Challenge Series 2009: Challenge 04

7th October 2009

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

Welcome to Challenge Number 04.

If you don’t know what the Challenge Series 2009 is all about, please read the Introduction.

Onto the Fourth challenge.

The Challenge

I challenge you to completely remove your Heads Up Display AKA HUD.


Open the console and type “cl_drawhud 0“, to re-enable them open the console and type “cl_drawhud 1“.


Put simply: because we rely too much on the information the HUD supplies. I remember playing a mod called Operation Black Thunder. For some reason I lost the HUD during the game, I’m pretty certain it was a bug but I wanted to continue playing the mod, so I just had to ignore it and play.

At first it was really hard and I am quite sure I died a lot but as I became frustrated at dying my gameplay style changed. I began to assume that I was low on health and ammo and as such I became more cautious.

If I think about the times I have played my best it’s when I have had very little health, in fact I remember a number of occasions when I only had 1 health point and played really well. I had to. Every attack from an enemy was potentially a kill or be killed situation.

A while ago I asked in Poll Question 048 whether players wanted a one-shot one-kill gameplay mode. Most said “no” but for short periods I think it would be fun.

Some Specifics

Take the health and shield indicators. They tells us exactly how much health and shield power we have. But in reality it is telling us how reckless we can be. What I mean is that if I have lots of health points I don’t have to be super cautious; I can be a little wild and “run and gun” a bit more than if I had very few health points.

They don’t really help you in your quest to find and use more health points either.

If you have 99 health, does that stop you from collecting health? No, of course not, although from a tactical point of view you might be better to wait until you really need it if you can (I’m talking about the medkits here, not the wall chargers). The same could be said of the shield power. In most maps and mods, there is enough to collect even if you don’t really need it, so why worry?

Without knowing exactly how much health you have you might only collect health if you felt you really needed it, and that may help in the long term as you get better and better and play at higher difficulty settings where there is less health available (effectively).

By not knowing the exact amount of health or shield power you have, you will either collect health when you should have waited or you will play in a more careful manner if you suspect you health is low.

With the ammo it’s a little different. Personally I see it like this. If I don’t know how much ammo I have I am more careful. That’s probably true for everybody, don’t you think? It would also encourage me to use inferior weapons more often unless I really have to use the “big guns”. When I am down to my last bullets, I’d prefer them to be the AR2 or Shotgun’s rather than the pistol’s.

More aware players may be able to count the number of shots they take and have an approximate number in their head but I am lucky if I can remember my name when playing, let alone how many of each bullet I might have left.

Another aspect is conserving some ammo. Specifically I am thinking about the crossbow. If possible I try to save one bolt at all times. That way I can use the superior zone capabilities that the crossbow has over the HEV suit.

This kinda ties in with the idea of My Playing Stats. You’d be more cautious if you had a final figure at the end of each map or mod displaying how shots you took, how much ammo you have, etc.

The HUD also tells us which weapons we have and how much battery life is left but those details are not really needed. Am I missing anything?


The problem is that we have all become dependant on the in formation we receive via the HUD. Not just that, but the idea is used in almost all our daily life, we can’t avoid it. When I switch channels on my TV, I get a kind of HUD, telling me the channel number, the show’s name etc etc. There are probably lots of other examples too. Even in games we have information overload.

I’m certainly not suggesting that HUDs are a bad idea, just that we only really appreciate them when they are gone. If you remove yours now for a little while, learn to live without it, then feel the joy and relief when you put it back.


I can’t deny that I had wished I had thought more about each challenge and had been able to offer a specific map or mod to use with each challenge, but I haven’t.

If you think you know of a perfect map or mod to play with this challenge, please comment and if I agree I’ll add it to the top part of the post.

Your Experiences

Don’t forget a major part of the challenge series is to share our experiences. Don’t let my questions limit you but here are some to get you started:

  • What did you miss the most; health or ammo info?
  • Did you notice a change in your tactics?
  • Once the challenge is over will you continue playing without it?


  1. SPY-maps

    i am not sure anymore which games I played that had the option to disbale the Hud, but when this was possible I did notice that I did disable the hud. it does make playing harder, but, it s extra fun because like you pointed out above, you do need to change your normal gameplay. you have to think indeed all the time about how high or low your health will be.
    this does bring me to saying that I hate it how health is handled in lots of new fpshooter. there is no health there anymore. when you get shot you just need to wait in a corner to get your health back up to 100% again. what is that !! with that there is no real fun anymore. but, I get a bit of track.

    i couldn’t find out in your text above Phillip if you also mean loosing the crossfire, because that’s a whole nother story. I remember playing Crysis on max difficulty, and there you also lost the hud AND crossfire. and although it does made the gameplay much much more realistic, it also was to difficult I thought. so, loosing HUd I do like, but please with crossfire.


