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25 Comments

  1. I’d love to see every one of those. Your first point about seeing completed mods is definitely the most resonant for me, though. It seems that developers are under pressure to release, when really I think that most people would prefer a solid and completed mod.

  2. Kasperg

    1) Well, In my case I’d rather release the first 9 maps of the next installment of “The Citizen” while I know they will work for most people than waiting to have all 17 of them finished but somehow unusable thanks to some new Valve update that forces our brains to spin in new and interesting ways and ultimately makes all our work go to the dumpster. That has been the case with all of our careful subtitle work that people will no longer be able to use.

    2)Random replay is an interesting concept, and it’s certainly possible to do. But the thing is, not many mappers are willing to waste a gameplay concept or feature in an area that already has one implemented. Why make that sequence have two random ways of being played when I can use each gameplay concept for a different area? Would I do that knowing that most mods aren’t really replayed?

    3)I don’t know if this is related to how the mod ends or actually letting the player end the mod sooner than later by dying. In the first case, one of our projects has something along those lines.

    4)Casettes, messages written on the wall like in Portal, letters, smoke signals (hard to decipher though)… the possibilities are indeed endless.

    5)The game AI isn’t really designed for weightless enviroments. While the possibilities are there, I think more problems than benefits would come out of it. Then again, there’s always the possibility of giving the player a jetpack and having the rest of npcs behave as usual. I still think flying would make things too easy.

    6)The super gravity gun appears very late in HL2 for a reason. Anything less than that weapon would mean starting all over again. A mod featuring the gravity gun would have to either be very short or keep a consisten level of awesomeness throughout the duration. It doesn’t sound easy to pull off.

    7)The problem is, the player is faster than all humanoid NPCs. There would always be the chance of actually having to wait for that rebel and not really be following him. In Ep1, playtesting showed Freeman following Alyx was a bad idea that didn’t work for the whole set of levels. That’s why it’s Alyx who ends up following the player.

    8)A training course was kind of essential back when FPS were knew or in games that really offer some particular gameplay mechanics or weapon functionality. That’s the reason why I don’t think we see them very often nowadays. Also the fact that a controlled enviroment is usually something less engaging, story wise.

    1. Grey Acumen

      1 ) Um, if you release those 9 maps before Valve runs an update that breaks them, wont the valve update break them anyway? I think I’d actually be far more upset to never see the citizen 2 at all, than have just the first half of it, and never know how it ends.

      5 ) You’ve gotten caught on the idea of NPCs even being present. As long as the game mechanic is only in situations where you’re not dealing with NPCs, then it wouldn’t matter. Imagine it being implemented in a Portal type situation.

      6 ) The super gravity gun can be implemented anywhere that it makes sense to do so. It was present in the very BEGINNING of Episode 1, and just simply ran out of juice and reverted to gravity gun after it ran its course.

      8 ) I still think it would be useful for “less skilled” players to have a place where they could work on practicing certain skills without being in the heat of the situation and not really know what they’re doing.

      1. Kasperg

        The update would break them anyway, but not before some people have had a chance to play them. Just the way people were able to play The Citizen 1 from November 2007 to May 2010 without needing any patches.

        I think I’d actually be far more upset to never see the citizen 2 at all, than have just the first half of it, and never know how it ends.

        I doubt it, since the place where we have decided to split could just as well have been the ending. It wraps up the main conflict exposed in the first map of the total nine. The next 8 maps deal with something different in terms of a main goal. We thought a cliffhanger would be a silly way to end it.

      2. Kasperg

        I think I misunderstood you earlier.
        You do agree, like us, that having the first 9 maps is better than never having any of the total 17. Right?

        1. Just to clarify my position on TC2 – I wasn’t thinking of TC2 when I wrote my article. It was more about new mappers who have this huge story that they almost arbitrarily split into episodes, with little or no experience in mod making.

          1. Kasperg

            I know that, I know that πŸ™‚
            Episodic mod-making will usually fail when the rest of the episodes are nothing but a promise and declaration of intentions. In TC2 the rest of the mod already exists but needs lots of finishing touches and playstesting.

