Introduction and history
I’ve started this post about 10 times in the last 3 years and never finish it. In fact, at one time or another it has had its own website! I always stop and change the way I try and explain it because I am never happy with it. Well, this is the last time I start this post because I promised myself I would finish it today.
The reason I kept starting again and again was because I was never happy with how it sounded. The idea really needs to be played to be fully understood. Over the years, and yes I mean years, because I have been playing with this idea for a LONG time, I’ve had people who tried to create some scenes in Gmod and even I tried for a while until frustration and too much hair on my keyboard put an end to that.
Well, recently something happened to re-ignite the idea. Joe Purple sent me a “thank you” map. A map he made to say thank you for my work on the site and it was incredibly close to my idea, so I contacted him and chatted like a teenage girl about my ideas for the mod, the features it could have, bunny rabbits and rainbows.
He kindly agreed to become involved and so work started. Then “Real Life” decided that I was getting to “big for my boots” and chose to wake me up one morning with a slap on the face.
This, plus a bunch of other projects, got pushed back until I couldn’t see their eager hand waving at me, trying to get my attention. I reached the point where I had to say “That’s it! No more.” I had to drop this project, along with some other really cool ones, and I hate doing that.
I would ask you to read slowly and carefully and not rush to any conclusions until you have read everything. I will do my best to be as precise and detailed as possible.
Here’s how I plan to explain it. I will start with the basic premise, discuss why I think it could work, detail its implementation and finally discuss the maps, which, by the time you read this, are available separately on the site.
My plan was to produce a Proof Of Concept mod, with Joe and then let the community decide if it was fun or not. If they did, somebody could take over the mod and make it into something really cool.
To build first person shooter mods, using all the assets of Half-Life 2, of classic video games, such as Pacman, Defender, Space Invaders and Deflector.
I am not suggesting a total conversion, where new models and textures are created. I don’t want to make something like Super Gordon Bros. What I want to do is take classic gameplay designs and make them 3 dimensional within the HL universe.
Games like Space Invaders have a very different design philosophy to current Half-Life games. You can’t win, there’s no story, it’s about points, it’s very, very repetitive, it’s 2D, the list goes on. Yet for all those negatives, assuming you consider them negative, they are incredibly addictive and great fun to play.
There are plenty of single player arena maps, where enemies just keep appearing but they lack structure. They haven’t been design to mimic those features that classic games designers strove so hard to achieve. Putting never-ending enemies in one room is not the answer.
You have to start from scratch and decide exactly what is it that makes these games so appealing and how can that be translated into 3D. I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers have never played some of the classic games I mentioned in the premise. But I do hope they understand that simple games can be just as much fun and over-the-top graphics and physics games.
Look how the Nintendo Wii makes playing tennis fun. It’s basically the 21st century version of Pong. What I am suggesting is that if the basic gameplay is fun, then it *may* be possible to convert it into a number of varying formats.
Of course, not every classic video game will work as a 3D implementation, and I am not suggesting that, but some will and this idea is designed to explore some of those games.
Why use HL2 Assets?
Good question. Because I believe the BASIC gameplay of the games I have considered as suitable is perfect for conversion, it shouldn’t matter too much what visual style the mod has. Just the same as the Wii tennis would have worked with a number of different styles, as long as the core concept of fun to play and easy on the eye was kept too. A dark, serious and aggressive style certainly wouldn’t have been so appealing to most players, even if the gameplay were exactly the same.
Why spend time and effort creating new assets when everything we need is already available. Let mappers spend the time creating interesting maps not pretty models.
Not only that but I believe that HL2 (Source, I suppose) has the smoothest movement and character control. Setting the games within HL2 can add a slightly darker element without taking away the fun aspect too.
Time for some real examples
I am going to describe 1 game in detail that I feel could work as 3D implementations. I will then describe another as the basic concept and finally end with an introduction to the two maps, which are based on yet another game. I have little doubt that others could also work but these are the 3 I started thinking about.
Allow me to start with my description of the first lelvel and then move onto it’s development. Imagine a cove, with a beach and a gentle sea. The area is approximately 50 metres wide and behind the player are cliffs, making it impossible to climb out. In front of the player, near the shoreline are 4 double width crates, lying on their side. Somethin like the image on the left.
In the background is music with a very repetitive feel. Slowly, the player becomes aware of movement in the sea. A line of ten Metrocops, all in perfect unison, are walking towards them. They take ten steps sideways and one step forwards. Behind the first row, are another ten rows. All moving as if they were one unit.
Some of the front row fire at the player. The player has the pistol and starts to shoot back. When a Metrocop is killed, he simply disappears. The enemies keep advancing and the player uses the crates as cover. His pistol has a never-ending supply of ammo. His objective is to kill all the Metrcops without getting hit.
Somewhere on the HUD is a kill score. Ten points for every Metrocop killed. Before the first wave of Metrocops is complete a Strider walks across the screen in the distance. The player must quickly swap weapons to the rocket launcher. This one is not guided though and the player must time his shot to perfection. Miss and there’s no time for another shot. Hit it and 100 points are gained.
The Metrocops keep getting closer and faster too, and the basic strategy is to hide behind the crates and lean out and fire. Those crates won’t last forever though because they only take about ten hits before they are destroyed.
Once the player has cleared the “wave” of Metrocops, the screen fades to black in preparation for the second level.
Well, there you have the basic idea. Shooting at Metrocops in the above level is very easy, but that’s the point. This mod would take the progression very slowly. There would be very little saving allowed, if any. Perhaps only every twenty levels.
