A lot like the school dance.

Jambi: I also loved this demo. Will have another crack at the damn thing on expert soon; it's safe to say I'll be failing my biology exam tomorrow.

It is everything L4D was - but so much more. Valve has really filled the game out. The reason I never really took to the original game with the same enthusiasm as GGX_Justice was because I was bored quickly of the same old gameplay, the same old zombies. This demo, this short, pathetic 2 chapter or maybe even a-chapter-and-a-half demo... I love it more than I ever loved L4D.

I love the wandering witch, and the suspense she makes. I love the spitter and the gameplay she brings, and the way her pink G-string rides above her pants, wrapped around her gross distended belly. I love the jockey, and the noises that he makes.

But most of all I love that today I blew a zombie's flesh from his leg, so that only the bone remained, until he stumbled, staggered, and fell towards me.

The new weapons were noticeably weaker than in the original game, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The shotguns in particular were next to useless at mid range. But they were easily my favourite weapon, as every common or horde I encountered ended up splattered all over my screen as opposed to having their heads pop 300 metres away.

Poor Australia, basically.

Nano: I personally am quite miffed that Valve have released a demo for PC gamers only, and the only Xbox owners who can play the demo are those who've pre-ordered in America.

I also hope that mixed reactions I've read about the demo are truly representative of the full game - there are very few things I've been looking forward to all year, and as if my anxiety about Bioshock 2 wasn't enough, I couldn't cope with L4D2 being substandard. Now, if only I could play as Bill...

Nano: *AREN'T truly representative. Jesus, clearly I've been daydreaming about Bill too much to pay attention to grammar.

Lack_26: I'm considering avoiding the demo, I'm planning on spending my money on Borderlands and Dragon Age (and the new 'Tegan and Sara' album, once HMV get it in stock, till then Spotify will suffice. It's great by the way).

But since I would have to wait for L4D2 then I guess I'll probably try the demo. Although I'm disappointed to hear about the bugs, it isn't like I didn't encounter them in the first L4D demo.

Jazmeister: My wife got Borderlands and didn't even properly tell me enough times to where it sunk in. Now she's going to be playing it and everything. Poo.

Tom Lawrence: Psst, is your RSS feed meant to be on intro-paragraph-only mode? Because it is.

Melvin: So lots of others are experiencing the every few second glitchout where the screen freezes and sound stays on one frame? its such a pain. hope it gets fixed

dartt: Although I shared several of your teething issues (flashing command prompt and jumping back to desktop after the intro) and I also experienced a bug of my own (crosshair occasionally disappeared) it feels like I had an entirely different experience with the demo.

Firstly, the weapons felt meatier to me, some no doubt because of a louder chunkier sounds but others such as the AK47 seemed to take out specials with greater ease.

Secondly, in our two play throughs, we had several superb encounters with the new special infected that really demonstrated their strengths to me; particularly the spitter who alternately stalled our advances, restricted our retreats and flushed us out of our hidey holes.

Thirdly, well, this is likely just luck of the draw but in both our games we were directed to decent low ping servers.

Yes, a full campaign would have been great, vs mode would have been great but this taster gave me personally a great experience and while I'm not trying to convince you that "Yes, you DID have a good time", I hope that reading a few positive write-ups will strengthen your faith in the game being unlocked on November 17th (Valve Time!).

Cmo: I did share some of the bugs you had i.e. it crashed my PC. I'm not really sure why? It could be a hard drive or memory error and I'm not going to rush to blame anything until I've run some hardware tests. However, I still really enjoyed the demo once I got my settings tweaked for optimal performance. Playing on expert is so much more brutal now! I really enjoyed all of the new bits.

1) The magnum pistol... man. That is all i have to say.
2) Melee weapons! It made this game feel a little more arcade like. I really enjoyed shooting up adrenaline and running at hordes of zombies with only a machete in my hand.
3) All of the new weapons and new items really create a lot more possible ways to get through the courses.

I'm really looking forward to this game despite the errors I experience initially.

Nonomu198: Well, have fun with your exclusive baseball bat guys. That's right, I sinned and didn't pre-purchase the game, as I speculated that it will both be expansion-pack-like and have a crazy sale soon. I think I'm right about both. Really, the exclusive for prepurchasers said it all. Valve never needed that kind of a gimmick before.

