Poll Question 153 – Have the limitations of HL2 increased or decreased its popularity?

3rd January 2010

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

I need to clarify this question, because “limitations” sounds such a negative word.

When you look at how HL2 works in regard to movement and weapons etc it can seem quite limiting. For example, a lot of games have headbob, and changes of view while sprinting, bullet time etc.

All these additions to how the player interacts with the game seem commonplace among HL2 competitors and there are plenty of mods that add these types of features.

For me, however, it’s one of the important features of the game. it doesn’t overwhelm you with options and it fits the general theme of the game; one normal man, alone, fighting against the enemy, with very little help.

Sure you have some great weapons and the Gravity Gun is certainly not a limitation, but if you look at what Episode Two brought to the table, in terms of basic gameplay features ,compared to HL2 it’s not much, and that’s not a criticism. It kept things simple, added a new weapon and vehicle but took the story telling to new heights and you have to say looked beautiful.

HL2 mechanics are pretty simple and I believe that has helped it become even more popular. It’s harder to take out mechanics than it is for modders to add them. So by shipping a “simple” game you create the modding community based around additions. Have you ever heard of a community designed to take stuff OUT of a game.

Every time I try a new game I am always making direct comparisons with HL2 and every game comes up short. Yes, that’s because I love the series but I still believe that it’s simplistic mechanics are one of the fundamentals for its success.

What are your thoughts about the mechanics?

The Poll


  1. The minimalism is highly appreciated, and is fundamental to the silent protagonist storyline.

    1. Hec

      I definitely agree with you my friend.

  2. Kasperg

    I don’t think HL2 is limited in options, it just channels them through the same type of simple actions which adds to the intuitiveness.
    For example, the same gravity gun is used as both a weapon and a manipulative tool to use the environment to your advantage.
    With an extra set of rules and visual hints (doors with handles can be opened, locks that open doors once broken etc), you can combine it all and have a very wide spectrum of gameplay styles.

    Now of course, interactivity isn’t everything. Crysis for example beats HL2 in environmental interactivity, yet the content of the game is much more, incredibly much more limited in terms of possible themes you can pull off (the style of the map editor makes it worse).
    A lot of new games have these sandbox style map editors that are really only enabling you to re-arrange game content, not really creating it.

    Think of it as lego pieces. HL2’s might not be the biggest or shiniest lego blocks around, but they are small and simple enough that anything can come out of them.

    1. The Lego is a nice analogy, but Lego is still simple and that is what I am suggesting HL2 is, with the opportunity of creating something much better, but of=ut of the box I still believe it’s a pretty simple design.

  3. source is capable of doing bullet time and headbob and all that other stuff, so in essence yes, its popularity is high because it didn’t include it, but it’s popularity is increased due to the options to implement those features for those who are interested enough to do so.

    If you think of games as cakes, Half Life 2 is a simple yet incredibly delicious oreo cake. The oreo cream balances the taste of the chocolate part of the cake. It’s not intricately decorated, but it tastes good and isn’t so much of just one flavor that you get sick of it.

    The headbob and bullet time are like all those frilly decorations people put on cakes to make them look pretty for weddings and other events. Most people prefer adding in this stuff because it’s a lot easier to take videos and screenshots to show people how interesting the cake looks for advertisement purposes, but when it’s actually time to eat the cake, you find that you’re scraping off 90% of all the icing and frosting and stuff that the cake is covered with just to be able to get to the cake which may taste great, or may only be subpar in flavor.

    I love analogies.

  4. Voted increased – because it has. No option really.
    I like the Lego analogy. With a pile of lego you can build anything from a simple little blocky outhouse to a huge articulated lorry (add wheels) or ocean going liner.

    1. That’s Kaspberg’s analogy

  5. i think, its the realism of the world interaction’s in the half life series that makes it so good. if I wanted to see high teck effects like following the bullet or something, I would just go watch or rent a hollywood movie. witch are all just boom and effects with out a storyline. just my opinion.

  6. Joe

    Yeah. I wish it was more flexible. But because its not creators are forced to think of more unique ways to get people interested.

