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?