Let’s look at some of the possible progressions, because to my mind there are literally hundreds. Firstly, the weapons. Every ten or so levels the player could get a more powerful weapon. That in itself is a slight progression but then add the possibility of limiting the ammo to just the required amount needed. Then the enemies, they would get harder and faster as each level is passed. Maybe the same enemies required more hits to die. Maybe they also have more powerful weapons. These two basic progressions could be combined in a lot of different ways, each one slightly harder than the last.
For example, maybe the player starts with the shotgun and each Metrocop requires one hit to die, but by level 20 the player has the pistol and the Combine Elite Guards have the AR2 and required 10 headshots to die. Not only that but they move faster in level 20 than they did in level 1.
But wait, there is still so much more to explore. Unlike the original game we can split the waves into many fronts. Perhaps level 5 introduces two waves. Imagine a triangle. The player is at the base and the two waves of attack are the two other sides of the triangle. Protection from one wave my expose the player to the other.
Keep this geometric progression going and you have a square. The player is attacked from three sides and needs to choose a specific strategy to win. Of course, each wave could be composed of different enemies and even within in each the enemies could be varied. Two rows of Metrocops, followed by two of Combine soldiers, with sub-machine guns, two more soldiers carrying shotguns and fianlly, two rows of Elite Guards.
At some point earlier, the simple beach location has changed to any one of the interesting possibilities of Half-Life 2. Perhaps a Ravenholm town square, with mist and fog obscuring the view and waves of zombies moaning towards you, with only the fires nearby illuminating the scene. Perhaps a Citadel style level with intermittent force fields provide cover for you AND the enemies.
Things are only just getting interesting though because we really are still only playing in 2D. Now add a wave of enemies above the cliffs or at least above the player. The basic beach setting would have changed to something described earlier. Maybe fast zombies start to run and jump from the buildings surrounding you, same for the poison headcrabs.
We could now spread things out slightly. Instead of the player standing in one small area he needs to cover some ground to defend various positions. A small dock springs to mind, where Zombies come from the fishing huts, Metrocops from the sea and Manhacks from over the hills. If any wave get too close to their designated point the player loses one of their lives.
Don’t forget the points. More points mean more lives too, thus extending the time available. Talking of time, some levels could be time based, meaning you get more points for finishing levels faster.
I could easily see one hundred levels being made available to the player. Remember, each level only needs to be slightly harder or at least slightly different from the last.
Well, there you have one game in detail. Over the years I have made lots of notes and drawings but this has been written from scratch, so I probably missed some points and ideas and I hope you have your own too.
Now, it’s time to discuss another game conversion, but only as a general concept.
I am pretty sure most readers have heard of Space Invaders, but this next game is less well-known. Also Space Invaders is a shooting game and Deflektor is a puzzle game. The idea was to move elements to deflect the laser beam from one part of the screen to the other. It’s the only time I have ever played a game from start to finish in one sitting and I started about 10PM and finished at 5:45AM. I was absolutely mesmerized. I HAD to see the next level. That was what was so addictive for me.
The basic conversion concept here is to use Energy balls and fire them so they reach a particular part of the level. Of course, we are working with 3 dimensions, so the complexity of the levels increases a lot from the original. The types of elements need to move could be simple plates and they could even be some combat to reach various elements. I always imagined the final level to be inside the Citadel and the energy ball must reach the top.
This could even be combined with Portal to use some of its features. In fact, now that I write this, Portal actually had some of Delektor’s gameplay features. If I remember correctly, we had to get the energy balls into some places to open doors or power generators.
So, I suppose it would be very similar to Portal in that regard but there would be a number of new “elements”. A visit to this page will give you some ideas of what could be available.
In many respects, this implementation might be much more interesting in the long term than a simple shooter. Players seem to love difficult puzzles and creating new levels for this would be a real challenge.
This is the last game I will discuss today and is the theme for Joe’s two levels. Unlike the shooter: Space Invaders, the puzzle: Deflektor, PAcman is about avoidance and collection. I have to admit I never enjoyed the original game or any of its children, but some lvoe it. My original thought was for a Ravenholm-styled map, with Antlions running around the streets. The player collected melons and that’s that. I didn’t get much further in my thought process because I never played the game enough to know what happens after the first couple of levels and the different features.
Available to all games
Some elements are common to all games and would help keep the mod active.
A score upload system would be a lot of fun. The scores would go to a website listing the best scores of the day, week, month and year etc. Players love systems like this and it would be done automatically. Add in some other stats and you have the start of an active community.
Now open up the level design to the mapping community and let them produce some levels and you have a thriving community. At that point new games could be converted and the only limit is whether it’s fun to play or not.
I have little doubt that some will trash this idea. I really think it could work, be fun to play and not too hard to implement. I think the key, and maybe more so than most mods, will be beta testing. Finding out what elements work within the 3D setting and what don’t is important.
The mod would allow players of a casual persuasion to start a game and play for as long as they wanted, no complicated story to worry about, just great gameplay and that addictive feel.
I also feel it is very important for modders to really explore and understand the original games. I think I remember reading that Pacman took over a year of development because they kept changing the gameplay to find the perfect balance between the enemies and player.
Simply turning the games into 3D versions is not enough. We have to find that perfect balance too.
Over to you. Before you judge the idea, please play the two maps to get an idea for what it could be like, then come back here to discuss the concept.