Poll Question 134 – Do you kill when you don’t need to?

1st August 2009

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

Let’s start with a definition. Clearly we don’t “need” to even play games or mods but the question is asking what you do once you have the ability to move onto the next part of the game and after you have finished exploring for ammo, health or other goodies.

Here is an example:
You have cleared a area of enemies and have searched and found nothing. Just before entering this area you did a quicksave, in case things got hairy. A few moments after leaving this area you are unexpectedly killed (don’t you just hate it when that happens?). Now you reload and have to pass this area again. Assuming you don’t have to kill any enemies to reach the health and ammo, do you kill them anyway, even they don’t hinder your progress?

Primarily I am thinking of enemies like zombies and headcrabs, but the idea is true for all enemies.

The above example is from a saved game but the true could also be said of normal play. Many times it’s clear that I don’t need to kill the enemies to pass the level and perhaps reach an objective. Generally I ignore them, especially if they are zombies because I don’t get any benefit from killing them.

However, isn’t killing the enemies part of the enjoyment? It certain “was” and maybe if this question was asked a few months after each of the games were released then maybe the answer would be different.

We must certainly be getting bored of kill zombies, so does killing new enemies give us greater pleasure?

Let’s take another example.
You are in a large open area in a mod made for Episode Two. You have full health and ammo, you have nothing to be gained from exploring, in fact you could lose a lot of both. The next objective is right in front of you and requires you to walk along the path and enter the tunnel. Suddenly you hear the cry of a couple of hunters and have to make a decision. Do you continue forward and reach the objective or go into the forest and kill those suckers?

To me it’s clear, go into the forest and kill them but if there were zombies walking and crawling out of the forest I would ignore them.

I don’t think it’s because zombies don’t fire at me but because they are old and boring. (Somebody really needs to create some updated zombies with new attacks etc)

It’s clear that the type of enemy is important but if you are the sort of person who actively looks to kill everything what does that say about your personality? Any amateur psychologists like to venture an answer? Or do we need a psychiatrist in this case?

The Poll


  1. SolidFake

    It depends on if the enemies are zombies, combines or humans.
    I would kill zombies and combines, because I’m the good one, and they are the bad one, I only help the poor zombified people to end their life and the humanity to keep the combines away from us.
    But if I would need to kill another human, I would think about it.
    A very good example for this is the Metal Gear Solid Series, you are constantly fighting against humans. The great thing is that you can complete the whole thing thing withour killing a single enemy! And you really start thinking about your enemies as they cry for their live when you hold a knife to their neck. Also they all have dog tags with their names and they have the will to survive, instead of stupid zombies or raging combines. In the Mgs games I only killed people if there was no other way around or if I knew that they were the uber bad ones. (You are figthing a lot of soldiers which even don’t know who you are). In Half Life 2 I want to free the humanity, and I won’t succeed in it when I just walk around each zombie and combine.

    or something

  2. Kasperg

    We really have to look back to understand where the killing of bad guys in games come from. In older videogames, there used to be a score system and eliminating your enemy usually meant some indirect benefit thanks to this method (an extra life every X points etc). To complement the need to dispose of an enemy, games usually add some subconscious type of positive input for the player, usually a combination of sound and visual animation. The same would be exactly true for coins, rings, medkits and other types of powerups.
    If you add ragdoll effects, blood simulation etc into the equation, the little input gained by defeating your enemy might be subconsciously enticing. I’m thinking of how a Combine soldier falls down some stairs after being hit close range with the shotgun, the little “flatline” sound that comes after a metrocop dies etc.

    If you’re speaking strictly of the game itself, sometimes I also skip zombies or headcrabs if I want to be conservative with my ammo and they don’t pose a real threat.

    An interesting note is that the “subconscious reward” of killing the bad guys can be effectively surpassed by other rewards. For example, in Hitman: Blood Money, the fact of being able to distract, knock out or sedate people who aren’t your real targets is very rewarding. The game actually encourages you to create as less mayhem as possible, and it’s possible to go through a level with only your targets dying and making it seem like an accident.

