Not a few L4D games end up with one side rolling the other, and I’ve been puzzling over this.

Bad day for the survivors

Bad day for the survivors

It can happen in TF2 too, though not as often, and generally with less unhappiness, as a TF2 game only lasts 15 minutes or so.  L4D can last an hour or more.  Some of my friends hate versus mode because of the possibility of rolls

Most of my observations so far are negative.  I can’t predict when a team is going to roll or not.  I’ve been on teams with fantastic players and got rolled, and on teams with newbies and sailed to victory.  The same player can be really hot one evening and a bust the next.  It’s also not a matter of communication, as you might think: I’ve been on teams that are planning all the time, but fail anyway, as well as teams where everyone does their own thing and it works

It’s partly the game design, maybe.  Basically, a single mistake– getting a little ahead or behind your teammates, not noticing that smoker, getting a surprise tank– can be devastating.  (And on the Infected side, you have to have great timing and great location, so it’s easy to miss an opportunity

A lot of it is psychological, I think.  I see teams that have lost a round or two getting frankly depressed.  They start complaining about the game or their luck, and seem to play worse.  When you’re on a winning team, by contrast, it’s a kind of high.  You feel alert and gleeful, and you have hustle– you don’t relax, but keep hitting on the survivors / running for the saferoom

Occasionally, of course, a roll can be reversed, which is even more satisfying (and mysterious).  Sometimes I think the first round shouldn’t affect the score… the teams are just getting used to each other, and very often they play much better in subsequent rounds.