I think by now we all know Valve has some really creative fans. Their mod community is one of the best. Often mods and addons are just as good, if not better then what Valve makes themselves. It looks like that could be the case for the Left 4 Dead addon: I Hate Mountains. I was lucky to get a interview with the team behind the upcoming campaign.
Pixelated Geek: How long has the team been working on the mod?
IHM Team: Well, it’s hard to say because the project went through a lot of different phases. We first worked on the project in late august 2008, more than a month before we released Portal: Prelude into the wild. We had this idea of a single player survival-horror mod for quite a long time and we thought it was the time to launch it. When Left 4 Dead was released in November 2008, we just jumped on the occasion and ported the project under this game. We learned everything we had to learn between November and January and we everything we had to learn between November and January and we finally started to work on I Hate Mountains in late January 2009. Which means there’s 15 months in the making, with highs and lows.
PG: How big is the team that’s working on it?
IHM Team: Well, everything’s on our website: We’re only 3, with punctual help from friends and colleagues. I think it was a bit short but more people would have added more complexity in the making and that wasn’t something we wanted. We wanted to have fun, not managing people all day long.
PG: What inspired the team to make I Hate Mountains?
IHM Team: We had a fairly long brainstorming session during a few days where we were basically looking for random pictures all over the Internet. As time passed by, we narrowed our search on materials that best suited our needs and we came across pictures of the British Columbia in West Canada. I must say that we fell in love at first sight with the setting. Our project was already looking a bit like the area and we saw a lot of potential in pine woods, sawmills, lakes and mountains. None of us had already worked on something like that, so we all agreed to go this way. We drew a lot of inspiration from early Alan Wake screenshots and concepts and were really disappointed to learn it would not be released on PC. This is quite like the ultimate model we wanted to achieve.
PG: What made the team want to do nature based levels? We haven’t seen that much.
IHM Team: Good question. During all these years making multiplayer levels for Day of Defeat: Source, Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Insurgency, the Garry’s Mod, and such, we almost always worked on outdoor levels. I guess it’s kind of our specificity. I was personally just released from Portal: Prelude and its oppressing indoor environments and needed some fresh air. Besides that, we had much more fun on Death Toll and Blood Harvest than we had on No Mercy and Dead Air. We also polled our friends and the same fact kept popping up, most players preferred outdoor environments. I guess there’s also the fact that most people where taking the path of custom campaigns that all looked like clones of Dead Air or No Mercy, and they weren’t that popular among the players, so we thought we had to change that.
PG: What modes will IHM feature?
IHM: What modes will it feature? 5 maps co-op and 5 maps versus. No survival because we don’t like it at all and the documentation and tools are not quite up to date nor compatible with what we did.
PG: Valve recorded a few lines for I Hate Mountains. How did that come about?
IHM Team: Well, Chet Faliszek (one of the project leads on Left 4 Dead) came across the Left 4 Dead mailing-list on day and asked modders if we needed a few lines to complete our campaigns because they may have a bit of extra time during the recording session of The Passing. We sent him a few lines and we got a few replies. There’s also a lot of lines in the original Left 4 Dead that were never used and that we took advantage of. It was a very long and tedious process involving the listening of hours of survivor sentences, but it paid off.
PG: When can we expect the campaign to be released?
IHM Team: We REALLY want to release it during the first week of June 2010. A.K.A. the next week. We’re organizing our last pre-release checks right now and so far it’s going almost perfectly, so I guess we’re on schedule!
PG: If/When can we expect a Left 4 Dead 2 port?
IHM Team: That’s a good question, we’re currently undecided about what to do next. We want to get rid of that task as soon as possible to be honest, but we also want to take days off and stop working on the campaign. Both can be compatible, but we’d have to throw a last couple of days of work into it really soon for it to happen. At some point, we considered starting now and trying to release the L4D2 port right after, but maintaining two campaigns at the same time is quite hard. Once we fork over Left 4 Dead 2, it’s just not the same files anymore, we have to update both in parallel, and that’s a big burden, especially if many problems are reported after the release.