  3. I don’t kill. As long as noone attacks me I attack noone. Zombie, combine, alien, monster, human, or headcrab, it doesn’t matter. As I always say, for me the most important thing in a game is the story. Also I am someone who plays games like they were real. I always try to find a realistic answer to problems and situations (of course realistic answer depends on the story, while playing Half Life I don’t think like “pff, zombies? that’s not real” 🙂 ). Although I lose myself sometimes go on a killing spree, that doesn’t matter, I always think like “What if I was there? What would I do?”. I definitely wouldn’t jump into darkness right away. So when a game says “you can’t go there, because it is dark” I understand that. But also not being able to open a wood door while I have weapons that enough to freak out an army is not OK. A rocket launcher that can’t break a wood door? That’s not good.

    I should add that, when I hear hunters from forest while the right way is in front of me, there is no way in hell I’m going back to forest. Who would do that anyway? I mean in real life. You may object and say “Well, that’s not real life!”, then I’d say “I know it is not real, but if I think it can’t be real, it wouldn’t be fun. It would only be pictures on my computer.”

    I have a suggestion to all gamers. Play the game as you supposed to. Like developers of the game wanted you to do. Why? Because, it is the only way to see all things that a game has to offer. An example for you; one of my friends is a guy that plays games like crazy, and I mean it. If he has a weapon, he takes it and starts to kill anyone on sight. I mean ANYONE. He doesn’t read writings, he doesn’t listen to conversations, he just doesn’t care about anything other than running and gunning. He told me that he finished Fallout 3 and it was a cool game. I said yeah, I finished it too, and said that I have new downloadable content for it. He wanted to play them but his save games were lost so he started a new game. I watched him as he played the game, and you know what? He wasn’t able to see half of the content that F3 had to offer. I told him “what the hell are you doing, stop and listen to guys who’re talking to you.”. He didn’t want to do it at first, but after taking it easy for a while, he was totally amazed. He played the game (I’m not exaggerating) for one week without stopping, with just breaks for eating and sleeping.

    I know this example is a little extreme (although it is true, still extreme), it shows what I mean. You should take it easy. Video games are new worlds that you will never be able see in real life. But if you treat them as they were real, they’ll give you a feeling like you are really living them.

    So answer is no, I don’t kill if I don’t need to.

  4. MikeS

    I voted yes, but if I can progress without having to wipeout every last headcrab I will. Zombies are boring. Combine, hunters etc are good sport, though, and must be engaged!

    1. Spot on, fellow killer. Hunters have to be exterminated without exception – such a lovely racket when they go down

  5. It depends on how I can kill the enemy ; If I can kill zombies with explosive barrels or petrol cans I will surely do that.
    It’s still funny to look at them when they are on fire and screaming for their lives.
    If I’m only able to shoot them down and I don’t have to, I will go to the next level of the game.

  6. Voted yes. Kill them, kill them all except where the game is designed for you to avoid and not kill. Eg first antlion guard in HL2.
    Or when the escape is not in your control. Eg the lift from the black hole in EP1.
    Otherwise, have at them. In a good game, mod, map killing when it appears to be unnecessary often bring rewards of life or weapons or ammo or HEV power-up.
    For sure, I would not want to play in minimalist combat mode -I do not see the point of that or see that it would be enjoyable or fulfilling.

  7. Someone

    I voted no.
    Now the main reason I voted for no was because it is a lot more fun watching enemies kill themselves, than wasting your ammo killing them.
    Take for example the level in episode 2, where you escape the cave – infested with antions and zombies – via elevator. As you ascend, you watch the endless onslaught of zombies vs antions. While some people prefer to stay down there and kill everything, I decided that it was not necessary to use your ammo.
    In short, I like to see my enemies die from things other than my bullets. Having zombies walk through fire is always a plus, but having a headcrab leap into a barnacle’s tongue in an attempt to “couple with your head” is always a home-run in my book.

