G-String: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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

I’m torn. Torn between incredible admiration for such amazing work and frustration & disappointment with the outcome.

I started to write an article about how I felt G-String was bad for the community but then I realised that only presenting the negative aspects was unfair.

This article is not a review, that is on the Mod itself, but of course, I will be echoing some of the points I made. This article discusses the wider impact of the mod. It’s a personal view and as such you may disagree.

Now, with that basic description out of the way, why is the mod good for the modding community.

The Good

If you haven’t played G-String then you probably can’t imagine how large the mod is. It is the longest mod I have ever played and probably longer than many games. Not only that it has been made by one young woman.

In addition, it’s a total conversion with almost nothing left of Half-Life 2. I say “almost” because it’s clearly built on top of the basic structure. For example, there are flying enemies that very closely resemble manhacks.

Please don’t think that is an attempt at a veiled criticism, it’s not. There’s only so much that can be done if you use somebody else’s game engine.

The environments are some of the most detailed and confusing I have ever played. The attention to detail is incredible and I am sure the technical aspects behind the curtain offer some very interesting ideas.

Now, I don’t know exactly how long I took to finish the mod but it was easily in excess of 15 hours. That’s 15 hours of free video gaming.

The author creates a compelling setting and everything about the mod adds to that setting. Goodness knows how many models and textures she had to create. And the important thing is that they all “fit” the theme perfectly.

It seems she was influenced by Blade Runner but with an Asian twist. Somebody should make a TV documentary about this mod because it really does set new standards in some areas.

So why isn’t it actually being heralded everywhere? Well, that’s what I talk about next.

The Bad

When new modders see and play G-String I have no doubt they will be incredibly motivated. Seeing what one person can do with such dedication and commitment can only inspire.

And that’s the problem. For every “G-string-type mod” released there must be hundreds started and never finished.

Mods like this make modders believe they can also create something as spectacular as this and the reality is they can’t. It takes a very special type of personality to spend 5 years behind closed doors making a mod of this depth.

By releasing something so big the author has given hope to many modders when instead they should be creating smaller more manageable mods. Learning from each release and improving as they get more experience.

They are too many over-ambitious mods started already and G-String may have started a few more.

Next, is the fact that there are a lot of things wrong with it. I know the mod was beta tested but I doubt it was tested early and often. I have the feeling that it was tested when it was nearly finished and I also believe that not all testes finished it.

I took months to finish it. Yes, my playing schedule is limited but a beta tester would have had to test it over and over again. By releasing the mod in the condition it was in the author has burnt her bridges. NO WAY am I going to replay the mod with the patch and I doubt most will.

I would love to know how many testing hours goes into one hour of gameplay for Valve games. Hundreds I would guess. Sure, that’s hard for mod makers to do and for some stupid reason they believe that releasing mods as alphas and betas is the same as getting proper beta tests.

The mentally of normal players is not the same as beta testers. How many normal player replay sections over and over again? Almost none I would guess.

There used to be a phrase in the modding community that was bandied about by all. It goes “Release early and often.” It’s wrong. It should be “Test early and often”. Releasing is NOT the same as testing.

Personally, I liked the slightly confusing routes – too often we only have one clear way to go and that takes the fun out of exploring. Of course, the other extreme of maze-like areas is no fun either, but for some reason I didn’t have too much trouble finding where to go.

There were other things that got the mod negatives reviews, mine included; the widescreen format and the lack of crosshairs are the most obvious examples.

Essentially, the author created something amazing but with serious flaws. Flaws that should have been addressed very early in the design process.

The Ugly

Never, ever underestimate the impact of beauty on a project. Do you honestly think that the smartest women get to be on TV? No, it’s generally the hot ones. Yes, they may be good at their job but I guarantee that if they were ugly they wouldn’t be on the show.

The same goes for games and mods. Being in a depressing story, setting or environment fosters that emotion. There’s only so much dystopia I can take before I become depressed.

At least with other mods or games I had a sense of optimism. I kinda knew that at some point Good would triumph over Evil. With G-String the greys and drab textures bring me down. There seemed to be no end to my suffering. No light at the end of the grey tunnel.

That’s one of the reasons I couldn’t play for too long – it was just too depressing.

From a technical point of view the levels and vistas within the game are amazing but players shouldn’t be expected to see the art and skill from what is presented.

There’s no doubt the setting has been carefully staged and the posters and environmental design all add to that setting, but I believe that the author has made a common modding mistake and forgotten to look at things through the players eyes.

If she hadn’t created the mod, would she honestly want to spend 15 hours playing in such an emotionally draining setting?

Final Words

Many people asked how I could have made this my “Mod of the Year 2011” when it was so frustrating to play and look at. And I have to admit, I asked myself the same question.

The answer I keep coming back to is that if you put aside those few negative points, what you are left with is an amazing piece of work. Something that even at one tenth its size many modders would have been happy with calling their own.

To not have recognised this work would have been a travesty. But here is the crux.

i didn’t actually enjoy playing it that much!

I wish to headcrab I hadn’t have heard of it until after the patch was released, assuming the patch fixing the things that frustrated me.

There’s little justice in the real world and our microcosm of modding is no different. The fact that this mod has gt so little publicity outside PP and ModDB is a shame, but it shouldn’t take articles like this to convince the playing public of the merits of a mod – the mod itself should do that – and G-String didn’t.