  7. Kyouryuu

    I haven’t played Crysis yet, so I can’t argue about the environmental interactivity there, but fundamentally, the Gravity Gun is a “hand” in the world. The physics are what distinguish HL2 from other FPS games even five years later. Its use of physics puzzles is very intuitive and natural – it’s like if you took all those interactive models at the science museum and contextualized them in a game. I’ll take a good physics puzzle over a lame “pull the lever”/”push the button” puzzle any day.

    Because of this, the world of HL2 is very interactive. So many FPS games, even today, have you walking around worlds where you can look but not touch.

    I would say, though, that one thing that stands out about player movement in HL2 as a negative is the feeling that Freeman is nothing more than a floating weapon. This wasn’t uncommon in 2004, but to me, it’s something I notice now. The lack of player bob, being able to see your feet, or even the Mirror’s Edge hands-on-walls effect. He can and should remain mute, of course, but I’d like to see more of Freeman’s ambient weight and presence in the world.

    1. Kasperg

      In Crysis you can basically shoot down palm trees to force an enemy truck to stop and ambush it. The nano-suit’s strength mode let’s you throw objects with gravity-gun strength.
      But the game never really forces you to use these abilities. They’re just options. You can just as well shoot that truck’s tyres to make it stop or carefully aim at its petrol tank for a quicker finish.

  8. Xblah

    I believe it increases the popularity. Valve’s games probably have more mods than all other games together have. In HL1, Valve didn’t have the fame they have today, so they created a great game. But I don’t think they expected to have a lot of people modifying their works. Counter-Strike has come, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress.
    I think that they make HL2 to be suitable for modifications. Most people who play Counter-Strike: Source, for example, go to play Surf, Zombie Mod, jail, and so on. And we can see a lot of mods, like Dystopia and Insurgency, that you forget it came from a game so simple.

    I also liked the analogy with Lego. The first legos were just simple bricks, and you could play with them for a lot of time, because you could build anything. The new legos come with a thousand pieces, but you will find no more than 5 bricks. I hate those Star Wars legos, or things like that. I can say this for both Lego and HL2: being simple, you may not like it, but you can come out with a complex thing and have fun forever. Being too much complex, you will find fun to build your spaceship at first, but you won’t be able to do anything else, and the fun will be over.

    Also, CS:S has the most simple and perfect movement system I’ve ever seen. One example are those Extreme Jump maps and Bunny Hop maps. You can do incredible movements with your mouse that you wouldn’t be able in no other game. Things like motion blur, lean, creep and other dynamic movements just limitates your choices.

    Summarizing, HL2 limitations can be converted to an ilimitated number of possibilities, while the “ilimitations” of other games can reduce them to a play-only-once type of game.

  9. The success and growth of the Half Life player an modder fan base, in all it’s titles, can be attributed to the old axiom, ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    Valve couldn’t have done it better for the Half Life franchise. Subtle changes have been made through the years of course, but they never strayed from the anchoring elements of the story, and should the franchise continue further, I pray that they never do.

    Valve has also released all the tools available to support the second most important element of the HL franchises staying power (in my opinion), which is flexibility. Easy enough to learn and user friendly with continual support. And look what’s happened.

    If you have a concept and “Source” can handle it, do what you will. We’ve seen so many amazing concepts come to life within the modding communities through the year, with so many more on the table, it’s no wonder the HL fan base is so stable and continuing to grow still.

    As far as limitations go, even the Audubon Parkway has guardrails for a good reason.

  10. tymaxbeta

    If my coder can take the scratch code and make something great without it being all bugged up from “features” that some competitors have, then the engine is great, I think in this regard it’s the same reason UT3 engine is so popular, the engine has barley anything to it, and that’s great for us modders so we can ADD to it, making the process simple. on the additive and subtractive topic, this is why UT3 is in the dust, the tools are just more fiddling, and less results.

    With Source when you make facial animation it’s not in an external program, and you don’t have to spend hours in a “great” animation editor for it to look right and run in game. Source is THE engine for modding, look at some of the releases on it, you have simple campaigns, like hl2:calamity, to full conversions, like Orion, and ones that do nothing more then just add fantastic new game play through new code such as Modular combat.