            Few mods that start as episodic manage to pull it off. While Minerva probably did it best, you have cases like Eye of The Storm in which the author encountered too many problems to actually finish it.
            I still prefer the shorter quality episodes of an unfinished story over some bigger *finished* mods that go for quantity over quality. No need to give out names.

        2. No, you actually understood me correctly despite my grammatical typo. I WOULD rather have nothing at all than something that cuts off in the middle, but if you can stop at a resolution point, then by all means. The issue I have with episodes is when you have a cliffhanger or inferences to there being more story, but they never get expounded on due to the mod group breaking up and the mod getting abandoned.

  3. I’ll be honest, I really like the idea of a “training” mod. Maybe this is just because I am less than good at all games, but still it is a neat idea. That might work better with Portal though, given the thousands of things that can be done with it. Blue Portals certainly showed that to us.

  4. 1: A COMPLETE MOD.
    “I’m tired of hearing about episodes from mod makers. When will they stop being sheep and realize that many of the supposed benefits of making episodes are false”.
    For mod teams I agree.
    For single mappers who want to do it unaided, I disagree as releasing part of a mod gives them feed back not otherwise available.

    2. RANDOM REPLAY
    “Yes, I know that the location of enemies in SP maps is very important and they can’t just be dropped anywhere, but there must be some clever modders out there that could think of something”.
    I agree with that for sure.
    It has been done to a small extent by some mods already and in ” Drowned World” in particular.

    3. A MOD WHERE THE PLAYER DIES.
    Not for me. I want to win. Only victory satisfies.

    Besides, I’m sure it’s been done a few times.
    I’m certain we had to commit suicide to achieve the objective in “Intrusion” an EP2 mod but it’s been a while since I played.

    4. A MOD WHERE COMMUNICATION IS NOT VIA A RADIO.
    Pony Express? Email? Twitter?
    “……the modder can communicate objectives and story elements in new and interesting ways”.
    I do not recall any map or mod that used radio to communicate useful route finding or game play information so I don’t see the gripe here.
    Mappers already do provide communication with visual clues like Lamda signs, trails of blood, text etc; cut scenes, half open doors, damaged walls et al.
    Some have used written notes and graffiti ( a la “Calamity’).
    Can you actually buy cassette tapes nowadays let alone at some future date?

    5. A WEIGHTLESS ENVIRONMENT.
    Not for me.
    I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground, thanks.

    6. THE SUPER GRAVITY GUN
    Is a ” run & gun” weapon. It has been used in very few mods but most notably in ” City 7: The Toronto Conflict” and it detracted from the game play.
    The last time I played the mod, I dropped the SGG and armed myself conventionally. The gameplay and combat was far superior.
    It had it’s place in HL2 but I’m very glad it’s appearance in mods is rare.

    7. A “FOLLOW ME” SEQUENCE.
    No thank you.
    Protecting friendly NPCs is an abomination to me; a complete anathema. Hate it.
    Less, preferably none, of it for me.

    8. TARGET PRACTICE.
    I do not want target practice. The only practice I want is in-game and in combat.

    “I’d like to see a whole mod for HL2 whose primary objective WAS to help you improve your skills”. No thanks. How boring is that.
    I’ll bet I’m not alone with that view.

    ON A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE NOTE, much as I said last year.
    A super Combine Elite. A super soldier with heavy, motor assisted, armour and heavy weaponry. A beserker.
    For the player. An armed to the teeth exo-skeleton.

    More mobile and airborne Combine hardware:
    Tanks. Players get armed with tankbusters or an artillery piece. Better yet, a tank for the player.
    Multi-firing Rocket Launchers. Take out with the RPG
    Dive Bomber. like the Stuka in WW2. Screams in the dive. Players get an anti-aircraft gun like the Bofors β€” fixed and/or mobile.

    Anti-personnel mines as in HL.

    1. Besides, I’m sure it’s been done a few times.

      I can’t think of any that explicitly tells the player they won’t survive.

      For single mappers who want to do it unaided, I disagree as releasing part of a mod gives them feed back not otherwise available.

