Things I would like to see in mods in 2010 – Part 2

20th December 2009

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

Yesterday I wrote about six things I wanted to see in mods in 2010, today I write about 6 more.

Some of the things I wrote about yesterday could be quite hard to implement properly, but that’s the point. If the things were too easy then we would probably have already seen them.

What I really want to see is something that is challenging for the modder and something that is new and exciting for the player.

There must be hundreds of possible ideas and these are just a few of mine.

Number Seven: A non-shoot-an-enemy mod

Let me clarify this idea; it’s not a stealth mod where you sneak around avoiding enemies, quite the opposite in fact. It’s a mod where careful use of the surroundings will allow you to reach your objective without directly shooting an enemy. Now, this clearly won’t be easy, but these types of challenges are what makes the better mappers, sit up and try harder.

Here are some examples. You are in a tunnel and hear some fast zombies approaching. A quick look around and you notice that a certain section of the roof and its support beams look weak, perhaps a few shots there might cause a collapse? BANG! BANG! Lucky for you it did. Two shots and 5 fast zombies neutralized.

Within a city level you see Metrocops running through some upstairs rooms towards a raised street crossing. If you could just fire at the barrels below the supports to destroy those supports and make the crossing impossible that would save you a lot of trouble. Of course, you might encounter those Metrocops later on but that’s a chance you will have to take.

Sure, my examples seem a little forced but with some planning and clever level design I have no doubt the community can do it.

In fact, Kyouryuu mentioned a perfect example yesterday, in Part 1.

One other aspect of this idea is to use enemies against each other. Leading zombies into the path of barnacles is so funny and the same when you see Antlions fighting Combine soldiers, surely this could be used more.

Number Eight: Better use of HL lore

I want modders to love and embrace the very detailed ideas behind the Half-Life universe. You only need to browse around the Combine Overwiki for a while to see so many potential ideas for mods, or at least elements of mods. Back in May 2009 for poll question 122 I asked Do you need to understand the HL universe to make great mods?. 65% said yes, and I completely agree.

Building a mod with no regard for the story or background in HL is fine, but some of us want details, not just gameplay and action.

I don’t have some long rant prepared about this, but modders, please, please, please do some research.

Number Nine: A replayable “preparation” sequence

I quite like those levels that show you an area with a few resources and make it clear that an attack is imminent and it’s your ability to survive and progress is decided by how you place those resources. Half-Life 2: Episode Two had a similar level, with the Vortigaunts in the tunnels, and the interaction between a couple of rebels was a nice touch.

I’d like a whole mod based around this with 5 different levels, each set in a different theme. Each level would offer varying combinations of weapons, resources and enemies.

You could select each theme via the main chapter menus and play them in any order. If the levels also included statistics about how long it took, how many shoots were fired etc, you could then have a table of best times and percentages etc.

Whilst not really story driven, I would want each situation to be as realistic as possible.

Stacking crates can be a little boring but some people (William from Podcast17 really enjoy that aspect of gaming) and it would certainly add plenty of replay value to each chapter.

Number Ten: Shorter, more polished mods

Nearly all mappers get over ambitious (is this an example?). Now that’s ultimately a good thing, because if we are never ambitious we get stale, but too often it backfires and leaves players with nothing really much to play. I would like to see less mods next year but higher quality ones, mods that have been tested to the extreme, mods that have really been polished, mods that have had stuff TAKEN OUT of them. Mods that last for about 40 minutes, but really give me great gameplay.

We often compare films to games and modders can learn a lot from production ideas from short film makers. I have a group of friends who started off by making very short films (1 or 2 minutes) and have slowly moved up to 5 minutes and now have 10 people in the team and have done very well in competitions. They started very conservatively and grew slowly.

Mod makers think they can sit in their bedroom and make a whole game. We need to educate these modders, we need them to be realistic. Sure, if they stick with it, they eventually learn but we only need to look at ModDB to see hundreds of mods, that will never be finished for hundreds of reasons.

Perhaps we need a licence board that hands out mod licences for mods that have shown proper planning etc. Ok, that’s a little extreme, but the idea is that perhaps making mods is too easy, and that ease makes the final product of many mods poor.

