Poll Question 124 – Would you play a mod specifically designed for you to practice?

17th May 2009

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

Yesterday I posted an old article called Cybergame Players Need Coaches Too!, in which I discussed skill acquisition when playing video games. I know many amongst you feel that just playing SP games is enough. However, I feel you are wrong and would like to try and convince you.

Firstly, let’s separate skill and tactics. In any given situation you may know what you need to do to beat an opponent, either real or virtual, but you may not have the necessary ability. In the real world, this ability may be closely linked to you physical conditioning but probably not when playing video games, unless you play professionally or for many, many consecutive hours.

Here’s a specific example within gaming. Being able to circle an opponent and keep shooting at the head of that opponent is easy for some, harder for others. Unless we actually practice and analyse that action we are unlikely ever to have to do it enough in a real game to improve at it.

Let’s jump back to the real world for a moment. Imagine you play tennis. Now imagine you actually want to improve. You could just arrange games with other people of varying standards and at the beginning that would improve your game. However, just playing is never enough, just ask any professional sportsman! To really improve you must embark upon a planned path; a path where you have objectively assessed your strengths and weaknesses. That may seem like overkill for a casual gamer like you or me but it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just play SP mods as you normally do and note down things when you notice yourself doing really well or badly..

Assuming you have decided you really want to improve you now need to go out a do it. The best way to find situations that you find challenging and play them, again and again. Of course finding those situations may not be that easy, which is where my mod idea comes in.

Imagine a mod, that literally only had various “rooms”, each designed to allow you to practice one or two aspects of gameplay. Let’s return to our circling example. This “room” could consist of a long series of rooms. Every room would have a progression of difficulty or other aspect. Firstly there would be a Metrocop surrounded by a railed circular channel. You move within this channel and fire at the Metrocop. The cop doesn’t fire back. In addition when you touch the rails of this channel there is a sound. This will help you ensure your movement is as smooth as possible. The progressions could take many forms, including the Metrocop firing back, the guard rails cause actual health damage to you etc.

The point is that this “room” focuses on one particular aspect of movement skill. Rooms could be built by many developers and added to the mod.

I actually think it would provide some interesting challenges to developers.

So to summarize, “doing” something is rarely enough to actually improve, at least not after you have been doing it a while. Unless you put yourself in specific situations that are designed to help you improve then it’s unlikely you will get much better.

I am sure we all agree we ARE much better players than when we first started, but a lot of that is to do with experience rather pure skill. I hate to admit it but I am not much of a better jumper than when I started and I am sure you can all find areas of your SP gaming where things could be improved.

Clearly this mod is never going to be made (unless I win the lottery) but if there were one would you use it?

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t pay a little more attention to our gaming and make a small commitment to ourselves to becoming better players.


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  1. Jasper

    No. Experience and practice lead to skill; that is what skill is.

  2. Probably not if it’s for HL2 as I have played that so much I’m not going to improve now (making maps requires a lot of playing them too!). Perhaps if it was for a different game or for multiplayer then I would consider it.

  3. jigron

    YES it would highly improve needed skills.

  4. demoneyeoffire

    yeh If it was well made, practice is good.

  5. galocza

    i play for fun. I play only one mp game (cs:s)and although I sometimes play against bots its not practice its only because im sometimes too tired to search for a server with players who can behave.
    i can imagine that those who are unsatisfied with their skills would use some coaching mod to train faster, but
    1. wheres the fun
    2. real skill comes from practice against human opponents, I think that no simulation/bot can replace that.
    geneally im good enough not to feel a burden (but an asset) to the team so I dont feel a need to force improving my skill.
    (although -yes- I do compensate for my lack? of skill and reaction time with experience and tactics – age and almost 9 years with one game can do that 8)

  6. Sortie

    Interesting idea, really. I remember having plans of doing similar stuff back when I was much younger (and much less mature with my mapping). While I got some fun stuff out of it; the main problem was doing it right. The main problem as I see it, is isolating these skills and making an environment from where it can be improved. Once we know what exact skills the player is interested in improving, you have to design specific areas where they can be improved. Don’t underestimate the skill and time it takes to make a good area that works out as planned, even in a mod like this, you need a lot of playtesting to discover if it works or not. (It might only be useful for some players too?).

    With all those mods released, all with their different gameplay ideas (some at least), I think it serves the same purpose over time. Although you don’t work on a specific skill, you do learn to use a lot of different skills at once, and in a lot of different situations. So playing real mods will, in my opinion, give just as much skill. But I would skill be interested in how such a mod would function, and if it would work as planned.

    I don’t know if I would play such a mod, unless it was great fun and made by guys who know what they are doing. So I voted Maybe (Please Comment).

  7. MattyDienhoff

    I like it. The idea of using in-game practice scenarios to teach players skills (not just the basic controls of the game, like the game usually does anyway, but more in-depth stuff) has fascinated me for a while. I always thought it could be best applied to a game called Operation Flashpoint. For those who don’t know it, it’s a tactical first person shooter set in open world environments (massive islands), with vehicles (everything from jeeps and trucks to fighter jets can be controlled by the player) and real-time tactics elements. (as a squad leader you can take control of AI soldiers)

    Naturally, with all that in the mix there are a *lot* of skills to learn, and while the game’s campaign teaches you the basics of gameplay as you go along, it leaves a lot of information out. Anyone who plays the campaign through gets competent at the basic skills of navigation, moving around on foot and shooting, but that doesn’t even touch on the other skill sets you need to learn to be a real all-rounder. To be a decent squad leader you need to learn how to use the command system to tell the AI under your command where to go and what to do. And besides all of the straightforward infantry weapons (like assault rifles, sniper rifles, and so on), there are things like guided rocket launchers, laser designators, satchel charges (with remote radio detonation or timed detonation), anti-tank mines, grenade launchers…

    And then there’s the vehicles. Road based vehicles are straightforward enough, with the possible exception of tanks (which require a coordinated 3-man crew to work effectively), but the aircraft can be tricky indeed. Pretty much anyone can keep a helicopter in the air and land without crashing, but it takes quite a bit of skill to fly one low and fast like you have to in combat. And fixed-wing aircraft are different again, with taking off, landing, staying in the air and using the weapons systems all things that need to be considered.

    Okay, well, you get the idea. Anyway, I always thought that the game could do with test scenarios teaching players how to do all of this, one thing at at time, and then grading their progress, perhaps even rewarding a token or trophy of some sort once the player scores well on a test, to be displayed on their multiplayer profile if they wish. This would serve the dual purpose of improving player’s skills and allowing other players to, at a glance, see who is certifiably skilled at what. Like achievements, but quite a bit more practical; It sure would make it easier to decide who should fly the helicopter the rest of the team will have to ride in.

  8. RobDollar

    Maybe… I’ve played practice maps in the past for a couple of games, Day of Defeat in particular, but they were just a bit dull.

    For some people who genuinely want to get better, I think a well-made practice mod / map may work well, but you really have to commit to the practice as in my experience this sort of practice gaming is just boring.

  9. Ol" Scratch

    I say “yes”, because even a practice course could be fun, especially if there were a scoring system in place to allow one to evaluate and critique one’s playing style.

    That said, I can think of another “sport” (if you consider FPS’n a “sport”) where the best practice is playing the game in game-situations: ice hockey. And it’s true: the best players are the ones who play the most. Practice is nice, but it doesn’t grant nearly as much improvement with the game like other sports.

    And FPS/gaming is very much like that, where the more you play a game, the better you get at it. But I can see a value to having a training program to improve aspects of one’s tactics.

  10. Provided it was informative, had a good variety of skills to practice, and kept the training fairly fun, I would play it.

  11. We could call the mod “Boot Camp”..lol.. No I don’t think I would play a game ot mod designed to sharpen the old claws… But if it were made fun enough maybe. Like some thing goes wrong while you’re in the Boot Camp, and say we were attacked by hostiles.. Might make a great multi FPS…maybe

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