Have you played Left 4 Dead yet? If you haven’t then don’t worry this post might still prove relevant to you! If you have then the chances are that you’ve played it offline with the CPU taking charge of three of the survivors and both thoroughly enjoyed it while being scared out of your wits (go on admit you were little). It’s also likely you’ve played it online with three other players in a standard co-op multiplayer and the results were probably the same as offline, if only a little bit more engaging.
Now, if you’ve done both of those the chances are you’ve seen a bit of online VS too, which is where you realise it isn’t all Margaritas and dancing girls in post-apocalyptic paradise and is also the point I’m trying to make. If you head over to the L4D blog you will notice that the most recent entry appears to be a statement or apology (in a round about fashion) regarding L4D’s online balancing issues. As anyone who plays a lot of L4D online will tell you, it isn’t nearly as much fun as it should be.
Before I progress any further with this I would like to stress that the balancing issue isn’t strictly Valve’s fault, it is an unfortunate issue when the theory doesn’t work in practice. This balancing issue stems from the fact most games feel one sided as soon as any team has gained the advantage and will ultimately go on to win. This will more than likely result in players leaving the game and it’s geting to the point where the final is canceled due to lack of human players. One thing Valve has done (on the PC at least) is change the order in which teams play the next round based on who was winning the round before it, this was done in the hope that no team can gain the early advantage. So far this has translated into a 5% increase in the final round actually being played, of course this isn’t the only issue and Valve are keen to note “If you don’t see an issue addressed with this update, that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming”.
It’s also worth pointing out that these changes are possible thanks to Valves aherance to collecting game statistics and who here thought statistics were boring?