  8. Archaic


    unless they pose an immediate serious threat to my continued existence, they are safe…in subsequent play sessions. I prefer to explore without gunfire aimed at me.

    often, I will try to get through the game as fast as possible after the 1st time. so, provided they are not in my way(cant walk through them) and dont pose a threat, I dont kill them.

    that being said, I am given to bouts of bloodlust that leave everything down to cockroaches riddled with bullet holes

  9. enablerbr

    if I can get where i’m going, even if I have to sprint through, with 0 to minimal damage. i’ll avoid wasting ammo on enemy npcs.

    though that being said. if I find myself with some stupid anoying freindly npc. i’ll shot them without pause for thought.

  10. Anonymous

    I generally don’t kill when I don’t need to. Ethical issues.

  11. Planetary

    I prefer not to waste ammo. Like someone
    mentioned above, luring an enemy into a barnacle tongue is always fun.

    And of course when enemies infinitely respawn you’ve got no choice about what to do right?

    And if it’s a vehicle map like Water Hazard it’s more an annoyance to kill everything when you can just drive past.

  12. I usually kill for ethical issues. Like SolidFake, I want to make the world safer for all those other fictitious humans that might stumble into the collapsing building, abandoned factory or sewer system after me. Zombies need an end to their suffering, Headcrabs need to stop sucking on human skulls, and Combine need to stop being such bullies.

    I have the most pity on antlions and guards, and while they’re plainly the most sympathetic of the bunch — defending their grubs and all — it might also be because they are occasionally player controllable.

    It’s also okay if they fight amongst themselves. I’m okay leaving an zombie on combine fight behind, as long as I think they’ll largely do each other in.

    I have other issues too. I leave heathkits and ammo I don’t immediately need plainly visible, even when I’m sure I won’t be returning. Someone else might need them, right? 🙂

  13. Kyouryuu

    When you’re designing a level, it’s always important to consider the “runner” player and devise ways to postpone them. There are some people who will honestly do this and then complain that a game or mod is too short. Insomuch as I think it’s a stupid way to play a game, it is nevertheless legitimate.

    It’s arguably more an issue in action games than RPGs. In a traditional RPG, a player often must engage in battles in order to build experience and gain items. If they don’t, they will be ill-prepared for the boss creature around the corner. So you get into these cases of leveling up and grinding for points. This represents one extreme and the endless grinding is one reason many action-oriented players despise RPGs.

    The most common solution in action games is to have a device that blocks progression until either time has elapsed or X enemies have been killed. A game that does this rather well, without feeling overtly contrived, is Gears of War.

    Yes, it’s true that even in such scenarios, it may be theoretically possible to run around in circles and never shoot anything, but you’ll goad the vast majority of players into a fight when they feel like they have to defend themselves, as opposed to being on the offensive all the time.

    People abhor escort missions and I don’t question why. But putting players in a “defend” mode tends to trigger something primal and threatening when done right. In most bad escort missions, the problem comes from an overemphasis on the object being escorted – often a braindead NPC who has no concern for their well-being. We learn to hate the NPC and wonder why they can’t fend for themselves or demonstrate some basic survival behaviors. But the target should really be a MacGuffin; merely an excuse and reason to fight rather than anything truly important to the welfare of the mission.

  14. Zockopa

    “I generally don’t kill when I don’t need to. Ethical issues.” Yes,2nd that. I also hate it to waste good
    ammo on a not importent target. Sadly most FPS are
    just fraggin games: toast all.
    I like games like Deus Ex for example for giving the
    player a choice – to be smart and kill seldom.

  15. Naked-Headcrab

    I ALWAYS need to kill when I play any FPS. As a matter of fact, when I run out of enemies in HL1, I turn over the scientists to beat the cr@p outta them 🙂

  16. john

    I voted yes also. Remember back in half life 1 when you found the scientist in the crawl way and he told you no one knows he’s there and to push off. I savagely bludgeon him to death with my crowbar. I guess this goes back quite a ways with me. All in good fun of course.

    In Wolfenstien if you don’t kill everyone they have a nasty habit of sneaking back up on you.

  17. bikerdude

    Depends on the situation, if I am low on amo, then no. But if I have the ammo and its a bad guy or monster, then they get removed from the gene-pool.

  18. CS20

    Depends on my mood really. Most often, no.

