Interview: Eric Ruth on 8-bit Left 4 Dead


Some crazy person decided to remake Left 4 Dead, only within the limitations of the NES. That crazy person is Eric Ruth, creator of Mega Man Rocks! and the Angry Video Game Nerd game. With his sights set on Left 4 Dead, dropped Eric a line to get inside the head of someone who would attempt a project a like this.

Who are you and what do you do?

A: My name is Eric Ruth and I am a 28 year old independent game developer from Bel Air, Maryland. For 2 years, I have created a handful of classic style 2D PC games available for free download from my site: My long term goal is to start work with a game development company and secure my seat firmly within the industry.

Why Left 4 Dead and why the NES?

A: Retro games appeal to me in the way someone longs for their home country. It’s a reminder of the joys of youth represented by days long since passed. Simple, elegant, cheesy, and fun; pixel art brings an amalgamation of elements to video game design that technology has long forgotten. I aim to reunite the simplicity of the 80’s with the style of today, hopefully entertaining people at the same time. And as for Left 4 Dead, its one of my favorite games of all time and I wanted to lovingly recreate it with every talent and skill I have.

Valve is open to their community, but were you worried about any legal action when you started?

A: No. I never intended to sell the product or even pretend it was my IP, so I never assumed Valve would rain any legalities on my head. So far I’ve been right. *fingers crossed*

Browsing YouTube comments, some see the port as having too few zombies. Does this increase as the game moves on? If not, is this a limitation of the hardware, due to the graphical quality, or just a concern for game speed/flicker?

A: I can absolutely assure you that the game gets more difficult as it moves along. People are only watching a video of stage 1, section 1. Not only will they see more zombies, but the special infected make a full appearance as well. I will release some more videos in the not-too-distant future to show everyone what I’m talking about. You’ll see.

Would this be playable on the NES if it were put onto a cart (through or others), or is this a port specifically created for the PC within the limitations?

A: This version is a PC only port. I created it using limitations of the NES system for authenticity, not for cart publishing.

How many times do you need to blow onto the game through a microphone to make it work?

A: No, no. You blow into the CD drive, not the microphone. And only once should do it.

What was the influence for this port in terms of gameplay? The first thing that came to my mind was The Real Ghostbusters on the Game Boy, minus the maze-like elements, although I realize that’s a bit obscure.

A: I didn’t really have any influence, actually. I just let it all pop into my head and I ran with it from there. Ya see, I had already done some work on my top down series; “Return of the Space Cowboy”, so I already used the experience I gained working on that in order to get this project rolling. But I wouldn’t say there were any specific “influences.”

Why not make it like the Smash TV NES port?

A: Never played that version, actually. I only played Super Smash TV. (ed. note: Lucky you)

How difficult would 4-player support be to implement?

A: Everything is linked to keyboard keys, so the more players you’d have, the more buttons you’d use, and unless you used 4 gamepads right off the bat, this would be completely unplayable on a keyboard with 4 people. As far as development goes, the actual linking of movement and events to keys wouldn’t be tough, but it really would be terrible. Plus, I know that the NES COULD handle 4 player controls, but you most certainly didn’t see it regularly. I believe that if this game came out on the NES in like… 1986, it would have definitely been 2 players and not 4.

Will you be adding any personal quirks to the levels, or easter eggs?

A: Nah. I can’t think of anything I would add that’s not already there.

You have a date set for release (January 10th, 2010), so what would the estimated total time (roughly) be from the beginning of the project to the completion?

A: I have actually projected a finish before Christmas, but I already promised that I would debut the game at MAGfest this year in Virginia, so the online upload will have to wait until that’s over, which is roughly January 4th. Once MAGfest is over, its free for all on the downloads!

Thanks Eric!

Gameplay footage: