I’ve been a little generous when I described this as an SP gameplay mode because it’s really more of a scenario. However, it really depends on how you define SP game modes (More on that in another article). I’ve have published a few ideas for SP game modes in the past, including Chase and Reach Me, with the idea of expanding the possibilities when thinking about SP levels and this idea follows along the same lines and hopefully adds a new twist to the thought processes a player goes through when playing.
The problem is that level designers, for mods anyway, seem to be stuck in a rut, with quite limited options. If you think about the types of community-built levels available you’ll notice that they fall into two main categories: defend an area and get to a specific place. For each mod the how and why is different but the end result is more or less the same. Sometimes you go on foot, other times with a vehicles, sometimes there are puzzles to block your path, other times it’s enemies.
I’m not suggesting that this situation is bad because when you describe things in this manner MP games sound even worse: Kill all the enemies or steal a flag and control an area for a set time. It’s not the idea or description that counts but the implementation!
So, as you guessed from the title of this post, the gameplay idea is called triage. Triage is the action of assessing the injured and deciding who needs attention first. For example in a field hospital within a battle field, a medical officer would check everybody brought in and decide who the most urgent cases are and who can wait, at least for a short time. The very same basic idea would apply in the gameplay mode.
The mod, and let’s assume it’s a mod for now, would start with the player waking up after being near an explosion (Yes, clichéd but perfect for this example) and receiving, via radio, details of an attack. Around him/her are bodies and ammo. He has three distinct directions of action, say 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock and 6 o’clock. Each direction has a different problem.
Let’s look at some specifics; 10 o’clock has Combine soldiers numbering at least 20 but there’s the option of a mounted AR2 nearby. 2 o’clock has 5 or so Combine Elite Guards who love to use their secondary fire mode but also has some carelessly dumped fire barrels in their path. And at 6 o’clock is a Combine Hunter Chopper with a bad aim due to the smoke above the battle field and a rocket launcher with, Unbeknown to you at the time, one less rocker than is required to destroy the Chopper. (The other rocket is located somewhere along 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock)
With only seconds to decide what to do the player has to make a decision; which line of attack to defend first.
Now, with some clever coding and plenty of voice acting/message text and other situational descriptions (Combine Radio snippets etc) it should be possible to make each play through different from the previous one. If you could somehow create six or so scenarios and somehow randomize how/when they appear, the replayability could be quite high. Lots of somehows but it must be possible.
Whether my example is possible or not is unimportant because the basic premise could easily be used with a mod. Instead of three directions it could be two and instead of a randomized set it could be the same all the time. The idea would offer the mapper some interesting possibilities regarding the design of the level & attack and also offer the player something new regarding their decision making process.
I want to clarify that the idea doesn’t have to be simply defending an area like my example. Each direction could contain many various situations. For example 10 o’clock could contain the buggy and require the player to reach an area before a specific point in time. 2 o’clock may contain a stealth or puzzle section.
The idea is to give the player some basic information and force them to choice a direction and play. Hopefully all directions are evenly balanced to make the decision a little harder.
Anyway, I’m not clear whether there should only be one correct order or whether any combination could succeed. At this point, with no beta testing and being just a thought experiment, I believe there should be a set order. However, some flexibility needs to be built in. Perhaps if the designer worked backwards and said one particular order is WRONG, then that at least allows for the possibility of failure. If there is no chance of failure then the point of setting up the situation is wasted. What difference does it make if all choices succeed?
When I first started thinking about this I thought in very short time scales but I suppose the outcome could be longer. Of course it shouldn’t be too long otherwise you would be forcing the player to replay too much if they made the wrong choice and I don’t think that would work for most Half-Life 2 mods.
Perhaps this has already been done in a mod but I can’t think specifically of any. SPOILER ALERT! I suppose you could consider the tunnel attack in Episode Two similar to this but to me that was more of a simple “defend an area from multiple directions” type of gameplay. Each direction contained the same type of attack and you could easily move bewteen all three directions if you wanted to. It was also a timed event, whereas the triage idea doesn’t have to have any timing involved at all if you didn’t want it to.
Would this work? Would it be interesting to play? Do you have any ideas or suggestions that could be incorporated into it?