31 Responses to “Episode #7”

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A game can be linear and non linear, you just have very limited missions but with choices that alter them.

@mel: Well I guess they aren’t that restricting, I mean they have covered L4D extensively which is not Half-Life. As for Portal: it is definitely based in the Half-Life universe (see Aperture Science). I also remember some interview with Gabe where he confirmed that the Portal character will tie into Half-Life though it may have been less certain than I remember it.

PS: Great show guys, always entertaining to listen to! :)

I posted these comments first on the survey forum.

Phillip said “How else would you suggest to get the listeners more involved”

First of all I had in mind you telling the listeners on the broadcast one of the mods you would be covering on the next broadcast, or does that require too much forward planning?

Just how much listener involvement do you want? Some of the good listener’s suggestions have received negative response and it’s no good asking for them if you are going to put too many restrictions on what you will accept. Being a die-hard HL SP gamer I can understand your preference for keeping the Podcast Half-Life, however, I see no problem with an ‘Off Topic’ segment which would widen the horizon for a short period. If there are some good Valve products for the SP gamers then it would be nice to know about them. The segment could also include what Phillip calls Total Conversions of which they are many great examples. For me Portal is not Half-Life neither is strictly only puzzle based mods, are you not going to talk about any future Portal development or releases, don’t you think you are in danger of being too restricted with your content?

@Oakley: TRU Is actually pretty good. I haven’t played Anniversary or Legends because I heard they are crap… actually I did play Legends for a short while and got fed up. I’ve beaten a couple more levels and so far TRU reminds me of a good kreedz map. There are sophisticated jumping puzzles and fun thinking puzzles too. Lots to do with cool aztec and norse mythology. I am a big fan of TR and always will be. I would suggest it, but not for PC… even on the Xbox and PS3 the controls are shitty. DO NOT get this game for PC

@Riven: Thanks for the question and remember everyone to keep em coming!

Hey guys, thanks for answering my question! -I appreciate it.

-About the Horde type gameplay, I’ve added it to my list, good call. -Although I’ve never seen it done right in a custom map or mod before. (L4D does it beautifully though!)

-About Minerva, Yes, Adam Foster does use quite a bit of back-tracking in pretty much all of the maps. Even some areas (like the elevator to the underground scene at the beginning) don’t change when you come back through it. So how does it still remain fun?

-My analysis is this: Referencing the Elevator scene at the beginning: The player is told to go into the elevator already knowing that they must return to the surface. Once they press the button to unlock the gates around the Island, the player instantly knows what they have to do but not how they must do it. The degree of uncertainty leaves the player with a safe zone as they return to the surface because they’ve already been there. All they have to do is search for the newly opened entrance to the center of the island. I see the Elevator scene as a ‘Side Path’ -with the reward being the button push and the following action sequences. The back-track would be running around on the island back to the now open gate, but even this is not boring considering the new goal at hand. It was important to show the player the possible entrances so that they may now return knowing which one to go through. -So the level did change states once they returned to the surface, therefore giving a new experience.

-The last portion of the Minerva series has you running for your life out of the facility before it blows up. This hearkens back to what Thomas (I think) was saying about an area blowing up behind you and making it exciting as you backtrack through it. It works in part for scenarios like this such as when the player needs to already know which way to go, so they don’t get penalized for stopping to think. Having already been through an area makes it more familiar and easier to navigate.

/2 cents

What about backtracking in Minerva (although the maps are different BSP files)? I thought you guys were going to mention it since it’s one of the most known HL2 mods and almost half of it consists on going back through the same places with a certain degree of destruction to them.

Is it any good then?

I’ve been a big fan of lara..I mean tomb raider games since the start. I wasn’t too impressed with the last few games, but the remake was OK. This new one looks, from the demo, to have gone back to how the first games were all the myth and temples and gods and all that crap which I love about TR.

So CV, are you a fan of the old games and is ‘underworld’ shaping up to be any good in comparison?

In my opinions all the new abilities and stuff are adding so much to the game, I love how quick you can bounce about once you learn the basics. Pretty cool.

Anyway, yes HL…Half life is good.

I just wanted to say that I played the first two levels of TombRaider Underworld and so far they have been doing backtracking VERY AWESOMELY!

In the second level (when you are on the cargo ship), you play through the first level making your way down deep into the ship; then the ship catches on fire and starts to capsize, so you have to make your way back… only this time you are walking all the walls and ceilings and using lara’s crazy acrobatics to get around. Awesome stuff. Great example of backtracking done right.