      I disagree. Feedback is always available via smaller maps. I’m talking about modders thinking they can create an opus in chapters, only to find that by the end of the first oen they have improved their skills and objectives and this “opus” is never finished. They can easily make short focused maps that provide feedback and give them a chance to see what they enjoy and are good at making.

      Only victory satisfies.

      Victory is not the same as survival.

      Pony Express?

      There’s no need to be facetious.

      Twitter

      Actually, I like that idea. A large screen showing an account update.

      I do not recall any map or mod that used radio to communicate useful route finding or game play information so I don’t see the gripe here.

      There have have been plenty of maps that give information by radio, either in the HEV or as a normal radio. I’m not just talking route information but story as well.

      Some have used written notes and graffiti ( a la “Calamity”).

      Yes, I am aware of that, but they are so few and far between.

      Can you actually buy cassette tapes nowadays let alone at some future date?

      Does that actually matter?

      I do not want target practice

      I do, which is why it’s on my list. You are under no obligation to play anything that is released.

      How boring is that.

      Not for me and if it could increase my enjoyment of other mods, it may be worth the time and effort.

      An armed to the teeth exo-skeleton

      No, thank you. That whole idea is so over-used. It’s bad enough with the HEV.

  5. The “attempt to survive” mod, an alt. mod in your “thinking system” phillip, you wander throughout a post-nuclear war place, then you finish by shooting yourself. But even with this the mod finished with a post sequence where it was revealed to have all been a dream (or is it?).

    Well, on moddb this type of ending has been received… with mixed feelings. I think putting people through a game and then having their character shooting himself can be perceived as “audacious” but not by many.

    I think it should be cool, for example, to do a SAW V-like ending (ya know the movies?) : for example, you finish in a trash compactor like in HL1… You try to escape but in fact there would be NO escape and you will die no matter what you do, and the last screen of loading will direct you to the ending/credits…

  6. Grey Acumen

    1 ) I wouldn’t mind episodes, but I’m sure trying to keep a group together even for one decent modding project isn’t easy, keeping that group together for multiple projects might very well be impossible. I can’t think of ANY Source mods that I’ve played that started out with “episode 1!” and actually followed through with another episode that wrapped up whatever was left hanging in the previous episode. There are a few mods that manage to pull off a series that are strung together, but most of the ones successful in this still have at LEAST the first episode capable of standing on its own.

    2 ) I’m not so big on the random replay. The more random there is, the less room there is for story, and I value the story far more than the random replay. Heck, I barely have enough time to play through the games I have ONCE. I’d far rather see achievements worked into the game that are specifically designed to make me focus on different objectives that might even be exclusionary to each other and require me to explore different routes or strategies.

    3 ) I don’t think the player should know that they’re going to die, but I do think there should be mods in which the player dies. The main story ideas that I keep pushing for this is “Grigori” in which you play as Annabelle (armed only with the weapon that Grigori uses in HL2) and you are responsible for protecting him through the destruction of Ravenholm. The mod would end with an headcrab shelling where your gun goes scattering to where Grigori is, followed by the floor collapsing and you’re trapped, weaponless with a number of headcrabs. After you die, the scene fades to black, followed by your screen getting up as if standing, but still obscured, and hearing Grigori’s voice before he has to shoot you with your own gun, since you’ve been turned zombie by a headcrab.

    4 ) I think the only problem with this is that people don’t utilize the video calls that show up so often through the HL2 series. If you actually look back, nearly EVERY major communication in the series has been accompanied by a video projection of some sort of the character speaking. Basically, people need to make that extra bit of effort to animate the player speaking, even though a radio cuts out the need for all that work.

    5 ) I love the gravinull concept, and I DO think that the gravity gun should ABSOLUTELY be used as the only method for moving around in that situation, HOWEVER I don’t agree with the grapple. I think that the gravity gun should remain unmodified, but the act of trying to grab an object from a distance will pull you towards it at the same rate that it is pulled to you, and punting an object also punts you in the opposite direction.

    6 ) I just simply agree with this. The last time I saw the Super Gravity Gun used REALLY well was also the first time: Episode 1. It’s one of the things that got put into my “wishlist” early on for the mod I want to eventually make. There was also a mod a couple months ago in which you played as a Combine Test Soldier using the gravity gun, and it was possible to pick up the super gravity gun in time to fight about 100 Hunters. It was a fun way to end the mod, but it just doesn’t have the same impact as what it did in HL2 and Ep1.

