More Server Things – Garry’s Mod

When I got my virtual server, the other thing I’d planned was to run a Garry’s Mod server.

In the past we relied on public servers and been at the mercy of whatever admin appearing and deleting our stuff without so much as a word.. somewhat putting me off trying to build anything that takes more than a few minutes.

The first step was installing the Half-Life Dedicated Server Update Tool Setup Program.. what a mouthful 😉

Once installed, it apparently then needs updating (once again I have Tim for an instruction manual).. before running.  Garry’s mod requires the Orange Box, so the tool went off to find that as well..

More fiddling checked the tool had updated, and then the server was started!

As it all worked, there had to be some kind of celebration, right? 😉

Nightmare House 2

Nightmare House 2 is another mod for Half Life 2: Episode 2, by We Create Stuff. The game is based on an original horror map pack called Nightmare House, which is included here as the Prologue level.  In this level, you start off near a building in the woods, apparently having had a car crash.. a creepy setting to begin with, before you even get to the house.

Having found an axe in the shed I felt a little bit safer, until I found my way into the house, which was a mixture of collapsing floors, flickering lights, blood and zombies.. 🙂

As if these weren’t enough, there was also the creepy girl who appeared for a split second here and there.. in one scene hanging, and in another appearing just before the floor gave way!  After a final swathe of zombies, including some horrible fast, jumping ones on the path outside the house, I thought I’d escaped.. only for the game to end when I got back to the truck..

“There is no escape from Nightmare House!”

The main game began after the prologue’s credits.  This time it starting off in a grimy padded cell, as I was now a mental patient of Never Lose Hope Hospital!  I wasn’t alone though, as there was a doctor on the other end of a radio, trying to help me escape.. and out in the corridors there were more zombies..

In another corridor there were black shadows.. which I expected to change into zombies or otherwise attack when I tried the doors, but instead just remained, watching..

One of the creepiest parts of this game was in a series of underground tunnels which warped and changed as I moved from one end to the other, getting shorter with no doors in sight.  Guessing that I would eventually end up in a single small chamber didn’t make it any less creepy when it happened, and I ended up screaming when the girl appeared above me as I turned around.

Falling through a similarly changing section of airvents, I met up with a group of soldiers.. and relief for just a moment, before I realised that they would surely be taken away from me.

After a fight with some zombies, we moved on to find one of the soldiers had gone missing.. and then some hideous, skinny, mouth-creatures came crashing through the windows to attack us!  I was glad of their additional firepower, but expected to lose another soldier as we moved into the next room, and another in the next, and so on.. but instead I fell through a sudden hole in the floor and was separated from them all at once!

What sort of hospital is this with so many creepy underground corridors?
I ended up plunged into darkness in this next one, with something glowing at the far end.. a pyrotechics locker, which turned out to be full of flares!  I’ve never been quite to happy to come across flares 😉

Another scene felt like it had borrowed from Doctor Who’s Angels, as I turned around to see the dressmaker’s dolls had moved to fill the room I’d just passed through.

I really didn’t want to walk past these, but with the door refusing to open, I had no choice.. and the lights went out as I passed the first one!  🙂

In order to be rescued, I had to destroy the computer which was jamming radio transmissions, and call in the helicopters which were circling the building.

My methods here resulted in fire!  This spread so I had to run from it.. that was, until I met a locked door.  Just when I expected another crumbling floor, I was snatched through the doors by the ghost girl..  I followed her off to the morgue where I ended up on the operating table in another quick switch, only to look down at my body and see a skeleton!  How’s that for a nightmare?

I woke up with the soldiers around me, and promise of escape..

With the soldiers alongside, it felt less horror, more normal shooter, despite the horrible mouth-creatures lunging at us from all sides.  The real tension was gone.. I guess it’s hard to maintain.. and jump scares lose their effectiveness after a while too.

Escape?

The rescue helicopter went down in flames, and the remaining soldier fatally injured.  It turns out that the SWAT team were here for Dr Romero, who has been manipulating people’s minds.. causing hallucinations.  Sneaky.  I was told to go and kill him.. then when I got in the lift, Dr Romero spoke over the radio, giving me the choice to escape when the lift stopped at the entrance, or continue on to kill him, if I could..

Two choices?  This had been mentioned by the friend who told me to play the game, so I took a peek at the “escape”.. no escape at all as the ghost girl really doesn’t like you trying to escape your fate 😉

On to the depths of the facility, and the Doctor’s hideout..

