So I want to try and make an episodic single player modification for Half-Life 2, in the same vein as the excellent Minerva, but I don't want to be derivative. Everyone's tired of the same Eastern European textures and theming from the original game by now, but I'm kind of limited by those assets. It's a hell of a job making new assets at the same level of quality of the originals, especially with just one person and a limited amount of time. I don't think it's completely tapped out, especially if you mix it up with a few custom elements, but it's hard to get a setting that hasn't been done in the original game or one of the episodes. Most of the traditional areas have already been covered: sewers, city streets, apartments, prisons, countryside, but there's still room for some more. What I have been thinking about is this: the underground V2 assembly plants. Still fit with the European theme, with some interesting possibilities that haven't been covered before. Could be awesome with the right custom props - some rusting V-2 rockets in various states of assembly, new Combine assembly lines, prison labor, some direct echoes of Nazi Germany. Could be interesting, if a little limited if you stick with purely the original place - not a whole lot of exciting pictures, the modern day place looks like an empty, mostly flooded concrete box. RtCW comes to mind, with the sweet airbase mission and the rocket bases, with just enough basis in reality to be believable, at least in a comic book way. Need to get some more reference material, work out some prototype levels.
It's interesting watching other people play sandbox games, just seeing what people do when they aren't tightly constrained by the rules. The one thing people do that I didn't really think about until I saw someone do it is completely ignore the freedom given to them, and just slam through the storyline. A friends' roommate was playing GTA IV like that - not even pretending to do the side missions, just blasting though the storyline. He did use the phone/friend missions, grudgingly, once the audience started complaining about his play style - driving extremely carefully, braking for corners, trying not to scratch up his stolen cars. Not a painfully strict adherence to the rules of the road, just enough to slow the game down and make it painfully slow to watch, at least for me. I didn't actually get a chance to play it, he was pretty serious about no one else playing, so I can't really saw anything about it other than what I saw. Something I did see that got some laughs from the small crowd watching him play was just one scene - the car wash. Just the amount of detail they put into the simple act of washing a car - it was more explicit than the murders, or the "sex" where Niko disappears and you hear a few moans - this showed you every tiny detail - Niko pays for it, makes his selection, and the player is treated to a completely non-interactive cut scene where, well, you sit through a car wash. The safety bar comes up, the car drives in, suds and brushes, and then the exit bar comes up, and the car is clean. This had one of the guys watching nearly in tears from laughing, and it did seem kind of ridiculous, after we'd just murdered someone and stolen their car with no fanfare. I don't know if Rockstar was aiming for irony or not, but if they are, it's art, pure art.
Finals week, working the graveyard shift in the computer labs, so starting this seems like a good idea right now. Just want a place to talk about a little bit of everything - but mainly computer gaming. We'll see how long this lasts. Be prepared for some stream of consciousness posts, with me dumping my neatly packaged and spell-checked thoughts on here.