Reach Me Gameplay Idea

12th June 2008

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

Hands up if you have played Lost Coast? Firstly, if not, why not? It’s free for Half-Life 2 owners and it’s actually a very fun level. Okay, hands down now.

If you haven’t played it go away and play it now and come back when you have fully explored and finished it.

Fully Explored

Did you notice that I italicized fully explored? Why would I do that you ask? Because this is the basis of my new gameplay idea….trying to reach areas that have been purposefully made very difficult to reach.

Let’s go back to Lost Coast for a moment. After I had played and completed it I decide to go exploring. I wondered whether it was possible to reach the town on the other side of the water WITHOUT cheating. That’s very important because using two consoles commands you can go anywhere on the level and the challenge is gone.

It turns out that it is possible and actually very easy. Now, what if you extended this idea to a complete mod. Kreedz Climbing I hear you scream but no, not like that, something more subtle. Something where the player has to plan and use the environment to their advantage.

Step By Step

Allow me to explain. Stacking boxes to reach walls is quite easy but what if you had to fight your way to a vantage point and then use a crossbow to explode a barrel that destroyed part of a wall to let you through? Phew, a lot of work just to get past a wall. Now what if that barrel wasn’t visible from your vantage point unless you did something else a little earlier in the level? Perhaps destroy a water tower with the one and only rocket?

Of course I see all this in my mind’s eye and it’s clear and obvious but for you who have to read my basic descriptions it’s lacking detail. (This is where I need a GMod expert to build something that would show you exactly what I mean).

What I am trying to explain is that it’s not just a case of finding a crate and climbing over a wall to reach the areas but much more involved and thoughtful. Half-Life 2 has the perfect physics environment for allowing clever level designers plenty of possibilities for creating these types of levels.

Perhaps each Reach Me! point provides some required element for reaching the next point, or perhaps just a better view of the situation.

I have perhaps given the impression that the Reach Me! points have to be high but they could take the form of lower levels, intricate rooms within rooms etc. The only the limit is your imagination.

Another aspect that can be interwoven is the timing of actions. Perhaps you have to race to certain points because elements you need are only available for short periods of time, or perhaps the opposite is true. Patience is required to wait for the exact moment to act, miss you chance and you have to wait again.

Psychology Involved

I believe there’s a deep psychological process at work here. Reaching areas that are hard to get to are the basis for Portal. The game designer has set you a clear challenge. They are asking “Are you smart enough and skillful enough to reach this point?” You not only need to be able to workout HOW to reach somewhere but also have the ABILITY to actually do it. In the case of Portal, shooting, jumping and timing are all paramount.

Another point about Portal is the gradual increase in difficulty in each level. Of course there are other aspects that make it such a brilliant game but similar elements could be used by the makers of this mod. Make each level short and self-contained. Give the player simple and clear objectives. Mix fighting and puzzle solving. By keeping the sections short you allow the player to try and fail many times without giving them the feeling that they are not progressing. Mixing the difficulty of some levels is also a good idea as it will allow short breaks.

Easy To Do?

The best thing about this idea is that the basic implementation should be quite easy. If doesn’t require a story, voice acting, cut scenes etc, just clever level design and extensive beta testing. Levels wouldn’t need to be detailed in the same way as other single player levels because the atmosphere is created via the objectives not via the environment. (Of course, a well designed level is going to include a certain amount of detail but I don’t see that it is as important.) Just look at Portal again and you will see that the environments weren’t particularly detailed like Half-Life 2 was.

Portal Assets

In fact if you created the mod for Episode Two I’m pretty sure it would be possible to use Portal textures. I’m not suggesting that the mod should be as graphically sterile as Portal or set in similar locations just that by adding some textures you could subliminally get players into the right frame of mind.


So, to summarize. Exploring is an integral part of most FPS games and mods. I’m suggesting taking that simply gameplay mechanic and expanding it into the central theme of a mod.

The level designer would created levels that test a player’s ability to think longer-term and less about run and gun. Fighting and shooting would still be required but only as a means to an end, not as the end itself.

Jumping and other character controlled movements would be used but not too much or to the extent that it’s frustrating for the player. The key is finding ways to reach the areas through manipulation of the environment and strategic use of limited weapons and ammunition.

The question is: Are there any mappers out there willing to accept my challenge of building a proof of concept level?