    Some of these are easier to make then others, but all the mods have great stuff in there own right thanks to this engine. Therefore, anything in source always increases popularity…

  11. If it can satisfy both intelligent and stupid people it is a good choice. HL2 does staisfy most people so it is good.

  12. wayfare

    What makes Half-Life so great is that I have never felt the need for features like bullet-time while playing. I enjoyed having it in CSS SCI-FI 3, but I remember thinking that if it was a part of the Half-Life series it would not fit.

    I think that the problem with many games is that the developers focus too much on features to make their games stand out rather than the gameplay itself, which tends to make the features feel more like gimmicks and the game as a whole feel mediocre.

    1. tymaxbeta

      You are absolutely right, this is why VALVe makes great games; they make them to be good, not to sell, but, as we all know, the theory has worked splendidly this far, both in sales and quality…

  13. Koshka

    As much as I enjoy the simplicity, I have to say (much like a poster before me) HL2 gameplay feels somehow surreal. You really do feel more like a restricted dev in game than a person. There’s more a feel of interactive movie then being a person in a movie. I don’t know exactly how to express it, and anyone add if you’d like, but I feel it’s rather self evident at times.

    It is true though, that it was common at the time. There were few games where you would see your body, few that you would see your hands on anything other than a gun etcetc, but all in the same I feel it did take away from the experience.

    I’ve always respected Valve for their decisions though, even though at times I did disagree with them.

  14. Zockopa

    Pure FPS are simplicistic and repetetive games per definition and besides narrative elements the most important thing is movement,handling and balance of weapons and utilities. HL1 did a an exellent job in this respect and HL2 is realy no advancement but good enough. However,even if
    development in this field is slow compared to the technical aspects other games like Fear 1 or Crysis or the UT2004 MOD Ballistic Weapons are way better than HL2 imho. Thatthe player “sees himself” in the gameworld adds
    to the immersion.

  15. ANonEntity

    Simple is good, but more dedicated KEYS for mission briefing, maps, third person 3D view, would be helpful in the HL universe.

  16. Nrmartins

    Me myself thinks that the simplicity is a sad thing, and it decreases this series popularity, because what’s left in the real game “must” be added in mods later .

    TF2 is a difference to this, sure has a huge sound list and everything, plus weapons, hats […]

    But Half-Life 2 as the chief-car of the Source engine could’ve been way too much more things planned ahead of releasing it. It could be even more popular, and it has the potential to it.

  17. Hi Im new here! So Hello to everyone !

    Well when I look at Half-life 1 and 2 Im glad they kept movement as simple as in Hl1. Player some sort knew what’s comming, on this level of gameplay and so he could stay 100% focused on new graphics, phyiscs and those for me still the best fascial animations =D I don’t even mind that I cant see my body, when I look down or hands on stearing wheel on buggy. I somehow hope that Valve will not change those things in episode 3, because Im used to how HL games acts and I feel “home” when I play them. I like for example GRAW, because of movement, there is prone, leaning, u can slide (you cannot jump) witch pushed gameplay closer to reality it makes u think more tacticaly, because in real situation you would ardly bunnyhop around your enemise and shoot at them on full auto ! And Half-life 2 gameplay is about fun and more fun, so I definitly don’t mind when I cannot prone, when I cannot lean, or change fire mods or not beeing able to use ironsights, because those things would just make game unssecerly difficult ! Why lean when U have HEV suit =D

    Offcourse gameplay mechanics of movement are oldschool in hl2, but I think that in this game it is on place and everyone understands that =D

    Interesthing is that when I see this simplicity at any other FPS from year 2004 and younger…Im actually angry! =D , like common this is 2007 and there are no ironsights? Wtf? 2009 and I cant lean ??!!

  18. hl lover

    Well I think hl and hl2 are simply sweet games, it is not the weapons, the playing odds or anything else is just the best game ever, because of it’s spirit, the store line, which permit anyone to get into it in the flesh of g.freeman, and the post apocalyptic world environment hl experience creates, come on gordon dosn’t even talk in the game! because all of us are gordon freeman when we play the fantastic half life and all their mods, some of them just really amazing and head up of it’s time maby!. So I think hl universe its just enormous and permit us to sum into it also permit us do it trough their mods and that way create, inovate and the most important part of all enjoy it!

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