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Why It’s Time to Stop Hoping for Left 4 Dead 3

by Lisa Hayden
Left $ Dead

Leave it to devoted Left 4 Dead fans to keep their hopes up for a third installment of the franchise, despite all indications that it will never be made. And why shouldn’t they? After all, trailers and screenshots keep emerging. Even if these are inevitably debunked as hoaxes, they indicate that there is continuing interest in the franchise, and it helps keep alive the possibility that someday, a Left 4 Dead 3 may be developed.

What is the Status of Left 4 Dead 3?

When Left 4 Dead 2 was released in 2009, it was not as well received as the first game. It was only a year after the release of Left 4 Dead, and many fans felt it was unnecessarily rushed. In addition, it offered nothing new that couldn’t simply be added to the original. There were even reportedly moves to boycott the game among devoted players.

Still, Left 4 Dead 2 was well received enough that it eventually became the “main game” of the franchise. Now, the only question on fans’ minds was, when will the next one be released?

But Valve, developer of the games, has never made a formal announcement that there would be a third entry in the franchise. In a 2012 interview with Eurogamer, writer Chet Faliszek, who wrote the story for the first game, was asked whether he would do Left 4 Dead 3. He simply replied, “sometime down the road”, adding that this was not a promise of where or when a third one would be released. 

Valve itself has been silent about Left 4 Dead 3, and Faliszek left the company in 2017. But leaks may indicate that it had been in some stage of development.

An HTC Vive benchmark tool created using Verve’s Source Engine seemed to include possible leaks of a third L4D. According to a 2016 video from Tyler McVicker of Valve News Network, after going through the source files, he unearthed several assets and references to L4D 3. These included an older male character that may be a Survivor or a non-playable character, a night/day cycle and The Nocturnal, a special new enemy.

Later in the year, the fansite ValveTime reported that a Destinations Workshop Tools tutorial published to Steam by Valve employee Tristan Reidford may have contained proof that L4D 3 was in development. The tutorial contained a screenshot of Reidford’s Windows Explorer favorites, which included a folder labeled ‘left4dead3’ listed at the top. The image was quickly taken down and replaced with a new one.

The only other official mention of Left 4 Dead was during a Reddit AMA held by Valve president Gabe Newell. He mentioned that the game was a good place to create “shared narratives”.

There is speculation among observers that the game had quietly been cancelled after some development work was done on it. But there is no evidence to back this up.

If it had been in development, the natural people to work on it would be Turtle Rock Studios, who created the original game. But after being bought by Valve in 2008, they left and reorganized themselves as an independent company. At present, they are working on Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to L4D that is a first-person co-op zombie shooter.

Rumors and Hoaxes

2019 has proven to be a bounty for fans that want to get hyped up about the possibility of a Left 4 Dead 3, as a trailer and screenshots from the game were ‘leaked’. Unfortunately, these both were ultimately revealed to be hoaxes.

The fake trailer was posted in May to YouTube by the channel Clusterflu961, which is from Canada. As of this writing, it remains the only upload from the channel.

If it’s any consolation to fans, the video is of high quality and looks professional. It drew more than 280,000 views on the day it was posted. 

The trailer shows what seems to be a safe house that used to be a gas station, complete with canned food and barricaded doors. The camera glides to a downstairs room, where there are blueprints, maps and notes like “survivors location” and “mutant fanatic”. 

It then moves back up, to reveal a zombie head pinned by a pickaxe to a shelf. The camera moves outdoors, where the ground is littered with bullet shells and a car is adorned with human guts. The last shot shows a zombie hand with three upraised fingers, and as the trailer fades out, we hear some zombie outcries. 

Fans quickly assumed that the trailer was a fraud, because it was different from other teasers released by Valve. For one, it was very different from the one released for the second game, which was visceral and frantic, while the fake teaser was purely environmental. 

Another questionable element was the presence of real-life brands like Life and Pepsi. These would require pricy license deals, and there is no evidence that Valve has done that. Even if the developer had ponied up for the rights to use these brands in the game, they would most likely not appear in promotional materials. 

Of course, Valve quickly confirmed to PC Gamer that the ‘trailer’ was a fake after the site reached out to them. Still, it inspired a whole host of conspiracy theories from fans on Reddit. One poster speculated that the title of the video, which consists of seemingly random alphanumeric characters, includes the date 6 November 2019. November was the month both L4D games were released. 

Left 4 Dead News

Another poster suggested that the video is actually genuine, and may have been created by Cloudhead games. The VR game studio is presently working with Valve on the Aperture Hand Labs VR experience.

