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L4D2 Level Design Tips Part 2

Category: Source: L4D 1 & 2
December 13, 2009

Part 2/2 Left 4 Dead 2 Level Design tips.

Read L4D2 Level Design Tips Part 1 here.

8. Alarm Scenarios

Alarm scenarios in L4D2 are something that was introduced in the sequel. I really enjoy the dynamic that it creates.

No longer do the scenarios require pushing a button and waiting for the crescendo to end. Now you push a button, which triggers an alarm. Your next step is to turn off or disable the alarm. Which often requires you to run and fight the hordes of infected. The off button is often quiet ways off from where you are, adding a lot of tension and fun to the scenario.


Dead Center Coke Bottles

Aim for designing your map where the player has to participate and make choices in your map. Trigger an alarm and design a way for your survivors to run and deactivate that alarm.

You can use an alarm system, a door opening, or a bridge coming down.

9. Narrow Hallways

In original L4D narrow hallways were considered a safe point. A place where you could recharge, take a break and re-group. With the introduction of the new infected The Charger and The Spitter, narrow hallways became dangerous.

Use narrow hallways in your map to add an element of danger and a way to break up large environments and open spaces.

It will allow for players to regroup, recharge and have an element of tension and danger where a charger could come through the hallway any minute.

10. Multiple Pathways

L4D2 now offers multiple pathways to reaching your objective. With the AI Director you can build multiple pathways in your map and then tell the director to randomly pick which way will be open and which one will be closed.

This gives the player a path of going through the environment that is different every time they play. Player doesn’t know which way will be open, and a different way of playing every time.

The psychology factor introduced here is uncertainty, which is very important in creating tension in your level.

Parish Cemetery

Parish Cafe. The wooden door is an alternate way of going through the map. Controlled by the director.

11. Vertical Axis

L4D2 offers a lot more verticality, z-axis elements then the original. Instead of sprawling the map over a flat terrain, x and y-axis. It adds height elements as a way to create tension. Elevation adds a strategic element to L4D2 maps; advantages/disadvantages to the infected or the survivors.

Advantage to the survivors being on higher ground. As well as an advantage to the infected. Ability for smoker to seperate the survivors.

Use busses

Add the ability to go onto rooftops

Create elevation such as floors, terrain and a reason for survivors to get up top or go below.

12. Splitting the Group

L4D2 introduces new interesting ways to split up the group of survivors. Designing your scenarios where it is more beneficial to split up the group such as in Dead Center campaign where you have to get the bottles of soda, or the gas cans in the finale.

It adds tension, strategic elements to the gameplay. You are not just reaction now, you are making choices and that is what a good campaign is all about. Making choices as a team of survivors and participating in the game.

Design first on paper. Think of ways how you can add a way to create your scenarios of the survivors could make a decision to split the group to complete a give set of tasks.

Draw it out and write it out. Away from the computer is where your ideas of splitting up the group will come from. Make sure you have the proper plan first before you jump into Hammer.

13. Director

L4D2 comes with a new and improved director system. Director controls where the infected spawn, when the horde comes and where and which items spawn.

In original L4D you would need to place individual items such as weapons, pills, health kits, gas cans, propane tanks and car alarms.

Now with new improved director, you can control when and what spawns where. The director is also able to control which way paths in your map will be open and closed, car alarms, crescendo events and weather.

With the new director you are now have more control of making your map be different every time the player plays it. Use the director to your advantage.

14. Water

In L4D2 Valve spend a lot of time on optimizing their water effects for better performance. That is why you see a lot more water levels in the game such as the Swamps and the last finale in Parish.

Also water serves a functional purpose in the game. You can now easily control which direction the water will flow.

In the Swamps level there is a subtle flow of the water guiding the player towards the way they need to go. If you play the map again, notice that certain spots in the map water subtly flows towards the ending point of the map. Thus subconsciously guiding the player.

15. Weather

L4D2 introduces new impressive weather system. It is controlled by the director and starts and stops randomly. You never know when and where it will start or stop.

The weather system is done through changing of fog, particle effects, tone mapping, bsp alteration, sound effects, local contrast and post processing.

Weather system is used in L4D2 as a crescendo event. Making the players stick close together and seek cover.

If you are going to use the weather system in your maps, think of it as another crescendo event. Something that will make players stick together and stay in one area and wait for the storm to blow over. Use it as a gameplay element. As an advantage to the infected and a disadvantage to the survivors.

What do you think? Did you notice more level design insight from the game?

Read L4D2 Level Design Tips Part 1 here.


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