Playing Speed

16th June 2008

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

I rush almost everything I do. It’s a bad habit and I am sure that my writing would improve if I just took more time over it. In fact I normally write something and post it immediately. Not really a professional way of doing things. The question is can you rush playing a mod?

Natural Speed?

We all do things are different speeds and levels of concentration. Besides driving and eating I normally do things pretty fast. I accept that the quality of my “work” is lower than if I went a little slower but it just seems my natural speed.

When I used the word “work” I put it in quotation marks because I’m not just talking about work itself but anything I am doing. Reading is a prefect example because I definitely read too fast. I jump and skip words and there’s little doubt I occasionally misunderstand something. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one either.

In my defense I normally do this when I am really enjoying a book and want to find out what happens next. You don’t know how hard I try to control myself. Near the end of each chapter I have to cover the words with a small piece of paper othewise I simply jump to the last two lines. (I do go back and read the other lines though).

What About Gaming?

After having spent about two hours playing Old School I noticed that I was probably doing exactly the same thing. I have been aware of my playing speed before but with this mod it was much more evident that I was simply rushing. It might have been because I really wanted to finish it before I posted it on the site, but I don’t think so.

I believe it was due to the style of gameplay and even the layout of the levels. For those that haven’t played it, the gameplay consists of finding a large, coloured key and then finding the correct door. In fact it’s even easier than that because there are four colours and all the doors have a coloured lock that corresponds to the key required.

Now, the author of the mod has included secret areas and this may go some way to stopping the rushing but not in my case. I found the secret areas many because I was looking for the keys. The secret areas contain some health and ammo but rarely anything of real value, as there is always plenty of health and ammo around the levels anyway.

Is This Isolated?

This got me thinking whether when I play I simply rush to reach the next area. The answer was yes and in fact I think my problem goes back a long, long way.

Possibly before many readers were even born I remember playing a game on either the Atari or Amiga called Deflector. The purpose of the game was to manipulate a laser beam from one part of the screen to another. It’s a simple concept that has been adapted in many games; Plumber being a good example.

I rememeber playing the game all night and reaching the 100th and final level at just before 6:00AM. What drove me was not the enjoyment of finishing or beating each level but simply the desire to see the next level. It wasn’t the journey that hooked me but the destination. I honestly believe that if I had had the cheat codes to view each level I probably would have just entered them, looked at the level and turned off the game and gone to bed at a sensible hour!

I’ve Changed

I’ve definitely changed over the many years between then and now because I expected to feel the same desire when I played Portal. However, I got a little bored and only finished the game because CubeDude89 kept nagging me.

I’m not saying that I have lost that desire to see what’s next, it’s just that if the gameplay required isn’t fun then I will now stop, whereas in the past I would have probably continued. The desire to see the next level was stronger than the enjoyment I got from actually playing. That balance has shifted now.

Other Examples?

Going back to Half-Life 2, I think that when I use a vehicle I probably rush through a level, I assume that the designer wants me to pass through areas quickly. WHy give me a vehicle otherwise? But then my suspicion kicks in and I think maybe it’s a double bluff and I should go really slowly in case something cool is hidden.

The Mapper?

Which brings me on to the mappers themselves. I wonder how many actually consider the playing speed of the players and try to exert some control over that? Perhaps that would be a good training exercise for designers. Design a level that without explicit actions, forces the player to rush through. How would you do that? Layout? Lighting? NPCs? Enemy scripting?

Now do the reverse. How would you stop a player from rushing through a level? Certainly you could block their route but that’s too easy. I’m thinking more about subtle methods. Perhaps some mappers could enlighten us meer players!

Without doubt music plays a huge role in setting the scene and priming the player but there must be more to it than that.

The Challenge?

I challenge you, the player, to stop and think next time you play a game, mod or map. Are you being controlled by the game or are you controlling the game?

Look carefully at how and what you do. I suspect that most players play faster than they should. Partly because of the idea that finishing a game, mod or map faster than others is somehow linked to skill. The faster you finish the better the player you must be.

