PsychologyVille – Just a Discussion

27th March 2016

A few years ago, I read an interesting article on the BBC website about psychology and testing. I emailed the author, a university professor and suggested creating a few maps for testing purposes. I can’t remember the exact details, but video games seemed an ideal medium for the tests. Unfortunately, I never heard back from him which was a little disappointing, but there you go.

And then yesterday I read this BBC article called Why are people so gullible? and it got me thinking again.

I’m not actually proposing this Ville but I would like us to talk about potential ideas. There must be plenty of ways of introducing specific psychological concepts into maps.

Preconceived Ideas

Every video game starts with ideas that are communicated to the player – either visually, textually or audibly. For example, once we learn that exploding barrels explode, we use this knowledge in-game to our advantage. We learn pretty quickly that the Combine forces attack us and the rebels attack them. We learn that we have an HEV suit that protects us etc etc etc. If we tried to list everything we have learnt about Half-Life it would take you hours and then you would probably forget things.

What if you were to make a map that threw all those ideas out of the window and started again? Exploding barrels gave you health, water gave you grenades, touching walls took health away. Just like the list of things we learnt from Half-Life, the possibilities here are endless.

At first, the player would explore and try to learn as much as quickly as possible. You would be like a new born baby testing the world around you. The difference is that you are observant and intelligent and the consequences might be way more complicated than the ones I just mentioned.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

What if we played a map and were given verbal directions from a number of NPCs, but one of them was lying? What would or could happen? Would we trust the others or doubt them? This idea might require much more faithful facial rendition to work but it wouldn’t be about trying to guess who is lying and who is telling the truth because that would become obvious quickly. It would be more about how you reacted to knowing that one character lied and therefore other could have too.

Think back to the games, you trusted everybody except the Gman and Dr. Breen, didn’t you?

Kill one to protect two

I might have talked about this before because I am kinda obsessed with the idea. It’s often called the Trolley Problem and seeing something like this in a map would be absolutely fascinating. There are some many possibilities for inclusion within the Half-Life universe.

A rebel leader has been captured and the resistance are worried that if tortured he or she would reveal important information which would severely compromise the fight against the Combine. There is no time to evactate all the bases or changes the plans and you have been sent to kill he or her. Unfortunately, there is absolutely now chance of rescue. I’m pretty sure we would all happily play this scenario and kill the leader. But what if you had to kill other rebels to get to him? What if you had to destroy a train full of rebels or a town?

Have far would you go to complete the mission? How many lives you you take to save an unknown number?

Many Other Ideas

My suggestions above are just the tip of the iceberg and I am sure there could be so many interesting psychology tests we could run within maps.

Do you have any ideas? Why not share them?

Reference Links

I no longer link to external articles within my articles (not map and mods posts though). The reason is that when reading an article, each time you see a hyper-link your brain has to decide whether to continue reading or visit the link for more information and this process, whilst fast and subconscious, affects your comprehension and thoughts on that article.


  1. I actually really like this idea. It will create some very open and varied creations due to the fact that different people would have different interpretations as to what a level based on psychology would mean to them. It would likely create quite an interesting competition.

    If you went ahead with this you have also given people more than enough ideas and it shows how open this idea is and I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting concepts from people in the comments :P.

  2. Funny you make this post when I’ve been working on a new project for a Half-life roleplaying server, sending resistance fighters on a series of missions sent out by a strange messenger, in the last mission it turns out they were tricked into sabotaging their own resistance operations and the reporter was working for the combine.

  3. First off, let me just say that this ville idea would probably be an extremely interesting one to do at some point (perhaps not as part of The Hammer Cup, but later on). Ideas like these are, in my opinion, the ones that allow the mappers to really showcase their abilities and thoughts to the world. I’m not saying we should get rid of competitions like ChasmVille, where the basis is a location or a specific event, but these ‘conceptual’ villes are often more open to interpretation.
    (I guess what I mean is, don’t forget to make an equal amount of location/event-based villes as well as concept-based villes)

    Second off, Phillip, you literally posted the concepts that I’ve had in my head for several mod ideas for a long time now. Don’t read my mind :u
    The ‘Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire’ and the ‘Kill One to Protect Two’ concepts could easily be applied to a single map/mod based on branching choice (as they are with one of my mod ideas), since they both rely on your interaction with NPCs / other characters in the mod. The ‘Preconceived Ideas’ concept is also something I thought of. Perhaps not in the way you described it, but it’d also be based on the player figuring everything out in the game world before they could start doing anything viable. This is more of an experimental idea, but that’s the reason it’s so interesting, in my opinion. I generally like making projects that are more experimental than traditional, and I doubt I’ll go off this path anytime soon, so these kinds of ideas always interest me.

