Poll Question 173 – Would character customization have improved Half-Life?

23rd May 2010

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

As much as I follow any other game, I have been following Brink. It’s not exactly my style of game but the details are incredible.

The Container City is a complete dream for me and if there is a proper SP version then I may even buy it just for that, once it comes down in price of course!

Anyway, one feature they seem particularly keen on is the ability to customize your character and that got me wondering whether Half-Life would ahve benefited from a simple system where players could choose the visual appearance of Gordon Freeman or even change his name etc. Yes, that would have been more work for Valve and made life difficult for the voice actors but it was possible back then.

You could change your character in Star Trek Elite Force to either male or female.

Personally, I don’t think it would have been a good thing, Gordon is central to the theme of the game and changing him would have spoilt that. I don’t doubt that some readers would have wished for more control over him I believe it would have been wrong.

What do you think?

The Poll


  1. k00pa

    No no noo…

    And as I play from the first person, I couldn’t even see the changes!

  2. Zy

    Nope. I’d rather play as the Gordon Freeman. Not much of a point to character customization when you can only see a pair of HEV-clad arms, anyway.

  3. No.
    I know nothing about “Brink” but curiosity might get the better of me.
    When I’m playing SP FPS, I’m me. In HL, me = GF.

    Besides, this was done in Unreal. It did not make a ha’pence worth of difference; I still played as me.

  4. I went to “Brink” and see that characterisation is more than that for Unreal. Much more.
    Could be fun, lots of fun.
    I voted no but wonder if I should have gone for Maybe or even Yes

    I have a couple of problems though:
    It’s £30 (around $44 US and 35 Euros). It’s not the price but for that much money from a group I do not know, I want a demo” first.

    I worry about the computer spec’s needed to run the game. It looks very resource heavy to me.
    Nowhere could I find minimum or ideal spec’s to run the game.
    I don’t buy software, gaming or otherwise, without knowing my system can cope.
    I could end up with £30 of game but need to invest £????.00 in new hardware to play it.
    Perhaps, nearer the release date, we might get more information.

    1. Kyouryuu

      Brink is running on the id Tech 4 engine (Doom 3, Quake 4, Prey), so that should give you an idea of its demands. It should be at least Prey, I’d imagine.

  5. volcane

    This is not something that I’d personally be interested in – it would be too much complexity for me and would detract from the core FPS gameplay that I prefer to focus on.

    Also, as others have observed above, GF = me.

  6. Kasperg

    Gordon’s real impact on the game in terms of dialogue would make customization very difficult indeed.
    What I do think would have benefitted Half-life (or rather HL2) is having an option to customize the existing NPCs other than just re-skinning them. Taking the gman model, for example, and being able to change the size of his nose, height, speed etc. That would open up a lot of possibilities for mod makers, who are really always stuck with the limited cast: For example, picking a certain citizen model to be a character in The Citizen 2 forces us to make sure that the same model doesn’t randomly spawn in another map. Little by little, you eventually run out of characters.
    I have tried character editors for games like the FIFA series or The Sims, and the basic range of parameters you can modify would be more than enough.
    I WISH this is somehow in Valve’s mind for the future. Parametric models is what I’d call it.

  7. GoodGuyA

    Character customization improves many games. It would in no way have improved Half-Life. The story is about Gordon Freeman, a man who you take the reigns of. You become this character, thus there is no need to customize it. Besides, Gordon already looks kick ass.

    WEAPON customization may have made it a bit more fun to the “general” FPS crowd though.

  8. Pyro

    I wouldn’t mind being able to recolor my HEV suit. I mean, you can do it in MP, and it’s not too hard to recolor a skin if need be…

  9. Kyouryuu

    There are three big reasons why character customization is not needed in Half-Life 2. The first is that it’s a first-person shooter where you never see your character, so unless you’re concerned about how your wrists look, it doesn’t make any difference. For that matter, Freeman is a floating crowbar. You don’t see his feet or chest when you look down (F.E.A.R., Mirror’s Edge, etc), so you drift around the world like an apparition. The second is that it’s not a multiplayer game, specifically a cooperative game, where the need to distinguish between players is important (as in Borderlands, for example). And three, the style of the game permits no cinematics where you would ever see Freeman, so again, the player never reaps the fruits of the labor designing a custom character. 🙂

    To go back to something Kasperg pointed out, on the opposite end, one game that has a great character editor is the sandbox title Saints Row 2. You can customize the physical appearance of your character, as well as what they wear, and pick from a set of animations, voices, etc. Here is a great example of how character customization benefits the player and the developer. The player has the freedom to design their little sociopath however they want. The developer has a basis to populate the enormous city with a lot of unique pedestrians and drivers by tweaking a few dials. Win-win! The game also satisfies the three above reasons why it is useful – it’s a third-person game, you can play it cooperatively with a friend on-line, and there are many cinematics where you get to see (and hear!) your character.

