I’ve just finished playing Half Life 2 and to be honest I was less than impressed. I’ll try to organise my thoughts into something worth reading for another post but if I had to give it a simple score it would be 6/10. Obviously there were lots of things I loved but also lots of things I hated. One of those things was the driving, both the boat and the buggy. If I had had the choice I would have skipped the driving parts, they bored the hell out of me! Mainly, it has to be said, because I kept crashing!
So here’s my idea, under the direction of Valve, four games are developed simultaneously: an FPS, a Stealth, a Driving and a Puzzle version. Put aside the logistics for a moment! They all use the same IP I.E. the Half Life 2 universe/story but present things in completely different ways. You always play Gordon Freeman but the difference, which should already be obvious, is what he does. Star Wars already does something similar in that you can get different genres within the same universe but that games are, to my knowledge, not linked via the story or characters.
The player has a choice: Buy the complete set or any combination of individual games. Let’s take me as an example. I would buy the FPS and puzzle versions. Firstly I would load a framework application, maybe built around Steam, then I load my two chosen versions. My personalised game now knows when to let me play or when to show a cut scene. If I purchase one of the other two games I can integrate them in at any time or simply start from the beginning again and play the new portions instead of watching the cut scenes.
Any point in the story/game where driving or stealth is required the game automatically jumps to a cut scene. However, each game is a complete game in its own right and would not need any of the others to either complete the story or bolster the play time. Of course each game would include small elements of the other three versions, but essentially they are what they advertise to be. By purchasing all four games and installing them you get the whole experience.
Clearly the logistics would need to be VERY carefully controlled as all the games would need to be balanced and released at the same time. Perhaps if you buy via retail your DVD comes with all four games and you can pay to unlock the different genres. Obviously Steam is already capable of something similar.
Using HL2 as a specific example the driving along the beachfront was really boring for me. I kept saying, “If I wanted a driving game I would have bought one!” These scenes could have been replaced either by being chauffeured to the relevant places where I could continue shooting things or a cut scene.
In the driving version I am the driver and the route is very much longer and the action would need to be adjusted somehow. Perhaps there are Combine vehicles that you need to outrun or push off the road. There would need to be more types of vehicles in plenty of different situations. I know that there is a drivable Strider mod available and those helicopter things may be cool to control, so there are certainly options available.
In the Puzzle version places that normally required me to fight my way out would be replaced with different rooms that need boxes moved, cranes used, batteries found and pipes turned on and off in certain order. Ravenholm would have been perfect for more puzzles to avoid the zombies and the Citadel certainly could have been a stealth paradise.
Make no mistake I know how hard this idea would be to actually make, but that doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t try. I got the feeling, when playing HL2, that it was trying to be all things to all men. I expected to be Gordon Freeman, on my own and saving the world, not driving around and struggling to get past my mindless squad who always blocked my exit! It’s almost as if Valve were thinking that a game without vehicles and squads etc is just to plain for today’s market. Maybe they’re right but if you are a jack-of-all-trades then you are a master of none!
Remember I’m not suggesting that the FPS game has no puzzles or vehicles or the Stealth version has no fighting. I’m commenting on the fact that HL2 has the wrong balance for me and one way to combat this problem in the future is to separate the game styles. For me the perfect FPS would contain 70% shooting, 10% driving, 10% puzzles and 10% stealth. But I realise that I’m not everyone. By giving players more control over their experience you create better games and happy customers.
This approach may also encourage more sales because players will try the vehicles in HL2 and think, “Wow a whole game based around driving/riding these? Great! Where do I get it from?” Another point is that you may open up the game to many more modders who want to try something new. Will there be a racing mod for HL2? Perhaps. In which case why not a whole game?
As ever, I’d be interested to read your comments.