Ten silly sins of mod design - posted by Klapaucjusz on Tuesday January 29 2008
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Corollary: players do not look down without excessive, repeated prompting.
- Corollary to the corollary: some players do not look without excessive, repeated prompting. We dread to think how they fare with the real world.
- 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.