In Left 4 Dead you play one of group of survivors of a zombie holocaust.
What the hell happened here!!!
That's our scenario and ya can't get away from it. So let's have a good ole think about what this means.
Well, first off it means that you won't probably won't encounter many other non-infected people on your travels. In the official game there was only one other character in the game who wasn't controlling an escape vehicle. The dude in the church.
What did he look like?
We'll never know because you never see him until he's fully turned (a neat bit of work exclusion from valve in my opinion).
So the only evidence of human existance is what they left behind. Every level in the official game had a story to tell though even without anyone there to tell it.
The graffiti on the walls is about as close as we got to a narrative and yet we still had a pretty good idea of what had happened and how. This was done through the placing of props and entities through the map. Think about the cars on the bridge in Crash Course. Here we see a scene of mass panic with cars and buses abandoned by their inhabitants. No one got out alive!
By imagining the events that came before we can create scenes of realistic utter devestation.
Take a look through the models available to us in the SDK and you'll find loads of items through which we can tell our story. A childs teddy, a downed traffic light, a wrecked family saloon car, an ambulance overturned on its side, blood on the floor, and corpses nearby. These elements together tell a story of just one inciddent. You'll need to think of quite a few in order to get your map looking great.
The hardest part is looking at an empty room and asking, "what happened here?".
Is the window broken?
Is there a hole in the roof?
Is the funiture overturned?
Did people try and survive in here?
Did they try to get out?
Are they the infected motherfu**ers trying to break down the door right now?
I find it easiest to play it as a movie in my head.
Mom and dad put the kids in the closet and try to beat the infected over the head with pots and pans to stop them clawing their way through the door. They didn't see the hunter as he leered through the skylight above until it was too late!
The hunter finishes off mom as dad cowers in the corner frozen in horror. Dad looking over at the closet tries to think of any possible way to protect the children. In a final act of terror he hurls himself through the 4th storey window and plummets to his death figuring the hunter will follow him down. Mr hunter considers this option for a moment when he hears a faint muffled cry from the closet.
He approaches and sniffs around the door.
And so on...
I've just created a trashed room full of corpses that the player will see for two seconds.
Is it worth it?
In my mind it is. It expands my little map into a rich world with its own history and makes it a shed load easier to place props in a way that makes sense.
Comment with your own mini stories if you like! Would be great to hear some other ideas!