This is turning into a badly structured rant, so I’ll stop now, but the point is: Less mods and the ones that do get released should be shorter and more polished. Thank you.

Number Eleven: A very large, multi-stage puzzle

Most players loved Research and Development and if you didn’t that’s fine because not everybody loves puzzles.

Those puzzles were really good because they combined realism with clever design.

What I would like to see in 2010 is one absolutely huge puzzle. Something that requires multiple sections to be put into place, but not just in that regard but also in size. Something like the bridge in EP1, which I thought was pretty cool.

In fact the whole mod would be based around this idea, not just have it as part of it. To be honest I have no idea what kind of puzzle, but something to take your breath away. Something related to physics, of course, and maybe using a container ship in a port and water and electricity etc etc.

I’d still like to see plenty of shooting in this mod, I don’t just want a puzzle, I want the puzzle to be the theme, if that makes sense.

Number Twelve: Father Grigori as the playing character

Okay, so here we are, the last of my twelve. I’ve mentioned this idea before but that won’t stop me from mentioning it again: I want to play as Father Grigori! I am not a big fan of the shotgun, or zombies, so he would have to be taken out of Ravenholm at some point, but the idea appeals to me because we could learn more about him trough interaction with his congregation (voice acting).

Perhaps we could create a twin, that could be voice acted. That would allow the modders more scope to include custom scripts etc. Imagine a co-op style situation where you play as his brother and together you have to find your way somewhere.

In fact, on a general note, I’d like to see Alyx in more mods too. Ideally, as a playable character but if not, then as a sidekick would be fun.

There you have them.

So, there they are, all twelve of my “wants” for 2010. I am sure you will disagree with some, love others and not care about a few. That’s cool, will all have different opinions.

Now it is your turn to tell me what you want to see in mods next year.


  1. A big YES to #12! Father Grigori adds a touch of comedy and….personality to the game. Playing as him would be great. I don’t think being in Ravenholm at all would be necessary. If memory serves, wasn’t it Die Hard that he was used extensively in a separate environment?

    If playing as him isn’t done, then his appearance in many more maps with voice would also be great.

    1. Agreed ! His voice always makes me smile.

    2. Father Grigori is a keeper. He reminds me of a human I

  2. Joe

    7) This is something I really love. Overcoming more zombies than you could ever have defeated with a clever use of your surroundings. I think research and development will be a benchmark for future non shooter mods to be judged against.

    8) If you like the half life universe It wouldn’t make sense to make a mod that is entirely unrelated. As you stated on the podcast there are many potholes that people would love to see filled.

    9) I love these! I cant believe I forgot about this. I should look about weaving thins into my mod.

    10) Its very easy for a modder to get carried away. I know quite a few times I think “I’ll have this this and this oh and this!” but I always take a step back and think. Do I want 5 hours of “look at me I can do this” or 30 minutes of pure liquid awesomeness. Once you have your 30 minutes of awesomeness. You can work up from there. But would you rather 30 minutes of grate A awesomeness? or 120 minutes of grade B awesomeness?

    11) Yeah, you have to love these. Things like saw life, just great to play. I remember playing saw life 2 player the first time. It was amazing. so we need more inventive puzzle mods on the scene

    12) I remember you said this on the podcast. I’m glad your brought this up because I wanted to say.
    The thing about Grigory is that one of his attractions is his speeches
    So maybe someone could email valve and say “got any spare Grigory speeches knocking about for us modders?”
    Also playing as the character means you never see them, (because you are them). In Hl2 you know you play Gordon because people keep telling you. “Gordon your alive!” ect ect so in order to actually feel like your playing Gregory you would need things like “look out Grigory!” or “father, reload!”
    I guess my rambling point is. Playing Father Grigory is good as long as is it feels like your playing him. That’s not as easy as playing a mute who everyone knows.
    That aside, it would be nice to see a father Grigory prepare and defend the church mod. Turrets and all.

  3. 7.) Exactly my thoughts. Shooting enemies gets SO damn old sometimes. Once you get used to which weapons work at what range, FPS just start feeling like a point and click adventure game. Making enemies do more damage or requiring you to use iron sites to aim accurately doesn’t make the process interesting or even challenging, it just makes it tedious.
    Having to use your environment requires observation and creativity. sure sometimes the process seems a little contrived, but I think that’s mostly due to lack of good examples to work from.

