ModMatic: SP HL2 Map and Mod News

Single-player modification and map reviews for Valve's Half-Life 2, with more than the occasional diversion and distraction. If we like it, it's here. Do not argue with the system!

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Citizenship Lessons with ... The Citizen! -

Reginald, the ModMatic zombie, is looking quite perky these days. So much so that there's a second article posted in just over a week. If this kind of activity increases, Reginald may have to cast aside his putrefied flesh and foul-smelling, apocalyptic home and become a more fully-fledged, non-brain-seeking and productive member of society.

Speaking of which, an updated version of The Citizen for Half-Life 2 has been released back in February of this year - which replaces and supersedes any previous versions you may have played!

Described by a frequently-toasted colleague of ModMatic as 'excellent', this is an episodically-minded piece of classically-styled mapping which is more than welcome in these single-player deserts. Rejoice! And let us hope that it is just the first new citizen in a ever-continuing world of quality released mods...

Download here...

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Grraaarrrhhh. Brrraaaainnns! Mmooooooddsss? -

ModMatic is not dead, merely decomposing quietly in a pool of foul-smelling bodily fluids, while its part-putrefied neural tissue slowly continues to scheme and plot ways of gaining delicious, delicious nourishment from the brains of the truly alive.

Yes, it's time to unveil our latest gimmick, that being Reginald, the ModMatic zombie!

Reginald Gets A Life with Get A Life

First of the mods foolish enough to wander into Reginald's secluded sewers is Get A Life for Half-Life 2, and the very name of this mod Reginald finds somewhat offensive. Please stop the anti-undead bigotry, before the zombies rise up and revolt against the living!

Anyhow, Get A Life boasts many maps, many hours of gameplay, new weapons, enemies, music and pretty much everything. Is this the total conversion we've been waiting for? Who knows - especially not Reginald. He's downloaded it, but hasn't got round to playing it yet. The shame!

Download here...

Reginald has Issues with Reissues

Bit of an insider-job this one, but one of Reginald's friends has been working on a mod for the original, still-apparently-not-dead-yet Half-Life - that being the mighty, noble and not-remotely-corpselike Reissues. If you've ever played Project: Quantum Leap or Issues, you'll know what to expect - a gloriously random and arbitrary selection of single-player maps for your delectation.

Reginald is very happy about this. Less so that the only download links right now are on FilePlanet, but he'll see what he can do about that...

...Edit 2008-05-25: and cue some officially unofficial ModMatic mirrors!

Reissues website here...

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Union -

UNION, a recently released singleplayer map from CrowbarSka that's something of a clash between Nova Prospekt and Episode 2... and it's pretty good (:O)! Union follows the escape of a prisoner and fellow captive vortigaunt, who strike an alliance post-Gordon Freeman's psychotic rampage through the facility in a bid to escape.

  • Nova Prospekt it ain't: Nova Prospekt, that cold, heartless gulag twisted into something worse by the Combine menace; one of Valve's finest achievements in HL2, their most atmospheric chapter to date... oh, I can't help but compare. Like Riot Act before it, Union doesn't quite match the intensity of Valve's Prospekt and can come off feeling slightly second hand in its somewhat less focused level design and bright, shield-your-eyes lighting...
  • But a friend! Taking a leaf from Episode 2's book, you find yourself accompanied by a vortigaunt for much of your adventure, who to our surprise was not as casually thrown-in as you might have imagined him to be. There's a strong team dynamic from start to finish and it boosts what would otherwise be a fairly standard adventure up a tier.
  • Self-contained gameplay: There are a few specific set pieces in Union that help pace the experience and move it away from the often plodding “shoot enemy, rinse repeat” of most maps. The only criticism is that they mirror Episode 2 sequences almost too sharply – from a confined antlion onslaught to the “duck-the-sniper-and-try-to-find-a-way-to-pwn-him” you have definitely played a variant of it before.
  • “This no fun”: A minor niggle, but a niggle nonetheless – antlion workers in tight, enclosed tunnels that have you banging your head with each step does not good gameplay make. With no room to maneuver you just need to man up and take those venom hocks head-on.

So, is it worth the download? Absolutely. It's essentially more of the same in a Nova Prospekt themed environment, and it certainly would have benefited from more playtesting and polish in certain areas, but don't let that stop you. Few maps are as well done as Union on the modding scene.

Download!

Originally released 26 February 2008

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Drainage -

You might experience an eerie pang of deja vu while playing Drainage, a 4 level map-pack by Finnish designer Remonttimies. For a first effort at single player level design, it's... well, quite competent. I would say more, but then you would have no reason to read the review below.

  • A cold start: It starts with an abrupt, somewhat annoying "no-HUD run-for-your-life" section that could have been a lot better - see Half-Life 2, apartments. Don't let that put you off though, this map pack gradually improves.
  • Back to the roots: No crazy choreographed sequences or gameplay scripting here - true to all the imagery its name evokes, Drainage has you running around in some underground tunnels filled with radioactive sewage. We shudder to think what the citizens of City 17 have been eating.
  • Still not in fashion: The blocky gray concrete and brick is (still) too familiar to be particularly interesting. You've seen it before in Half-Life 1, remember? However, the brief stretches of outdoorsy-ness are welcome relief.
  • Last action hero: Few mods leverage the airboat mechanic, and even fewer do it properly. Drainage is almost one of the latter with some well-constructed action-packed whiz-bang set pieces, unfortunately marred by some bugs (don't get your airboat trapped in crevices!) and a noticeable lack of the proper polish it deserves.
  • Sizable portions: Here at ModMatic, we're all about making mods and actually releasing them for people to play rather than perpetually circulating weapon model renders around the online community. Drainage is a great example for other modders in terms of scope: 4 BSPs, using stock assets, with self-contained gameplay and variety. Bravo.
  • A VERDICT: Drainage is essentially more of the same and never really finds its own voice. Of course, it borrows a lot from a certain game, but Half-Life 2 is hardly the worst thing to emulate.
  • Download! from (ModDB) or (FPSbanana). Originally released on April 22, 2007.
    Installation Note: It doesn't install as a Source Mod; instead, you must extract the files into your \half-life 2\hl2\ directory and load the first map via console command map drainage1 - free, unsolicited advice to author for future releases: use the \sourcemods\ format instead!

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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.

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