  19. Berrie

    I tend to kill everything, unless it’s a stealth game or there is some reason why killing them would not be wise (low health or endlessly respawning enemies)

  20. gnaeh

    i played metroid like an rpg and it was a torture. here u gain no benefits of killing everything moving on the screen unlike rpg, where u raise ur level and recive powerups.
    In halflife I usually kill every zombie (they are evil, them cant be helped and last but not least they are already dead). Combines are slaughtered as well, cause they are more dangerous (its safer to know everyone behind ur back I killed.

  21. Ol" Scratch

    It really depends, but mostly I try to kill everything, mainly because I’m paranoid and it would be just my luck that they leftovers would be programmed to follow me right through the exit of the section and all the way to the end–imagine if someone could actually manage THAT!!?? Hunters chasing you down through sewers and hallways and even air vents? Or combine troops fanning out throughout a building trying to cut you off–and doing so easily because they obviously know the layout of the building far better than you?

    Wow… that last idea boggles my mind… but wouldn’t matter anyway, given my penchant for wiping the fsckers right out before moving on.

  22. Pingback: C:15593 » Podcast 17

  23. Talon

    I try to kill every enemy for a number of reasons. One is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and don’t like the idea of any enemy escaping. Secondly, I simply enjoy it. I actually find it a bit frustrating when things are happening that prevent me from achieving a 100% kill ratio such as respawning or unreachable/unkillable enemies. Of course, some of these targets are included in the game to achieve ambience, like seeing striders on a rampage in the distance.

    What about targets that are not enemies, like Barneys or scientists in the original HL? I still remember the fun I had chasing screaming and cringing scientists with a crowbar. Others must enjoy this too, otherwise we wouldn’t have mods like Scientist Slaughterhouse. Does this mean that these players are psychopathic or just enjoy doing something that they could and would not do in real life? After all, isn’t that the essence of video game entertainment?

  24. t2tom

    yes I kill all unless its a good guy or from
    a spawner witch wont stop because then you will; eventualy runout of ammo and die useing a crowbar 🙂

  25. Chris Fox

    Occasionally I might go on a rampage.

    But generally I prefer to keep as many npcs alive as possible.

    I love those little guys.

  26. Pablo

    I kill everything – good, bad, ugly. My justification is that, in the event of an inquiry when the carnage ends, they are no witnesses to my involvement.

    I also like to keep perfect health, which often means reloading the same level again and again. I like to believe that combine I encounter later in the piece are thinking: “Geez, this guy’s good; he doesn’t have a scratch on him.” They fear me, and so they should.

    I’m also a little anal retentive.

  27. Ritosito

    Depends on who it is. If it is something brainless and of no use to anyone, like a zombie, or for that matter a combine, I kill it unless I want to conserve on ammo. …Even if I do not need to to progress. The zombies and the combine both only exist in a tortured, half alive state. I figure I am doing them, and everyone else, a service.

    If, on the other hand, it is an person, especially one who doesn’t even seem to even be particularly bad, I do what I can to avoid killing them.

    I never killed anyone in Mirror’s Edge, for example. I didn’t feel that the cops and SWAT teams responding to me bumbling around all deserved to die just because they were in my way, especially since all I seemed to be doing was some sort of parcel delivery service. If they were in my way I would either knock them out with hand to hand combat or shoot them in shins, Terminator 2 style.

  28. It depends. I will often make sure to clear every enemy in a room, even if an enemy is not actively seeking me out simply to ensure that I am left free to explore the area at my leisure. I am less likely to kill barnacles in HL2 than in HL1 since they can be used to guide Zombies into so I don’t have to waste ammo on them.
    It does also depend on how much an enemy is likely to pursue me as to whether I will accept running from it or not. Zombies can’t do crap, so I’ll just zip past them if I can tell there’s nothing in the area to look for. If I’m driving through a similar area that has combine, I’ll probably try to run one or two over, but not worry about finishing off the stragglers. Something like a hunter can usually do enough damage that it’s worth making a preemptive strike rather than risking having it pursue me when I’m not ready for it.

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