    8.) This is a big “IT DEPENDS” because when a mod starts going into detail about the HL lore, I get VERY picky about how accurate ALL of their details are. I still remember that in Half Life 2: Calamity (I think) that was talking about a war that had already lasted 6 days. They were trying to refer to the 7 HOUR war but either translated it badly or made a mistake to begin with. Just by this simple detail, I spent the entire mod picking apart all their mistakes: The war was 7 hours long, not 7 days. They were using human combine forces to go after you, which really shouldn’t have been all that prevalent until AFTER the war was finished and the combine had some time in power. Then there was the heavyhanded description of the structure the combine were building “Their building some kind of citadel… or something” Right, that’s the first word I would have used to refer to a structure that had only just started getting built, I wouldn’t have described it as a “Base” or a “Tower”, yep, “citadel” would have been my first thought, if I had been from the future. Even though the mod itself was actually very good, the inclusion of minor details meant that I was much more critical of the mod as a whole.

    9.) To me, this is almost like a subsection of 2010wish#7. It’s another was of having to beat enemies where the focus isn’t on attacking them directly, but in using your environment. The only issue with this is that it also has to be set up very carefully to be interesting, but not completely frustrating.

    10.) I think this is actually a better idea than the “6 month okay mods” idea. If people are working alone then they shouldn’t extend their abilities into a mod that is ridiculously huge, but if everyone puts as much polish as possible into their mods, then people working alone could use these “short but brilliant” mods to find other modders with similar skill and levels of professionalism. Once you gather enough of these people, you can get a larger mod that pushes quality and polish up to that of what I’ve seen from black mesa and the original valve games.
    Too many people go with the idea that since the players are getting the thing for free, that they’ll be okay with a mod that is “good enough” To a certain extent that’s right, but there are more than enough “good enough” mods out there. I have well over 50 mods that I consider to be definitely worth playing, but the truly POLISHED mods number barely as high as 10.

    11.) Um, do you mean the bridge in Episode TWO? I don’t recall any particularly large bridges in Episode One. Either way, any type of puzzle is good in my book.

    12.) No. I can’t believe you came up with this idea, Phillip, because it’s the worst idea, both in terms of practicality and effectiveness. Have you learned nothing from valve? In an FPS, the best choice for the playable character is to NOT have a personality, they don’t have speaking lines, if possible they don’t even have an APPEARANCE. All you have is the role and that role is filled in every way by YOU.
    Father Grigori, just like Alyx, just like Eli, just like HL2 Barney, and Kliener, all have far to distinct personalities to be able to use as a playable character in an FPS. There’s no room for a person to insert their own identity.
    Now what I do agree is that Grigori needs to make a comeback. Either a continuation where someone else meets him, or Gordon meets him again, and they travel together the way Gordon usually does with Alyx, or a preview where you are a friend of Grigori’s and you help him survive the events that destroyed Ravenholm.
    A perfect scenario for this would be if you played the part of Annabel and used the same gun he usually does, the whole mod you spend protecting him, but the final cutscene has your weapon knocked away from you and no way to defend yourself from the headcrabs that are in the room you fall into. When you finally die, then final cutscene shows brief flashes where you are walking towards Grigori, who gives a cry of “Annabel… no!” and then a shot rings out and you fall, still able to hear Grigori weeping.

    1. Joe

      8.) If someone could make a mod that lasted exactly 7 hours. The 7 hour war. That would be interesting. The overwiki talks about how the citadel arrived and was not built. So seeing the citadel come crashing down out of a portal would make my eyes explode.
      12) Agree with you there. Would be better off as a accomplice. I think its agreed and mod with Grigory wouldn’t be the same without using new dialog.

      1. Yes, the 7 hour war is a particular favorite subject of mine to come up with story ideas for. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that it’s the perfect place for Adrian Shephard to make a return in. Whether he survives it or not is up in the air though.

