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Guildhall mods: Deja Vudu -

(This is part of an on-going series examining the single player Source mods produced by game development students at Guildhall. While we'll still look at the level design, the work process is just as interesting - they're consistently releasing stuff while the rest of the Source modding community is largely languishing. What are these "academic modders" doing differently, how does that affect their design, and what practices should we modders emulate, if any?)

Team Deathosaurus' Deja Vudu is a first person puzzle game about escaping a decrepit mansion by chasing and defeating ghosts. And it's pretty good.

  • No combat: Okay, no punny title for this one, but I had to mention it - there's no combat here in the usual sense. Sure, you technically have to kill some things, but they don't really fight back. Why is that notable? Most single player mods revolve around combat and gunfire.
  • Easy on the eyes: Loads of custom props and textures with mostly tasteful lighting. Overall, some very polished visuals, especially when compared against the other Guildhall mods. Kudos.
  • Cohesive: The mansion floor plan is laid out and designed... like a mansion! Many designers often forget to incorporate their level theme into their map layouts - often you'll see claustrophobic warehouses incapable of storing anything larger than a cat - so it's rather pleasant when the level follows the tropes of its setting convincingly.
  • Back to the future: There's a time travel mechanic that hasn't been done before in the modding community, though I feel like the team could've done more interesting puzzles with the idea (see Day of the Tentacle) - but then again they were under a time limit, which we'll discuss after the review.
  • Quite trite: Some of the puzzle design is very "game-like," focusing on prying nails off of conveniently unstable beams. It's amazing how many things are boarded up in this house. You'll be willing to suspend your disbelief until you're prying nails off of a beam for the sixth time - and you thought the physics puzzles in Half-Life 2 were contrived.
  • Unstable and buggy: Maybe it's just my machine, but I get all kinds of graphic corruption / crashing issues with Episode 1 SDK Base mods. Guildhall students should start using the Orange Box SDK Base. Also - the voodoo doll doesn't talk. Also - I've had to noclip a few times.
  • VERDICT: A somewhat polished puzzle game. Nothing mind blowing or incredibly innovative here; but like everything we post here, it's still worth examining.
  • Download! at (currently unavailable)
  • Download! at (temporary mirror)

Originally released in March 2008.

Interestingly, you can download the Deja Vudu asset / devplan document to get a closer look at their work process; although it's unclear how much of it was actually put into practice and how much of it was merely schoolwork to appease teachers. Still, there are some good ideas in there, namely:

  • A team contract. Although obviously non-binding and useless from a legal standpoint, it could help to make expectations clear.
  • Defining milestones and time constraints. This one can be more difficult to implement outside of the academic setting, seeing as most modders are hobbyists and missing a self-imposed deadline results in no penalties or consequences.
  • Playtesting early. 'nuff said.
  • Short game length with no feature creep. They had a small, manageable amount of content to create - and they did it.
  • No cargo culting or resources diverted to publicity. I'd say most people don't even know this mod exists - but then I guess that's what blogs like this are for? - and they didn't waste resources trying to create a community or fan base... and guess what? They've released in a timely fashion!

Article Comments (now closed)

Kelvin's gravatar

1. relatedly..

Posted by Kelvin at 2:29AM, Tuesday July 22 2008

I thought the name Bailey Hall looked familiar, I played another of her mods, Neuromancer: (that one is an Orange Box mod I believe)
which I think is also definitely worth a look. That's a more straight-up HL2 mod, though it features a really interesting vision of cyberspace, a la William Gibson. It's quite short, though memorable.

Perhaps we need more females making games? At least it may help get something a bit different.

Sortie's gravatar

2. * Subject:

Posted by Sortie at 5:25PM, Thursday July 31 2008

Oh, the download link is broken, you need to remove the www. part! I checked out their back catalouge and I was surprised how many mods they've made and that some of them were their projects.

I look forward to playing this as well as that Dear Esther mod!

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

3. Polished and fun

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 12:17AM, Tuesday August 5 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed it. DV is a clever and modest game, with clear objectives and perfectible controls. I am glad the designer didn't go for a horror atmosphere, but focused on creating a mix of normal and weird environments which gave a useful framework for solving the puzzles. Basically, it's not They Hunger-scary, but rather mildly unsettling.

There are some issues, like the default Mouse settings being set to Joystick, which results in a disorienting spinning on new game load and a couple player model issues, but nothing to break the game.

If you want to avoid some of the noclips, do the cradle first before breaking your way down.

And yes, this one is going to be hard for players who never look up or down. :-)

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

4. ..But

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 12:23AM, Tuesday August 5 2008

...all texts are in the BSPs, which makes localization impossible.

Freakoftheuniverse's gravatar

5. Delightful!

Posted by Freakoftheuniverse at 1:45PM, Tuesday August 5 2008

I was really impressed with Deja Vudu, simply because it wasn't just another rehashed horror, but something quite different. It's good to see that there's still some originality out there, even if the "hunt for the nail" or "try to get the key to go in the lock" puzzles can frustrate at times. But, overall I thought it was a fine piece of work, with a sense of humour that's been absent from many mods of late.

Mman's gravatar

6. Download

Posted by Mman at 11:40AM, Thursday August 21 2008

The download link on the guildhall doesn't seem to work, are there alternatives?

Sortie's gravatar

7. Google is your friend! Sorry!

Posted by Sortie at 11:35PM, Thursday August 21 2008

I had trouble with that mirror; I googled the mod's name and found another mirror, but I have forgotten its name. If anyone knows a proper mirror please post it here for the next users! :D

Mman's gravatar

8. Thanks

Posted by Mman at 1:36PM, Saturday August 23 2008

Considering the guildhall nature I assumed there were no other links, but I guess I'll look around.

Klapaucjusz's gravatar

9. Temporary mirror added

Posted by Klapaucjusz at 10:31AM, Monday August 25 2008

Bailey's gravatar

10. Greetings from Deathosaurus

Posted by Bailey at 8:40PM, Wednesday December 10 2008

Hi there,

A previous schoolmate of mine just linked me to this page. I was the lead on Deja and am happy to see its making its way around teh internetz! I just wanted to take a moment to respond to some of the things Ive read here and possibly give some insight.

In response to this:
"Interestingly, you can download the Deja Vudu asset / devplan document to get a closer look at their work process; although it's unclear how much of it was actually put into practice and how much of it was merely schoolwork to appease teachers"

Thank you. I created this dev plan. I can assure you that about 90% of the project doc was put into practice. If we made any changes, we updated and alerted faculty as early and often as possible and updated the project file and task lists and asset list just as quickly. There was quite a bit more documentation I didn't add to my site because I wanted to show the best representation that I could, but still might put it up seeing as people are actually taking a look at it. Good to see. :)

There were many things we did behind the scenes that, in retrospect, would probably be good to post so people can get a clearer picture as to just how the development plan for this mod started, and more importantly
just how it unfolded. We had about 6 months to complete this mod and all of us were riddled with 3 other classes, masters projects, and, on rare occasion, that silly thing some like to call sleep. :)

"Also - the voodoo doll doesn't talk."

Yeah, sadly enough we always wanted to hire some voice actors from the main SMU campus to come and help us on this one, but time didnt permit us to. Later however, we found a guy on you tube who played our whole game through and voice acted all of the voodoo dolls dialogue. Too bad we didn't have him around at the time. He was pretty good!

Overall, It was an awesome and unique learning experience.

Anyways, thank you all for your reviews, critiques, and suggestions. Most of all, thanks for playing!


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