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A peek into the world of action/adventure mods - without guns.

Posted by stenchy on Nov 22nd, 2007
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I decided to take a break from Crysis and shooters altogether to work on my single-player, action/adventure mod prototype. I plan to incorporate an engaging story within action adventure gameplay elements, without using guns. Something a little different that will draw the crowds from all the military and/or rebel militia mods out there. I feel as though the majority of mods today are just cannibalizing on one of the most popular sector in games today - the first person shooter. You see a lot of cannibalizing in commercial games and there's a reason for it. New intellectual properties with different gameplay are very high-risk ventures and sometimes aren't marketed right (see: Psychonauts). So they mostly stick to what sells, and what sells are first person shooters. So what we get as consumers are games that are just iterations of each other. Sometimes we'll get some innovation, sometimes they're just gimmicks, (see: Cold Fear with all-new boat tilting action!) but a lot of the time it’s just a Xerox of a Xerox. A copy of a copy. Blacksite 51 anyone?

Anyways, back to modding. Modders are only limited by their technical know-how, imagination and time they have to dedicate to a project. Yet there's still a lot of mods out there that tend to stick to cannibalizing past games. There's more to interaction with your environment than just shooting it. Try taking ideas and inspiration from outside mediums, from life. Something happens when you take the gun out of a player’s hand. The thought process goes from, "What can I shoot?" to, "What can I interact with?” It becomes a different kind of adventure- one that may be a welcome change. Now, it can be argued that the games with the most robust editing suites (Half-life, Unreal Tournament) are first person shooters so that's why there are so many mods that are FPS style. However, with sufficient work the possibilities of creating something fresh can surface. I did a little bit of digging through the catalogue here at Mod DB to check out what mods for Half-Life 2 dealt in adventure sans ammunition. Here's a few of the treasures I came across:

Weekday Warrior


The students at Guildhall SMU bring you a mod that whisks you away from the throes of reality into the magical land of ... boring drudgery at an office? Yes, that's right folks; this Office Space inspired mod pits you in the role of Doug, resident office slacker. Making your way around the everyday doldrums of the office, you are eventually tasked with retrieving some questionable documents for your boss in a 3D point-and-click adventure. Makes you think, if you had a game like this with writing as solid as The Office TV series, there might be some great entertainment in there somewhere. It was very refreshing for a Half-Life 2 mod considering I didn't fire a gun throughout the whole bite-sized experience and still enjoyed myself. Oh yeah, and they won last year's IGF best singleplayer mod competition.

Just another day at the office...


Iris


Iris is a prototype put together by a team of Danish students in one month. You play as Iris as she sets out to find her parents in the setting of Chinatown 2024 & 2006. Puzzles are solved by jumping back and forth from the dark, dystopian future to your bright, cheerful past. The mechanic may not be unique (it's similar to The Ocarina of Time and the light and dark theme used in many Nintendo games) but the universe and environments it sets you in immediately grab your attention. Iris is very short and rough around the edges but that doesn't disguise how well it is put together. The presentation reels you in from the beginning and leaves you wanting more. Voice acting is some of the best I've heard in a mod with well-written dialogue to boot! Hell, this unfinished prototype has more polish than probably over half the 'finished' mods I've played. Anyone attempting a story-based mod of their own would do well to check this one out.

Iris


Insects Infestation


This multiplayer mod dives into the world of the teeny tiny and pits ants against termites. Powerful mandibles, acid spit and poop are your weapons here. While I'm sure I didn't get to experience much of it, (no one playing this anymore?) what I did see looked good. The visuals and sounds made the experience so visceral that it all it needed was a hushed, soft spoken narrator to make me think I was in a nature show. Worth a look/second look if you’re searching for something different.

Ant vs Termites


There's more where this came from of course, but it's all hidden under a layer of gun-toting and explosions. It's difficult to think a little different and peruse a concept or gameplay style that might not be mainstream. At some point though, I think hardcore gamers are going to want more than just your run-and-gun variety. So, to all the fellow modders out there, push yourself into new directions rather than just sticking with the tried and true mechanics. You might just find yourself a hit.

Post comment Comments
SinKing
SinKing Nov 22 2007, 2:52am says:

true, so true. I like this article. It sums up lots of issues I have with current games and their appeal to gamers.

+4 votes     reply to comment
migb
migb Nov 22 2007, 3:26am says:

I agree that games, mods included, need more innovation.
While a game can certainly be innovative while still being a shooter (f.x. Iron Grip: The Oppression), removing the guns force the designers to think different.
The "no-gun" idea is simmilar to the Dogme Movie concept, where no special effects, can be used, including lightening and music that is not a natural part of the scene. I read about a movie maker who recently made a movie where she decided to keep it real-time, that is there are no cuts between scenes, the trip from one location to another is included in the movie.
Such limitations can create very different and very artistic titles.