        It wouldn’t have to be EXACTLY seven hours though. There’s the whole idea that time is relative, the heat of battle makes it feel like time is moving faster or slower, so instead of being a specific time, you have each “hour” as a chapter. Plus you have to factor in the fact that you can’t expect the mod to just start at the same time the war does, so more likely you would want to track in closer to 10 “hours”, with a chapter or two before the war starts so you can get used to your character and abilities, the 6-8 chapters during the war and then another chapter after to wrap up the epilogue where the story resolves and the point is made clear that there is nothing more to do but to bide time and wait for a new savior to appear. (gordon freeman)

        1. Joe

          This I would like to see.
          though there is of course. Whats the point in making a mod that you know the final outcome is failure?
          The fact the war lasted 7 hours means that defenses were swept aside easily. So perhaps a “prepare for war” attitude at the start, until the citadel arrives and everyone runs for the hills?
          turning the game-play into escape?

          1. To go into detail, Adrian Shephard would not just be fighting combine, but protecting Eli, Alyx, Kleiner, Mossman, Magnussun, and Barney. If any of these individuals were lost, then even Gordon Freeman wouldn’t be able win against the combine.

            Which is again why this is a perfect role for Shephard. As a soldier he is already trained to fight with ultimate victory in mind even if it requires fighting a battle that can’t be won.

  4. Kyouryuu

    #7. Being able to use the environment to your advantage is a hallmark of a well designed game, let alone a mod. HL2 is packed with all kinds of natural rules that lead to this behavior. Barnacles eat almost anything, Antlions drown, the Combine will engage other targets besides Freeman, Zombies will stumble through anything to reach you, and so on. I think the only caveat is that these things should be a consideration in ANY mod’s design, not necessarily an explicit focus. You can easily blend these mechanics into a traditional run-and-gun mod and the observant player will pick up on them and feel rewarded because they’ll think they discovered something to make their lives easier. Incidentally, this is also why #8 is important. You definitely need to understand the game’s universe just to comprehend the rules of the world.

    #9. Again, while I’m all for preparation sequences, keep in mind that they can be just one element in a larger mod! Many designers I’ve talked to enjoyed that moment in Nova Prospekt where you have to place the sentry guns before the Combine onslaught arrives. Players like being in control of their destiny. While HL2 is not the only game to have a sequence like this, it’s one of the few that does it very well.

    #10. I agree with shorter, more polished mods as the end product, but remember that can be valuable to start off with something larger. Chances are that if you sit down and do a walkthrough of a ten level set on a rainy afternoon, you’ll realistically have only 2-3 really good ideas in that whole set that are worth developing. Now, if you imagine that you have only 1-2 levels in which to develop these ideas, I think you’ll see that you can create a lot of gameplay depth by essentially concentrating these good ideas into a short and sweet mod.

  5. A non-shoot-an-enemy mod.
    As part of a mod, yes but not a whole mod. I’m sure that this has been done.

    Better use of HL lore
    Cannot help but agree.

    A replayable “preparation” sequence.
    ‘Half-Life 2: Episode Two had a similar level” and a delight to play it was!
    A whole mod of maps is overdoing it I feel. Albeit with different arenas, it would get samey without normal combat action in between.

    Shorter, more polished mods
    You make valid points but new developers are bound to do less than polished, perhaps a ‘maybe” or 2, get constructive criticism and grow.
    I’d like to see lots of maps and mods published so that developers can ‘see” their works from a gamers perpective. That way we also get the polished works and more of them in addition.

    Number Eleven:
    I’ll duck on this one

    Father Grigori:
    Just no for me. He has his congregation. He is a fallen angel – eight of them in mythology. Valve/Steam picked this name very cleverly, google Grigori.
    To take him out if his environment goes against “Better use of HL lore’
    How about his Combine slaughtering nephew Brother Azazel or something. Azazel is also worth a google as is reading the hilarious collection of short stories “Azazel” by Isaac Asimov,

    ‘Now it is your turn to tell me what you want to see in mods next year’.
    Into the pot (in no particular order):

    A super Combine Elite, near immortal and killed by luring into traps of electricity, acid and etc. A sort of Combine Gargantua but a super soldier with heavy, motor assisted, armour and heavy weaponry not a monster.