In fact let me raise the stakes a little a suggest a competition. I have a used, legal and boxed copy of Crysis (Kindly supplied by a long term PP reader called AI (Thanks!)) and a brand new copy of Prey to send to the entry I feel deserves it (I may not give out the prizes if the entries are not very good – sorry!).

If enough people show an interest via the comments system of this post I will create a new post announcing the competition and send out a few press releases to the major mapping sites and forums.

Some Gratuitous Screenshots

Here are some screenshots I took just now for those doubters amongst you.

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


  1. Count_de_Monet

    Hi Phillip,

    I actually did this in Lost Coast and other maps, sometimes going “no clip” to get past a real bad blockade. Most of the time, you can go very far in suspected ways.
    Maps involving coasts are great for rambling (Offshore or Metastasis) but “Coastline to atmosphere” is certainly the mod with the most sideways. Just go and find them.

  2. Ol" Scratch

    Interesting thinking… I’m dl’n LC now, just so I can see what you’re talking about.

    And I like the idea. I wish I could mod, because I’d do it.

    Another thought: why not take *existing* mods (maybe the original authors could do so), and create some “easter eggs” that players could follow off to the sides or behind the scenes. And with some humor, come very funny things could be created, say cut scenes that emulate the “outtakes” found in animated movies like “Cars” and “A Bug’s Life”. Even take the original games and do that to them.

    That would be cool!

  3. Berrie

    The levels would probably still need quite some detail. Portal could pull it of because it’s a sterile test environment. But few other places could really do without that.
    Using textures to signify objectives or usable terrain is a good idea.
    And I find games without story (especially single player games) to be quite boring. If I gotta reach these places I better have a purpose, even if it’s something as simple as you being challenged to get somewhere. Story gives purpose.

  4. fragmaster

    I got the Rocket-Jumper award in Quake 2 rocket-jumped over a tech-device to get a secret area & a pop-up giving me the message.
    Far Cry demo of the Jungle map ppl used a cheat to see the 2nd level same in the Doom3 alpha release.
    Yes there are barriers that dont allow you to jump over a fence or building because theirs gotta be a limit.

    Phillip is saying break the conventional rules of gaming & play it on your own frame of mind & see every last display of detail til you know near everything.

    Painkillers secrets even push you to the limit.

    Can we do this in Strider Mountain intresting huh

  5. Oopla

    I think what would be cooler is if you had a map with 2+ ways to do everything. That there was always a way to bypass the fight.

    One example I would cite is when I played the single player part of Halo 2, I loved playing the Arbiter more than master chief, because the Arbiter’s 5 second invisibility cloak made it more fun to try to bypass the endless waves of Flood than just pour lead into them.

    A cool mod would be a derivitive of the idea behind Razer’s Edge. Call the mod “Runner” and have it about a rebel messanger who has a specailty designed HEV suit, optimized for speed and agility.

    You are a runner, whose purpose is to maintain the intergerty of the resistance’s cells. All non-essential communication and movement between them is conducted by you. You are armed only with the crow bar and gravity gun. You pride yourself on needing nothing else.

    The crucial element is that the runner has to refrain from using lethal force. If you employed lethal force on a CP, you would immediatly have the area you are in swamped with overwatch dropships, circling gunships/helicopters, and even a strider. Such overwhelming force that you can’t survive.

    To make this more interesting, I would have any kill except a crowbar or gravity gun kill sound this alert. Call the other two “kills” as knock outs.

    Taking from the stealth cloak idea, I would implement a disguise mode, where you aren’t recognized as a hostile by combine forces for 20 seconds of continuous viewing. to stay in stealth mode, you would have to not do anything suspicious, like jumping or sprinting, or flashing a weapon.

    To pass a open courtyard with Combine sentries, you would have to engage stealth mode and move from doorway to doorway to make the journey insmall segments, so you are not detected.

    A few mission ideas I had would be a racing style mission where a rebel cell has come under attack by the combine and you have to race weapons and supplies to them before the main body of the combine attack force gets there, then get away before the main fight to preserve your cover.

    there would be the basic messenger or courier missions to help hone the player’s skills and help them develop tactics. Tactics like dropping a heavy crate on a CP’s head to render them unconsoius. Observing a patrol pattern to figure out how to avoid it. And plain old trial and error.