+3 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 6:29am says:

There are plenty of great non-gun mods.

These are all Half-Life, unfortunately, but for the UT'ers, don't forget there's Drawn to be Alive and Chase the Chicken too.

+2 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 6:34am says: Online

Drawn to be Alive was released?

+2 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Nov 22 2007, 7:31am replied:

No, but it's turned into a commercial project or something.

+2 votes     reply to comment
motus
motus Nov 22 2007, 6:51am says:

while, Insect Infestation is a fun mod and there are clearly no guns ( this is a well researched subject, ants lack opposable thumbs, making it difficult to use guns )

It still has projectiles... it's a gun dressed in exoskeleton.... I don't believe it should be on the list with two clearly different mods

+3 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 1:45pm replied: Online

While it still has projectiles, it still much more original in concept than the majority of mods out there.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Nov 22 2007, 7:17am says:

Wow, nice timing. I only recently started a gun-free mod myself. :-)

+2 votes     reply to comment
leilei
leilei Nov 22 2007, 8:02am says:

CHEX QUEST LOL

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 22 2007, 8:54am says:

I'm with you about this entire no-gun stuff but there's one problem: the games out there. Turning a first person shooter into something it is not meant to be ( or in general bending any game around into something completely else ) is a big problem since their structure is usually very rigid so doing a complete change usually means a complete rewrite of the code. HL2 as an example ( just an example ) is not the most favorable for such an undertaking so you will see very few tackling such a thing. UT is better suited for this but still the same problem persists. Hence it's one thing to call for different games and having the grounds to do so.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Nov 22 2007, 10:33am replied:

That depends on how much code you use. Adventure games are all content and need very, very little programming: an inventory is just about the only thing you'd need for a traditional adventure game that Source doesn't have from the off. Keep it first-person and you wouldn't even need to worry about cameras.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Versus
Versus Nov 22 2007, 10:41am says:

Ok, but I couldn't find Kreedz Climbing on that list.

+2 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 1:43pm replied: Online

Kreedz climbing is great, but I thought it more puzzle oriented as there is no real story.

+2 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 11:07am says:

All of a sudden this article is randomly listed under Portal...?

+2 votes     reply to comment
INtense!
INtense! Nov 22 2007, 11:51am replied: Online

I updated the linking system. It did not make sense to link it to one mod when it is linked to many. It is linked to portal because this article was inspired by their "out of the box" thinking (if you look at the last url you will notice it takes you to the site of the people who developed Portal)

+3 votes     reply to comment
Godwin
Godwin Nov 22 2007, 12:08pm replied:

Was wondering too, that's cool.

+2 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 12:14pm replied:

Portal was a remake. Not really out the box thinking, but never mind.

+2 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 12:15pm replied:

Addendum - The article itself if more related to Half-Life 2, as these are HL2 mods. It'd make more sense to have it linked to that.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Nov 22 2007, 12:21pm replied:

It [i]is[/i] linked to HL2. :p

+2 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 12:29pm replied:

I'm talking about as a new post. It has 'Portal Article' as it's feature type, which it clearly isn't.

+2 votes     reply to comment
INtense!
INtense! Nov 22 2007, 12:41pm replied: Online

I believe it is relevant to link it to portal though. The link system is an incredibly complex one which attempts to decide "which profile" is the best to link too. Unfortunately it isn't perfect.

+3 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 1:59pm replied: Online

It's a lot more "out of the box" than a lot of stuff already out there. If you are referring to it as a remake of Narbacular Drop - it's more of a refinement of the mechanics taken into the commercial space (and an entirely different universe). Nevertheless, before Portal was released very few knew of its predecessor so it should still count as a fresh, new experience.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Godwin
Godwin Nov 22 2007, 2:33pm replied:

Exactly, it was a concept that needed way more appreciation, and they got that with Valve. Beautifully executed too.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 22 2007, 2:22pm replied:

Double this. Who gave him a -1 for that post? Fanboy pure ;)

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 22 2007, 3:13pm replied:

Btw... double this went to ambershee for voicing his opinion. And now he has another -1 fanboy vote... Great misuse of the system to muffle people speaking out what is true and unpleasant for many :/

+2 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 3:59pm replied: Online

I gave him a -1 because the comment doesn't really make sense and I addressed that in my post below his. Doesn't make me a fanboy. This is all besides the point though, the article was written with the expressed intent of looking at fresh, inventive takes on action/adventure mods and games. Portal is an example of this.

0 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 5:38pm replied:

You also marked down Motus I believe. He did have a valid point - while a nice mod with not the typical array of fire-arms, it still involves shooting.