DoctorDisaster: Like many others, I had a great experience with the demo. Yes, it was a bit buggy -- I figured as much when it was delayed more than 24 hours. But I loved the gameplay upgrades. Rather than having clear tier-1 and tier-2 weapons, you've got a whole range of weapons with their own quirks. The only gun that felt wimpy to me was the silenced SMG, and it's... well... silenced. The new scoped rifle in particular was fun to play with.

My love for the guitar melee weapon may be based on my affinity for actual guitars, but the noises it made as it hit people were absolutely hilarious, and the wide arc of the swipe came in handy on several occasions. The alternate equipment for others slots was great, too: the boomer bile and defibrillator especially made for some interesting tactical choices.

The new infected were kind of a mixed bag, I'll admit. The charger seems like a total pushover so far, and being ridden by a jockey is more or less a direct cross between being pulled by a smoker (tugged away from the group) and pounced by a hunter (damage the whole time). Wandering witches are underwhelming, as they seem even more inattentive than their stationary sistren, and without the crouch-to-standing switch, they're easier to keep in your sights.

The spitter, however, is a great addition. I've already come to dread the blasted thing, as it can upend your strategy almost as effectively as a tank, and without the soundtrack warning you.

And something no one has touched on here is the massive overhaul on the soundtrack and ambiance. The retooled themes sound great, and are much more in-your-face than the alternately haunting and grating music from the previous game. This facilitates the most radical departure in L4D2 as far as I'm concerned: the shift from tense, panicked survival horror to manic, adrenaline-fueled zombie action. This is reflected in everything from the new cast to the uncommon infected to the wider range of guns to the ridiculous melee weapons, but it's really rooted in the music. And I [i]love[/i] it.

Bryan Sharp: The demo really doesn't have enough content for people to make a purchase decision. Valve could have at least thrown in a little versus or a taste of the new scavenge mode.

There are a few bugs, but I guess that's what happens when you develop a game in a year.

I did like the new items, weapons, and infected. Those three things should add a lot to versus mode, and that's the main reason I bought the game. I'm also a HUGE Depeche Mode fan.

I was kidding about that last part.
Again, I was kidding about that last part.

Fredburger: IMO L4D 2 is an incredible let down and is shoddily designed.

I think you nailed it that L4D 2 seems especially unpolished for a valve release (even understanding it's a demo). I think the lack of polish isn't in the glitches, but in the level design, controls, and implementation of melee weapons.

None of these 'improvements' seem to result in better gameplay. For example, it seems like melee weapons and fatigue were added to cooperative play because the devs thought that 'stacking and meleeing' was a 'problem' in cooperative play.

This 'fix' seems super half assed to me. As though it weren't well thought-out (especially for Valve), and added without a good understanding of what players liked and disliked about the first L4D's cooperative play.

Level design also seemed incredibly weak compared to the first game. Even though it's a demo, the levels lack the attention to detail of the first game. For me, there was a very half life quality to the maps where you could actually trace your path from a rooftop to ground floor to a fire escape to another roof back to ground level, etc.

I don't think a runaway success for L4D2 is guaranteed, and even if Valve somehow has a hit on its hands, I think it's done it's brand a big disservice.

GGX_Justice: @Melvin: I've only heard of one other case where they had that issue, and they just needed to turn multicore rendering off.

IvanHoeHo: I think there's something terribly wrong with your colour/gamma settings.

On topic: I imagine the fail guns you describe is similar to what I discovered in CoD: WaW. The guns sounded to tinny and the effect so weak that my gas powered BB pistol is more fun than that game's assault rifles.

As for the rest, I'm sure they'll be fixed by the time the public version rolls out. Thanks, beta testers XD

Tom Francis: Interesting! I didn't expect many to agree with me, but I'm still surprised at how many are having not merely a great time but an amazing one.

I've played more now, on harder difficulties, with lower pings, and with friends. I find the SPAS shotgun just about passable, but still hate all the other guns I've used. I'm yet to have a good moment with any of the new infected - so far it's always just been "Oh no, Ellis has a special infected on him - shoot it off!" I can believe the Spitter plays a more interesting role at times, but it's never gone beyond "Shoot her, wait a while" for me.

What I have started to like a lot more is the melee weapons. For one, they're the main thing ruined by a lousy ping: any delay at all and they just don't feel real. For another, they're more different than I realised, and the two I most wanted to use - the skillet and the baton - are the worst. The machete and the guitar have some kind of guaranteed dismemberment thing going on, and on a responsive server that can make cutting through a horde very fun.