    1. Kyouryuu

      The recharging health gameplay was arguably popularized by Halo and is the logical extension of the removal of lives from video games. Done right, it shouldn’t make the game easier because enemy AI compensates by adapting a strategy of hitting fast and hard, rather than taking its time. Keeping in mind that in Halo and Gears of War, it’s entirely possible to die even with health regeneration and the ability to “hide” while your health regeneration is not always available.

      There are a few reasons why this has seen widespread usage. Chiefly, most players hate having to replay segments of levels they already completed. It’s an inverted form of backtracking. This becomes especially true when you have games that center on tightly-scripted narrative sequences. Similar to being forced to sit through cutscenes more than once, the thrill is never present the second time around, so why bother showing it again?

  2. Grey Acumen

    I have to admit, I hate this. In a way, this actually inhibits you beyond what is realistic. Certainly the numeric indicators are far too concrete to represent what your health is and how close you are to dying, but in reality, you can tell these things about yourself based on how you feel. This isn’t possible in a game, which is why health indicators are so essential.

    Essentially, playing a game this way would be like being on drugs.

    1. Grey Acumen

      also, does disabling the hud also disable the crosshair? I wouldn’t mind missing the hud if I had crosshairs that allowed me to be sure I was shooting accurately. If we could use only the quick info crosshairs, that would be perfect. I wouldn’t even care about losing the hud.

  3. I play every mod and map as if there are no power ups ahead at all. Ie, what you have is what you carry forward.
    To me, this is a game play technique question and I like to keep as near to 100/100 as possible. This is an important part of achieving my personal satisfaction. The HUD is vital to my style of game play.
    Strategy and tactics are my thing, not “run and gun” That said I do run and gun for the sheer hell of it sometimes but reload and do it “properly’.
    I’ll give it a go but I bet I won’t you like for making me do it when I’m done – a jest Phillip, I do that.
    Now to find a really easy map, plenty of them.

    1. Bit of a cop out I know but I used Rats Nest. Succeeded, did not enjoy it, will not do it again!
      Moving on to CSS SCIFI3 with the HUD on!

  4. Hell,I’ll do it!Anything for the Cause.You’re right though;I rely heavily on the HUD.
    Just started a new mod,”Joutomaa”so lets give it a try!
    Good luck everyone!
    ( gonna get crowded with us all crowded outside our comfort zones )

  5. Ol" Scratch

    The HUD serves a greater purpose than just reporting shield/ammo/light/battery stats: it replaces human factors feedback that we already naturally have in real life.

    Case in point: ammo. IRL, when the gun is nearly empty, you can feel it if you’re actually paying attention. I can see your point about taking off the ammo counter, because more often than not we don’t know we’re emptying a gun ’til it’s too late; on the other hand, the *feedback* that we have IRL isn’t there in a game, so SOMETHING is needed to do just that.

    As for health/armor: again, human factors IRL make the difference here. When you’re worn out or injured, you *feel* it, unequivocally. In a game, however, that feedback is missing, so *something* has to replace it. In “Get a Life” (iirc), they had a health system that actually affected how the player played/walked/etc, as the damage mounted, which more closely mirrors how it happens IRL–and after a bit of getting used to it, I liked how it worked.

    Battery/light status: when a flashlight fails, it tells you just before it’s going to go by going dim for at least a few seconds, and even the LED flashlights I’ve used tend to show you the power’s almost gone. Atop that, batteries when they’re being used hard tend to get hot, which is another indicator of what’s about to happen.

    So, yes, I can see how it makes things more challenging, but I can see how it can make things more frustrating as well because the little clues we take for granted IRL are already missing, and are really needed to play properly.

  6. Ade

    This is a tough one.. What if I have 99 health and see h packs in a room but I hear combine in the next room.. With the HUD, I’d first take the combine out then come back for health; without the HUD, I’d waste a pack, no good 😀 As others indicated, you can’t know how much damage you take, I think shots to the head do 3xdamage in HL2, as well. Also, it’s impossible to keep track of all the ammo for all the weapons. Only counting what I have left in just 1 round is not enough.. How can I tell how many rounds I have left if I constantly switch between weapons 😀
    I think this one is the toughest yet, I’ll give it a try, but will definitely not stick to it..

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