ModMatic: SP HL2 Map and Mod News

Ten silly sins of mod design -

To relieve the intellectual tension undoubtedly created by the Day 15 discussion, we threw together a list of the frequent and damn annoying game play issues encountered in far too many mods and which may spoil the experience of the more discerning players. We have tried to focus on items which are generally recognized as silly and are easy to fix.

  1. Groups of hostile NPCs politely position themselves in an Indian file and run towards the player's hungry shotgun or machine gun. Good manners and sportsmanship are fine and dandy, but such behaviour spoils most of the fun of killing intelligent foes and makes us wonder about the training procedures implemented by the hostile force's officer corps.
  2. Groups of hostile NPCs appear out of thin air in the doorless and windowless area recently explored by the player. Inconsiderate behaviour, unless there is a precise and fully functional teleporting device in the vicinity. Doubly rude if the hostile NPCs use efficiently high rate-of-fire weapons. Cad-like if the teleporter's operation is silent and instantaneous.
  3. The items, devices and other implements often used in the game's official world seem to grow bored of functioning in the exact same manner when they make an appearance in the mod. Confusion and frustration ensue, as the player, diligently taught by Valve or Epic or Bungie to take advantage of effect A when using Item 1, ends up wasting time, ammo and precious hit points realizing that what looks like Item 1 is in fact Item 1's Bizarro twin, with a goatee and a horrendously wide splash damage. Wooden crates should remain breakable, explosive barrels should remain explosive - and doors with handles should open when used. If it's permanently locked, a door should look impassable - if it's temporarily locked, make this self-evident. Just like in the original game.
    3bis: Because we are imperfect creatures with stunted mind powers over the physical world, we still need a hardware device or two to communicate our decisions to the gremlins and oompa-loompas who move the pixels and say "Oh, Gordon!" when we play Half-Life 2 and its modifications. The keyboard and mouse duo is thus a necessary evil (although not for long) and its default (or custom) configuration a matter of personal habit. It is therefore highly confusing both for the player and for the aforementioned gremlins to discover that in the Undead Hunting and Killing with Weapons mod the Use (that funky saw trap) action is bound to the > key and that the operation of the BFG2000 or of Anyotherweaponforthatmatter is provoked by the quick tapping of the W-S-A-D combo three times over while crouching (instead of the LMC). In thirteen words: don't change the default keyboard configuration in modifications released for public consumption.
  4. In realistic environments, avoid magical architecture: planks nailed to concrete walls to block doors, bathroom tiles on a satellite, extensive sewage treatment plants below bourgeois villas. In the real world, architecture has purpose - barring incidents of drunken builders, obviously.
  5. Every morning, on your not-quite-awake stroll to the fridge, you may stumble and hurt your pinky toe on that plasma TV box which you've been meaning to throw out months ago. Just because you do it, do not assume that organized paramilitary forces frequently patrolling important areas leave them littered with random obstacles in the middle of the path. Clutter sparingly.
  6. In a mod featuring multiple maps, should loading from the console a map other than the first make you a criminal fit for the Special Hell? It would appear so, considering the number of mods in which you appear sans suit and weaponless if you load a mid-story map. The respect of the artist's vision of the oeuvre may warrant that, should you wish to replay that cool zombie level on mymodmap_16a, without having to use impulse 101 and give yourself the grav gun and bugbait in a Star Wars setting, you'd have to play through the fifteen previous maps again. If you are less demanding of your audience, do not forget to give the player the suit and the minimal weapons and ammo on loading any map, not just the first. (Technical tip: Use the OnNewGame output on the logic_auto or the newgame_spawn prefab.)
  7. Players do not look up without excessive, repeated prompting. Do not assume a player will immediately see some out-of-the-way gadget or escape route, even less realise what it is. By the laws of statistics, some players are guaranteed to be looking away at the precise moment they are shown the solution to a puzzle.
  8. Corollary: players do not look down without excessive, repeated prompting.
  9. Corollary to the corollary: some players do not look without excessive, repeated prompting. We dread to think how they fare with the real world.
  10. Forcefields, doors, gates and other means of egress from an area may become jammed, stuck and inoperative. It's a fact of pixel life. However, when their "unjamming", "unstucking" or return to working order coincides with the demise of the last hostile NPC in the said area, one may reasonably wonder about the causal relationship between the two events, especially when the last undead to be redeadified by your trusty Glock was locked in a steel cage fifteen meters from the indestructible wooden door.