It’s an understandable concept. How many sports do you know where being the slowest is the best? None that I can think of. Certainly not all sports are time related but many are.

So, the next time you find yourself starting a map or mod, breath deeply and say to yourself I am in control. I will play at my speed.

Remember, enjoy the journey not just the destination!


  1. Zaphod

    When reading your text I realises I am the quite opposite in this matter. Most things I do I am doing slowly and thougtfully, sometimes maby to slowly. When I am reading fiction I usually read every world and try to visualize most of it.

    When playing games and mods I often stay where I am for a moment and watch the surroundings, trying to imagening actually beeing there.

    Many (or is it most?) people play to beat the game, to win. I think this specially is applied to First Person Shoter players. Most FPS games is about running and gunning. The run and gun approach does not work to well with most adventure and role playing games.

    Maby it comes down to why one is playing games. Is it because the challenge to beat the game, or is it to experience a story and a adventure. For most people I guess it is a combination of the boath. For me it is mostly the later one.

  2. Senator33

    Well said, Phillip.

    The fast-paced play style extends to many of us. We have been brought up in an age of instant gratification and multi-tasking.

    Aging has taught me more about deferring gratification, so I may “smell the roses” along the way. Don’t always follow the maxim, but I try. Lots of nice touches by you mappers out there, some more difficult to see than others.

    As for multi-tasking….its a pet peeve. Computers are designed to multi-task and do it quite well, whereas humans do far better concentrating on one thing, and that alone. Playing music on a bowed string instrument has taught me that – the action of which requires undivided attention but undeniable rewards when the job is done well. Likewise, I play the best FPS games when nothing else is going on….and tend to play slower….watching and listening for the details.

  3. bobdog

    I am completely opposite for most games — I take the slow and steady approach, perhaps too much so, and I think this is because I am at heart a Thief player; i.e. I want to snipe from afar, control the action, check everything out, hide in the shadows, etc. I would rather take my time with any task in a game, and absolutely hate HATE timed missions, which is probably why I can’t play real-time strategy games.

    The only time I start speeding up is when I’m playing a long-term Role-Playing Game such as Gothic or Two Worlds — after already investing 40+ hours in a game, I feel I’m ready to go on and finish the final act of the game.

    I agree with CubeDude — I think you need to slow down more and see what the developers have created. If they want me to speed it up, they’ll have something coming behind me that I can’t possibly stop, and need to get moving to get out of the way.

    Possibly, the type of player you are depends on the type of person you are in Real Life; i.e. an outgoing person may want to be more upfront in his gameplay, whereas a more introverted person (which I would consider myself) is a bit more laid back. That would be an interesting theory to test, at any rate.

  4. CrowbarSka

    Personally I’ve always been one to explore every single nook and cranny of a game. I can’t bring myself to move on to the next area until I’m sure I’ve seen everything this area has to offer, both story-wise and also hidden extras like ammo and health. But I have to say I can’t bear being slowed down by the game itself with lengthy cutscenes and forced tutorial stages, especially if they occur early on in the game. I used to play a lot of Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy and all that lot, but now I find myself impatient and I can’t sit through so much. If I’m playing a game I want to be PLAYING it, not watching it.

    As for mapping techniques to adjust the player’s play style, I think a good way to do it is to use NPCs as bobdog said. How many of you were creeping slowly forward in Episode 2 when the Antlion Guardian was chasing you through the caverns? Not many. You can pressure the player forward by adding unbeatable enemies in pursuit. The same effect is achieved near the start of HL2 in the apartment building. Similarly, you can slow them down by hinting that there is something dangerous ahead with sounds and visual clues like blood stains and bodies, and hopefully the player will proceed with more caution.

  5. Mman

    I’m comfortable with the pace I’ve found for gaming, I try to explore everything, but I don’t let myself get bogged down by pointless tasks that don’t add anything to the experience for me either. If I really want to take a closer look at a specific section I can always come back later.

  6. satchmo

    I am a mapper, and I always think about the player’s gameplay style when I design a map. It’s the only way to make a decent map, in my opinion.

