Mirror Image

26th January 2006

A change is as good as a rest

We have a saying in English: “A change is as good as a rest”. If the meaning isn’t clear to you let me explain. If you change something about your life it will have the same benefit as taking a rest. So instead of going on holiday you could drastically change your daily routine and feel refreshed and energized. Of course as with most sayings it’s not always true but occasionally it is worth trying.

I want to play half-Life 2 again because I’m sure I missed many interesting things the first time I played it. I normally play very slowly and carefully, partly because I’m not very good and partly because I like to explore. But I must have missed something.

“So what’s stopping you?” I hear you cry. Well, for one thing I remember most levels quite clearly or I will as soon as I start playing them. I dislike playing levels I have already played. I know what’s about to happen and from where. I’m the same with books and movies. A long time has to pass before I will consider watching a movie for a second time.

So, if a way could be found to somehow change the game enough to make it seem different without affecting the quality of gameplay or special events then I would probably play it again.

Mods are NOT the Answer

Why not? I said I wanted to play the original game again not a new game. I want the same storyline, characters, set pieces etc but I want it slightly different. I’m thinking about something that I don’t believe has ever been attempted, although I could be wrong. I first mentioned it in a mod story called Reflective Doppelganger. The idea is quite simple; it’s the implementation that may prove difficult.

Mirror Image

Take an ordinary non-symmetrical household object. Actually it’s quite hard to think of one. Almost everything we use is more or less symmetrical! OK let’s try something else, imagine your house, flat or apartment, now imagine that an exact copy was made but with a mirror-image layout. Stairs that normally go to the left now go to the right etc. It would seem familiar but different.

The complexity of the layout would determine the level of confusion you experience. Now imagine your village, town or city in a mirror image. That may prove a little harder to do depending on where you live. I was born in London and certain parts have a maze-like quality that would be difficult to imagine.

Our brains become accustomed to set patterns and things that we expect to be one way but are in fact another causes confusion. Looking at words upside down can make reading very difficult.

This is what I’m suggesting for Half-Life 2. Simply mirror image everything, even the faces. I don’t really know how different or interesting it would be to play but I would at least like to try one level. Are there any Half-life 2 experts out there willing to try and make it? Take one level and reverse it. Let’s see what happens!

One Stage Further

Things don’t have to be as simple as a mirror image perhaps there are other geometrical options available. Before I go any further I need to mention that I realise that not every level or game is a suitable candidate for my proposal. But certain levels could be design with this idea in mind.

I’ll use some very simple images to explain. In image one you have four squares. In reality these would be parts of a level, perhaps buildings with alleyways etc. In the second image each individual square has been rotated 90 degrees clockwise. Now if you played this level it would seem very different from the last one.

Sci- Fi Single Player First Person Shooter Games Half Life 2 Doom 3 Far Cry Unreal UT2004 Quake Mods
Sci- Fi Single Player First Person Shooter Games Half Life 2 Doom 3 Far Cry Unreal UT2004 Quake Mods

I’m sure you are sitting there reading this saying something like “Levels that look like that are boring anyway. It would be to hard to do in reality!” But you are thinking too rigidly. The squares could have a complex maze of paths that would simply need to have predefined points that align with the other sections.
The third image shows one square. You will notice that this not only looks like it has been drawn by a ten year old (me!) but also that it is not symmetrical. There are two points on each side that approximately match its position with the other sides. Now imagine four squares like this that all rotate.

Sci- Fi Single Player First Person Shooter Games Half Life 2 Doom 3 Far Cry Unreal UT2004 Quake Mods

The next stage would be each square rotating by a different amount to its neighbour, some 90 degrees clockwise, others 180 degrees anticlockwise. Perhaps some would not move at all. This would mean every time you play it the route is different.


I know that random placement of walls etc has been tried in level design but I don’t really know how successful it was/is. There is always a chance that by adding elements of randomness that the gameplay suffers. Levels need enemies in certain positions, move them too much and the gameplay is lost. With my proposal the enemies’ position never moves within the level only its relationship to your position.