    As the game is built around having your gang take control of the city, there’s a benefit to giving the player the customization options to make it your gang. What do your homies look like? How are your gang’s cars customized? How does your crib look? What do your tags look like? Then, when the player sees the impact of their changes on the world, it creates a positive feedback loop that reinforces the “I own this city” mentality.

  10. Zekiran

    I voted no, because Gordon is Gordon is Gordon.

    If the series hadn’t been centered around him, but merely around the universe, then yes, a deeper customization process might be worth while. But we’re playing Gordon Freeman, have a medkit and don’t forget to reload, and I don’t think it could be any other way.

    Now, that said, I would personally LOVE a half life universe mmo.

  11. Grey Acumen

    Half Life 2 doesn’t need it, but something like Synergy, where you have multiple people that can all see each other, could benefit from it greatly.

  12. Rikersbeard

    I have also voted “No”.
    I think ” Half Life” and ” HL2, ep1 and ep2″ were, and are, (I’m still playing ep2), just fine. And being a FPS does question as to what you can customise within the realms of the story?
    I suppose you could have an adjustable eye line to set ” Freeman” to your personal height.
    You cannot change ” Gordo” but changes can be made to the other characters appearances without damage to the story.
    “Fakefactory’s CinematicMOD” has breathed new and very detailed life into HL2.
    With a dramatic new theatrical soundtrack and more ethnically diverse populace and a grittier texture look. Adding the ” wow” factor to the finest FPS ever.
    I am playing cinematicmod.4, which even has a brand new and very cute “Alyx”, higher detail and a pistol that can kill a Combine in two shots. So its now useful!
    So you can dramatically change “Half Life” in look and sound, but the characters have to remain the same or this unique story is lost.
    As for “Mr Freeman”, whose only forearms and gloves, you would need to have a mirror section in the game to see any changes!

  13. d3t9l

    I feel like it would be a nice feature, however it would have to be something special, like you would have to playthrough the whole game as Gordon, and after you beat it normally, you could customize.

    1. d3t9l

      *however, there would need to be some tweaking to the game to make customization actually significant, like being able to see the rest of your character (except for the face, back, etc) from your first person view.

  14. I thought I remembered a mod that has done this.
    After digging about in the nether regions of my memory:

    Where you get options to play HL2 as Gordon Freeman, Liquid Snake, Solid Snake,Big Boss and Grey Fox.

    There’s no post here at PP that I can find.
    There is a download here:

    But you might want to see the Moddb write up here for a description first:
    No download here though.

    I remember enjoying the extra enemy, carnage and gore.
    If you do play it, I suspect you will thoroughly enjoy it.
    Just the once, probably. On replay, I got bored.

    So, full circle, I’m back to No.

  15. Pax

    Honestly, at this point, I don’t know if I can see the Half-Life story being told from the POV of anyone else; Gordon is Half-Life and Half-Life is Gordon. He’s an icon, a beloved character.

    But if things had been different back when Valve were just starting out… yeah, I think a character creator would’ve been awesome. But then, I love games with character creators: the aforementioned Saint’s Row 2, wrestling games, RPGs… I love making my own characters. It can really add something to a game to know it’s your guy out there, doing stuff.

    And unlike so many other people here, I think a FPS where the protagonist is silent and virtually bodyless is ripe for character generation. I mean, what is Gordon Freeman, essentially, other than a name and box art? What exactly are you losing by being able to select your own name? Choosing your arms? I’m also a fan of FPSes where you have a body when you look down. Or you could occassionally see yourself in a mirror or on a security camera. I know I, personally, don’t have much else to go on in real life.

    Of course, I also know this doesn’t appeal to everyone (as evidenced by the comments thus far, really). Give some people a character creator and they turn the game off for lack of idea what to make. Or created a 50 pound pink spandex-wearing freak. So we can just have a pregenerated character for them. We’ll call him Gordon. 🙂


  16. i would go with no for half-life. as the story was all about playing the role of a named character. though customisation did worked for the Deus Ex series.

    Half-Life would of had to take into account the different repsonses to female and male player. for example the relationship between Alyx and Freeman in the HL2 series.

    now if someone was to create a mod that took into account customisation. I would be happy to play it.

  17. Thumbs

    I think player customization would ruin one of my favorite parts of the game which is that you never see your self. Also From what we do see of Gordon from the box covers and such, he looks like an awesome person to play as; A somewhat geeky physicist foced into the role of world defender.

  18. Start with Alyx.. Big bumpers and lots of trunk space..lol.. Hey why ride a skateboard when you can drive a Cadillac?

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