'We never "finish" our movies, we just release them' John Lassiter, Pixar Animation
I've been thinking about HL2 maps and mods. Yes the game is rather old now but people continue to make maps and mods for HL2 and the audience for them never seems to diminish. Many other FPS shooters have come and gone since 2004 so what makes HL2 so special?
Why is it considered to be the best PC game of all time?
As a mod maker I've been trying to nail down the essence of great HL2 gameplay for a while now and I think I've finally cracked it.
The official HL2 games survive because the gameplay continually changes throughout the game. Each room you enter you are faced with a different type of challenge and a different form of gameplay.
As I played through the official game I realised that every small area could be described as a single game unto itself with simple statements of gameplay each time:
The game constantly re-invents itself. The npc's and other interactive objects are a pallette from which to build new combinatinos. Most items from that pallette have a unique form of interaction:
The list goes on and on. By finding new and interesting combinations of these elements, mappers and modders can pretty much create an infinite amount of new gameplay options.
I've tried mapping for other games but no game out there offers this range of elements that can be combined in this way.
Now if you take all the above, and then look at the official HL2 maps there's one other thing that make HL2 special. You never have nothing to do.
No matter where you are or what you're doing in the game, the player's experience is never ever passive. There is always something to play with or interact with in every area.
As you move forward the way is never simple, there are always breakable boards across doors or boxes in the way or some form or a bonus to find, or a bad guy to take care of.
That's the true essence of a good HL2 map. No areas should ever be without something fun to play with...
...and that is why it's still loved because every single area, of every single map has fun built in.
It's not a word I see much here on Mod DB. FUN! That's why people play games right? For FUN! Not to see a nice model of a Lugar pistol but to have FUN!
I've added a new entry to my game design blog detailing my approach to my new project Half Life 2: Rise.
I've just re-activated this blog after a dormant period however theres lots for mappers here and my opinions on overall game design. I've been playing lots of mods recently and it seems that theres many mods out there that have the same issues. There's some that have all new ones too!!!
Hope you'll take a moment to have a read.
Anyone interested in my work can check out my new mod Half Life 2: Deep Down, the most recent version is over at Planet Phillip (it has better voice acting...)!
The mod: Planetphillip.com
The blog: Fpsleveldesign.blogspot.co.uk
I swore that Deep Down was my last Half Life 2 mod.
I now know the Hammer editor upside down and back to front. I an create anything I want. I have a good nose for gameplay and people seem to really enjoy my work.
I've looked at other source engine games and nothing grabs me the way HL2 does. I have ideas for puzzles, scenarios, further integration of Alyx. I've even got a name...
So why not... what the hell else am I going to do.
Why waste all my knowledge about building worlds for Half Life 2. There don't seem to be too many people out there producing much at the moment and there is certainly an audience for it. I love the world and the characters.
Replayability is what's troubling me at the moment. How can I make my maps as replayable as possible?
Must see if I can find further information on that kind of thing...
Plus my current version of Hammer seems to be screwed. Not sure why...
Recently I popped by the mod DB page of a mod team I was asked to join last year. The mod is/was called Mindworld: Shattered Dreams. Moddb.com
If you visit the page you'll find the mod is now cancelled. This really isn't a surprise to me.
The mod leader had lots of enthusiasm, the team seemed skilled and the concept art and music was fantastic.
So what could possibly go wrong?
Well there were tell tale signs this mod was doomed from the start.
1: The mod leader had no programming, mapping or artistic skills.
A typical ideas man, I'll direct everything and you guys do the work. Not great. If the mod leader can't produce a working alpha version of the game off their own back then its a good warning not to get involved.
2: The team didn't actually have a GAME
They had a story, some characters, a look and feel but had never decided what the actual mechanics of the game were. No game = no mod.
Rule number 1, there has to be a game, and it has to be fun to play.
3: They didn't produce a single playable area
Build early, build often. If you're not producing playable content then you're not making any progress.
Reading through many HL2 mod overviews makes me angry.
Lines like, you are Jack Squarehead
You are Jason Bourneagain
A resistance fighter called Peter Sutcliffe
God it makes me angry... people building these mods don't seem to realise that when you boot any first person shooter mod you are only one person. The player.
Gordon Freeman is a plot device but he doesn't really matter. When Alyx says "good job Gordon" the Gordon part is irrelivant. It's the player she's congratulating.
Mod makers try so desperately to make their mod fit into the HL2 canon. I don't see why it has to.
They could probably come up with a much more compelling story if they simply walked away from the canon and did something else entirely.
I guess it's due to Opposing Force and Blue Shift that people follow the idea of a secondary adventure running along side the original. I often think these kinds of projects are too ambitious to be completed anyway, and be completely original anyway.
Looking around this community I find it rather disturbing the way people interact with each other, especially within mod teams.
I don't think I will ever work in a team with others. It clearly falls into chaos rather quickly.
A better approach would be to sub-contract for specific items of work. I need a new model. I go to a model maker and ask them to build based on my specifications. They deliver. I say thank you very much and give them a credit (and/or money) depending on what they want.
Also, there seems to be a battle going on between professional game makers and amature mod makers. I see why the pro's get frustrated when they see amatures promising users the world and then spectaculaly failing to deliver but at the same time it seems the pro's expect everyone to want to become a pro.
Personally I have no interest in becoming a professional game developer. It's probably no where near as fun as it sounds and probably pay's pretty crappily because everyone wants to do it.
Besides, the chances of you even being offered a professional project are pretty darn slim, and like everything, if you set out for that to be your goal, you'll probably fail. It's the folks that just made great mods because they had a great idea and just did it that genuinely create something worth noticing.
Oh and what's this obsession with death on Mod DB. I posted Deep Down and within 2 days I had people asking me if the mod was dead. Two DAYS!!!!
I wonder if the obsession with mod death is justified... what percentage of mods on mod DB actually get released?
In case you're wondering why you can't download this mod directly from Mod DB it's due to version control. I don't want to have to upload my mod to several different locations on the web.
So to download please follow the link below to my AS:SP site and download from there...