    I imagine where the player might go, and I set up triggers (sometimes delayed by a few seconds) based on the route. I slow down the player or detour him/her by triggering a formidable enemy in the path, or I encourage the player to rush by setting up opponents from the side of behind.

    I usually design the layout so there’s more than one way to finish off a map. This really increases the re-play value of a map.

  7. I like to explore a game, or a mod fully. I find myself looking into the distance, looking out of windows and doorways, and sometimes the attention to detail in such areas is quite amazing. I find that you miss so much by rushing along eager to see what is around the next corner, and I simply have to find every secret, every hidden item, whether I need them or not.

    I believe that it is a fitting tribute to a developer/designer when we do such things – we strive to get 100% from their work, and take our time to appreciate their efforts. I have found that, even playing at my slow steady pace, that I often find things I missed when playing a game for the second time.

    A designer can control the pace of a game quite comfortably using well designed puzzles, and placement of enemies, but I really get frustrated when games are interrupted by too many, or too long cut-scenes. A good game, (or a good map, or mod) will develop the story as you play it.

    In summary, each of us have our own pace. I don’t think that it makes a difference how we play a game, what’s important is that we enjoy the experience. Sometimes, it is quite fun to play a game normally, and then play it at speed!

  8. satchmo

    Phillip has uploaded my latest map here Detritus.

    It’s a very short campaign, lasting only 10-15 minutes. It was converted from a HL2DM map called [url=]dm_detritus_v2[/url].

    Of course, I made both maps. I am posting it here because I thought it’s a good illustration that a map can be played very fast or slow. You can beat this map in less than 10 minutes, or it can take more than half an hour to explore all the secrets.

    See if you can find the pistol, the Magnum, and the rocket launcher. And yes, there is a way to get the pistol. You just have to figure out how.

  9. @Zaphod, You are right about beating the game instead of experiencing the story and adventure. Good point.

    @Senator, thank you. You raise an interesting point about concentrating. I’ve played sport to a professional level but never really approach gaming in the same way. I wonder if I should try a mindset switch. I’ll ponder this a bit more. I did write an article entitled Cybergame Players Need Coaches, but that was nearly two and half years ago!

    @Bobdog, CubeDude89 wasn’t telling me to slow down but to make the effort and finish the game. I think you are probably right about the type of person you are reflecting the type of player you are too. The question is whether is true for most people or do some switch personas?

    @CrowbarSka, I love that quote; “If I’m playing a game I want to be PLAYING it, not watching it.” Maybe that’s why I keep moving!

    @Satchmo, Glad you consider these sorts of things but I am sure plenty don’t!

    @K-Mav, I agree about the too long cut-scenes. I agree that each of us has a pace but I am sure I would enjoy it more if I slowed down though.

    @Satchmo, mmmm, not sure I can remember finding the Magnum.

    Well, it seems that perhaps I am an isolated case when it comes to rushing.

    I think I’ll try an experiment, the next proper map I post I’ll request readers post their playtime and see how much it differs.

  10. Hoyy

    Hmm, I prefer to play the game as it suggests to be played so. Short, I prefer to always play veeeeeeery slowly when the gameplay is flowing normally, but, when the game is already beaten, I think twice before going slow, or, whenever a game requires me to rush like hell, (see: Water Hazard in HL2), I just do it with no exceptions.

    Playing slowly, can be such a walk in the park, so depending on the game, I can go as fast as it suggests, but if it too frequently that is needed, then I end up a little frustrated, because I’m a guy who likes to see them details, specially of high-end mods such as Minerva: MetaStasis, and generally those comingg around the 25MB or higher .

    I just rush fast in such maps like arena maps, that doesn’t have any story, and therefore no details either (CS for instance, IMHO, for me is already beaten, so I rush, rush… when I can of course). For a mod, game or map, in the shortest it may be, I like to play all that do have a plot, because that makes the gameplay flow sloooowly and me getting “drown” in the game, paying attention, doing stuff in the game like I would IRL.

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