Left 4 Dead Early Access Demo

Those who have pre-ordered Left 4 Dead will hopefully have noticed that the demo’s actually gone live. We only just managed it, as jetlag is preventing me noticing anything other than the taste of tea and Hobnobs. The demo is one and a half maps of NO MERCY – worth noting that the saferoom where it ends is one that’s been added for the demo – the full version of that level is a lot bigger. You can play single-player or co-op, but there’s no access to the versus mode. And everyone else gets a shot on November 11th.

However, it’s not entirely a smooth launch.

Firstly, there’s the usual bunch of PC launch technical problems – there’s a lot of complaints about bluescreens floating around. In fact, I just had one when I quit out of the demo – and, I stress, this is after I’d updated my drivers, as requested. Also, having some trouble joining servers. Or finding them.

Secondly, there’s a little bit of a furore over its server system. Left4Dead411 reports, quoting a mail from the HLDS mailing list explaining the new system:

Left 4 Dead will use the new matchmaking system we’ve been working on.

The new matchmaking system replaces the traditional server browser. By running a public dedicated server your server will be added to a list of servers available for clients to use when playing. Games are started from a Game Lobby by clients, who are then connected to a dedicated server when they start the game. When they’re done, your server is added back to the list of available servers. Clients will be able to “Quick Match”, “Play Online”, and “Play With Friends” when they want to play a game.

You will still have access to the traditional Message of the Day for your server. For Left 4 Dead, we’ve added a banner ad you can create that will be displayed to clients when they’re playing on your server. There is also a ranking system to show the popularity of your server.

This is the first version of what we’ve been working on, and we’re going to want feedback from all of you once things start turning up tomorrow.

In other words, there’s no traditional browser or explicit way to join a set server, etc. Which has caused 411 to get uppity – though, to their credit, they do add that, “This is about all the information we have at this time, so we warn you that the following is an overreaction caused by lack of knowledge of the situation.”

You will not be able to select a specific server to play on. If your clan pitches in for a dedicated server, it will just be added to the system. You will have no easy/intuitive way to just connect to the server you’re paying for. You could spend $100 a month on a super high-quality server while some other guy runs one out of his basement, and instead of enjoying what you paid for you’d be equal with everybody else.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?


  1. An Innocuous Coin says:

    I haven’t had any lockups or the like yet, but I have been dropped from well over half the games I’ve attempted to play – that said, when I can get into a game, its quite a lot of fun. Way, way too short though; normal mode is basically worthless once you know what you’re doing, at least for me. Hoping there’s some kind of dedicated server option in the full game, though I have to say I don’t necessarily mind the system going now.

  2. Malagate says:

    When I was playing last night I pretty much never found a dedicated server, it seemed I always had to use the lan option which sometimes failed spectacularly with only me making it into the game. Even with my online friends living very close it sometimes timed out for them, when it worked it worked brilliantly though.

    I’m totally going to try this workaround later, but it does really annoy me how at the end of every game you’re forced to watch the advert and then booted off the server so that you have to find another one. It’s so frustrating to not be able to just stay on the decent server that you found randomly through the lobby system.

    In the Lobby systems favour, it is really good for getting together with friends and getting them all ready for a game, it’s just getting onto the server afterwards that’s a real pain.

  3. MonkeyMonster says:

    There has been a patch already (this morning) to allow you to connect to specific servers etc. and updates for server’s too.
    Early days for this as they say but I too am one of the many totally surprised that they didn’t see this coming…

  4. manintheshack says:

    Unloading an entire SMG clip into a horde of undead as they swarm around your downed teammate is immensely satisfying. Youcan easily take down 5-10 at once. Really wish the demo was longer. The Director does make things more interesting, but two levels just ain’t enough.

    Most fantastic part of the game so far is the calm before the storm, hearing the many, many zombies screaming around the corner, getting louder and louder until… BAMBAMBAMBAM!

  5. Thiefsie says:


    Fun, good with co-op, matchmaking sucks, weapon models suck, gun sounds are weak as, voice is way too loud compared to canned comments (cant hear canned comments at all basically), too easy on the modes I’ve played – first time playing died once then completed the demo on advanced with nobodies.

    However… a lot of fun and I can’t wait for more levels and polish.

  6. cm7 says:

    1: Open console.
    2: Type “openserverbrowser”
    3: ???
    4: Profit!

  7. cyrenic says:

    For those of you having weird memory type issues, have you tried going into the graphics options and setting Paged Pool Memory to “Medium”? I was having stuttering issues last night and that fixed them.

    Some people have also had luck turning off V-Synch.

  8. Cooper42 says:

    It’s been an arse, as often the lobby chooses a dedicated server with high latency for the players…

    I’m glad there are ways around it, but it’s not intuitive. The easiest solution would be for the lobby starter to have an option to select which dedicated, rather than choosing one randomly…

  9. nakke says:

    [also to stop people from just playing the demo ala Q3 demo.]

    Well, the demo is going to be disabled on the 18th, so I don’t see how that could happen.

  10. LactoseTheIntolerant says:

    Right, actually made it into a couple of online games with a friend tonight. Verdict? Bloody smashing. Very happy with my order and cannot wait for the full release!

  11. Nero says:

    I’ve been using the server browser to get into games which worked much better, and have been having a blast. Been playing mostly on Expert today, and while we die alot it’s such a great feeling actually finishing the demo at last. Been having a blast with plenty of random people. Great great fun.

  12. Armyofnone says:

    L4D demo–played it for a day. Amazing. Expert difficulty took me and my friends 3 hours to beat, and another hour of failed attempts to beat it again. There was no lag, but if you host it yourself as a LAN, you gotta have your ports forwarded, with a good connection. Regardless, most fun I’ve had with my friends in a LONG time. Totally worth every penny of a pre-order.

  13. Rob Zacny says:

    Most embarrassing thing that has happened to me yet: this morning I started talking to a bot.

    We were near the end of our tether at the very last room of the demo, and setting up to defend against the last couple waves. I was trying to figure out what everyone’s assigned roll was, as I started asking, “Hey, Francis, do you want to open the door, while I stay on the minigun?”

    He didn’t answer. After a minute, one of my teammates said, “Uh, dude, that’s not a person.”

    Which was kind of mortifying.

    Haven’t beat expert yet, but I’ve only tried it with one team and they were a bunch of gits. Each time we got killed, one guy would get on the mike and start whining, “Guys, we gotta go slower. We gotta slow down. We’re going too fast.”

    Nothing, I mean nothing, would make him understand the concept of the Director.

  14. Unrein says:

    So far I’ve had about a 50% success rate on Expert with random groups. And I’ve made a bunch of friends on the way. The difficulty feels Just Right(tm), so I play pretty much exclusively on it.

  15. elefaire says:

    Well I’ve just played single player so far and I’m surprised at how many criticisms I immediately have. I was expecting this to blow everything else away but right now it’s no TF2. It’s good, it’s unique, and I’m buying it, but it doesn’t seem insta-classic. Haven’t played as infected yet, of course.

  16. casstheass says:

    The game was awsome. donno about not laging.

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