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Back 4 Blood Creative Director Explains Why Swarm Was Chosen Over Campaign PvP


Back 4 Blood’s open beta begins this week which means players will have their first hands-on experiences with the game’s PvP mode “Swarm.” Instead of tasking players with traveling from Point A to Point B like they were moving through a campaign, this Cleaners vs. Ridden mode consists of a round-based survival experience where one team tries to hold out longer than as the Cleaners than the other. These Swarm rounds and the matches overall go by rather quickly at a pace Back 4 Blood’s creative director Phil Robb said Turtle Rock Studios hoped to achieve by going with this kind of PvP game mode.

Swarm wouldn’t be subject to questioning any more than any other PvP setup had the Left 4 Dead games not existed, but with many Left 4 Dead players looking to find a new home in Back 4 Blood, many had a similar question: Why doesn’t Back 4 Blood have a campaign-based PvP mode? Time, among other things, was indeed a factor, Robb said.

Both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 had the “Versus” mode which mirrored the campaign but from a PvP angle, but as players may recall, the campaign aspect of the mode inherently meant you were committing to a lengthy match. Robb said in an interview with during a preview event that the Back 4 Blood team hoped to avoid that with Swarm.

“There’s sort of a lot of things. One: We don’t want to just do the same thing, right?” said Robb when asked why Back 4 Blood opted for Swarm instead of a campaign PvP mode. “But, two: One of the things about the campaign PvP is that it’s a really big time commitment. I would say that most PvP games out there, you can jump in and have a few matches in 10, 15 minutes. So, it’s not as big of a time commitment.”

Back 4 Blood Bruiser
(Photo: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

Robb continued by recalling some memories players probably have of the older zombie games where things go poorly in a PvP mode’s opening moments. This in turn leads to players getting kicked or leaving on their own terms. You’re then left at a disadvantage in an already unfavorable situation, and the experience quickly deteriorates.

“The other thing that’s nice about that is that if you’re looking at a campaign PvP and right off the bat, you know things aren’t clicking, you’re more than likely just going to quit out,” Robb said. “You’re going to ruin a bunch of other people’s games because you quit out, and matchmaking has to happen all over again. With this, it’s not that much of a commitment. You get in, you have a crazy, frenetic battle with other guys, and if things don’t go your way, the match is over very quickly, and you get to try again.”

Time commitments aside, Robb said the Turtle Rock team simply wanted to try something new, too. Players could draw comparisons between Back 4 Blood’s Swarm mode and the more traditional “Survival” mode from the Left 4 Dead games, but Robb said the developers wanted to avoid being formulaic.


“From a practical standpoint, I think those are pretty strong factors in that decision,” Robb said. “I think part of us … we just wanted to try something new. We’re not a studio that likes to stick to formulas and things like that. We like to innovate where we can, and we felt like that was one place where we could innovate.”

Back 4 Blood’s open beta begins on August 5th at 12 p.m. PT for those who obtained access to the early access period. It’ll transition to an open beta on August 12th.

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