Duluth-based video game turns Northland into "One hill of a city"

By KBJR News 1

April 13, 2014 Updated Apr 13, 2014 at 11:13 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Lifetime friends Joe Conaway and Dave Marcaccini were gamers before computers and gaming went hand–in–hand.

But since the days of using pen and paper to map out elaborate mazes for their friends, the 28–year–olds have come a long way.

Hailing from Eveleth, the duo has spent much of their time in Duluth—from the college days to years of playing shows in the local music scene.

Then one day in 2010, that love for gaming and all things Duluth came together, and the Left4Duluth concept was born.

"It was just... a 'eureka' moment," said Conaway, smiling in Marcaccini's St. Paul home, "because we knew everyone already, and we got the gears turning."

The team set out to design a fan–made spin–off, or "mod," of the popular post–apocalyptic, zombie-themed Valve game Left4Dead, basing all four chapters of game play in Duluth.

To put the city's special seal on it, they packed it with art and music essentially donated by dozens of those well–known in the Twin Ports talent pool.

Since both men now live in the Twin Cities, they say the process has helped with the homesickness.

"I thought it was a great way to still stay connected with all of the people I knew back in Duluth," said Marcaccini, next to his computer of choice for designing the game, "and the community that I had just left."

But that was fun part.

To make Duluth come alive on the PC screen, filled with its memorable landmarks, Marcaccini and Conaway needed to build it from the virtual ground up.

"Piece by piece, you piece together this giant city," said Marcaccini, recapping the elaborate mapping process.

If it sounds like a lot of work to map out a complex, detailed 3D map of UMD, the Fitger's Complex, and the Aerial Lift Bridge, to name just a few locations, that's because it is.

"Duluth is a big city," laughed Conaway, "and we had a lot to do."

So what's the payoff for gamers?

Essentially it's a virtual tour of the Zenith City, where a visit to the Tweed Museum of Art at UMD is just that.

"This is an art project through and through," said Marcaccini.

If you haven't played it yet, we don't want to give all the details--and special guests--away.

But here's a hint: if you happen to find yourself on the William A. Irvin mid–game, don't be surprised if Duluth Mayor Don Ness offers a helping hand.

Whether you make it out alive is for you to find out.

Downloading the game on your PC is free, but for the record, parents, it's 18 plus.

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Billy Wagness
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