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An Open Window is an experimental MOD for Half-Life 2, Episode 2. In this project I will attempt to bring the concept of different realities to life in a realistic scenario. Instead of being another Shooter, AnOpWi centers around the role of the player and his/her experience, emotion and memories. By interacting with the world the player will define his own reality within the story. For this project I chose an open development cycle, which means I will update very frequently and share every step I take in the process of creating this game. Next to the regular media updates, I will also share my thoughts on the different areas of game design in the form of articles. In every article I will also ask for your opinion with the Question of the Day. This MOD also functions as a knowledge base for new and experienced designers.

Report content RSS feed An Open Window: PLD +66

Text is good, pictures are better but video is the best and that's why today's article features new footage of one of the gameplay aspect of AnOpWi. The video demonstrates perfectly what I want to talk about today: dynamic environments.

Posted by Hezus on Apr 6th, 2011

An Open Window: Project Launch Day +66

Text is good, pictures are better but video is the best and that's why today's article features new footage of one of the gameplay aspect of AnOpWi. The video demonstrates perfectly what I want to talk about today: dynamic environments.

If you haven't noticed already, I've posted another audio fragment from Podcast 17. Podcast 17 is a weekly show about everything related to Half-Life and its modding community. They cover what's posted on important websites like ModDB and PlanetPhillip. In their last episode they discussed my last article about alternative mods, which was interesting to follow, just as the comments I received here. Thanks for all the reactions!

On to today's topic. Any developer would invest most of his time into the important aspects of his game. He wants to make sure the game is visually attractive and to get that unique gameplay feature right. While it could make a perfect game, it's often the attention to detail which makes an experience last. New technologies have greatly improved games over the years and graphics are more realistic than ever. Not just the static images look stunning but many developers also put effort into creating a dynamic environment where events happen which are not directly affecting the player, just for the sake of immersion and realism. Especially physics engines played a large role in this.

Yet, within these environments I still find many static objects. They are trivial and developers do not take the extra step to bring these to life. Even though these objects serve no direct purpose, I've seen how players are trying to use them and seem disappointed when they have no function. The current popularity of sandbox games proves that players enjoy the freedom to fully interact with the world. Even Valve realised that and refered to a trivial encounter in Half-Life 1 (Anomalous Materials chapter) when you talk to Dr. Magnusson in Episode 2. These seemingly unimportant things add flavour to a game.

The video below shows how I tried to implent this principle into AnOpWi. All the objects you see are not essential to the player or the story. However they can still be used and it's up to the players if they want to invest time into discovering their features or not.

While I was making these dynamic sequences, I understood why many developers resort to static objects: it takes a lot of time to create them. A second reason is that they can distract you from the actual important objects. But is this effort all wasted? Does the average player pay attention to these details and appreciate them? I'd like to know your take on this by presenting the QotD. Thanks for reading and I eagerly await your comments below on this one!

Question of the Day:
Do you think the extra effort to create dynamic environments and objects is a waste?

Post comment Comments
kazumo Apr 7 2011 says:

To answer your question...
NO! You should keep doing this, the video looks awesome, that's what I like! Make it realistic sometimes.

+4 votes     reply to comment
ninjadave Apr 7 2011 says:

Videos are no good when you're on poor wireless. :-(

+1 vote     reply to comment
JohnnyMaverik Apr 7 2011 says:

This looks awesome, I'd say don't stop but use in moderation. Just keep ones that work really well. The melon is most definitely one of them.

+2 votes     reply to comment
thefoofighter Apr 7 2011 says:

good work chief keep it up :P

+1 vote     reply to comment
TheSniperFan Apr 7 2011 says:

Short answer: Yes.

THIS is the point in which good games differ from awesome games.

+1 vote     reply to comment
JayBirdSupreme Apr 7 2011 says:

I like dynamic environments, but I think that if the player chooses to use them, they should see some kind of result from it.

The melon you used here is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. It has no relevance to the actual game, but in a way it does "reward" the player for screwing around.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Re|3uilt Apr 7 2011 says:

Answer: yes
it's this kind of originality that separates good mods from bad ones.
in regards to the podcast... i have to agree with them in the end as to defining or labeling mods. a mod is a mod, labels over-complicate, and would/will eventually kill the choice to be more original than the last.
onward and upward my friend.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Metalspy Apr 7 2011 says:

No I don't think it's a waste. I'm one of those players that likes to explore every corner of the map while trying to use objects such as the ones shown in the video. In my opinion it really adds to the general atmosphere, even if it is not essential to the story or game, because it makes the virtual world feel even more real. That, and I can just really appreciate the extra effort devs put in their mods/games which will make the mod/game more memorable.

EDIT: TheSniperFan and Re|3uilt, don't you guys mean "no"? :/

+1 vote     reply to comment
xXMaNiAcXx Apr 7 2011 says:

Not a waste. These are additional details that some mods have and these makes a good change in the style of games. You shouldn't think it is a waste.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Sph!nx Apr 8 2011 says:

Hey mate. Nice one.

Well, im not just thinking HL mods here. Adding dynamic details all depends on what game you're working on.

A fast paced military shooter would not need it imho but if you create a game with a free world, those features would add something extra.

+1 vote     reply to comment
DarkRaidor Apr 9 2011 says:

absolutely use dynamic environments when available, but do not lose track of the main development of the game. In other words, do not let dynamic environments distract from the core experience.
Nice work btw! :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
weasle Apr 9 2011 says:

in my opinion, no its not, I find it very unique and interesting for a mod to have many interactive items, I like being able to take a break from whatever im doing, and make some coffee in the mod, or microwave a melon:p

+1 vote     reply to comment
Generalvivi Apr 9 2011 says:

Yes and no. It depends on the type of game you are trying to make. It also depends on where you place these objects in the environment and how you present them. For your type of mod I think these objects are perfect, but for something like Cod where the player is running and shooting, most players will miss these types of objects.

I'm not saying don't use these types of objects, just make sure you are presenting them correctly. :)

- Jason

+1 vote     reply to comment
Herr_Alien Apr 11 2011 says:

Dynamic environments are definitely a plus on immersion. I wouldn't like to be in the shoes of the one who has to set all of them up though: it's quite tedious.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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