  4. If you are ever gonna make psychologyville I have the best idea it’s a puzzle \ tutorial map for beginner map makers , it mostly gonna be about color and how they effect the player’s mind , and I know how’s perfect to voice that , cough arghh Urby … cough cough.

  5. Zekiran

    Like the others above, I like the idea of doing something like this though not necessarily as a Ville- and not as part of the competition, because I think it would require a much longer planning and execution stage than just the quick one-offs of these villes.

    And unlike some folks, I *actually trust* Gman’s presence in any given location. Why? Because when you start pursuing him, in general, *you survive*. Whether he’s cleared the way, or blocked it to show you a different one, or arranged for you to get a superb weapon to fight later on… he’s not the enemy that it’s easily believed he is. Just because he’s manipulating you and keeping you on hand for his purposes shady though they might wind up being, he’s not been all that untrustworthy to start. >_> But that’s a whole other discussion. 🙂

  6. Confused Travolta

    The idea is great. Take for example Antichamber, that’s the “Preconceived Ideas” type of game.

    Liar, Liar is very common in games actually, but except RPG’s it’s just passive observation. Many times there is a plot twist when someone you trusted becomes a real villain. But you can’t do anything about it.

    Few days ago I get this idea of OpenworldVille, some kind of RPG map, not big ofcourse. You have a goal, but you can achieve it by more than one way, Deus Ex style. That’s the situation where you can use a liar character. You need to enter warehouse for example and you have informator, but he gives a false info. Will you trust him and choose to go with B strategy instead of A (and for example talking with other character gives you opposite info, who will you trust?)

    The last example is in my opinion hardest to do. Not technically but psychologically,
    because you have to create a bound between player and other characters.
    Leaving the player with a choice: kill 1 civilian vs kill 4 rebels won’t do the trick. People have to feel the characters. If you have that choice at the end of Episode Two… well, that would be something big. I think, it could work in map like LocalMotive too.

    1. OJJ

      Just a nitpick: Deus Ex’s level design is referred to as a “spiderweb level” which is not open world but gives plenty of freedom on how to complete the task in the level and then some.

  7. I could rant about this subject forever… but in summary having situations where Gordon (or the player) has to make tough on the spot decisions which result in the deaths of many humans which would be for the greater good which may not be apparent.

    A while ago, I was having a very boring Sunday so I made a silly little video just to pass the time based on an interesting concept of mine.. <— How Half-Life should have ended.

    In this – Gordon is sent back in time to the beginning on the Black Mesa incident – and Gordon simply went on a rampage in Black Mesa – killing everyone he could before committing suicide. From the human perspective it just looks like a scientist going on a murdering rampage, but in doing so Gordon prevented the resident cascade – therefore preventing the events of Half-Life from happened and therefore preventing the discovery of earth by the combine.

    I think for a future potential mapping contest – I think having situations previously covered in the Half-Life covered from a different angle would be great. This means mappers can work on existing Half-Life 2 maps – and the time spent modifying these would yield far more impressive maps compared to maps that have to be built from scratch.

    In the last LiberationVille competition – one of the first maps had a scenario where the human resistance attacked Gordon – and you had to defeat them to proceed. I liked this concept where you had to make a decision to kill fellow humans and resistance units for the greater good.

    In the Half-Life universe – the human aspect has always been black and white.. as in it was humans v's the combine. But, like in reality, the situation would be far more complicated that there would be many different human resistance groups, remains of countries and governments – all each with their own agenda and resources.

    I think a mapping competition focused after the events of Half-Life 2: Ep2 , where the combine grip on Earth has been weakened and the rise of several resistance factions around the world all with different agendas.. and some even fighting against each other would be deep.. and psychological. Having Gordon (The player) having to make touch decisions and even action against humans. Throw in captured Combine/Alien technology and even the Vortigaunts who have their own agenda/plan as implied by Gman….

    But as I mentioned above – scenarios where Gordon is sent back to previous scenarios of the Half-Life story in an attempt to change things would also rock.

    Meh – just fantasies really.

  8. Sounds like a great idea! I would love to participate.

  9. While a little bit different, The Walking Dead game made you make those decisions, who to trust, and who dies, (but then showed you just how left of centre your actions were!)
    I cant help but compare your Ville idea with it.

    back to the questions,,
    so you decide that killing 25 is NOT a good idea,, does the game end differently? do you lose/fail?
    lots of ideas to think on..