Of course, this is also purely speculation, but conspiracy theorists can latch on to the fact that Cloudhead is based in Canada. This, of course, is where Clusterflu961 is from. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Also getting fans hyped were 29 alleged screenshots from a supposed early build of L4D 3, before it was cancelled. These were also revealed by Tyler McVicker, who claimed that the shots used the “assets set” of the remade Dust 2 map of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 

Based on the metadata from the screenshots, the game would have been in development in 2013 and had a Middle Eastern theme. It would have featured eight characters, four from the earlier games, and four new ones. The returning characters would have been Nick, Coach, Lewis, and Zoey.

Evidence that these screenshots might actually have been from a cancelled L4D 3 game was provided by an earlier upload by concept artist Moby Francke. After leaving Valve in 2013, Francke uploaded what many fans believe is concept art from L4D 3.

The art features two men wearing Middle Eastern clothing. Fans believe that the screenshots and Francke art are directly related because of a 2015 upload to the Steam Database of a version of Aperture Robot Repair. The skin textures and clothing it contains are virtually identical to the men’s garments in Francke’s uploads.

In the midst of all these supposed leaks, there had actually been an actual hoax a year earlier. In 2018, hackers hacked the official site of Left 4 Dead and changed the link to its Facebook page. The new link directed users to a fake page allegedly belonging to developer Ted Carson. 

The header image of the fake page featured a zombie hand holding up three fingers. Fans momentarily saw this as proof that L4D 3 was on the way. Unfortunately, Valve quickly changed the link back, dashing fans’ hopes.

Carson had already been linked to rumors related to L4D 3. A Pastebin dump from a few years earlier allegedly revealed that he had been working on the game. 

A leaked photo allegedly taken at Valve headquarters also supposedly provided evidence that the game had been in development. The photo was of a developer’s screen showing the changelog history. It allegedly showed that the developer had edited Left 4 Dead 3 content.

Of course, neither of these “leaks” was ever officially confirmed. And that’s where the things stand, as of today.

Left 4 Dead Trailer

A more recent rumor claimed that Left 4 Dead 3 and Half-Life 3 were both cancelled due to Valve’s supposed focus on “cosmetic microtransactions”. The rumor came from an alleged former developer who said that since microtransactions were big money makers, every team at Valve was now dedicated to them.

The developer claimed that there was a small group in the company working on L4D 3, but the game was cancelled shortly after he came on board. Eventually, teams within the company focused on creating cosmetic items for Valve’s “big three” games – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2 and Defense of the Ancients (DOTA).  

In addition, another unnamed senior employee claimed that Valve would never develop another first-person game, since it was no longer worth their time and effort. He cited the example of “Portal 2”, which made a profit of ‘only’ $200 million. Compare this to the hundreds of millions the company could make selling things such as paint jobs for guns and digital hats, and $200 million begins to look like “chump change”, he said.

Should Fans Continue to Hope for L4D 3?

It has been ten years since L4D 2 was released, and in the interim, it seems that the game has gradually become less popular among players. According to Chet Faliszek, as of 2012, the two games had sold over 12 million copies, making it a huge success for Valve.

However, a look at the Steam charts listing of games with the most concurrent players shows that, as of this writing, it has only 12,686 players and a 24-hour peak of 20, 251 players. This is a far cry from its all-time peak of 161,590 players. 

Compare this with DOTA 2, which has 482,318 current players and a peak of 865,374 players. You can see why Valve is probably not in any hurry to develop Left 4 Dead 3.

Valve also does not care about revisiting old franchises. This is according to Gabe Newell, who said in an interview with the Polygon podcast in 2015 that the company would need a “good reason” to revisit a franchise. Newell said that the only reason they would do it is if Valve developers internally said they want to do it and could provide a “reasonable explanation” as to why. 

And, of course, as we pointed out earlier, Valve does not care about making new games, given that they already make millions from non-gaming ventures. Their online digital gaming platform Steam, which has become synonymous with computer gaming, made $4.3 billion in 2017 from paid games alone. This figure does not include revenue from in-app purchases, micro-transactions and DLCs, which could bring in millions more. 

Left 4 Dead’s success has also led to the market being saturated by games with similar gameplay. When L4D was released, there weren’t that many team-based co-op shooters for consoles. But in the years since, games like Earthfall and Strange Brigade have added new spins to the PvE gameplay popularized by L4D.  

Thus, Valve would have to bring something genuinely innovative to a new L4D game to make it stand out. And it seems that they are not willing to put in the effort since it is already making billions without having to develop new games.

Hence, it seems that it may be time for Left 4 Dead fans to move on. After all, as we pointed out, it’s not as if there are no other co-op shooters to choose from. And if you simply want to fight zombies, you can try Dying Light, which has sold more than 13 million copies as of February 2018, and has a sequel on the way. There are even shooters based on The Walking Dead and World War Z.

But if you really must have your Left 4 Dead fix, you can wait for Back 4 Blood. The new game, which does not yet have a release date, has been described as a cooperative shooter in which players face off against throngs of zombies. Maybe it’s time to get hyped for that, instead.

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