Cory Dotorow in his book Down and out in the
"Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success".
What’s this got to do with Left 4 Dead? Well, L4D embodies perfectly a real world Whuffie system. In L4D you will be hated, hated, if you don’t work with your team. In one game of vs. mode in which I was participating, a fellow survivor (the humans) was evidently an inexperience player or deliberately stuffing around and jumped off a building, killing himself. Rather than just accept this act, someone initiated a vote to kick the player, and it passed (I’ll admit, I voted him out too). You just cannot tolerate incompetence, or worse, a deliberate gung-ho attitude. You will die horribly and quickly, even horribly quickly, as there will be no one there to knock that pouncing hunter off you when he gets you from behind. Your team-mates save you from your helplessness, and in return you just cannot help but like them for it. Speaking only for myself, of course, but I think a degree of this applies across the board, it makes me want to save them just as much in return. This is the essence of good cooperative play – the encouragement to work together with little to no incentive to abandon people to a grisly fate. After all, if they’re dead then they can’t help you.
I’ve been pretty quiet on the blogging front lately, and it’s all because of Left 4 Dead. The game is really quite hard to stop playing, and largely because it facilitates a strange, temporary bond between a small group of players. Like war veterans, by the finale we are in a groove and all know to when to duck or when to avoid moving, so we don’t cross each others line of fire. Conversely, you can usually tell before the finale if you’re going to make it or not as a team. I can almost not count the number of times I’ve stalled on the third act.
I do have a small criticism, perhaps, for Valve if they ever drop by my blog, and it’s that they didn’t give us more! Sadly, until Valve playtest further and make the necessary tweaks and changes, you can only play versus mode on 2 of the 4 campaigns. That seems an unfortunate limitation. Still, if the modding scene is any good (and all early indications are that it is) then I’m sure we’ll see more than a few custom campaigns before too long.