To control minds, he was using a device called the Core, which seemed impervious to bullets, and even after I’d managed to turn off two sources of power, the thing was still running.  More creepy mouth creatures were keeping me from exploring too well, and while I was running around dealing with those, he dropped a few funny lines and references to other games.. “look at me, still talking when there’s science to do”.

I eventually spotted the weakness to the structure holding up the Core, and set about destroying it.
The Doctor wasn’t too happy, and sent me away to a few more hallucinations, but the creepy girl ‘saved’ me from them each time..

The backstory isn’t really explained, but bits of dialogue tell us that the girl was Dr Romero’s wife.. and that something he did caused her to die.. which is why she wants revenge, and kills him where you couldn’t.  It also turns out that the house in Nightmare House was theirs.. which you just had the misfortune to crash outside of.. a little bit pieced together, but horror doesn’t have to completely make sense 🙂

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable is another in a long line of experimental mods for Half Life 2, with a narrator guiding the player through the story.. the author of the game recommends that people play before reading about it, so.. go play first, as this post may contain spoilers 😉

Stanley is employee #427, whose job consists of pushing buttons as instructed, when instructed, every day.. until one day, there are no instructions, and no other people.  The narrator provides the direction, and he says that Stanley goes to the employee’s lounge..

After leaving the office, I was presented with two open doors.. the narrator said that Stanley goes through the left one. I disobeyed..

The narrator commented on Stanley having gone the wrong way, and said that he therefore turned left at the next available opportunity.. of course I carried on going the wrong way, which resulted in the narrator talking about how bad Stanley was at following orders.. and that he then decided to punish himself!

The oh-so-calmly delivered commentary about my ruining the story, insults about my ability to follow instructions and the direction to go and punish myself had me crying with laughter 🙂

When the lift arrived, I missed the fact that there was a choice to disobey again, and went up as instructed, to face my punishment.. and mocking from the narrator about being stupid enough to actually get into the trap too 😀

I decided to behave on the second run, but when I came to a set of stairs to go up, I went down.. and then round and round until Stanley went mad, collapsed and died, only to be discovered by a woman who served as a pointed comment about not finding out what the story was about as you didn’t follow instructions!

The third run had my obedience right up until the very end.. I came across the generator room where the player is told about the machine controlling all the employee’s feelings, and causing them to do what they’re doing.. much like how a game controls the players’ feelings and actions 😉

Right up at the top of the room had the option to engage or disable the failing generator.. the blue pill or the red pill.. I made my choice and was rewarded with freedom, or at least entry to an outdoors area 🙂

As it’s still ScampLAN, the guys also tried out the game afterwards, and both disobeyed the initial instruction to go through the left door, though maybe influenced by my comments..

They were more disobedient than me, and went down a floor in the lift, to be faced with the choice of doors again, and with more disobedience being shown an room made of skybox and dev_textures, before being put into an empty Half Life 2 map, with the narrator throwing a few insults about Stanley being fat, ugly and really stupid, bad at his job, and addicted to drugs and hookers:D

When I downloaded the mod, it came with a text file of author commentary, which was preceded by a note saying not to read anything before playing the game itself.  Apparently most people take the left door on their first playthrough.. so I guess we’re a little more delinquent than most!

The author also lists Dear Esther, which I played and loved a while ago, and Robert Yang’s Radiator HL2 mod, which I’d not heard of before but is now in my download queue 🙂

Ravenholm

We don’t go to Ravenholm.  Well, except for when the Combine attack, and it’s the only way out, that is..

Ravenholm is the part of the game I remembered long after my first playthrough of HL2; creepily atmospheric with plenty of scares, but also featuring some neat puzzles and traps.

There’s also the sawblade, which is lethal in the right hands 🙂

The rotor-blades are fun too..

What freaks me out, though, are the black headcrabs, or Poison Headcrab.

I know the neurotoxin they hit you with is only temporary, but there’s something about the skittering, screeching, spider-like creatures that really sets me on edge.

So what’s worse than one black headcrab?

Lots of black headcrabs, being thrown at me..

At least I’ve got guns, right? 😉

Mods again..

As if I don’t have enough new games to play, I’ve been fiddling around with some more mods.

Finally finished Korsakovia, though that was more on sheer stubborn determination and a bit of curiosity, rather than because I loved the game.

Later levels required me to climb up platforms made of various junk from previous levels, coming apart more and more as, I guess, it’s trying to show you that Christopher’s reality has.