Something one could complain about the episodes is that by following the story of HL2 in the same second where the game ended, they are making the story complete but are making HL2 itself incomplete and “forcing” you to spend money on the episodes if you eventually want a real ending to what you bought in the first place.
One of the problems is that they probably make the story as they go along. I’m almost 100% sure that when they were discussing the Citadel explosion at the end of HL2, no-one had really thought of HL2:Aftermath and much less Ep1, Ep2 or Ep3. This makes the episodes feel a bit inferior in a global sense compared to HL2. The narrative arc in HL2 took you from seeing the Citadel from below right at the beginning, to wandering in that place they took the people to (Nova Prospekt) to eventually making it back to the city and to the top of the Citadel. You start as a lonely unarmed person arriving at City 17, and little by little become the saviour with the super-gravity-gun facing evil right at the top of this menacing building.
The episodes so far seem like an excuse for more maps, which is ok since most of them are even better looking that what HL2 offered. But the breaking Citadel, underground tunnels, parking lot, hospital, caves, white forest etc. don’t have the same impact the areas in the first game had.
I think one of the problems with the episodes comes from the “ingame commentary” mode. It seems some areas or events are put there just for the sake of having a developper comment in that area. As good as those gameplay mechanics might be, they remind me I’m playing a videogame and not taking part in an interactive story. Don’t get me started on the achievements list… :D

Sorry for double post! Give me an edit button!!!

I just wanted to add to some issues. I like the fact noPK is opinionated, it makes things a lot more interesting. It would be boring, like with L4D, if you all had the same opinions.

I think with the level design discussion, I personally believe that having a mix is great but obviously it is difficult to implement. I don’t mind going back and fourth through a level as long as there is a good reason and it feels right.

As for Episodic, I hate it. I really do, it was a majorly bad decision by Valve, but I think they realise that. I believe they have scrapped it now after EP3, not sure if that is true, but that was the impression I was under!
Episode 1 really sucked, I think. I just felt like I was playing a half descent level that someone had made for HL2. EP2 was much nicer as it had a lot of new features and felt like something a little newer. With that said, the reason I don’t like Episodes is because I like something NEW each time. The differences between HL1 and 2, graphics, physics, AI, story is much more developed and it just felt like something HUGE at the time. Where as these episode just feel like extra levels banged on afterward, much like what they are doing with TF2 and did with CSS. Granted that they are updating the game slowly, but I myself would much rather wait 5-6 years for a massive update, because it would be worth it in my opinion.

As for the console war, I’m sticking to PC. Mostly because I spent more money on it than if I bought all three consoles and I want to make the most of it! I really haven’t heard enough about each console that really makes them worth buying when I have a PC. Yeah, they a couple of the consoles have some really good games that I’d buy one for, but when the games costs stupid money too and it’s only a couple of games per console for me. It just really doesn’t make them worth the money.
There is the fact that I like the technical side of PCs. I like the upgrading and the other features of a PC that consoles haven’t quite got all of them yet. I’m really into modding and editing and currently the consoles really don’t offer much in a way of that yet.

Can’t wait for next week!


Hmm, I really wasn’t feeling the love with this episode. There were some really good discussions and I think I’m going to give it a second listen now. Sorry for the low vote, this episode just lacked something for me…I think it might have been Phillip.

I want Phillip back.

@Flynn: I am the Canadian, I have a name :P I believe you are confused at a part that puzzled me for a short time. When you start the map you are situated in a sort of warehouse. Once you kill all the enemies in said warehouse backtrack to where you began (there is a little hut); a door should now be opened that leads to the outside. I think this might be where you are confused.

@mel: Unfortunately I cannot do that. I must have EP3 the day it is released no matter the price point :P

CubicVirtuoso, I always enjoy reading your responses and normally more then happy to let you have the last word on any issue I raise here. However, this time I don’t share your enthusiasm for parting with $60 for the ass-end of some over priced episodic rip-off.
I would like to take this opportunity of advising all to wait until Valve offer EP3 via Steam download for less then $20 has they did with EP2, if they don’t I wont be buying it. How else can we tell them that we don’t want episodic releases that have not matched the classics status of either HL1 or HL2.

Not sure what you mean Flynn by “couldn’t find out what to do”. Having played this mod I found it straight forward just a matter of following your nose. Whilst it’s a good little shooter with impressive sets it’s on the short side and has such could not rate the mod that high, however it would make a great entry level or part 1 of a more ambitious mod.

I tried the trainstation map last weekend incidentally and I couldn’t find out what to do on it! The architechure was real good, but I just couldn’t find out what to do with it. Can the Canadian guy who mentioned it tell me what to do?