Ladies and gentlemen, add yours, if you please.

Article Comments (now closed)

Sortie's gravatar

1. Oh so true!

Posted by Sortie at 5:20PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

I really agree with most of these points. So much that I make parodies of these events, such as 10 in my mod.

11. Don't make your game in a another language than the original game. Chance is people will stumble upon your Korean and Russian mod and accept your license agreement written in Serbokroatian. For these not familiear with the language are just annoyed. This happening far too often!

12. Dammit, make a story! Most Single Players mods have no or litle story. Is it too much to ask for a well thought story which isn't just "You are Freeman. You are here for no reason. I dunno".

13. Everybody loves to hear the prepupety voice of the level designer himself! Forget about hiring professional free voice actors at sites such as litfusefilms or whatever it's called!

Oh and some formatting is wrong in the IE 7.0 browser, the numbers are halfway into the margin! D:

Crispy's gravatar

2. Good article

Posted by Crispy at 7:10PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

14. When making a zombie mod, either make sure the player rarely runs out of ammo or give him a melee weapon to use other than the feeble crowbar (preferably one that does more damage). Whack-a-mole gets tiring fast. Wack-a-mole gets tiring fast. Whack-a-mole gets tiring fast. Wha- ...

15. When relying on a breakable object to allow progression in the game, make sure the object in question is:
a) Big enough to attract attention
b) Colourful/bright enough to be seen
c) Looks like something you might break

(On one Half-Life mod you had to shoot down a hanging object to smash through a barrier covering a shaft in order to enter the next area and rogress in the game. But instead of making the ropes breakable, the four, grey-on-grey 1x1x1-unit boxes that attached the ropes to the object were the breakables. I spent a full thirty minutes scouring the rest of the map for some sort of illogical alternative route -even though everything in the map had led up to this point with the hanging object- before I gave up and spent another 30 minutes reading through forum posts to get an answer. When I did I facepalmed so hard I fell off my chair.)

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

3. On topic, please

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 8:08PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

Sortie, please keep to game play and game design issues which are silly and easy to fix. Localization and professional voice acting are not a game play/game design issue and are quite expensive (unless you work with a supportive localization agency.)
Please also remain respectful and helpful. Sarcastic and insulting remarks are not welcome.

Sortie's gravatar

4. Oh.

Posted by Sortie at 8:28PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

Didn't notice the subject was limited to game play and such. But even though the issues I mentioned aren't easy to fix, they're still fixable. (Yeah, I should have been a litle more polite.)

Side note, this blog best system would really benefit from a Edit Post/Comment system, it's more like a forum than a blog. :P

Trurl's gravatar

5. Meta: Editing scheduled for after user profiles

Posted by Trurl at 9:01PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

For me, playing stuff that's in a language I don't understand is part of the fun of mods - where what might in reality be a fairly bog-standard plot can suddenly create all kinds of possibilities in the oblivious imagination of the player. Choose your own adventure?

(c.f. Residual Error, Secret Weapon etc.)

Oh, and numerous of the 'voice actors' used by Lit Fuse Films are the same personages as those making said films. If you've got a good voice, use it - but if you haven't, cheat. Like with that M-word mod!

But back on-topic: point 12+2i, insistence on using every single enemy and friend available. You've got your zombies, you've got your antlions, you've got your helicopter, you've got the gunship battle, but where to put the striders? DON'T! Make another map if you want to play with 'em, don't cram 'em all in to one small space...

Nesretep's gravatar

6. Another thing...

Posted by Nesretep at 9:11PM, Tuesday January 29 2008

16. DO NOT confuse increasing difficulty in an area of your map with plopping massive numbers of enemy NPCs in said area. Instead find creative ways to place a smaller number of enemies to make them more difficult to eliminate or require a more creative use of weapons and other resources the player has available in order dispatch the enemy NPCs.

Baxayaun's gravatar

7. Parallel lines...

Posted by Baxayaun at 11:33AM, Wednesday January 30 2008

Hehehe... this is funny and very useful, indeed...

17.) Don't try to make Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or even Half-Life 3 by yourself. Even if you create a master piece, anyone will take it seriously with that name.

18.) A survival horror mod should be a SURVIVAL horror mod. Everyone can survive easily if you give them a rocket launcher or an MP5 5 minutes after loading the first map. No weapons or a single melee weapon are welcome.

19.) Between horde and horde, please, let us see something interesting (A single explosion, sound, music, even a text...). 5 minutes killing the same guys spawning through the same doors is damn boring.

