Friday, June 24, 2005

The Mod Squad


I got curious.


I mean, I've had Half-Life 2 since it came out. Played through it, it was great. Outstanding.

But what of mods?

I realized I hadn't looked for any Half-Life 2 mods, not since whenever they released the first round of editing tools.

So I started looking for some. As I suspected, there aren't many.*

But why? Video games have so many more tools available today to the dedicated mod team.

That's the reason right there. Dedicated mod team. You have to be really fucking dedicated. And once you get to a certain point of dedication (a point that is usually a necessity), then you better put together a business plan and borrow lots of money, because otherwise you are in for heartache.

It's great when people can collaborate, and work on a something they love, and do it all for free. But the thing with having a bunch of scattered amateurs work on your dream is that they're amateurs. As soon as something more important comes up (significant others, family problems, health concerns, earning money to buy food) they fucking split.

I remember Aliens Total Conversion for Doom. That was a great mod. Impressive as hell. No doubt took a ton of work.

But try doing something similar using a modern engine. Need someone to 3-d model everything. Some expert skinners for those models. Gotta have talented level designers willing to pay attention to the details. Don't forget generating lots of new high-resolution textures. Re-coding all the AI.

Most of those actions had their equivalents in the Doom era. The difference as I see it is the level of sophistication to which gamers have grown accustomed. I could slap together a few open areas with variable floor heights connected by a couple doors in WadEd and impress people. Throw a few cubes into Hammer and nobody will give a shit. We're expecting at least a basic architectural sensibility, and that takes lots of time and experience to balance.

The point is that the increase in complexity of today's art assets requires a significant increase in the time it takes to make them. Man I can confound an issue.

I would like to draw your attention to an HL-2 mod called Eclipse. I can't find an official website. Go to Fileplanet or your preferred equivalent and look around for it. It's impressive because, well, I guess mostly because it was put together as a college project.

It really shows off a different side of the Source engine. We get a beautiful fantasy world, rendered with lots of light bloom. The main character uses a kind of telekinesis. Left-click on a rock and it spins and hovers mere feet above the ground. Right-click and the rock is pushed away with force. Much like the gravity gun, only inexact.

To be honest, I thought the control sucked. But maybe the point was for it to be awkward, in which case - eh, I still didn't like it. And the animation on the main character was crummy.

I was surprised, when I ran across the first enemies (grotesque troll-like creatures), that I had no obvious way to fight back. Hitting one with a rock only stunned it momentarily. So I guess I was supposed to run. Weird. Run from enemies.

The shitty part is that the mod froze up on me. And right when they showed me that I could distract the enemies by throwing little firefly nests at them. Cool.

Anyway, check it out if you're so inclined. Maybe you'll have a different experience. I'm gonna fire it up again and see if I can't wiggle past the glitch.

*I know that there are scores of multiplayer mods. I don't give a shit about these. Why? Because I could care less that you took the same 3d model of a Desert Eagle used in the last 30 commercial FPS mods and mashed it into the HL-2 file structure. I don't care that you made a Yugoslavian-themed variation of Capture the Flag. I don't care that you re-created a classic Deathmatch map. I definitely don't care that you altered the Gravity gun so that stuff can be rotated (actual mod - and I would care if they put it into a map where that kind of control was essential to some gameplay element, but really, it doesn't add shit to the game). Make something interesting, for god's sake. Give me a tense new map that presents another aspect of the war against the Combine. Restructure the antlions as those things from Tremors and make the town of Perfection.

Eh, I guess I should just keep praying for Half-Life 3: Aliens Total Conversion.

1 comment:

Corvus said...

Here's the official Eclipse linkage:

http://students.guildhall.smu.edu/eclipse/index.html

Oh, and great post!