Alrighty time for a comment run!!

@James: Like I’ve said before NoPK is best juxtaposed against Phillip. His opinions are valid, just strong; that’s the type of person he is :P

@firba1: Good to see some positive comments about Emanuel. I like his humour as well. I love my 360 too, but I’m not a fanboi. I only love it because they have some pretty good games on that system, and they usually get them first. I also had a blast with Mass Effect; I beat that game with 100% completion and didn’t get bored one bit. Also GTA4, which was just released today on PC. Also Fallout3 early was a nice plus too. It’s these types of things that make me like my 360 more than other consoles. I love my PS3, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a very good “backup” system yet :P I have a 60GB PS3 (the ones that sell for like 1000 bucks on EBay) and has great backwards compatibility because it has the PS2 chip built in, so I can’t complain there.

@Berrie: Good point

@Jeromy: He will be in this weeks episode don’t worry!!

@azelito: More good points. I love how much the story is left to the player to fill in the blanks.

@904: Thanks for the question!

@mel: Phillip WILL be back next episode and we will have a good assortment of guests again. Some big names this week :P I won’t spoil it too much, although if you checked the forums you could check yourself :P When you comment on whether the episodes were “worth the money” I think that might be why Valve decided to package them with other games (like TF2 and Portals). They figured the 60 dollar price point wasn’t enough to justify HL2EP2 alone, so they packaged in the rest. I’m curious to see what they do with HL2EP3; whether they package it again or just drop the price and make it standalone. I hope to hear some information on this in the next couple of weeks, I predict after Christmas. I hope to play EP1 and EP2 again, it’s on my list, but I first have to beat (again) OP, Uplink, HL2 then Lost coast.

Part of the reason why HL2 is so popular is because it rides on the mastery of HL1. I’m not saying HL2 isn’t a good game, it is! but the reason for its high praise is because of HL1. The thing that makes Valve unique is their ability to set their own price points. Early on in Steams development they took advantage of this by dropping publisher pricing and having games much cheaper than what you would see at retail stores. Unfortunately (and I’m citing Left for Dead here) Valve is seeming to neglect their pricing strategy and marking IPs for the same amount as most development companies. So it’s not to say that Valve is being greedy, but it’s saying that they are following the trends in the industry and abandoning their previous pricing strategy… but like I said I’m interested to see how they price HL2EP3, but I mean Christ you can buy the ENTIRE valve package for 100 bucks; that’s a steal compared to what we paid individually. Also I have no problem supporting valve. If they want to sell HL2EP3 for 60 bucks, sure I’ll be upset, but I will still gladly drop them the money because Valve has made the past 10 years of my life wonderful!

I share your thoughts on having nothing memorable in both EP1 and EP2, which is why I hope to play it again; neither game struck me as much as HL1 or HL2 did, but then again I have a horrible memory.

Lastly, I will try to make a point to introduce each mod, genre and player type before talking about it in the news section.

Nice to see the show still evolving in both content and style, featuring new personalities from the HL community each week gives the show new drive. As for the issue of missing Phillip, which was raised late in the show and much commented in the above posts, I don’t thinks this broadcast missed or suffered from Phillips absence but I think he would be a big missed if his absence was an extended one. I for one would look forward to a future broadcast with Emanuel, Thomas and Phillip taken part; the chemistry could be most entertaining.

The topic that most captured my interest was episodic releases and by that I mean HL releases. Let me first say that I am neither interested nor surprised that such releases have been deemed successful for Valve, that’s not the issue, this is the HL community not the Valve community and what matters to me is what we think is successful or not. Of course it was successful for Valve it earned them big bucks for a minimum of effort and content, from my point of view it was not good value for money, we got a 3rd of some unfinished game lacking longevity with shallow gameplay such that I for one have never considered for a moment playing through EP1 a second time.

What a difference when comparing this with HL1 and HL2, Half-Life1 was and is a classic a master piece and it does not need me to say why, it’s the reason we are all here today. Half-Life2 in its own right is also a classic and if not a master piece then at less a near master piece that brought so many new players to the world of Half-Life. So to EP1, I do not remember too many people referring to this release as a classic, what I do remember at the time is both the HL community and the PC gaming press much debating the value for money issue. I am not saying that EP1 did not give us anything new; however, I am saying for me that it did not give anything memorial and looking back now I honestly cannot recall any lasting sequence that warranted a replay.