    7 ) No. Just no. I want to be able to explore at my own rate. A follow me mission would be very nearly, if not just as annoying as an escort mission. We don’t need more of these.

    8 ) I agree with this too. A crowbar headcrab batting cage, a combine armor simulator so you could tell how many shots it takes each weapon to down a combine when you’re only shooting him in the arm or leg, or head, and so you can see what type of spred each weapon has. Grenade tossing for distance and accuracy feild. Grenade bowling lanes. Rocket Launchers so you can practice keeping rocket in the air as long as possible.

  7. Only #2 and #6 sparked an interest.

  8. In regards to your first point I think it depends on the situation. I’m personally working on solo project, that I decided recently to release as a two parter. The main reason for this is the fact that the project is pretty ambitious, and it has already taken me a whole two years to produce about half of what I want in the final product, which currently equates to about one and a half, to two hours play time. Releasing it in two parts will allow me to get much needed feedback from a (hopefully) large audience, so the next part can be all that it could be. Not only this, but working on it for so long has left me burned out, and I would really like to get something pushed through the door, before I get hit by a bus or something πŸ™‚

    Don’t get me wrong, in regards to some projects that are released episodically, and probably have about 15 minutes of gameplay (Overheid springs to mind), I think that they would benefit from being worked on for a longer period, so that there can be at least 2, or 3 quality maps before a release. Not only will people want to come back for more, knowing that they will get a much meatier experience, but the developer will have much needed info on gameplay impressions and the likes.

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    1. Long time reader, first time poster.

      Congratulations on your first comment. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

  9. Hec

    Agree with u Phillip, i’d also love to see a bloody complete mod. Now that i’m thinking, eppisodes are a pain in the butt, mods are not as sophisticated as a whole game, so I hope they stop to send them in eppisodes c’mon guys!!

    But as for myself there’s one only thing i’d like to see in 2011, and in further years if they don’t do it in this next year, i’d love to see a mod, or even a map, that combine PORTAL (portal gun, and portals) and HL2 (combat, weapons, ennemys) dynamics, I know that’s so difficult but i’d love to see someone trying that. As i’m not modder or programer, if I were and I mean by that, having the propper knowlege to do mods i’d assume that challenge for sure….

    Anyway is just a wish. I hope some moder connsider it

    1. Hec

      Also another thing i’d like to see in 2011, but I forget to mention it here, is that i’d love to see a finished mod related to the 7HR war. Hope this year some projects on that line would be at last finished!!

  10. You should do more of these Phillip, they’re interesting to read and really engage your readers. I have quite a lot to say!

    1: A COMPLETE MOD

    I’m not utterly opposed to episodic releases, so long as they give me something substantial to chew on. Overheid Part I is probably the ultimate example of how not to do an episodic release. One map wasn’t nearly enough, you didn’t even begin to get a glimpse of the conflict, of the characters, not even of where you were to begin with. The player is ripped away just as things start to get interesting, and all he can do is contemplate the scarcity of material he was given.

    I’ll admit that the episodic vs package debate has been raging in my own mind the past few months, because it has particular relevancy to my own modding efforts. There are advantages to both, and I’ve weighed both of them in my mind:

    Episodic:

    + More frequent releases
    + Less burnout on my end
    + Smaller hype cycle, but can start anew with each episode
    – Breaks up the pacing of the mod
    – Would break the non-linear chapter progression in the mod’s middle (would have to be patched in a later episode)
    – I might be forced to end episodes in places that aren’t suited to endings

    Package:

    + More consistent quality
    + The mod plays as it was intended
    + Pacing is unbroken
    + Non-linear chapter progression isn’t broken by episode gaps
    + Only one hype cycle, but will be much more electrifying if the mod is good
    – Burnout might be a problem
    – Could end up in limbo
    – Takes a long time to reach quality when you have big plans

    I’m leaning far more in the direction of a package release as a result, it offers me the fewest downsides and the most upsides. I’m prepared to sink in the time to see it through, and I’m dogmatic about continuing, so the downsides of a package release are moot in my case.

