Left 4 Dead creator on the boom in co-op games: 'There still aren't enough'

Left 4 Dead
(Image credit: Valve)

Mike Booth, one of the founders of Turtle Rock and creator of Left 4 Dead, recently provided some insight into his creative process and his take on the current influx of co-op games in an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun.

The most surprising titbit for me was his assertion that there still aren't enough co-op games out there today, despite their recent rise in popularity thanks to the pandemic. As Booth puts it, "It's hard to make a good co-op game. Because you have to build the game from the beginning assuming that it's co-op. To design a game assuming that you have to work together to win the game, and not in a punitive way, in a way that players want to do that, and it feels great, is a fundamentally different way of thinking and designing a game around that, and there just aren't enough yet. There still aren't enough."

Booth concluded by reaffirming his commitment to making new co-op experiences in his work at Bad Robot Games and on the upcoming non-VR version of the digital tabletop RPG, Demeo. Discussion of Demeo formed the bulk of the interview, and the Tabletop Simulator-esque experience certainly looks like a good time. I was most intrigued by his discussion of the mechanics behind Demeo and the influence Left 4 Dead's AI 'Director' had on it: "You don't want to actually, behind the scenes, roll the die on individual things. You want to make a virtual deck of cards, shuffle it and deal it out. So that way it's not possible to get the terrible thing happening 17 times in a row - I know it's very unlikely, but it's possible [with dice]. If it's in a deck of cards, and it's only one card, it can only happen once."

It's a fascinating peek behind the curtain so to speak, and a reminder that a developers often put their finger on the scale to make a seemingly "random" system feel fair.

(Image credit: Resolution Games)

I don't know if I'm on board personally with the idea that we're starved for more co-op experiences. My problem is always finding enough people with the time to commit to regular gaming sessions, but that might just be a me problem. Either way, it's fascinating to get a better sense of an industry veteran's perspective.

Demeo is currently available for VR headsets on Steam and the Oculus Store. The non-VR version, called Demeo: PC Edition, will be coming to Steam Early Access in April.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.