    More mobile and airborne Combine hardware:
    Tanks. Players get armed with tankbusters or an artillery piece.
    Multi-firing Rocket Launchers. Take out with the RPG
    Dive Bomber. like the Stuka in WW2. Screams in the dive. Players get an anti-aircraft gun like the Bofors – fixed and/or mobile.

    For the player. An armed to the teeth exo-skeleton. It’s been done in Quake 4 (I think).
    Anti-personnel mines as in HL.

  6. Wow, you’ve given this some thought.Good man!
    I’ll just submit my comments linear to your topics.

    A non-shoot-an-enemy mod would be a welcome challenge.I’ve Always enjoyed the element of “you choose” in regard to killing opponents
    ( Splinter Cell ie.)

    The more gore the better! Rag dolls slumping and continuing to fire and convulse as they bleed out with blood and gore smearing across the “visor” screen….oh yes.

    A re-playable “preparation” sequence. Agreed.

    I’m a huge advocate of the developer having me wait a bit longer for the release if he’s using that time doing himself and the players justice by giving his mod the attention and time needed to produce a nicely polished, quality piece of work.I respect an individual/team who practices this ideal a great deal.
    There aren’t as many developers utilizing the very valuable tool of “constructive criticism” as there should be, but it quickly becomes apparent who is. And their work usually ends up high on the “memorable mods” list.

    Why not take the Grigori mythos(and related), to the concept table for a serial style installment mod ? Could be quite an interesting parallel story line.

    As for what I would like…I’ve already stated that I want true HL style Bosses.Evolve what we have, but make them big, mean and tough!
    -I want to see more mods take place in real-world locations ( I don’t have the name, but the mod took place in maps created from actual city streets and structures in a Canadian city.Something..17, I think).
    -More Combine ground Vehicles.
    -The Combine were always experimenting.Let’s see some of those results as custom models.
    -More “Iron sights” !
    -Yes…More trap materials; Mines, tripwires, “intelligent” bombs.
    -More defensive assets.Body armor, rifle scopes, Physical enhancement boosters, etc, to be found and picked up as in many other games.
    -More destructible environments.
    -The Exo is a great idea if the enemies are as formidable as you are.
    -More mods introducing content based on more modern technologies.

    This could go on all day man. There’s a few of my thoughts.

  7. Pingback: Episode #62 » Podcast17

  8. Samuel

    I’d like just one thing: Ammo conservation. Modders these days must think I’m a toddler, with all the supplies they’re throwing at me!

    First off, instead of CHOOSING to fire in bursts or single shots instead of emptying an entire magazine into a few enemies, I believe people would enjoy it more if you HAD to. A great example of this is Afraid of Monsters: Director’s Cut, in which you probably don’t come across more than 30 bullets for a particular weapon. This way, players truly appreciate a powerful weapon instead of spamming it with everything they encounter. Lack of ammunition also teaches us to be better players by making us learn to aim better.

    It also can add quite well to the atmosphere of a game; it doesn’t fit well if the location you’re in has more health packs than a hospital, more bullets and guns than in an armory, and more batteries than a Radio Shack, now does it?

    In short, less ammo= More appreciative players that, for once, AREN’t babied along by the modders.

    1. Very well said Samuel.The first line of your post had me cracking up ! I’ve been thinking that more and more in the last few years as well.

      Where the hell is the challenge ? I’m going to simply say that this is most likely attributable to the “youth” factor of today’s gaming and the demands thereof.
      “Nuff said.

  9. tymaxbeta

    On number eight, I am making a mod and it is firmly grounded in HL lore, I have spent countless hours on that very Wiki whilst writing the story, and about all else, if it’s based in something, read up on it, that’s what I say…

  10. Captain Kevin T Kirk

    well there is an answer to your question about implementing new ideas into reality its not easy thinking about new ideas because sometimes we may forget a step into these ideas or we might get confused because we can’t implement all these ideas at once. Which we may try to shorten the idea or by conbinding ideas into one reality to make it less confusing because we can’t always remember what we are doing. you know some easy ideas can still be confusing because there are thousands and thousands of ideas that we have found or are still searching for.

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