    2. RANDOM REPLAY

    Dynamically shaking up certain elements of my mod at every map-load is something I’ve thought a great deal about in the past as well. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve seen some fruit borne from that line of investigation. The non-linear chapter progression that I mention above is that fruit. It’s similar to the hub concept in other games (and in CSS Sci-fi, which you reference), one or several maps act as crossroads between the majority of the game’s maps.

    So the player will be presented with a fork in the road, it’s up to him to decide the order of chapters he plays (I have four that can be played in any order). Mechanically, it’s identical to the sort of backtracking and non-linear objectives seen in Half-Life 1’s Blast Pit chapter, except the player is selecting entire chapters and not sub-objectives of one.

    I think this feature will be exactly the kind that you crave, Phillip (though I have my doubts that this mod will be ready for release in 2011). What really excites me about it is that by virtue of certain chapters having unique weapons or items, the player can alter how the next chapters treat them in fairly significant ways. Examples:

    Player A plays Chapter 2, receives Bugbait -> Antlions are pacified in Chapters 3-5, they become less hazardous in journeying.
    Player B plays Chapter 3, receives gravity Gun -> Manhacks become much less of a threat, gets access to out-of-reach caches in Chapters 2, 4, 5.

    Too often a neat hub concept is handicapped by lack of persistence (ie you finish the mission and lose all your arsenal and advantages when you go to the next). What I have in mind is different: what you earn, you keep. Depending on what you prioritize, you’ll see different opportunities opened or closed to you. As choice goes, something like that can be pretty damn powerful.

    I’ve been thinking about low-level ways to jumble up enemy and item spawning a tad (big fan of Left 4 Dead’s director systems), but nothing quite as exciting as the above. At least giving 2-3 variations per enemy/item spawn would do a little bit for replayability, I figure.

    4. A MOD WHERE COMMUNICATION IS NOT VIA A RADIO

    This is another thing I’ve been thinking about for some time. Radios definitely are the go-to medium of communication for NPCs at a distance, so it’s worth thinking about ways to turn that trope on its ear or go with something else entirely. One of my NPCs uses text in a way not seen in HL mods to my knowledge, but I *have* been thinking about another one of my NPCs, who I saw as having no better alternative than the radio for communicating with the player. Your post has given me an idea: a portable TV that the player must plug in at new locations to receive further directives. It would have a little player involvement where the radio has none, and it also puts a face to the person calling (whereas the radio is faceless).

    5. A WEIGHTLESS ENVIRONMENT

    My entry for the Hunterville mapping contest (Industrious) featured a “wind tunnel” that carried the player up into a different room. That means of transportation will definitely be making a return in my mod, but fully fleshed-out and as a more universal means of transport around the synth factory. A low-gravity zone in the core could also be quite neat.

    6. THE SUPER GRAVITY GUN

    The super gravity gun is one of my favourite weapons in the franchise, I could not agree more that mods need to use it more. Myself, I won’t be able to resist adding it to a latter chapter in my mod. I have a limiting factor in mind, something like Combine terminals charging it for 30 seconds (with a recharge time of 2 minutes or more). The idea would be to have that awesome wrecking power mixed in with standard weaponry for a more varied battle.

    1. You should do more of these Phillip

      Well, for now, once a year is about right for me.

      Your concept sounds very interesting, but it’s not exactly what I am thinking about. Yours is more of a choice over which route to take first and will definitely allow for some replayability because I guess players will want to beat the mod using a different order.

      Mine is more about the exact same level but with different locations for enemies, health and ammo.

      Your post has given me an idea: a portable TV that the player must plug in at new locations to receive further directives.

      That sounds pretty cool, but how about a netbook instead.

      The vertical wind tunnel sounds a lot of fun too, especially if you have to keep pressing different buttons to keep it on!

      I also love the idea of a rechargable SGG. That definitely adds some strategic element to it.

    2. Kyouryuu

      It would have a little player involvement where the radio has none, and it also puts a face to the person calling (whereas the radio is faceless).

      Of course, you could always leverage the fact that the radio is faceless. Do you really know who is on the other side?

