The Half-Life 2 Update

Thu, Dec 9th, 2004 | 9:51pm

I guess it wouldn't be entirely fair to give D3 so much attention and not make some kind of review of HL2 as well. The latter, if it weren't obvious already, is the clear winner this year. It was a fantastic game right up until the end, at which point it disappointed me.

Rather than establish one kind of gameplay and beat it to death across 20 levels, Valve starts by establishing one, then adds a hydrofoil, then adds a gravity gun, then a buggy, then a herd of antlions, then armed allies that follow your orders, and each one is applied just enough to make you wish it had lasted a little bit longer. Always leave 'em wanting more, I guess.

This is all great, up until the game ends sort of the same way. Valve was extremely careful about crafting stories between likable and believable characters with their own personalities, set against a larger conflict that really made you give a shit about it. This is why it puzzles me that at the end of the game, once you've killed the bad guys, caused a big explosion, and saved the world, the game literally ends right there. They don't even finish the explosion. There is absolutely no conclusion or epilogue for those characters and that worldly conflict whatsoever, and it left me sadly disappointed. It feels almost as if I don't get to find out how it ends, because the game stops shy of where the story does.

There had to be something I didn't like. :P

I made a valiant effort not to get pissed off at the fact that 15% of the time spent playing the game is spent looking at the word "LOADING" and wondering when it was going to go away, so at least the game waited until the end to let me down. The rest, however, was totally boss, and definitely one I'll play again sometime, and I see no reason to knock any babies off of its score.

Doom3 Deathmatch seems to have lasted a period of about two weeks before the entire internet gave up on it - I myself gave it about eleven minutes. "Oh, some clever bastard's turned out the lights again, tee hee." Doom3SP maps are still trickling out of the community at a languid pace, but it's tough to say if that will pick up or drop off. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the majority of people shunted over to HalfLife2 editing/modding, despite the fact that if it's a multiplayer mod nobody's going to pay attention to it since it's not Counterstrike.

This means for me, of course, that I'll spend my days crafting a magnum opus single player for Doom3 only to find that nobody plays it upon release (it wouldn't be the first time). Which leads me to ...

The work I've done for Byzantine thus far (which actually doesn't amount to much in the scheme of things) went over very well at the fall quarter VSFX show a few weeks ago. The reel I cut together (AIM me for details) just features some of the voiceover stuff to intro the story set against views of little bits of the ship I've built and textured, then a one minute lecture by moi explaining how badass normal mapping is. I've gone and made a name for myself again apparently, as apparently a lot of people in the ITGM department are talking about it.

The problem about this whole making a name for myself thing is that my name never seems to be included. I've been that guy that made that desert map, that guy that did that Indiana Jones poster, that guy that did that fire shader, and now I'm "that guy that did that cool Doom3 thing with the normal mapping." That's an exact phrase I've heard used more than once. Next quarter I plan on working on the machinima cutscenes (so that the dialog now actually has characters whose mouths move), so hopefully by spring break I'll be that guy that did that cool doom3 thing with the normal mapped character animation.

I have now done most of what I wanted to do as far as Byzantine's gameplay. I knocked together an ugly DMSP-style map, made a pk4 out of the whole deal, and sent it off to various people. Most of them have yet to be heard from (bastards all of you), but those that told me they did actually play it used common phrases like "that was great fun," "this actually makes me want to make a doom3 map," and "fuck me silly." I've got a few things left to do with it (the flamethrower continues to grow on me, and the weaponized air canisters still need to be rigged up), but on the whole I guess I can go ahead and start mapping. :D

More later.