Set in the immediate aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, Left 4 Dead's survival co-op mode lets up to four players blast a path through the swarming zombie hordes and terrifying mutant monsters. Guide your survivors across the rooftops of an abandoned metropolis, through rural ghost towns and pitch-black forests in your quest to escape a devastated Ground Zero crawling with infected enemies.

Report article RSS Feed Stylized Darkness in L4D

Part 2 of the Left 4 Dead blog series on art direction.

Posted by stenchy on Jan 8th, 2009

A bit late to the party but better than never right? The Left 4 Dead blog has posted part 2 of a series of posts dissecting the game's art direction. This part concerns the stylistic choices in regards to lighting within levels that Valve put into effect to streamline the visual information given to the player. Amongst those discussed is the light-infused fog:

Randy wrote:But while TF2 had a bright and colorful art direction, Left 4 Dead takes place in a variety of dimly lit nighttime environments. Because of this, playtesters weren't able to see zombie silhouettes in the midground and background. Because of this, they were repeatedly getting mobbed.


While sudden zombie attacks were inarguably scary, they were also frustrating—players weren't being given the information they needed to react. They wanted that "Here they come!" moment, and we weren't giving it to them. The solution? Light-colored fog:


While not as realistic-looking as actual fog in some settings, it meant playtesters could see attackers in the distance. Once they were able to anticipate attacks, playtesters started to have a much better time.


More importantly, these posts reveal some of the thought process when trying to straddle the divide between realism and fun as a developer. Read more of Left 4 Dead's behind-the-scenes analysis of its art direction by checking out both Part 1 and Part 2.

Post comment Comments
Elando
Elando Jan 8 2009, 8:25pm says:

The first screenshot would have made the game so much more atmospheric. And scary too...

Although I suppose its a good job they went with what we have now.

+2 votes     reply to comment
ceriux
ceriux Jan 9 2009, 12:35am replied:

i think that the fog makes it TOO bright, maybe they could make a darker fog? making it to where they could see the silouettes but it wasnt just a big red target? its supposed to be a horror game not a horror game look alike where its hard to get scared because you see it coming.

+2 votes     reply to comment
FREEBORN
FREEBORN Jan 8 2009, 8:27pm says:

Were can i found this darkness modification?

+1 vote     reply to comment
KILLER89(FIN)
KILLER89(FIN) Jan 9 2009, 4:26am replied:

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

They are just before / after screenshots.

Please, learn to read.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Colossal
Colossal Jan 10 2009, 2:22pm replied:

The game is already like this, these were before and after pics.

+1 vote     reply to comment
lcpuche
lcpuche Jan 8 2009, 8:51pm says:

fun > realism always!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Thanoshld
Thanoshld Jan 8 2009, 9:24pm replied:

Hell yeah on that!Extreme realism games are getting my nerves.Especially when it's a FPS game.I just wanna run and shoot everything it moves!Not stop because my character is tired,bored,wanna **** or something:)As for the more dark pic nay,i prefer the second one..

-3 votes     reply to comment
Shoelip
Shoelip Jan 8 2009, 9:02pm says:

The first shot would have worked alright if the zombies weren't so fast.

+1 vote     reply to comment
AJ_Quick
AJ_Quick Jan 9 2009, 3:15am says:

What an artificial decision. I guess nobody thought to just adust the spawn points so the damn things weren't constantly spawning on your head.

+1 vote     reply to comment
dethtoll
dethtoll Jan 10 2009, 1:31am replied:

I'm sure Valve values your expert opinion. After all, you -are- a world-renowned modder, indeed you're the next Gooseman!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Swaggletooth
Swaggletooth Jan 10 2009, 9:01am replied:

LOL

Oh honestly, since when was a game about zombies ever realistic? Thank god they put gameplay before pretentious BS.

+1 vote     reply to comment
sbnewsom
sbnewsom Jan 9 2009, 4:27am says:

Pitch black environments don't create atmosphere. It creates the lack thereof. Same can be said for the Diablo 3 art direction decision. There's a lot more to be seen when we can actually see it.

The game is suppose to be a fun zombie killing fest with your friends. Not a Doom 3 coop game with repetitive corridors and cheap scares.

Not to mention, I prefer tense moments over crappy scares...which L4D does ever so well.

+4 votes     reply to comment
Joel8160
Joel8160 Jan 9 2009, 4:49am says:

Before: Damn! Can't see a thing 'round here! *GASP* a zombie!! That'll teache 'em!! But what's that in the distance? It's too dark in 'ere.

