As I wrote before, Left 4 Dead 2 and Payday the Heist are very similar games in a number of ways. From the obvious ones like weapon preference, gameplay style, and even the template for the map-specific movie posters, these games are so heavily intertwined they almost feel like they could be part of the same franchise.
But of all the unexpected coincidences, there’s one that stands out the most to me because it makes me doubly sad: both have a cancelled cruise ship map.
In 2011, Kotaku covered a series of prototype Left 4 Dead 2 posters, made before the devs decided to create four new playable characters. Each poster features settings familiar to fans of L4D2, from hotels to carnivals to swamps. The only one that didn’t seem to make the cut in any way was “Wrecked”.
In Payday the Heist, we can see some of the cut content by viewing the unused textures, which includes splash arts for the loading screen. Some early versions for several heists are there, as well as this one called “Yacht”:
Dummied out files regarding Yacht were found again in the sequel, meaning this heist was cut twice!
And this seriously bums me out because I love boat maps in gaming. Not only does it perfectly explain why the players have to remain within the playable area, it’s just a great environment that breaks significantly from the norm, with a tropical nautical design and a natural division between the cramped interiors and the open docks. Most everybody finds cruises exciting, so setting your map on a cruise ship is an easy plus point.
I can’t figure out why boat maps are so uncommon. My friend hypothesized that it was because devs don’t want to appear to be copying the iconic “Hijacked” map from Codblops II, and man do I hope there’s a better excuse than that. Maybe it’s difficult to make a working ocean with a skybox and horizon or something. TF2 doesn’t have one either, though it does have the custom map ctf_cruise, which I adore for the aesthetic and less for the gameplay.
Speaking of custom maps, the community usually has me covered, because boat maps are pretty easy to find for most games. RMS Titanic is a L4D2 map set anachronistically on the eponymous ocean liner, which is (at least once you escape the endless samey bunk corridors and get on deck) wonderful to look at but less fun to play. Even the Half-Life community caught the bug; Half-Life: Before was one of the first games ever accepted by Steam Greenlight, and it’s a horrific barely-playable mess that should never have seen the light of day. I shudder when I wonder whether Valve’s approval to add it to Steam means it counts as Half -Life canon.
Maybe I’m answering my own question here. Because a common theme I’m noticing in all the cruise maps I’ve played is that they’re visually-addicting eye candy but incredibly poor to play in design. The routes are often choked, the decks are limiting and they all kinda play the same because there’s a lot less variety in cruise ship design than building design. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t relish every one. No matter how many times they disappoint me, I will always keep coming back.