Valve boss Gabe Newell found the idea of zombies “cheesy” at the time, the former Left 4 Dead writer said.
If you had to describe Left 4 Dead in a few words, you’d probably think of something like “a cooperative zombie shooter.” Or maybe “an online cooperative FPS zombie game from Valve.” The point is, zombies would almost certainly be involved. That being said, during the development of Left 4 Dead, Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell refused to have undead as the game’s bad guys, finding the concept of zombies a bit “cheesy”.
As spotted by VG247, YouTuber Kiwi Talkz recently interviewed Chet Faliszek, a former writer at Valve, about his time at the company, working on Half-Life, his new company’s latest game, The Anacrusis and, of course, Left 4 Dead. And according to Faliszek, writing a zombie game around 2006 wasn’t that difficult because there was no TV series The Walking Dead and the subsequent zombie media dump. The genre wasn’t that tired, and the clichés weren’t that overused.
But that didn’t stop Valve president Gabe Newell from questioning whether zombies should be in the game.
During a dinner with Newell, Faliszek recounted how the president had criticised the choice of zombies.
According to Newell, the zombie motif in films is a kind of allegory: it always symbolises something, such as racism or the excesses of consumer society, etc. He didn’t really understand what Faliszek’s project was supposed to represent, and the latter emphasised the cooperation: that the characters had to work together to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Apparently, that wasn’t a good enough response for Newell, who still felt that zombies were too “cheesy” to be in a cooperative horror shooter.
“We’d kind of get pushed more and more,” Faliszek recalled, “because I remember [Newell] said ‘well let’s not do zombies, zombies are just…cheesy, right? They’re just really cheesy.'”
Faliszek agreed that – at least back in the days before The Walking Dead TV series helped mainstream scary zombies – the idea of the undead rising and killing people was pretty comical.
The solution that Valve, Faliszek and Newell agreed on was that some of the characters in Left 4 Dead would be familiar with zombie movies and comic books so that these characters would understand and comment on how wild it is that what was once only in horror movies is now a reality.
The key to making it all work, according to Faliszek, was for the characters to all take it seriously.
The writer says a similar strategy was used in his company’s recently released co-operative shooter, The Anacrusis, which was heavily inspired by Left 4 Dead and hit Early Access earlier this year.