Defibrillators are dear enough to my heart that their presence here could have totally turned me around on the game, but I was sad to find that a) they don't revive downed team-mates, only outright dead ones, b) they're one use only, and c) they can't be used as a weapon. I guess a) makes medical sense, but it makes them profoundly not worth taking up your medkit slot. And c) is just unforgivable.

Tom Francis: Oh yeah, Melvin - I fixed my stutter by running it in windowed mode. To its enormous credit, the game has a special option for running in a window with no borders that fills your screen. In other words, just a smoother and more stable version of fullscreen.

Roadrunner: I ordered a hard copy so I don't have the demo, but I see your point about it being bug riddled and how that would be annoying. But on the gameplay itself, maybe you just have intensely high expectations for Valve, ones too high and unrealisitc to be forfilled?
But as soon as the SDK is released I'm sensing someone might mod in some realism into it, for example with the melee weapons swift swipes, into solid hits.
It doesn't look nearly as spooky as L4D1, in daylight and all :\
You could always join the L4D2 boycott group :p

The_B: To be fair on the defib thing, I suppose what you're suggesting is an instant get up thing, but otherwise I assumed it was fairly obvious that the choice came down to either help yourself with a medpack, or revive someone else. I admit though I haven't actually been in a game yet where they've been used, so I have no idea if they've removed hero closets all together?

Agreed it's a massive shame you can't use them as weapons though.

Also it turns out the Boomer Bile bomb is surprisingly effective against the Tank.

Jazmeister: Tom: I have no idea why there was ever any in-built distinction between full-screen and big-window-without-borders mode.

Also, maybe you're too good at the game? I guess that equates to poor balancing. How could the spitter act to be more of an interesting threat?

Tyshalle: Hero closets are still in the game. I've seen them.

Also, apparently toilet stalls can act as hero closets.

Tomsaml: How do u get rid of the command prompt when u click to load the demo

Tom Francis: Well, she's already the best, but the shortcoming would be that the only time you really step in her stuff is when it wasn't avoidable, like when she hits you directly out of nowhere. Avoiding the easily avoidable isn't very interesting, and getting caught by the almost unavoidable isn't either.

She could instead spit a viscous and highly flammable liquid that doesn't hurt you, but slows you down with its stickiness. After a second or two, she ignites it. If you're still stuck, you're caught alight, which is going to suck for you. But if you get out quickly enough, you're unharmed. Since getting hit doesn't automatically mean damage, they could afford to have her spit larger gobs, more often, or make her tougher. Getting spat would happen more often and could lead to "Eek, I've gotta run into that horde of zombs to get out of this stuff" moments. That can happen already, but by the time it does you're already fucked, so Valve can't afford to make it easy for her to get you.

I'd also like to tweak the jockey. I love the theory, but in practise he never steers you more than a few steps in a direction you were already heading before someone shoots him off, so they've made him do constant damage to you to make him effective. I'd like it if he did no damage, but caused you to sprint forwards incredibly fast. You'd retain some steering control, but if you steered yourself into a wall, the Jockey would have the ability to jerk you around and ride you off in the opposite direction, leading to much drunken lurching. Basically I'd like it so that if he wasn't caught immediately, you were going for a long and dangerous ride.

Jazmeister: The coolest feeling in the original L4D, was, for me, the "oh shit oh shit oh shit" moment. Fundamentally, "Oh god the zombies are coming" is the key hook. So I really like your splat, wait, ignite idea, Tom - it's what made the boomer great, that sudden burden of suspense.

It seems like Valve have been doing a lot of thinking about what they could do to break up the unit, or discourage splitters. I don't know if that's the right angle on new, interesting monsters; you don't want to just get owned, and zombies are maniacs, not tacticians. The skill of a good "director" in a zombie flick is making it seem like the contrived obstacles are natural parts of this chaotic disaster. When the opposition is perfectly balanced, it's forgettable. When it's just a little too much, it's hilarious.

Anyone think the designs are pretty much resigned to working well only in versus mode? Ie, are Valve letting the players take the place of good ai?

