Sure to be a item of discussion at my "Is Adventure Dead" roundtable at GDC
``Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add,
but rather when there is nothing more to take away.'' Antoine de
While I agree that the intro and first 1/4 to 1/3 of the game is very
good, it degrades towards the end, and the ending is particularly
Also, I found it stunningly linear, if you don't happen to think like
the designers did, you can get stuck on some of the "puzzles".
My main gripes are the repetitive scenery within the chapters ("On A Rail"
gets so dull it's mind-numbing, although the close of the chapter is quite
cool), the lack of variety in the enemies (in terms of how often a new bad
guy is introduced), and to some extent the lack of weapons although I've
just got the bazooka which is particularly nice (I spent the entire game up
to that point wishing I had a rocket launcher of some kind) - except for the
absurd reload time.
I started the game on the hardest level on the advice of most reviews I read
and now regret it. I'm not particularly crap at FPS's, but I'm not
stupendous, and the amount of save/load action is extreme to the point where
I'm considering restarting on an easier level. And what's with the mines? Am
I missing something, or am I right in saying that there is NO indication of
the presence of mines except for a wooden sign posted at the start of the
danger zone? Talk about your ammo eater-upper.
As an experiment in interactive fiction the game is a brave and marginal
success. The lack of distinction between the 'characters' (a couple of
generic scientists, a couple of generic security guards) is disappointing
and eats away at the efforts made to immerse the player, and in agreement
with a previous poster, the efforts at utilising scripted scenes and
character dialog seem to drop off as the game progresses (I'm hoping the
push to the finale will introduce more of the likes of what was in the first
The problem lies in the limitations of the options open to the writers:
immersion in an FPS is a tricky business. I think it might be an interesting
exercise to try and identify distinct opportunities to achieve this
(apologies if this has been done elsewhere but I don't have time to check
the extent of this thread on all the groups). As a few obvious items:
- Some kind of narrative thread. The plot of Half-Life is not particularly
thrilling (and as a professionally written piece of fiction - as apparently
it was - is a disappointment), but it is adequate to service the business of
the game, which is guns and shooting. The level goals are directly
plot-oriented and this works extremely well.
- Interactive scenery, designed around the story. The scenery in Half-Life
never looks out of place or non-functional, which is an essential part of
its appeal. Kudos to the artists who use the QuakeII engine to the fullest
- A sense of the world at large. A game of this type demands that the player
plays a crucial role in the plot (or does it? I seem to remember a massive
debate on this recently..), but events must proceed around him as well. This
is where the scripted sequences come in, either designed purely for this
purpose (re: unfortunate scientist in falling lift, re: unfortunate
scientist dangling over lift shaft whimpering "I.. can't.. hold.. on much..
longer..", re: first sight of SWAT team murdering scientists to cover up the
experiment), or to advance the game in some way (re: introduction of
Assassins bit where the unfortunate security guard gets mown down by an
invisible shooter, re: introduction of the alien laser weapon). Half-Life
excels in this area - at least, in the first half of the game (the
- Character interaction. Half-Life is brave and introduces excellent new
technology (eg. skeletal mouths etc.) to get the most of this requirement,
but it still falls short. It works most effectively in the very first level
where you're simply getting to work - once the shooting starts, the
interactive characters become not much more than 'human' intermission
screens, informing you of your next objective. This is unfortunate. How does
everyone feel the introduction of some kind of 'conversation tree' might
help or hinder this requirement?
- Satellite characters. I believe the introduction of 'wing-men' - for
example the cannon fodder security guard covering your back, the scientist
with the access code to the exit - works very well in Half-Life. It's not so
essential to the immersion but it helps you to feel that you're not a
superman doing what no others are able to. Also, I was forced to murder a
security guard yesterday to get his gun, and felt a palpable sense of guilt
in doing so. This is a sure sign that something is working right.
That's enough rambling. I hope a few people can take a bit of time to add
their comments because I believe Half-Life deserves a lot of debate.
>- Character interaction. Half-Life is brave and introduces excellent new
>technology (eg. skeletal mouths etc.) to get the most of this requirement,
>but it still falls short. It works most effectively in the very first level
>where you're simply getting to work - once the shooting starts, the
>interactive characters become not much more than 'human' intermission
>screens, informing you of your next objective. This is unfortunate. How
>everyone feel the introduction of some kind of 'conversation tree' might
>help or hinder this requirement?
This was one of the areas that really needed work.
At one point I had our QA department in hysterics as I crawled right in
front of one of the scientists, and proceeded to jump up and down (from the
crawling position) while shouting "Look at me ... I'm an Intern, I'm an
Intern." The scientist never varied his speech, of course.
Getting two or more NPCs together, though, produces some fun
interaction scenes. Guards ask whether or not they'll get hazard pay,
scientists moan about the loss of grant money, and they all generally
act chicken. Rather cute to watch, and certainly helps to add to the