left 4 dead He has one of the best box art designs in recent gaming history. Simple, eye-catching, and memorable thanks to that nifty little finger joke, the light green L4D Cover was a staple on everyone’s PC gaming desk, or on the floor near the TV, in the zombie game’s heyday. However, Chet Faliszek, a Valve developer whose credits also include Portal and Half-Life, says getting the Left 4 Dead art right was a bit of a nightmare, with one particular meeting in the futuristic Steam Deck maker being particularly “brutal.”
It is not an easy task, trying to include everything the game is about in a single, attractive and distinctive image. Left 4 Dead will eventually pull it off, and take its place among the best box art, but a cover photo of a prototype recently shared online — which you can see below, along with the final design — prompts Faliszek to recall the difficult creative process.
“The box cover meeting was brutal,” says Valesek. “I wasn’t ready and my ass was handed to me because I sure didn’t think it worked, but I couldn’t clearly articulate why.”
Faliszek, who also worked on episodes of Half-Life 2, details how Left 4 Dead’s cover was designed and finalized – and how he began by reimagining the artwork for Steven Spielberg’s WW2 TV series Band of Brothers.
“So there was a box art encounter,” Valesque explains. “I didn’t know it was coming. I didn’t prepare for it. The band of fraternity photo was the first one shown. I didn’t like it, and I couldn’t articulate why I didn’t like it because of two things. First, I didn’t look up—I didn’t look up and I didn’t see where it was. project with everyone else.
“This meeting made such an impression on me that I can tell you where I was sitting. Gabe [Newell] He was across from me, the door was over there. I screwed up, and Gabe wouldn’t let me off the hook. I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t ready. So not only was I looking up, but I wasn’t expressing to the team the vision, the feeling and the guts of the game.”
Faliszek discusses how he felt in the meeting, and some of the reasons why he felt unable to properly explain his opinion of Left 4 Dead’s project box art. As you might imagine, working at Valve, especially right after the launch of Half-Life 2, can be a little intimidating when it comes to sharing your creative visions. Faliszek explains more:
“Up until this point, Valve had made Half-Life 2 and stuff that was pretty much like symphony orchestras, and it’s close to perfection. I was doing rock bands in college and got so drunk you’d puke on the side. And I was scared to say it. I don’t belong.” To a family of creators. We don’t make movies. And so it was weird that in this room I was allowed to say things like, “Oh, no, you’re wrong, that’s not him.”
“But by this time I was taking a beating. Gabe talked to me afterward about it to see if it was okay because he likes to have those kinds of meetings where he can be very clear with people. And he was very clear with people that I let him down, and he was right, I did. And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool,’ because I learned a lot from that. It imprinted on me that I’m allowed to have this, I’m allowed to be creative, and I’m allowed to talk about this.”
Faliszek describes how the meeting enabled him to describe Left 4 Dead in different terms, and gave him a better sense of how to discuss other creative ideas. In fact, he credits the “wild” meeting with helping solidify the vision of the core L4D experience.
He says, “It’s a zombie apocalypse with your friends, right?”. “It’s awful, but with your friends, it’s such a fun time. All these kinds of things came out of that. And he just got out of that—not because I was smart enough to talk about it beforehand—but because Gabe pulled it out of me and pushed me into it. That was cool.” And I’ve kept that lesson ever since.”
So, next time you fire up Left 4 Dead and marvel at the perfectly balanced co-op gameplay, painstakingly detailed environments, and classic monster designs, keep in mind that even the box art has been sparkling and meticulously crafted. I wonder what the cover of Left 4 Dead 3 will look like …
Check out some of our other best horror games, or maybe other best games like Left 4 Dead. Oh, and if you’ve been reading about some of Valve’s all-time nostalgic vibes, you can also go back to the classic era with some of the best retro games on PC.
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