Qazi: The Jockey is a menace on expert, where he can charge a survivor face first into a crowd of common infected dealing up to twenty damage a slash. Too many times has that cachinnating fiend turned a manageable situation into a disaster. Even if it only leads them three feet forward, that is three feet too far.
Frustratingly, advanced has been quite laughable for us in this demo. We would find ourselves using our L4D knowledge and comfortably reaching safehouses at 80+ health. I can't imagine how hollow the normal and easy experience is.
Conversely, the leap from advanced to expert is as vast as it ever was.
A point I must agree on is with the weapon spawns. The guitar was ace when it spawned inside the house before the bar, but when you find two sitting on a box under an overpass, or on the CEDA checkpoint table. Was the grim truth behind CEDA's failure here that they spent too much time serenading the people they were quarantining? :D
The acronym on the side of the CEDA truck before the rolling crescendo is worth looking at though. Those ominous bastards.

On whether these new infected will work well only in versus, with human intelligence behind them? Too early to tell. Valve can eke out a lot of mileage depending on how they designed the other maps. Imagine them on a map like No Mercy 5; they'd be terrific. Though, I can see right now how the spitter will work wonders in survival mode, at least.

The_B: My favourite new piece of graffiti is in next to the door in the safehouse between the two chapters:

"Can somebody please take away the pens?"

Tyshalle: I gotta disagree with you, Pentadact. These new special infected, especially the Spitter, are great. I don't think their full potential necessarily comes across in the demo though.

The Spitter isn't about giving you straight up danger, or even damage. She's about telling you where you can't go. I think this will be even more spectacular in versus mode, but even in the regular co-op mode, this is pretty spectacular. When she spits at a doorway, pretty much preventing you from advancing, forcing you to fight off the horde, or especially during the end sprint where you're trying to turn off the siren, she spit on the first platform up to the top, preventing us from getting up there, and forcing us to face off against the infinite horde for a while longer. It was intense.

Think about how it's going to be during the new versus mode, where a Spitter can just spit on the generator, preventing you from filling it up for a while.

The Jockey didn't come across very well in the demo either, I don't think, but there's an enormous amount of potential there. Sure, if the Jockey just leaps on a player who's in the middle of his group then it's not going to be a big deal. But honestly, who *is* difficult to deal with if he hits someone in a group? The only one I can think of is the Boomer. Everyone else is easy to deal with. If you get hit by the Jockey while separated from the group though? You're screwed!

He can lead you into the Spitter's pool of acid, he can run you into a witch, or a horde, or anywhere he wants.

And the Charger is meant to cause chaos, to separate the group and create panic. He works like shit in most of the areas in the demo, because it's way too confined and it's easy to kill him. But out in the open he can take a teammate quite far.

Anyway, overall I love the new guys. I think they're even better than the old ones, who mostly seem tired by comparison.

Tom Francis: I understand the theories, I'm just saying those interesting potential scenarios haven't cropped up for me yet. As you say, this demo doesn't show them off very well.

Roadrunner: Can the Jockey could run you off a cliff?

Tyshalle: Aren't really an abundance of cliffs in the demo, so it's hard to say.

And yeah, Pentadact, those scenarios haven't really popped up a significant amount for me either (except for the Spitter), but you can see the potential for it even in the demo.

I think a big problem with the demo is that the first map is extremely short, and the second map is probably like the demo for the first game in that it's probably only 2/3rds of the full second map. and in both cases the environments don't seem to really lend themselves well to the kind of situations that the special infected really shine in. It's mostly extremely long, somewhat narrow corridors which mostly keeps people together, but if anyone runs off and someone gets pounced it's not very hard to just turn around and shoot the Hunter/Smoker/Jockey/Charger off of you. Unlike most of the original L4D maps where there's so many winding corridors and corners and turns and shit that you have to turn around and run after your friend to help them.

Jambi: @Roadrunner: in the running finale a jockey ran me off the high platform where the alarm is. I understand it's not an instant-kill cliff but I still took pretty significant fall damage, and it would tend to suggest he probably could. It might be a little broken in versus mode, but if a tank can punch you off a roof I don't see why the jockey couldn't.

Tyshalle: Or the Charger, maybe!

AlphaTM: I don't understand what you mean by the new weapons being horrible, man. I think they're all good depending on your playstyle. I mean, in L4D, the only choice you had were "so you want fire or an explosion?" or "do you want an automatic weapon or a shotgun?" You picked up pills if you could find them. You picked up another pistol without a second glance. Now, there are loads more options. Do I want two pistols, or a melee weapon, or a Desert Eagle? Do I want an AK or and M16? Do I want to heal or play god? Do I wan- ad infinitum. This is even accelerated moreso with the grenade laucher (Not in the demo like half the content). Really, this is going to be a much more varied game than L4D ever was.