After: Aha! Four zomboh's!! Let's kick sum A$$!!!!!

+1 vote     reply to comment
BunnyJen
BunnyJen Jan 9 2009, 5:49am says:

I like the way they did it. Loads of scary games just make it extremely dark to make it scary. This is a different kind of scary, you're on your toes all the time as you can always see something in the distance and have to ready yourself for them running at you.

+1 vote     reply to comment
General_Atrox
General_Atrox Jan 9 2009, 7:04am says:

Its interesting, however i'd have to give it ago before i give my truest opinion.

It looks very nice, bit of a House of the Dead or Resident Evil touch, i'm not sure :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
dethtoll
dethtoll Jan 10 2009, 4:06am replied:

It's probably closer to House of the Dead with fast monsters than anything else.

+1 vote     reply to comment
stonecold23
stonecold23 Jan 9 2009, 7:07am says:

for a start could you imagine using the hunting rifle in the dark?! the only gun worth using would be shotty because everything would be close range. and the game play would have been monotonous because of the constant close combat. you need breaks between fighting up close and sections where your walking along expecting stuff to happen. otherwise you just get cheap scares every now and then when a zombie pops up in the darkness. having the light fog means you can take down long range infected (we dont use the z-word) and breaks it up a bit. but hasnt stopped me getting bored of the game. 4 levels and a ****** server browser what were you thinking valve! now i have to type "openserverbrowser" in console every time. and that never seems to load anymore! imo has about 20 hours of fun in that game. then is boring because of the lack of content. 4 levels! and dont use the excuse each one has 5 sections!!! and still no sdk! groan.
its a good idea and the core gameplay is well executed but there isn't enough of it. and not really enough variety would have liked to see at least 8 levels on release. i would still be playing it.

0 votes     reply to comment
Grossmond
Grossmond Jan 9 2009, 9:23am replied:

Everyone here should test this before making a final choice on which one is better.

sv_cheats 1
fog_override 1
fog_enable 0

I will give that there are some moments the Rifle would not be the weapon of choice, but there are others where not having one would be a sad mistake. In Blood Harvest you gain at least a 30%-65% farther max view distance. You can actually SEE the farm house on the finale from the hill, spots like that would make a rifle a happy hunter.

Played through all 4 campaigns with the above settings, and for me personally it makes the game a lot more fun. Just remember if you can't see that is what a flash light is for.

+2 votes     reply to comment
sbnewsom
sbnewsom Jan 10 2009, 9:55am replied:

Have fun playing on Expert. Oh wait, the game might just be annoying, if not more so.

+1 vote     reply to comment
ausbushman
ausbushman Jan 9 2009, 4:24pm says:

I think the blog post explains it well enough:

"... Left 4 Dead takes place in a variety of dimly lit nighttime environments. Because of this, playtesters weren't able to see zombie silhouettes in the midground and background. Because of this, they were repeatedly getting mobbed.

While sudden zombie attacks were inarguably scary, they were also frustrating — players weren't being given the information they needed to react. They wanted that "Here they come!" moment, and we weren't giving it to them. The solution? Light-colored fog...

While not as realistic-looking as actual fog in some settings, it meant playtesters could see attackers in the distance. Once they were able to anticipate attacks, playtesters started to have a much better time."

It all comes down to gameplay and thank goodness Valve tested for that.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Lucífer
Lucífer Jan 10 2009, 12:15am says:

Combine the two in some areas to be honest, if pitch black, using torch would reach right to the end(if there is one) and you could see a lot.

Basically! Like in the intro, watch it, when there is the witch in the building/room its pitch black, but outside it had the dim-fog.

That is what they failed to make it like.
Subway would be almost pitch black, thus making Boomers, Hunters and Smokers a lot more dangerous.(tanks would not be that much more difficult)
Now, whereas the outdoor areas would have dim lighting.

-2 votes     reply to comment
ausbushman
ausbushman Jan 10 2009, 1:13am replied:

If they made the decision to use the fog rather than the pitch black then I don't see how they 'failed'. Did you read the blog? There's good reason behind their decision.

Like Grossmond said, if you want the pitch blackness then add the fog settings to your single player campaign and enjoy.

+1 vote     reply to comment
krg
krg Jan 24 2009, 3:31am says:

The difference between the dark and light colored fog is astounding

there really should be a patch to tone down the amount of bright fog (which also amps up the difficulty) cuz its like daytime with the fog.

Second pic has too much fog, first pic has no fog. Where is the "Just Right"?

+1 vote     reply to comment
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