For all I know this may have already been tried, if it has then I haven’t heard about it. This could be a relatively simple way to increase replayability of games without too much work. As I mentioned earlier I wouldn’t want every level rotated and twisted but it might be fun to play a whole game mirror imaged.

To finish I would like to repeat my challenge. Are there any Mappers able and willing to mirror one level from Half-Life 2 for me to play? Perhaps the first or second level with the station or town would be suitable. Is it easy to do? Can you do it? Remember NO other changes must be made, just mirror the layout. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Joe

    Check out the new mod for half life 2 – SMOD. Its currently featured on Planethalflife.com and I’d suggest you get your info there – the main site for the mod seems to be in japanese.

    The mod basically increases game difficulty, adds about 15 new weapons (everything from bannana bomb to Alyx’s gun) and a load of console commands. Its strengths though are in how it edits other aspects of the game. New weapons and enemies are placed randomly (which once or twice means an enemy half in a wall, but only rarely) so that no newly loaded level is the same. New secrets, ammo etc are added and some levels are subtly changed (most notably the canals and Sandtraps level.) Models and little extras are added that take a while to unearth. You can add and remove features as you wish through the console. Combine soldiers can now have bullet-proof shields ala far-cry, or be invisible like in The Hidden mod for HL2. Your squads can be bigger and include Vortigaunts, NPCs can be killed. Pretty much anything you want can be done.

    It essentially allows you to replay the game an extra two or three times, at various difficulties, with extra features and random elements that make the game more fun.

    My personal favourite bits are the ability for bodies to gib and the Duke Nukem 3d style “kick” function which is great for kicking in doors, knocking away grenades, and batting away headcrabs.

    You’d like it, trust me.

  2. I added Smod to PlanetPhillip on 15th November 2005. It’s good but I was thinking about other ways to change the game.

    BTW expect a post about those types of mods next week.

  3. Joe

    Okey doke. However, I think if you are going to implement a mirroring or teselating event in a game-such as you suggest, then you’re going to be losing a lot in the process. The levels would all have to be pretty similar and would have to either cycle through set variations considering how you can backtrack in the game (and do revisit old areas) or have a very complex code. Its all good suggesting just mirror images but in practice it would be very hard to do.

    Remember also that the levels for Half Life 2 are very VERY small. Sure, the first time you or I play we may take ages and crawl through looking for stuff, but on a second run (or in my case eighth run) you can burn through most levels in just a minute or two. This would limit the size of any mirrored piece.

    If you’ve ever played the board game Heroes Of The Maze, then you’ll have a good idea that playing on the same board with just changing positions etc can be a novelty that soon wears off. As it is it would be hard to incorporate art and such into a plan such as the one you suggest IMHO.

  4. Remember, I’m not suggesting that every level be tesalated, just suitable sections. I accept your point about backtracking etc.

    Perhaps the operative word in your response is Novelty. Maybe mirroing would just be that, a novelty, but if it was a simple as a mirroring levels rather than teslation then it might be worth the little effort it would take.

    Perhaps this idea is more suited to certian Deathmatch levels where each round a special rotation happens adding some new pathways.

  5. Joe

    Don’t forget that mirror imaging wouldn’t really change anything. Instead of turning left, you’d turn right and that would be it since forward and backward are relatives. The best way to accomplish what I gather you’d want would be to have a larger level with several routes through it that vary. I.e. to get across City 17 to Barney, you could go across the rooftops and face gunships, go through the street and face striders or go through the sewers and face zombies – for example, obviously you could and should have more well developed routes. You could then get the level to run one or two random scripted sequences when the levels began – staircase collapsing, the floor gives in or theirs an impenatrable pile of junk and bodies blocking your route – that further limit your routes. You could then have an option to choose a route and, if you tried them all or backtracked through each and explored completely, the next time you start the game/level/mod then the sequences would cycle different, making different routes inaccesible or acessible.

  6. migandi

    For Half-life 2 you could actually do this as 3D studio max programs etc all have a mirror facility so you could export all the models and mirror them then re-compile the maps,
    just finding someone mad enough to do it!!
    perhaps the mod would be called 2 efil – flah !!

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