The idea behind the point system is not to mark down those you disagree with, but more those who are derogatory to the conversation.

Looks like this has rapidly gotten a bit out of hand >.<

+2 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 5:49pm replied: Online

No I just did your comment, even marked him up another point just to prove it. :P

+1 vote     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 22 2007, 3:06pm says:

Heaven forbid, I be outspoken with my opinion on Halo..

+3 votes     reply to comment
Dem1se
Dem1se Nov 22 2007, 5:15pm says:

The mod me and my team have under development isn't all gun-toting. We are aiming to take the guns away for a moment and let the player experience the story from a "civilian caught in the war" type viewpoint.

+2 votes     reply to comment
DeadlyContagion
DeadlyContagion Nov 22 2007, 7:11pm says:

Well, including Insects Infestation introduces alot ambiguity here, does that mean that a game like Oblivion would fit under the "no guns adventure game" category? Even though Insects Infestation is really more of an action game anyway, so more like "no guns game"?

Anyway, sometimes games with guns can make one think more than some "no guns games" if the developer is smart. I've often had an idea where the player has to get through the game with only a pistol with 15-17 bullets in it. Forcing him to use the gun in only the most dire situations, kind of like life-lines (see: Night at the Office for HL1, Moddb.com) but more so.

Anyway, as far as Weekday Warrior went, it was short, unpolished, not paricularily well written, ect, ect. But it was fun, which is all that matters really. Because a well polished CS clone, is still just CS.

+4 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 7:45pm replied: Online

Thanks for the comments Deadly,

I totally agree on the point of games with guns still being fresh and entertaining. I still will play games with guns, it's just there's still a lot of areas for gameplay exploration in terms of both narrative and mechanics. The examples provided were just to showcase that (I'm waiting for more people to jump into Insects so I can play around more). They are all a different direction than what most of the mods for HL2 provide and show some of the possibilities.

I really don't wanna come off as a pacifist ... just want to recognize the mods that do try to be different.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 22 2007, 7:59pm replied:

Exploration can though also backfire. Oblivion for example ponders on the premise of exploration but in the end it is a boring walk from one city to the other so exploration there is not more than encountering some savage animals/monsters or finding some cave you have to get to in one of the many quests anyways sooner or later.

So using exploration as disguise for a good game is as problematic as your next door's CS clone. Not many games/mods I know which turn exploration into something interesting and rewarding ( not by material awards... that's a bad way to encourage exploration ).

+2 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 22 2007, 8:17pm replied: Online

I was referring to exploring gameplay concepts, as in trying new things to produce a different type of gameplay. Not exploring as a gameplay mechanic. Sorry if that part was a little muddled.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 22 2007, 9:26pm says:

By the way, you forgot once of the more memorable games without guns. It is not for HL2 but it's a good example: [url=http://www.moddb.com/mods/burden-of-80-proof]Burden of 80 Proof[/url]. Ventures on the adventure path but it's rather unique. No weapons except for the game-test sequence but shows well what you mentioned in your article.

+2 votes     reply to comment
TheHappyFriar
TheHappyFriar Nov 23 2007, 12:12am says:

lots of great non-gun games out there. most are ignored because of the lack of guns. Go figure. :/

I believe there's been non-gun mods since the day of Doom. I know in Q1/2 there were mods where guns were optional (slider/q2bball) & racing mods with no weapons what so ever. But now a days any time I see responses like this: "Turning a first person shooter into something it is not meant to be ( or in general bending any game around into something completely else ) is a big problem since their structure is usually very rigid so doing a complete change usually means a complete rewrite of the code."

in the mid 90's & early 00's that was never mentioned when someone wanted to turn Quake 2 in to a RTS or Half Life in to a racing game. It's no wonder why there's a lack of non-gun mods out there. More people saying "not worth the trouble" instead of "wow, that sounds awesome!" After all, Quake wasn't a class-based tactical shooter & where would TF2 be if some kids didn't think it would be cool to make that ~a decade ago? :)

+4 votes     reply to comment
ambershee
ambershee Nov 23 2007, 4:44am replied:

The difference however is the amount of work required. Quake only has a few thousand lines of code, a few hundred poly models and simple texturing. Quake 4 has more than a million lines of code, several thousand poly models with normal maps generated from million poly models, textures, shaders such as normal mapping, lighting effects and christ knows what else.

Games now and ten years ago are very, very different beasts, and the work required to get the basics running in a newer engine is generally a lot more than in an older engine, especially when it comes to things like navigating the code base to find the things you need.