Oh, and more televisions to find and smash, more black clouds to avoid, and more of the strange story being revealed by Christopher and Dr Grayson’s dialogue.  Remember this one is designed to screw with your head?  The ending does that even more, as you SHOW SPOILER because it’s the end, and sit back and listen to the last bit of Christopher’s story.

A friend recently asked if I would recommend this game to others..  I certainly wouldn’t push somebody to it, but if you’ve not already been put off then there’s no harm in trying it.  It’s perfectly safe. 😉

The second mod for this week is a Half Life 2 mod called SMOD.  This is pretty much the regular game plus a slew of additions such as being able to kick enemies and throw the crowbar.  I’ve not played through a lot of this yet, but already it’s shaping up to be a slightly tricker game than the original, though this might be because I’m trying to kick everybody instead of firing from a safe distance.

Mods

For a long time, I wanted to create my own games.  Lacking the skills of a game developer, and to some extent the time and patience to figure it all out, I turned my attention to map making and level design, as the really hard work has already been done.  There are also plenty of tutorials around the web, taking even more of the pain out of it.  So far, I’ve not devoted the time required to create anything I’d want to show beyond my closest friends though..

Others though, have the time and patience (and the skill!), and there are some great works out there.  I’ve been recommended a few HL2 mods over the last week or so: Awakening, MINERVA: Metastasis, and Dear Esther – and the latest in the list, Korsakovia, is downloading now.

Awakening was described to me as a good game with awful voice acting.  You play as Adrian Shepard, from Opposing Forces, somewhere between Half Life and Half Life 2 in the timeline.
It starts off with a rather long trailer – Combine troops attacking some kind of facility – which pans around the fighting then inside the base, and eventually comes to rest where you wake up from stasis..  Simple enough game – shoot them all!  It’s quite a short game too – I completed it in about an hour.  The level design was great, and battles seemed to be well balanced, although I found myself seriously low on ammo for quite some time..  but yeah.. the voice acting was somewhat amusing.. 🙂

aw_map30001

MINERVA: Metastasis really stuck in my mind as the best of the three mods, although all three were quite different from each other.
You begin the game strapped to the underside of a stolen Combine helicopter, being shipped into an island to spy for Minerva.  She communicates with you only via radio messages which appear as text – no dodgy voice acting here, although the language is strangely poetic and could put some off.   Exploring the island, and finding out exactly what the Combine are up to, requires plenty of shooting and some puzzle solving.

The map design here is very open, and although there’s really only one way to go to further the story, you’ll return to the same places a few times during exploration.   I was also quite impressed with the quality of the graphics – at least on a par with the official game itself.

metastasis_20001

Dear Esther is a strange sort of interactive ghost story, rather than a game.  Had I come across this myself, without recommendation, I might not have paid it much attention – especially as it started off so slowly, and you’re confined to a very slow walk – but that wouldn’t have done it justice.

The game begins with a portion of a letter being read out, to “Esther”, as you look on a deserted building.  Exploring the island triggers other portions of letters, or rambling thoughts, which only seem to become more rambling, more confused as you get deeper into the island, and markings on the walls only add to the atmosphere.

I discussed this with a friend afterwards, comparing notes on our understanding of what happened – an accident on a motorway, drink driving, the loss of a loved one, self-imposed isolation.. mixed with long lost shepherds, stolen bibles, monks and syphillis – all ramblings of a man delirious with a broken leg who somehow feels he deserves his fate..

Having looked around the internet for this one, I find that parts of the script are actually randomised, so if someone else were to play through this, they might have a slightly different interpretation.  Dear Esther made me feel rather sad, stirring up memories of my own, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring it.

paul0000

I also mentioned I was downloading Korsakovia..
This is another mod from The Chinese Room, the team who created Dear Esther.  This game – experience? – is not meant to be enjoyable.. the whole intent was to explore what happens when you push boundaries and subvert what people expect from a game – with flashing lights, disturbing sounds, and the oh-so-creepy tagline:

The paramedics report that they were unable to find his eyes. We think he may have eaten them.

Gnome Chompski look familiar?

Gnome Chompski in Left 4 Dead 2, and Little Rocket Man in Half Life 2: Episode 2.

Gnome Chompski

Gnome Chompski

Little Rocket Man

Little Rocket Man

Both are linked to achievements, requiring you to carry them through a portion of the map 🙂