EP2 for me was an even bigger disappointment then EP1 but I can recall long parts of this episode with the end sequence having replay value, equally I can recall the long, drawn-out, repetitive, and enclosed and suppressive surrounds of the cave levels in this release. Not since the releases of what was called HL Gunman Chronicles have I been so pissed-off or bored with anything Retail HL. Much was made during this broadcast of the use of Back-Tracking in games and mods, well for me Forward-Tracking can be equally annoying when presented with repetitive surroundings and gameplay.

If they are lots of players out there that can look back on either EP1 or EP2 with the affection, thrill and lasting memory that HL1 and HL2 gave us, then I am wrong about my assessment of Valves episodic releases of HL, either way I would far sooner wait 4 years for another classic then to be spoon feed ever 2 years with “much to do about nothing”

One other point, please can you point out at the beginning of any reference to mods old or new what playing format they are, often I don’t know what you are taking about, being only a SP gamer I don’t have your built in knowledge of all things mod wise.

Thanks for a great show.

Hey guys,

Great podcast, I missed Philip. I’m glad you liked my question (about the episodic content).

Bart (904)

Great show guys, I missed Phillip’s participation and view in the discussions though.

When on the subject of episodic content for HL2, I feel they have made a good decision doing what they do.
When I finished HL2 I felt it left many questions unanswered. Doing episodes to follow up like this gives Valve a chance to expand on the current story and timeline. Even though I personally think the transition between Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 was a little cheesy, they’ve done a good job increasing the understanding of the universe from there on.

I loved this episode! One of my favs becaue the user audio questions and discussions! But it is not because Phillip is gone that i loved this episode and I hope he is in the next episode! It got alot better at the end.

Keep up the great work!

On the episodic content side.
I think in the end they choose the wrong name/association for that. The goal was to create smaller sized content of good quality and with engine updates without it taking forever again. And in that they succeeded. But the association with episodic is that it has a regular schedule, which Valve is notoriously bad at, which it did not end up being.

Honestly, half of the reason I like this podcast so much is because of Emanuel, he’s amusingly cynical to other people (especially Phillip).

Great podcast again, you guys. I just wanted to say a couple of things. About the console discussion, I feel I have more in common with Emanuel than others, as I do really like my 360. I don’t own a Wii or PS3, but I have played them at friends’ houses. I must say one thing in favor of the Wii though: Brawl is awesome. Nearly every day after school a small group of people play Brawl after school for about an hour. And this has been going on for about 3 months now. That alone shows how much fun Brawl is, even after so much play time. As for the 360, I must admit I have not played it much, but I have been recently replaying Mass Effect, which is a great game. I feel that none of the consoles have enough really good games that would want me to buy them, but I already have a 360 because I was a Halo junkie back in the day. I still own Halo 3, but I hardly ever play it. However, I feel that the 360 is still a better deal than the PS3, especially because the PS3 lost backwards compatibility. The 360 can play most of the Xbox originals which are classics as well as newer games like Mass Effect and Gears of War (I don’t like it much myself, but many do). I feel that all the PS3 has is MGS4. Which is a great game, but I just don’t feel it’s worth buying a console for.

One more thing I want to comment on. I also feel that the Firearms remake debacle is really stupid and shouldn’t really be an issue, especially because the mod community most likely won’t care. I think that there should be no reason for people to have to steal others’ ideas, when it would be much better to think up their own.

There’s my two cents, keep up the good work.

I was talking about level design in the scope of an entire mod, not a single level. By incorporating the different types of level designs over multiple levels, it would be perfect. Valve did it in Episode 2. For example, you can can have the beginning of a mod be linear, then have a fighting sequence in which you’re in a non-linear environment, then have it segway into a portion where you have to make decisions about which path to take, and then have it go back to Linear. It doesn’t matter which pattern, but it’s achievable and usually works great.

I was being honest, that’s all. I give praise and negative comments when deserved, in my mind.

Good podcast as always, although I tuned specifically as Editor is a friend. One problem though, is that… Well, to put it bluntly, Emanuel came off as a bit of a douche, especially his negative opinions towards most mods. Slightly worrying, coming from a PHL writer…

@Saxon: Emanuel can come on strong at times. On the topic of level design he was referring to what the listener was alluding to. Mentioning that a good level will have a subset of all level designs… for example it might be linear for a little bit, then open up into a decision based layout… then maybe later linear with some side quests. Obviously a map cannot be linear and non-linear at the same time, but change it up throughout the mod.

LOL at how Nopk says a game should incorporate all types of level design. How could a game be linear and non-linear?!

I feel sorry for the Combine Destiny guy, there were some rather tactless questions thrown at him (eg “Are you French?”)