Tyshalle: It's less the variety that I have a problem with and more the fact that none of the new weapons feel solid. The AK is hugely inaccurate from what little time I had with it. I forget what the other one that I saw, the three-shot burst gun felt the most solid but it's basically useless if you're surrounded by a horde. The silenced uzi is terribly inaccurate, and even the pistols feel worse (though I'll admit that might be in my head).

Tubby McChubbles: the spitter had an amazing moment for me. we were running across the tower to turn off the alarm, and the spitter spat (obviousl0 but it landed next to the button, forcing half the team to wait, and the other half to jump off the tower. I love the game so far, and have no probles other than one or two bugs that kinda wierdme out.

DoctorDisaster: I've had two great spitter attacks where she separated the group, even making it difficult for us to see each other. Once was in the middle of the running finale and man, that was bad. Two of us got to the tower and look around and oops, the other two are still trapped in one of the chain-link corridors in the middle of a mob.

Personally, I think it's a good thing when two people can talk about the same game and have totally different stories to tell. It's just a shame that your story seems to be boring so far.

I will admit that the beefed-up AI seems to be more noticeable with the established infected. From what I can tell, the devs just taught the computer the best combo attacks from L4D1 versus mode. Smokers especially seem to be escorted by a puke or a pounce as a general rule now, which was more or less unheard of in the old campaign mode. The newbies do feel like a bit of a blank slate tactically.

@Tyshalle That's odd -- I found the AK to be a particularly solid choice. You trade the accuracy of the M-16 for way more punch. Even I, a habitual boomsticker, found it incredibly useful in areas like the running finale. It definitely blurs the line between shotties for short range, autos for accuracy (the latter half of which has always been pretty preposterous), but I think that's what I like about the wider selection. The choices in this game are less obvious, and that makes me more inclined to experiment, which will keep the game fresh in the long run.

you're a dumbass: thx

Ludo: You're totally right about the guns.

Nonomu198: Now that the demo's public I tried it. I'm glad I didn't preorder, the demo stinks. I've had no fun whatsoever, it's so moderately boring. There was nothing exciting or new, and the zombies are just sort of there. They don't scare me, they hardly touch me. Playing on hard mode, as in many bad games, only made me more vurnarble to the zombies (and made some more of them), which didn't add any excitment, just posible frustration of being 1-hit-killed. I hate the weapons, mostly their sounds. The freaking pistols piss me off. I'm not a fan of the graphics either, why is the hud so bulky?

All in all, it's subpar.

FunkyLlama: If you prefer fullscreen, the stuttering issue can also be fixed by setting the max frames to render ahead setting in the driver control panel to 0.

EGTF: I really do hope you go for the Guardin' Gnome achievement in l4d2. It's the only one I personally care about getting myself. You go to the carnival, play the shooting game near the start and get over 750 points on it to unlock the gnome from his cage, then carry him through the entire level jumping onto the helicopter at the end with him in your hands.

Tom Francis: Absolutely, that's my job for tonight. Anyone wanna join in and help me?

Verde Flash: I'm sure going for that achievement, since Little Rocket Man has been my favorite achievement from any game ever.

Mr Chug: Just managed the run with the gnome. There was a panic at one point when a teammate threw it into an area we couldn't get to by mistake, but luckily a tank showed up and wiped us out. We respawned to find him watching us from the pile of boxes we put him on while we recovered from the coaster. Proudly cradling him as I jumped onto the chopper was one of 'those' gaming moments, up there with last time I carried a gnome through an entire game.

Verde Flash: I couldn't find the gnome...

Glen: @Verde - see EGTF's comment above, you have to get 750points in the shooter carnival game to get the gnome.

EGTF: Fraps broke, meaning I had to printscreen shamefully so the images aren't crystal clear. Tom didn't manage to have enough time to stick out with it to the end sadly, but we managed to carry the little grinning sod all the way. I can rest easy.

Tom Francis: Hurray! Was hoping someone captured that. I have about 300 high res shots, but they're all tinged with the sadness that I had to leave early. On the plus side, it was a very good badminton game I left for.

EGTF: It appears my victory was bittersweet. Now that the game has opened up to the rest of the UK, it seems to have wiped wiped all achievements from my L4D2 profile.

I'm going to have to get that stupid fecking gnome across the entire level again.

Tom Francis: I still haven't got it, if you want to join me tonight.

Hetnikik: If one person gets the Gnome to the end does everyone playing get the achivment?

Floodkiller: Yes, same as getting the Stashe Whacker achievement.