  10. Zekiran

    Though I haven’t played it (and won’t likely, as I really don’t care for the visual style), Undertale is pretty much all this in a nutshell. But that said, having an FPS-appearing game where you pretty much expect to shoot the crap out of everything in sight and not really intended to even do much stealth let alone ‘save’ people or get attached… That would be a much different monster.

  11. This seems like something I would be really interested in, however, I think it’s a concept that would need a much larger time frame than what most competitions would allow, as play testing is more important for this type of concept and something only possible to achieve by having others test the maps repeatedly.

  12. I would definitely be interested in this. I think it would make a much more varied playing experience, with every map going against every cliche of HL2 mods.

  13. Oh, oh, can I suggest a completely unrelated ville idea?

    After reading Bolloxed’s post (especially the part about seeing existing situations from a different angle), I got a new idea. I’m not quite sure what it would be called, but it goes like this:

    Basically, mappers are tasked to showcase different locations from HL2, HL2:EP1 or HL2:EP2 but at a different time / timeline to when we see them in the retail games (I’ll explain this in further detail below). These locations must be the same as we see them in the retail version (ie. not just a level set in the canals, but specifically a part of the canals that we have once visited). Then the mapper modifies that part of the level to showcase what it looks like in a different time / timeline. Examples:

    1. What do the canals near City 17 look like after the Uprising? What do they look like after the Citadel explosion? (These two are different time points, they are still in the retail storyline)
    2. What would the canals near City 17 look like if they were shelled with headcrab canisters? What would they look like if they were overtaken by the resistance? (These two are different timelines, deviations from the retail storyline)
    3. What did the White Forest bunker look like before it was found by the resistance? (Retail storyline)

    I could think of other examples as well, I’m just kinda tired right now.

    Please tell me your thoughts on this idea, or any map concepts you might have for this!

    1. This is such a great creative idea! I would love this as i like to view photos of buildings in real life and how they progress over time! I would really enjoy this for places in Half Life 2!

    2. Mr.Walrus

      I think this is possibly the coolest mapping challenge idea I’ve ever heard. There are so many possibilities! What would happen in City 17 at the moment the Uprising takes place, what would pre-zombie Ravenholm or post-Combine City 17 be like, or sections of the coast right before Gordon Freeman passes by? A huge amount of material.

      I’ve also worked a good bit with tweaking HL2 maps (personal projects as well as the one Ville entry I ever made, for the DoorVille competition) and I found it to be a blast. I think it’d be a really fun competition both to map and to play.

    3. TimesVille – A mapping contest that takes existing HL2 maps and redos them 3 ways…

      1) The past (between the time of the resonance cascade and the events of HL2)

      2) The present (but from a different perspective)

      3) The future (after the Citadel explosion/uprising)

    4. Got some other ideas too :
      -Half Life 2 Ravenholm before the headcrab take over ( maybe a daytime map ).

      -Half Life 2 Highway 17 before it got destroyed , maybe even 1 year earlier when Leon got the buggy for the first time , even a passage from Black Mesa East to the beach.(This is what I’m gonna do if this will become real 😛 )

      -City 17 after the Citadel explosion in the end of episode 1

      -The citadel transforming from HL2 from to HL2Ep1 one , tho too much scripting and It’s probably is impossible

    5. “A mapping contest that takes existing HL2 maps”
      Guys, guys! 😀
      I know it sounds cool in theory, but using existing Valve maps is a horror. Did you ever tried modifying a Valve map? Especially City 17 maps with lots of choreography. They have so many scripts in them, it’s easier to make your own map from scratch, than guessing what is working with what. You’ll change one thing and suddenly half of the map won’t work. I don’t recommend it 😉

      By the way, I have something other in mind.
      Lately there is this idea of bringing Black Mesa maps to RTSL. Ok, so to all people working with BM, pls…
      I always wanted to recreate a HL2 beta canals with bullsquids, pls, you can do this 🙂

      Another idea I’ve always had in mind, is post nuclear Black Mesa with zombies, a little like Portal 2 Aperture, BM in ruin still infested by zombies and other creatures (and radioactive zombies!).

      1. Black Mesa has the materials and models from HL2, but the NPCs themselves aren’t wired up. Their models still exist, but I’m not aware of any way to use them. So, you could create a City 17 map with Headcrabs and Bullsquids, and maybe an Icky, but you’re not going to have Metrocops or anything like that.