20.) Don't place 2048x2048 textures near 64x64 tiles... it burst my eyes.

21.) Tunnels are now the perfect place to increase in a 200% the amount of details you can show. Don't let the players walk through a corridor with 4 bland and flat surfaces. And no, crates are not welcome in this case.

DJPOO's gravatar

8. Here's things that irk me about Hl2 mods

Posted by DJPOO at 10:41AM, Thursday February 7 2008

22. Putting Metrocops and Combine Overwatch together in the same squad. Nothing screams newb modders more then this. Just because it's done in SMOD to up the difficulty level doesn't mean it's a good idea.

23. A non existent plot and story is all fine dandy and excusable for a multi-player mod, a demo or kill everything that moves Doom style shooter. If a mod isn't one of those and it doesn't have a good story to go along with then it really can ruin the gameplay experience.

24. Mods using an old version of the Source engine, please at least use the Hl2 Episode 1 version like CS:S and Hl2dm do.

Sortie's gravatar

9. Haha. xD

Posted by Sortie at 1:20PM, Thursday February 7 2008

@DJPoo.
You posted the exact same tip (22) at my filthy ModDB site! Trust me, if I place Civil Protection Units and Combine Overwatch soldiers in the same squad and later have them slaugthering each other, it is because of something called Story and Plot. ;-)

Oh and I thought HL2DM still was using the HL2 Source Engine. I'm yet to see HDR crafted maps there. D:!

Nesretep's gravatar

10. Re: Haha. xD

Posted by Nesretep at 9:36PM, Thursday February 7 2008

@Sortie: I noticed DJPoo's posts in both places as well. I thought that was a bit rude. Did he not think you would see both of them?

Sortie's gravatar

11. Re(2): Haha. xD

Posted by Sortie at 10:22PM, Thursday February 7 2008

@Petersen
I haven't seen DJPoo around here before, so it's probably just a coincidence. Somehow he got very frustrated about this. I probably should include some disclaimer at the next release. :P

Post Scriptum, that means you actually saw my filthy ModDB profile? O' glorious day!

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

12. Knock. It. Off.

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 12:12AM, Friday February 8 2008

DJPOO, Sortie: stay on topic, which is "game play and game design issues". Story choices, NPC mixing and matching, engine versions, etc. are not part of the discussion.

Sortie, it's your second warning. Do not import arguments from other forums here.

DJPOO's gravatar

13. skip mine then

Posted by DJPOO at 2:30AM, Friday February 8 2008

Then I guess people can skip and ignore the ones I added.

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

14. skipping etc.

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 9:31AM, Friday February 8 2008

DJPOO, thank you for your understanding and welcome to the little ModMatic cabal.

Yar Kramer's gravatar

15. Hmm ...

Posted by Yar Kramer at 6:55AM, Saturday February 9 2008

Heh, seems pretty thorough. I mean, I can't think of any simple atrocities that haven't already been covered.

Unless this hasn't been covered:

* The right weapon for the right NPC. Do not arm Combine Elites with pistols or shotguns. It looks REALLY stupid, especially since if they try to use altfire, it still plays the SFX of the pulse rifle's altfire

Samon's gravatar

16. Small.

Posted by Samon at 6:46PM, Tuesday February 26 2008

If your mod is over 3 hours in estimated play length, contains more than 2 new weapons, 1 new enemy and is riddled with so-called and dubiously titled “New Featurez” (Yellow Hud!), please quit because you are going to fail.

Small, concise, minimal and polished – that's the key ingredient to a good, workable mod. There's a bar for mods, and it is very low.

Yar Kramer's gravatar

17. Ah yes ...

Posted by Yar Kramer at 11:28PM, Monday March 10 2008

Something that "Drainage" called to mind: Learn to make a SourceMods folder, even if it's just going to be HL2 maps with zero new assets. Players, by and large, are lazy. They don't *want* to spend the effort of going to the console and typing "map fhqwhgads_01" when it is perfectly easy and sensible for a mapper to make it possible to click "new game" and then "chapter 1."

DaurY's gravatar

18. What is this...

Posted by DaurY at 2:09AM, Thursday March 20 2008

What is this? A Wikipedia page? Do you have to link every little bit of information you talk about? Did you really have to have a picture of the sky? Do you think I don't know what the sky looks like?

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

19. And...

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 4:49PM, Friday March 21 2008

...a Happy Easter to you, too.

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