I suspect that modding historians will cite this mod as one that if the author had tweaked her process just a little she would have been hailed as the new Adam Foster.

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15 Comments

  1. Hmm, your page for this game doesn’t mention any patch, am I right to assume it’s already included in the main file?

    1. No, because I don’t think it has been released yet.

      1. Ah OK thanks, wasn’t sure if you meant if the patch was already out or not.

  2. Derbler

    Was the interview called off?

    1. No, I just needed to finish the mod first. I hope to have it posted in a few days.

  3. s.anchev

    G-String, as I’ve already said on the mod page, is probably the most fascinating piece of work of the mod community for years.

    I’m glad to (finally!) see your review Phillip, and even more that you wrote a specific article on it.

    I’ve never hated and was fascinated at the same time by a game, I mean the experience was painful, and is still painful, not only because of the level guidance/hours of gameplay/etc., but also with the general tone of the mod (surreal dreams, depressive world, …), but in the end, when we see what a lonely woman can do with Source Engine in 5 years, when we see what was the purpose of the mod (Using… a free mod… to deliver a powerful social “punch” was never seen before, or at least not that way), I can’t help myself but to continue to follow this mod and what Myo will do next.

    Still, as you can see on moddb Myo’s page, she has some articles about characters (which seems to have been written off), and that’s too bad because the very end of G String should have featured a real threat, a true embodiment of the enemies of the GString universe.

    1. Hec

      I’m glad to (finally!) see your review Phillip, and even more that you wrote a specific article on it.

      I have to say it: I EAGERLY hope that Philllip get closer to another standing out mod but this time for HL1, yeah I am talking about “CRY OF FEAR” I really would love to see a specific Phillip’s article about CoF, sure it will be interesting!!

  4. I enjoyed the atmosphere in the mod, even though it is depressing. Kind of like why people watch horror films and play horror games. You can immerse yourself into the game world easily, with a very intriguing world = but you still know it is not actually the end of the world (therefore the atmosphere is not actually depressing, so I don’t have to stop playing).

    I can kind of understand why people think of it as a long rainy car-drive.. purely because it takes so long. However, I think that the reason they feel this is because everyone is always thinking about the ending. If you think about it, it would never end if you were the character; your mindset should be where and what to do next, not, when will it end. While you play this game, you should be thinking in the present, looking at the vistas, the detail, exploring where-ever you want. It is the journey that counts, not the ending.

    I feel that disliking the lack of cross-hair is fair, but really, I feel that if the lack of it makes players think the mod as a whole is worse, then the player is spoilt. Spoilt by previous games handing everything to them on a plate, because those games make more money. What I’m really trying to say is, if there is something you don’t particularly like such as the lack of cross-hairs, try to change yourself, go with it, instead of putting all the blame onto the mod. To be honest I found it difficult at first, but when you get used to it, it can make for some fun shoot-outs, especially at a distance.. instead of just complaining.

    Oh and, since I haven’t played the whole game all the way through due to an error (fixed in the patch hopefully), I will play from the very start when the patch is released.

    1. This is the best review I have seen for this amazing mod and I wholeheartedly agree with George Campbell’s observations.

  5. zonbie

    Phillip, you mention “modding historians” at the end of the article as though you are NOT the premier modding historian…at least a specialization in Half-Life modding history.

    I mean, you have assembled a database of over 2000 historical HL and HL2 mods and it reaches back to 1998 by the way. So that’s pretty significant.

  6. Hec

    Mods like this make modders believe they can also create something as spectacular as this and the reality is they can’t. It takes a very special type of personality to spend 5 years behind closed doors making a mod of this depth.

    These Phillip’s words, actually got me really worried, because they are true, and most because there’s actually one very ambitious mod, we haven’t heard if is going to be released, or what just have happened with it.

    I am talking about “BLACK MESA SRC”i mean I know BMS mod is actually a team and it’s not the same that is developed just by one person, but if it’s heck difficult to develope something that big for 1 person, imagine to recreate the whole HL1 world in Source!!!, I know that 2 or + heads think more than one, but also 2 or more heads found so much more trouble to deal and handle with it.

    I really love to see BMS released this year or maybe the next but with not being a pesimist I know definitely that BMS has not been an easy develope I hope that BMS is not ending as the big disapoiment in modding history, mainly because the ambiitious of the project and the absolutely shocking teasing arround it!!, I cross my fingers and prey for that jewel project to be propperly ended and relased!°!!

  7. AlterIWnet

    Oh man over analysing g-string is like descriping how each and every puddle of rain forms LoL! Still awesome review on an amazing mod.

    and about black mesa source…lazy bastards!
    though I must say one person working on a project makes things a lot more controlled though. Unlike BMS I think that has two teams that probably creatd to many indiferrence and
    unfinish work that kinda hold up for the next work to start. Look at their site seems it’s like 60 % done but no xen levels yet. Another 20 years probably for them LoL!

    1. Why do you think there are no Xen levels yet?
      They purposely do not show media on Xen.. so don’t just make assumptions. They are not lazy, they are working very hard to fix all bugs and make the gameplay as good as the graphics, which takes a lot of scripting and a lot of time. Yes, in comparison to Myo’s work, it seems lazy, but honestly – they have and are doing a lot of work. It is not 60% or less complete I assure you.

  8. Your conclusion of inspiring other to do mods & the many failures it spawns; I 100% disagree, DEAD WRONG!!

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