      2. Mr.Walrus

        I think it depends a lot on what map from HL2 you’re trying to modify. I’ve edited some of the d1_trainstation maps before, and I agree, you can run into some nightmares with that if you’re doing a lot with new NPC’s you edit in. However, if you’re modifying a map where Valve didn’t put in a huge number of scripted_sequences (something from the canals, the coast, Ravenholm, etc.) then I don’t think it’d be too difficult.

  14. aaron

    I would like to see:

    1. Islandville = water and islands
    2. Caveville = use of caves be creative

    1. In response to Confused Travolta: I don’t think there are ruins of Black Mesa, only a HUGE crater , because I’m pretty sure that Mark IV Thermonuclear Device, or the “The Package” is strong enough for that , even Gman said he didn’t ANY loose ends. I dunno ,it’s your opinion 🙂

      1. It might be a little cliche, but in my fictional Half-Life 3, I’d love to return to the ruins of Black Mesa in order to retrieve something necessary to make the technology on Aperture’s Borealis work. Not only does it allow for a nostalgic trip back to the ruined laboratory, but it would show that Black Mesa and Aperture could only save the world by working together, instead of being bitter rivals.

        I don’t know how far down an atom bomb would actually go, to be honest.

        1. Zekiran

          If it was set off at the surface, it’s highly likely that the lowest parts of the facility wouldn’t be touched. Then again: the lowest parts of the facility were already hellishly toxic and filled with the radioactive waste from its own reactor you have to work on, while there… 🙂

          1. I agree. Atom bombs were actually detonated above ground to maximize their spread. They didn’t leave giant craters. The blast goes outward, not downward.

            Fallout 4’s Glowing Sea is a crater where the bomb that destroyed Boston landed. But it’s not a particularly deep one, and underground structures survived it.

            So, I think there’s some leeway there in the suspension of disbelief. Common knowledge is that anything on the surface would have been vaporized. And it’s quite likely that fires and radiation blasted through the lower corridors, killing off anything down there and setting off all kinds of other hazards which could have collapsed large portions of Black Mesa. But as far as the whole thing being gone? I doubt it. It’s too tidy. Kind of like the mass evacuation from City 17, but I digress. 😉

            I think there’s some weird requirement for level designers to have a fascination with urban decay and the way that buildings rot over time. I’m no exception to that. Especially when they are still somewhat identifiable. So, that’s why a return to Black Mesa would interest me.

            1. Zekiran

              Not quite coincidentally, my fanfic version of Gman must return to Black Mesa at one point, but… it’s not really the same in that world: it’s inhabited, continually, and is referred to as a Refugee City (BMRC heh) so given the theory behind this page’s post, he really doesn’t want to come back, because he believes Eli would be justifyably dangerous to him. (also that he’s facing his own guilt, but that’s something you’d want to read or I would want you to anyway heh.) The psychological pull or push to return or run away from a place you know is in bad shape, or something that you know you caused – I always feel bad playing HL1 over again after a bout with HL2. Because I really hate killing Vorts, myself.

        2. This could be a really powerful moment in a “Half-Life 3” if done right.

          Metal Gear Solid 4 did something like this and it was so well made and gave me nostalgia even though I played all Metal Gear Solid games for the first time in 2013 one after the other, I couldn’t imagine how that moment would be for someone who played MGS1 in 1998 (THE RELEASE DATE OF HALF-LIFE 1 BTW)

          Bioshock Infinite did something like this too, but in that game it was really cheap and kinda pointless, still a cool moment.

  15. blackdog

    This sounds like a very challenging theme. I’d be very curious to see what people come up with, mainly because HL2 doesn’t seem to offer the tools that other games like RPG offer, in terms of flexibility of player choice.

  16. In fairness I would have a pretty good contribution already lined up…

    You would be starting off in the void with nothing more than your pistol and limited ammunition.
    Around you is dim black fog and only a few white outlines.

    Your goal is to shoot the level into existence, as if building it in Hammer, and find the way which does not lead to a brick wall representing “Creator’s Block”.

    Where the wall appears will be randomly chosen by a logic_case.

    The whole idea represents the frustration of having limited ideas, a set goal and having to repeat everything from scratch once you crash into the wall.

Leave a Reply

Comment Formatting Guide

Well formatted comments are much easier to read. Please copy and paste the HTML Tags to use in your comment

  • HEADER: <div class="fix"></div><div class="sbe3">TEXT HERE</div>
  • BOLD: <strong>TEXT HERE</strong>
  • ITALIC: <em>TEXT HERE</em>
  • SPOILER: <span class="spoiler">TEXT HERE</span>