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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 article RSS Feed An Open Window: PLD -7

In this update I'd like to take you on a tour through the concept phase of An Open Window. Welcome to Project Launch Day -7.

Posted by Hezus on Feb 1st, 2011

An Open Window: Project Launch Day -7

In my last update I talked about my intentions for this experimental MOD. I want to capture those few alternative aspects you really love in your favourite game. Today I will talk a bit about the concept of the MOD and how it came to be.

Before I dive into the actual subject matter, I'd like to say I was very pleased with the comments I got on my last news post. I want to thank everyone who posted for sharing the game that hold a special place in their hearts. I've checked out video trailers for these games and they indeed are very interesting. Also, it seems my article news style caught on and I'll continue updating this way.

The Concern of Concept
Creating a game concept is hard, especially if you want to be different. First there is the trouble of coming up with an idea and secondly actually developing it. What makes all the difference in the world is writing a concept document. While this might bring back memories of horrible school essays, it's important you organise your ideas and actually try to write down how the game is supposed to be played.

For AnOpWi, it took me a while to get ideas. My room was littered with small pieces of paper with random chains of toughts scribbled on them. I even put up a big whiteboard to help me organise my thoughts. Finally I came up with which aspects I wanted in my MOD: emotion, object-oriented gameplay and memories (along with a few others). I listed them as bullet points and started writing a story to connect the dots. After a few days I actually had something with which I could start experimenting.


Creating digital worlds starts on good old analog whiteboard..

Experimenting is what you should do as much as possible before you actually start putting your game together. While your fantasy is unlimited, the engine you work with is not. You'll have to adjust your concept to what is actually possible, which means rewriting parts of your concept or even cut ideas completely. I realised that some of my ideas actually interfered with other aspects, so you're also going to have make choices, which isn't always easy.

I started testing my planned systems and sequences in small test maps. While the screenshot might look like I'm re-inventing Pac-Man, these blocks are actually testing the backbone of my entity system. My complete inability to write code forces me to get creative with Source's entities. If you're starting with a new and unknown engine, it would be wise to learn as much as possible about it's structure and have a coder to back you up in case you have trouble getting something to work. Sadly, that's a luxury I do not have. Eat them up, nom, nom.

Of course there is a lot more to say about creating concepts but I'm trying to keep myself from turning this article into a wall 'o text. I hope you got an idea of the way I addressed the planning phase of the development cycle. As before, I'd like to end this update with another Question of the Day. Thanks for reading and I eagerly await your comments below.

Question of the Day:
If you could hire a game development team with unlimited budget and resources, which game concept or idea would you like them to make for you?

Post comment Comments
zonbie
zonbie Feb 1 2011, 8:44pm says:

Lately, I have been dreaming of a semi-linear experience where an average Joe witnesses a popular revolution slowly taking place in his city. Just think about making a game based on the recently trending Egyptian riots. Mission objectives could include "Defend your storefront from looters while providing first aid and supplies to your friends" or "Lead the crows of protesters to the doors of the Government Center". I dunno, could be unique and provocative with a good plot behind it.

Either that, or HL2: Episode 3.

+2 votes     reply to comment
billyboob
billyboob Feb 1 2011, 9:32pm says:

Fantastic idea. Wouldn't call them riots though, just a bit of old school street fighting. Bye bye Mubarak

+1 vote     reply to comment
zonbie
zonbie Feb 2 2011, 8:34am replied:

It went from peaceful demonstrations and a positive message to violent face-offs between opposing gangs and mass vandalism/burning of commercial properties. People are dying and there is no control left in the entire city.

It is no longer something for Cairo's denizens to be proud of, IMO.

Still, I think it is great TV, and it could be an even better game. Think of the moral choices and painful decisions the player would have to make as the events became more and more violent, ravaged, and senseless.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Hezus Author
Hezus Feb 2 2011, 6:04pm replied:

What surely would be interesting is the element of CHAOS. Most games are extremely linear and try to control and limit the player as much as possible. In the scenario you describe, everything could happen (within certain boundries of course) and the outcome would be different each time you play it.

It would be nice if we could keep political discussion out of the comments here, though. Those things have a habit of derailing quickly.

+1 vote   reply to comment
billyboob
billyboob Feb 2 2011, 6:26pm replied:

I'm not so interested in moral choice type games. I thought your idea was fantastic as a means of showing historical and economic processes that so many real time strategy and role playing games fail at.

There are any number of 'simple' game ideas coming out of this conflict that could be designed in a conventional manner i.e. say a tower defense game - build and maintain barricades with your neighbours to protect your community from attacks by pro-regime police (just like they did in Tunisia).

Moral choice type games strive to be something they cannot because they are designed and built in conventional game structures that define how real those choices are. For the most part they are utterly superficial because they generally only consist of alternative narrative elements which only prolong the game itself by having people play the game repeatedly or in a different manner to their original method in order to be rewarded with an alternate ending or two.

I think an alternative to this method of game development that would present people with 'real' moral choices would be a game where you have to convince the inhabitants of the game world of an idea. How batshit insane would that be? Thats what i'd like to see.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Otter.
Otter. Feb 2 2011, 12:47pm says:

I always wanted a really grand RTS game where you can customise almost everything. Of course you can select your civilization then build the pre-designed houses, troops, then attack the enemy... or you can customize your buildings in every way, even fortify them (with more building cost). You can select which kind of armor your troops should wear, what kind of weapon should they use and you can choose your own tactics in the battlefield. You can save all those designs and share them if you want. There would be a lot of weapons and resources you can produce and use, and three different ages: Medieval (a fantasy setting with magic), Steampunk and Futuristic. Each with a really big singleplayer story.
Beginners that don't want to get lost can select an easy mod, with fewer resources you need to look after, but still enjoyable. Hardcore players can use the regular mode, with both modes available in multiplayer.
And also of course: modding support :)

To see what I'm thinking about, imagine you combine: Settlers, Age of Empires, Civilization, Stronghold, Knights & Merchants, Total war, Heroes of Might and Magic, Warcraft and Starcraft into one massive game :D

It would be the ultimate strategy game :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
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Hezus
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