We've all got lost in games. I don't mean that we've become so engrossed that external factors cease to matter - toast burns, cats starve, love falters, etc - although if you're reading this site then that's probably true as well. I mean we've gotten lost in games. It used to be a common complaint, in fact, that games spun you around or suddenly stopped saying new things and it would take ages to figure out what you were expected to do.
It's a busy time for Valve, and it's a busy time for Chet Faliszek. Fresh from his work on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (more on its absence from the EU PlayStation Store later), he's now hard at work making Left 4 Dead, the ground-breaking co-op zombie thriller, better. But he still found the time to pop along to Eurogamer Expo last week to deliver a developer session (twice) on how to get a job in the game industry.
Like many people, I've been been playing a lot of Black Ops lately. A little too much, perhaps. When you smear yourself in camo paint and start looking for decent camping spots on your way to the bus stop, you know you're overdoing it.
One of the greatest pleasures provided by recent Valve games has been the option to play through them again with the developers' commentary enabled, accessing the team's comments by nudging little speech bubbles dotted around the worlds of Portal, Episode Two and even Team Fortress 2. As anyone's who had the pleasure of reading through Raising the Bar will tell you, these guys know a thing or two about guiding you around a complex world and getting you to enjoy it for the reasons they intended.
It's early September in Seattle, Washington, and on every television channel, the Republican Party and the health insurance lobby are teaming up to murder the plucky British NHS in wall-to-wall attack adverts. Meanwhile, on a series of HD displays in Valve's Bellevue offices, Tom Bramwell, Eurogamer editor, and Chet Faliszek ("F as in Frank, A-L-I-S, Z as in Zebra, E-K," he says with a practiced efficiency), ostensibly a writer at Valve although I suspect he does a lot more besides, are teaming up all by themselves to murder waves of infected, while I wait patiently for my rescue behind a locked door somewhere in the distance, having been covered in bright green acidic goop by a Spitter, and then ridden off a cliff rather abruptly by a Jockey.
Unlike the movie and music industries, which leave you in no doubt you're watching a McG picture or listening to a Lady GaGa record (and in my case leave me wondering why), videogames haven't always been great about acknowledging the people who deserve the most credit.
It might be all strawberries and cream and sunshine at Wimbledon, but the only summer sport we were interested in this week was a game of mixed zombie doubles in a dingy, dimly-lit tunnel beneath a railway bridge in London. Undead beats Fed every time.
It's hardly normal for fans to become enraged by the announcement that a best-selling game is getting a sequel sooner than expected, but Valve has never been a normal videogame developer. When Left 4 Dead 2 was announced at this year's E3, the community was divided between those who were more than happy to fight the horde afresh in sunny New Orleans, and those concerned that a company synonymous with free DLC was about to cut its recent multiplayer crowd-pleaser loose less than a year after its release. (At least everybody agreed that smacking the undead around with a frying pan was probably a positive development.) We sat down with Doug Lombardi, Valve's vice president of marketing, to talk about the past and future of the Left 4 Dead franchise, the perils and perks of procedural pacing, and how the company makes all of its games "inside-out".
You can usually rely on Valve to do the unexpected, even if the unexpected is exactly what you'd expect any other developer to do. Valve isn't known for its haste in following up successful games, and you might have thought it was high time for more Counter-Strike, never mind Half-Life or Portal. But with Left 4 Dead recently reissued in a Game of the Year Edition and still selling like shotgun shells in a zombie apocalypse, Valve has uncharacteristically decided to strike while the iron is red hot.