Are Mods Poems?

29th June 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

One of the reasons I love computer games is because I truly believe they are the next form in story telling. First there were cave paintings, then oral stories, next came the printing press and after that the moving picture. Now we have games.

Games bring a level of interactivity that other story-telling forms lack. I, and you probably, have chosen FPS games because they balance action and story. I enjoy the physical challenge of running and shooting but I prefer it to be part of a story, otherwise I would simply play a multiplayer FPS!

I have always thought of games as the main story and mods as side stories. I never really thought much about maps until it occurred to me that maps could be the gaming version of poems.

Most poems never really go into details about things, they just give you a glimpse of something deeper. Perhaps maps do the same. Well, good maps that is! A room full of enemies doesn’t really offer anything deeper, but a couple of maps in a well-built environment could just spark ones imagination.

What do you think?

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7 Comments

  1. Jimbo

    I can’t tell if what you’re thinking is either really true or way off par. My mind keeps jumping around with the idea.

    I guess I’m one to believe map making is the same thing as architecture since you have to really sit down and plan on sizing issues and where things should be placed and how it will look etc. and that’s been going on for most of mankinds existance. It always should start on paper before you build a house/building/game-map.

    But when it comes to the movement part, I think I see where you’re going. The map needs to communicate to the player so they get thrown into the world. Like you said, a room with a bunch of enemies just does not cut it anymore. But having the enemies appear in ideal places would add to the effect, though that goes more with the architecture. Throwing interesting and unique puzzles definately adds to the flavor, but that can be thrown in the architecture pile too.

    Maybe the poetry isn’t within the maps, but with the characters/enemies of the game? The maps are just the vessle that carries the poem?

  2. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    When thinking about it now, I found Half Quake: Amen to have some poetic moments in there. The music and ambience helped create that mood some more, especially in the later parts.

  3. Straven007

    I think it really depends on the goal of the map. For example: Wolf3D and DooM really didn’t have a story line and their maps were just for blasting your way through. Later games like Half-Life and so on focused more on the storyline and mood of the maps. In these, yes they are like poems, but others not so much because there really isn’t a need for mood or story.

  4. I think sometimes stories and poems can be interchangeable. You can take a story and create a poem and you can take a poem and create a story. SOMETIMES.

    Some mods can be poems as well which I would consider narrative or epic poems.

    Some really short maps could be summed up as haiku’s.

    Poems focus more on emotional response and sensation. With gaming, it’s harder to convey that to a player.

    Does anyone know if a mod or map has ever been created based on a poem?

  5. Kasperg

    If architecture is like frozen music, maps are liquid architecture.
    I don’t think every map can be considered poetic, just the same way not every film should be considered art. But the potential is there.
    I did a series of multiplayer maps once, that while not based on a poem, had the premise of ‘lighting and space” making the setting and soul of the map, while texturing and realism were secondary.

  6. I’m one to believe map making is the same thing as architecture

    I agree that map making is similar to architecture but I am trying to look deeper. In the same way we could say that building are words, it’s the combination and placement that makes something more.

    The maps are just the vessle that carries the poem?

    I disagree. It has to be a combination. The placement of the enemies and weapons etc should be directly related to the types and placement of the buildings.

    However, I still think that you are missing my point. I am trying to relate maps to poems in the way they both give the reader/player a glimpse into something deeper.

    OF course there are many different types of poems and perhaps the one or two rooms full of enemies is more akin to a lymric:

    There was a young headcrab from Nantucket
    Who fell in love with a bucket
    His affections were refused
    And he was not amused
    So in the end he just said F**k it!

    I found Half Quake: Amen to have some poetic moments in there. The music and ambience helped create that mood some more, especially in the later parts.

    Yes, short events or areas that evoke some emotional response that perhaps make you think but in a different way from normal language stories.

    I think it really depends on the goal of the map.

    Agreed, I’m not saying all maps are poems, just trying to make a connection.

    Some really short maps could be summed up as haikus.

    Nice connection, perhaps we could define some poems and then define the types of maps that relate to them.

    Does anyone know if a mod or map has ever been created based on a poem?

    Great question.
    When I eventually learn to map and want to explore these types of projects. One project I have already started planning is to make a map based exactly on a piece of music. The piece in question is Stravinsky‘s Firebird. I want to try and control the player as closely as possible to ensure that the map finishes exactly at the same time as the music. Of course this will need to be done as subtlety as possibly, but that’s part of the experiment.

    If architecture is like frozen music, maps are liquid architecture.

    That’s an interesting idea. I once read a book entitled The Mind’s I which was an exploration of consciousness through various stories, articles etc. There was one piece where, I believe it was an anteater (I’m not at home to check) put records on the wall and enjoyed the music in one go. He or she could perceive the grooves of the record and appreciate the total work instead of having to listen to it.

    We need to explore the relationship between music and maps in more detail another time.

    I would like to have mapping competitions here on PP which would be engine independent but don’t have enough mapping readers.

    One of the competitions could be for different poems. Don’t know how easy that would be but it might inspire some people.

    Kasperg, Would you like to collaborate on a map based on Firebird? We could work together to plan and conceptualize but you would have to build it. I chose this piece because it is quite short but has plenty of varying pace and emotion. I don’t want to follow the story, just use the music to inspire some action and events. Perhaps you should try and listen to the music before you read the story. What sort of HL2 map/arena does it inspire?

    Let me know if you are interested.

  7. Kasperg

    Sorry for taking so long to reply (final exams). I’m interested in the idea. In our first drawing classes at uni (architecture), we did quite a bit of music-painting, although my results were nothin to write home about. About Firebird, now that I’m listening to it once again, I find it hard to relate it to something architectural. I tend to associate classical music with more natural elements like wind, thunder, the state of the sea etc. Firebird would actually go better with a Zelda type game than a first person shooter…
    However, making an on-rails map and adjusting the action and architecture to the music could be another possibility. I’m not sure.

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