    A mission with a “no-combat” theme would be one where you would need to sneak around the city placing covert teleporter signal stabilization beacons, in response to the teleporter accident with gordon freeman. Secrecy is supreme, so the combine cannot be alerted to the presence of a rebel agent in their midst.

    Another I had would be to race around the map as a scout having to clear sniper positions from behind to open the path for a resistance advance.

    A recon/infiltration mission along the lines of MGS would be cool, where you have to intercept the battle plans, and leak false info to the combine in preparation for a coming battle.

    Maybe an assignment to assist a battle without exposing one’s self to it, by say having to covertly race to the battle, and deploying pwn’d Man-Hacks to attack the combine and assist your human buddies.

    Vehicle missions would feature prominently. Maybe a mission where you have the car and need to race a Magnusson Device to the Damn for testing and construction.

    Maybe an assassination mission, where you have to take out a member of the CP’s who’s grown too suspicious of Barney, before he informs on our lovable buffoon.

    A few humorous missions would be cool, like one where you have to stealthily make your way to a pizza shop, then buy pizza, disguise yourself as a delivery boy, and then take the pizza and LOTS of beer over to some combine soldiers, in an attempt to weaken them against a morning assault. I can just chuckle at the dialoge possiblities.

    “this is combine patrol victor-niner, no sign of suspicous activity-OH hey guys! PIZZA!”
    “And beer!”
    “Whoa free beer!”
    “Man now this is how they should recruit!”
    “Wonder where this came from?”
    “I wonder how we’re going to eat with these masks on.”
    “Watch and learn sonny, watch and learn…”

    This mod would be a lot of work, but it would really offer a new take on HL2 gameplay.

  6. Count_de_Monet

    Funny how everybody is slowly drifting from all out death spraying to more subtle merriments. I previously talked about the fun of sniping and bang, one sniper map and several posters including Oopla go along the same lines. To concur more with Oopla, I reckon that stealth can be a nice alternative to the classic “Eat hot lead, you …” . The ideal being a balanced proportion between both.
    Fun mods are also a great idea, at least in the sense of kinky nasty humor. Nobody wants a disney mod, but some spaghetti western talk coupled to a limited amount of “beer and pizza” jokes might effectively be fun. Ethnic or hip dialogs might also be hilarious, given that it is done according to Phillip’s notion of high quality voice acting. How about a Cheech and Chong map?

    Briefly, this seems to be a growing trend. What will be the modders’reaction to the public request ?

  7. Oopla

    Nobody wants a disney mod

    I for one would love to see a mod set at Disney world. Especially with fully functional rides.

    I can only imagine how my mother would approve of me shooting up “It’s a small world after all” considering her intense dislike for it and the number of times my sister made us take the ride. 😉

    In response to the suggestion of a Cheech and Chong map, I think it would be cool to have two persistent CPs, who are always just out of range, and speaking a piece from one of their movies, as if it was normal dialogue.

  8. Count_de_Monet

    A mod set in Disneyland would be great, no question. I was just refering to WD’s style of unbearable cuteness. Of course, if I have the possibility to RPG Bambi out of this universe and ragdoll the dwarfs with the grav gun, I’m game.

    BTW, who would like a TPS instead of a FPS? A two-persons shooter would be a gold mine, from Abbott and Costello to the Blues Brothers (thought of that after Cheech and Chong). I’ll swap the buggy for that black cruiser anytime.
    You can make it a real two-players, or maintain the SP style like in HL2 with Gordon and Alyx. Come to think of it, it’s the perfect example : unlimited possibilities in dialogs, a hug after the hot moments….endless possibilities.

  9. Berntsen

    I’m sort of sick of the linear nature of some FPS games, such as HL2, which leaves no room for exploration. Rarely is there anything of interest outside of the main “road”, and if there is, it’s usually just a bit of ammo or a medkit or two. I recently played S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and the exploration part was great – I’d love if more developers did the same thing, and expanded the gameworld a little, so the player isn’t restricted to following a single path. This makes for better replayability, and makes the gameworld feel more “alive” because the surroundings are big and open, eliminating the feeling of the environment existing solely because the player is present.

    Okay, this wasn’t entirely on-topic, but if there actually _was_ anything rewarding hidden about in the gameworld, there would be more reason – and fun – to actually explore, and challenge one self to pass an obstacle.

  10. cubedude89

    A legal version of crysis is very tempting for me!
    Good idea also

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