And as games have changed, mods have changed. There's an increased demand for perfection rather than implementation. If someone released a few lines of code to make a few basic command and path finding routines for AI in quake ten years ago, people would have said "hey, that's pretty cool", and people would have added to it, or the original developer would have continued. Now it's a case of "lame, pointless, stupid, why bother showing anything if it isn't a beautiful TC with everything I've always wanted, and it's not perfect out of the box", which with such negative feedback and response is leading mod developers down the wrong track, and not into the release early, release often routines that once benefited them so much.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 23 2007, 9:26am replied:

Please make proper quotes with finished phrases so people understand you ;) . What goes for your point it is as mentioned above mainly a problem of code size but especially a problem of design. Quake for example has a simple design with QC being a simple way to change the game. Not many things had been pre-coded since the game mechanics in the original quake have been rather simple: run and gun. So adding and changing has been relatively easy. In newer games though very complex commands, actions and sequences are pre-coded into the game. Often those constructs are very rigid since whenever things get utterly complex the slightest change can tip over the card house. So in the end it is a huge undertaking to make the needed changes to a recent game than it is to a simpler game some years ago. Modding can only then return back to the roots if the games ( and game engines ) get back to a design in which people can change games again without having to have done a master in programming first before standing a chance. This is one of the main problems besides a lack of different-gaming thinking which is currently bouldered down by the way of thinking mentioned above by ambershee.

+2 votes     reply to comment
TheHappyFriar
TheHappyFriar Nov 23 2007, 1:39pm replied:

how can I quote? Does No "help" button so I'm now sure that's used anymore. I used that help all the time (miss the forum hot topics on the main page too...).

Yes, games got more complex but you two (ambershee & Dragonlord) kind of proved my point: games have so much that wasn't done years ago so we don't NEED to re-make everything like we used to. Doom 3 could be made in to an action/adventure survival game where you use the environment to defeat baddies and not use weapons (well, don't hold a weapon on your hands), and odds are, only add content, don't change any code or the levels. HL2 could of been turned in to a murder/mystery game where you don't use weapons but solve brain puzzles & use selective dialog, relatively easily (look at portal). But it's not done, even though minimal changes are needed.

I'd say modding can go back to "the roots" (back in the 90's mod were simple by today's standards, but were pretty complex for the day, just like in 10/15 years your high-school age modder will look back at Crysis & say how simple that was to mod for) once people start looking at what they have & use it to it's full potential. Which is, sad to say, as simple as saying "Man, wouldn't it be awesome to drive a monster truck in ET:QW!?" and then it happening. then snowballing it to a demolition derby (kinda like how Doom 3's LMS got started). Instead we have to many modders saying "I want to do X & Y & Z & W & G & L & A & V". Not necessarily bad but there's a reason even with the simpler games of Doom & Quake TC's were very few & far between.

BTW, if anyone wants to turn HL2 in to a murder/mystery similar to old text-adventure games, I'll actually reinstall it (haven't had HL2 on since a few months after release). :)

+4 votes     reply to comment
Varsity
Varsity Nov 23 2007, 3:11pm replied:

You use [ quote ]text[/ quote ], minus the spaces.

Quote:BTW, if anyone wants to turn HL2 in to a murder/mystery similar to old text-adventure games, I'll actually reinstall it (haven't had HL2 on since a few months after release). :)

[url=http://www.moddb.com/mods/5-days-a-stranger]Here you go![/url] :)

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dragonlord
Dragonlord Nov 23 2007, 4:53pm replied:

Well, "The Ship" for HL2 is an example for a bit a different way of doing things. Granted it's riddled with weapons range from knitting needles over frying pans down to syringes but the entire art style is very unique and not run of the mill. They should have pondered more on the stealthiness and detective part as they claimed in their design doc outing long time ago but nevertheless it's a sort of murderous fun... if the game would not have been riddled by lamers and n00bs already. Started out as a mod for half-life which in my opinion is even more fun than their new version simply because it had been a proof of concept so not polished but trying out new game play mechanics.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Hunt77
Hunt77 Nov 23 2007, 3:06am says:

weekday warrior was hilarious

+2 votes     reply to comment
AJ_Quick
AJ_Quick Nov 23 2007, 2:31pm says:

Next week's feature:

A peek into the world of action/adventure mods - Without appeal.

hah honestly though, i'll agree. Guns, and a near obsessive mentality with accurately representing them seem to feature too prominently in most action mods. I wonder if it has anything to do with American modders.... naw, crazy thought.

+1 vote     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 23 2007, 3:07pm replied: Online

Your post immediately made me think of this thread:

Moddb.com

+2 votes     reply to comment
DeadlyContagion
DeadlyContagion Nov 23 2007, 7:59pm says:

So did Bioshock, which at first glance might seem like a counter point, but not really, because Bioshock (BS) is really just a gutted version of System Shock with Atlas Shrugged tacked onto the back.

+3 votes     reply to comment
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