Poll Question 196 – Are canon mods better than non-canon mods?

29th October 2010

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

I was thinking about what Jasper said about Barney dying in Strider Mountain and the whole “canon” thing.

One of the great things about mods is that they are not limited by some of the constraints that games are. Modder can go crazy and let their imagination run wild.

However, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. At least not in my eyes. Having a story or setting within canon can help define the mod and not let it go stylistically crazy. A fictional universe is a balanced entity and adding new elements is like buying a painting and adding stuff yourself. What the original author made was probably very good in the first place otherwise you wouldn’t have bought it – so adding new stuff just might ruin it.

The HL universe is well-balanced but still leaves lots of room for invention and imagination. The key is making very sure the new elements feel right.

Killing key characters seems wrong to me but only for serious mods. Anything that is just a map can do whatever it likes in my opinion because it’s not telling a story. And here is the crux – if the mod tells a story within the HL universe is should mess with the basic elements or characters. if it does I lose immersion and that’s a bad thing.

What do you think?

The Poll


  1. Soylent Bacon

    I don’t care for canon mods. Just like fan fiction in any other form, it just feels wrong when a story I’m familiar with suddenly has this completely different (and often unprofessional, to varying degrees) feel. Unless I hear great things about a mod, I tend to avoid it if the description includes phrases along the lines of “You are Gordon Freeman/Adrian Shepard/Barney Calhoun/etc.” or “This mod takes place before/after (significant event in the Half-Life universe).”

  2. Grey Acumen

    The real answer is actually both. If a mod tries to be canon, then either it will succeed, and by doing so come across as FAR better than other mods, or it will fail, and by doing so will come across FAR worse.
    Most people are going to vote no here, because in general, most people just don’t have the attention to detail and will follow and ignore canon based on what they want to do in the mod, rather than what can actually be properly inferenced about canon from known details.

    These issues are big factors that detract from mods like Strider Mountain and Dangerous World, they pull on some instances of canon elements, but then add whatever details based on what looks cool (like the psychological trippiness of Dangerous World, or how Strider Mountain had Striders manufactured in pieces, despite their obvious organic nature that implies production by growth and incorporating a baby(?) strider that popped up multiple times through the mod (even though there was no point to its presence in the mod)

    Even on mods that are specifically NOT canon, the simple fact that they use resources from the canon game can cause issues. Random Quest was pretty decent on its own, but I had an incredibly difficult time coming to terms with the idea that the “vortigons” were actually the enemies in that mod.

    So to recap; properly incorporated & consistent adherence to canon, or at least not incorporating anything that blatantly conflicts with it, will make a good mod GREAT. Messing up canon will make a good mod “okay” Messing up canon in bad mods will make them even worse, and I’m not sure if there even are bad mods that do canon right. Most bad mods don’t get far enough to even try to implement canon.

    1. The real answer is actually both.

      There is no “real” answer.

  3. GoodGuyA

    The majority of canon mods are just boring out of proportion. If they try to slip cameos in, they don’t even supply voice acting or they just take clips from the game. It never works properly because no one really gets Half-Life. I’m not saying there can’t be stories of other rebels, but no one makes those stories have any sort of connection with the Half-Life universe besides the engine. It’s random Citizen X escaping City 17 and maybe sometimes a few other people. The quality is just never there for a canon mod.

  4. Hec

    Voted yes because I think mods set into the canon paths, could maybe to explain better some voids in the Hl story line I think that’s why HL creators just left those spaces, “cause they could be filled with modders ideas and creations but allways with logical and certain limits.

    Having a story or setting within canon can help define the mod and not let it go stylistically crazy.

    as phillip said I agree with that quote of him because that’s what actually happens whit some mods, as for ex. Coastline to Atmosphere, to me thats a good example of how a mod starts ok, but then goes just awfully crazy and ends with like a biter taste, I mean great maps but just kill GMAN and Breen tooo much for me and I conssider myself as a pasionated HL story gamer, as some forum writers could maybe note. thats why I also agree whit this:

    Killing key characters seems wrong to me but only for serious mods

    , if u are trying to be “serious” and kill some key character sorry everithing just goes to waste.
    Finally a mod like 1187 one of the latest releases on mod db shows that a mod can have imagination and can be into the HL story line, altough valve official story creators hadn’t said what happened before the 7 hr war set a mod in this previous environment seems a good choice to me maybe a good form to become classics, at least in what story respects, im not saying a thing referent to thec aspects cause that’s different and I think 1187 mod have its issues too about those thecnical-gameplay matters…..but that can be maybe treated on a different time.

  5. Surely this is not right?
    “A fictional universe is a balanced entity and adding new elements is like buying a painting and adding stuff yourself.”
    Valve did not give us HL2, they gave us the SDK
    Using your analogy, the artist finished his masterpiece but handed over easel, paint box and brushes (pun intended) etc;
    Thus allowing mappers to create their own works of art.

    Voted No and add, of course not.
    Many classic mods are not “canon. Actually, most of the greats are not canon.

    Here’s a list of some my greats that are non-canon:
    Get A Life (total conversion).
    Leon’s Coastline to Atmosphere.
    Minerva: Metastasis.
    The Citizen.
    Strider Mountain.
    Final Project.
    Dangerous World.
    Unexpected Conclusion.
    Nightmare House 2.
    Eye of the Storm.
    Human Error.
    That’s from memory so I might have missed a few.
    Any mod where you do not play as Gordon Freeman is “non-canon’.
    The Citizen 2 is shaping up as non-canon.

    A strict interpretation of “canon” means that Research and Development is “non-canon’.

    The only great mod that might be canon that I can remember is “Offshore”

    1. Grey Acumen

      Your painting analogy is both slightly off, but also utterly perfect. It’s NOT like making additions to the painting that you purchased from the painter, but what it is like is mimicking his style to make a second painting that can be set next to his to allow both to be viewed as one painting. This painting is a canon mod, and has the same rules for “success”;
      If your artistic style has flaws compared to the original, they will be noticed that much more. If the touching sides don’t line up, then they wont look like part of the same scene. If the artist painted a country landscape, and then your picture extends that landscape and adds in monsters and aliens fighting, it might still look okay, but it wont be doing that artist’s painting justice.
      but if you DO manage to get everything to line up and the styles to match, and don’t take the painting/mod in a completely different direction, then it can make a very beautiful composition when the two paintings are viewed together, just as a mod that does this can look beautiful when treated as part of the official game.
      It’s just really hard to do, and would be far easier for the original artist to do, provided he wants to.

      1. You understand my point completely.
        Very well explained.

  6. Bergström

    One good example of a mod not following the Half-Life Continuity at all is “Mistake of Pythagoras”. Basically in that mod, all of the combine are friendly and there never was a “7 hour war”.

    Before MoP however, there was a HL1 mod called “Peaces like us”, which is that the aliens became allies with the humans when they found a way to earth through Black Mesa, rather then being hostile to humans. These two mods were made by the same guy, so technically these mods could be taking place in the same universe.

  7. Solid Rider 2

    Non canon is better

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