Half-Life 2, Portal, Left 4 Dead writer working on new “first-person network shooter”

By Matt Martin
6 November 2019 11:45 GMT

Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek has confirmed that his new studio, Stray Bombay, is working on a co-op first-person shooter.

Speaking during the Reboot Develop conference in Canada last week, Faliszek revealed the unnamed shooter will use the Unreal Engine: “we’re making a first person network shooter,” he said.

Stray Bombay had previously only stated it was interested in creating co-op games, although it’s no surprise that Faliszek, responsible for writing Half-Life 2 Episodes, both Left 4 Dead and Portal games, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, is iterating on the type of game he’s most famous for.

Faliszek is working with former Riot Games designer Kimberly Voll, an AI and player psychology expert who worked on VR title Fantastic Contraption.

Stray Bombay’s shooter will combine both co-founders’ strengths, and is hoping to improve matchmaking based on player behaviour rather than skill.

“One of the things that my co-founder worked on at Riot was about matchmaking and how we think about it,” said Faliszek. “Some of that is about, say, you play Left 4 Dead on Thursday and you have a really good session, that game will ask you ‘hey, do you want to friend this person?’. That’s kind of like saying ‘hey, we had a first date, let’s get married’. It’s really overstepping it.

“But if you know from session to session what’s happening, you can say, ‘hey, these people play together, they’re looking for a game now on Thursday, so let’s put them in the room together and give them the opportunity to play again. For us, the metrics are about social, it’s not about skill.”

The design intentions are that once the shooter knows your habits and friends, it can then manipulate gameplay to challenge you based on data analysis.

“Then we can do cool things,” said Faliszek. “These people played four games together and they won so let’s have the game go crazy against them, let’s give them something that will kick their asses. We can make it easier and harder, because if we’re tracking them over sessions we understand them. Nobody has done social matchmaking quite to the extent that we’re doing it. When you have a normal lobby of four people you have to make that split second decision of do I like that person’s name? No. I’m going to drop out of this. Then you keep getting the empty lobby or the one person lobby problem.”

Faliszek said that rather than focus on technological innovation, Stray Bombay is focused on a shooter that will provide short, thrilling play sessions. It won’t be a game that allows players to create their own character they can upgrade over time, either – this is a shooter that gives you the character and away you go.

“We wanted to remove all technical risk. We use Unreal. We are going to ship a game that does not break ground with any new technology at all,” he said. “We’re going to do that with our specialness on top of existing technology and make it our own. From day one we play tested and every single day we playtest.

“We’re giving you 20-30 minute play session where you complete something, come back, and you aren’t your character, you play characters,” he added.

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