The Art of Teasing

21st July 2011

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

I had been thinking about this post for a few days, you know, writing different paragraphs in my head, then forgetting about it and coming back to it.

Then I played Whoopservatory (that’s gotta be one of the strangest mod names around!) and decided to sit down and write it. The reason is that Whoopservatory teases the player really well and it seems to be an art that hasn’t been used much in Source maps compared to GoldSource or even Unreal.

Let’s start by defining exactly what teasing is. The Free Dictionary.Com defines it as (amongst other definitions) To arouse hope, desire, or curiosity in without affording satisfaction. But that last part is not always true as often it’s just the introduction to something, that is not given immediately. Teasing can take many forms from trailers for movies to sexy underwear.

In this context, it’s the idea of showing the player something or somewhere but not letting them have access straight away. In effect, creating anticipation for what is coming. Now, just to be clear, I am not talking about pre-release media like screenshots or trailers but actually in-mod.

Time for a little jump to another media: TV.

I’ve been watching two TV shows recently called NCIS and Numb3rs (yes, that is a three). Coincidently I am on series four of both.

They both use different methods to tease the viewer which I find interesting. In NCIS, viewers are shown a black and white scene that last perhaps 2 seconds. The scene shown is what happens at the end of a 10 minute section. It normally focuses on the expression of one of the main characters.

I am presuming this is timed to match advertisements, making it even more effective. What this means to me is that I am often looking out for the exact moment this scene begins and even try and guess the circumstances. The only time it’s not very effective is the last one, which more often than not shows the closing scene anyway – which always ends well in these types of shows.

Things are done differently with Numb3rs This one is more obvious but subtle at the same time. As the show starts there are four statistics displayed that relate directly to the episode about to be shown. At first, I paid more attention to them than I do now, but they can still be intriguing.

Building up anticipation is used everywhere and occasionally it can backfire, just think about Duke Nukem Forever – which must be the ultimate tease.

Which brings us back to gaming.

When I started playing Unreal maps I seem to remember quite a few times where the player was shown an area that was enticing but couldn’t be reached immediately. As I moved on to Half-Life maps and mods, I remember going through the same effect.

Part of the fun was thinking about how I would get then and the other part was thinking about what would happen when I got there.

Of course, there probably were times when I didn’t get to the place but not because I missed it but because the mapper didn’t want me to. And this is important, I don’t think a mapper should ever show a player an interesting area if they are not going to let them play it.

I don’t know if the HL1 was more suitable for this sort of thing but I don’t think it’s done very much in Source maps. Maybe it’s become more sophisticated now and I’m just not seeing it.

Whoopservatory teases the player internally and externally. It happens near the beginning where you see into the main puzzle room. In fact, it happens more or less right at the beginning when we see the dome from the outside, which is clearly our objective.

I am sure other mappers do it but Magnar seems to do it very well. Just think about Mission Improbable and the lighthouse.

I’d love to hear about your favourite teases in maps and mods.


  1. Herr_Alien

    Doom 3, when picking up a dead man’s PDA that mentions the BFG. I ended up keeping a close eye to anything that resembled the office door of that guy, just to get the gun.

    1. Yes, that’s another way of teasing, through story elements – good point.

  2. Derbler

    Half-Life. Right after the cascade, you teleport to Xen for like 8 seconds, and then you don’t see Xen again until nearly the end of the game. Starts off the game with that overtone of there being a lot more to come as you progress further.

  3. bobdog

    In HL2, seeing the Combine tower in the distance, you gradually get closer and closer — good example, I think, that builds the anticipation.

    But I agree — don’t tease with something cool if the player won’t get there.

  4. zonbie

    At times like this, I am always reminded of a Gabe Newell quote that was most influential to the whole Half-Life series:

    “You can’t show the player a giant bomb … and then not let him blow it up!!”

  5. Hec

    Well I think in a psychological, teasing in the plot of the entire Hl saga, I mean in the leap from HL1 to 2, we have the fact that gordon accepted the offer of g-man, so the begining of HL2 is a blast, when g-man told us Rise and shine Mr. Freeman, showing us the memmories and the shock of a new world under the cmb rule as u arive to city 17, all of that ressumed in the g-man’s phrase: -…wake up Mr. Freeman, wake up and smell the ashes.- also there’s teasing right now, in this awating moment just thinking in the borealis!!!, i’d really love to put gordon’s feet over that ship!!. White forrest and the final battle where u use the magnusson device against the striders have strong teasing elements indeed, actually I was kind of nervous when I had to start the actions against the invading striders protecting the launch site in WF!

    Also i’d love to fly that helicopter in the hangar where eli died, I hope we could get on board on that heli.

    Without teasing elements HL wouldn’t be the same, that’s for sure!

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