      A classic example of this is Dr. Polito from System Shock 2. The good doctor, the only survivor of the ship other than yourself, is constantly communicating with you via the radio to get you to restart the ship’s engines so the two of you can escape. But while she seems like a sympathetic and terrified survivor on a ship full of former humans, you ultimately do not know who this person is, and they use this as one of the key plot points of the game.

      Bioshock, of course, did something similar with the Andrew Ryan character. At first, you don’t really know if Ryan is for real or not. Is he actually talking to you, or is it some elaborate security system against intruders?

      1. Your concept sounds very interesting, but it’s not exactly what I am thinking about. Yours is more of a choice over which route to take first and will definitely allow for some replayability because I guess players will want to beat the mod using a different order.

        Mine is more about the exact same level but with different locations for enemies, health and ammo.

        What I’m excited about is not so much about playing a chapter out of order in and of itself (though that is worth a little replay value on its own), but what I’m excited about is how the flavour of a playthrough can be altered significantly depending on that order.

        If you get Bugbait right away, as opposed to putting it off until the fifth and last possible chapter, a great deal of the game changes even as the maps themselves do not (the former situation would have the player leading a party of Antlions around, whereas the latter would see a lot of fighting with Antlions roaming in the wilderness, and would see a far smaller passive benefit from the item [as there would be less of the game left to use it in]). It’s a high-level change, a change that is readily visible to the end user and has the potential to affect how following chapters play (and isn’t limited to the chapter of origin).

        So in this sense it will have far greater impact on replayability than merely adding some variability to spawning, because the very rules and opportunities given to the player change as they make decisions. What you do in map 1 alters what is available to you in map 2, 3, and 4, and the same is true in any order you select. Being able to choose in and of itself is kinda neat, but it’s not what I’m excited about.

        That sounds pretty cool, but how about a netbook instead.

        Hmm, I’ll have to look around for a laptop model, I’m can’t recall seeing one.

        Of course, you could always leverage the fact that the radio is faceless. Do you really know who is on the other side?

        I played Bioshock recently, and I do admire the game immensely. I think most players would see the “person you can’t see” betraying them coming a mile away, though.

  11. Kasperg

    Going back to the “RANDOM REPLAY” idea, there’s a big problem which I don’t think has been mentioned either here or in the PC17 transmission.
    While it is possible to randomize events in HL2, we are not asking ourselves the other important question: How does the game know we are replaying it or playing for the first time?
    If we are talking about 2 randomized events or situations, you will always have a 50% chance of finding the exact same thing as last time, 33% if there are three options, and so on. I think that number is too high.
    If we were talking about a high number of randomized elements, it’s true that it would be easier to find a new combination every time, but the forethought and planning would increase exponentially.
    I stand by my first opinion on the matter. The majority of players don’t replay maps or mods. Make sure they see what you want them to see!
    Take TC2 as an example. Everyone who has mentioned the last map has stated that they used a saved game to try the three different ways of completing the mission, instead of leaving it for a future replay of the whole thing. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but that must mean something.

    1. Fundamentally, the issue is much simpler: how can I make this mod worth playing all the way to the end, and worth playing again? Working toward the first feeds into the second somewhat, and contrariwise, the mod won’t be replayed at all if it isn’t worth playing once.

      50% and 33% on a single event isn’t monumental by itself, but little things add up. 50 percent here, there, and all over the place eventually snowball into a much more varied beast. Players have no trouble spotting a 50/50 split on one spawn, but that split is much easier to disguise when it’s occurring at 20 different places throughout the mod.

  12. Am I the only one that absolutley loved Highway 17 and Water Hazard? If we are granted one wish for the new mods, I would like to see a mod with SERIOUS driving sections, akin to what we got in Half Life 2. There is so much unexplored potential there, it’s downright ridiculous. Like a section of canals with an airboat, and a lot of fun jumps that a player HAS to make. This feature was under-used in Water Hazard, as was the feature of choosing to stop the boat and explore a shack or keep moving. How about a buggy section that features some “must make jumps”? There are a lot of other possibilities, these are just a few.

    So I vote for a couple of vehicle chapters.

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