Radiator is a series of experimental semi-episodic short-form single player mods for Half-Life 2 with unorthodox gameplay mechanics used to artistic ends - the first person shooter without any shooting. It follows a semi-episodic release schedule: each "volume" is divided into three (3) issues released over several weeks. The maps are packaged together for thematic purposes and also because it's simply more convenient.
More Matter (volume 1)
THEMES: The short story, play, and poem. First loves. California. Psychological repression. New Orleans. The racket that is couples counseling. Being young, being old. Gay marriage. Homeostasis. Government bureaucracy. Acoustic guitar, contemporary piano, and death metal.
- 1. June 2009 (Polaris): You're stargazing in central California on what could totally be both the lamest and the cheapest date ever.
- 2. July 2009 (Handle with Care): You're struggling to repress stressful memories while your worthless husband moans and whines to that equally worthless marriage counselor.
- 3. July 2009 (Much Madness): You're trapped on a sinking submarine in the Gulf of Mexico - oh, and the ghost of Emily Dickinson won't stop talking. Maybe drowning isn't so bad?
Second Space (volume 2)
THEMES: Self-reflexivity, cerebral play, and the "second space" of our minds.
- 1. late 2009 (Being Adam Foster) You're Adam Foster, celebrity level designer. Men want to be you and women... uh, did I that mention men want to be you?
- 2. late 2009 (A Man's Home) The true story behind the fire at the Bannerman Island Arsenal.
- 3. late 2009 (Little Boxes) Foreclosures in the wild western deserts of France.
Come back around June 24th for Radiator 1-1 (Polaris).
With a few (amazing) exceptions, the Half-Life 2 single player "mod scene" is largely dead. Releases, few and far between, often re-tread well-explored gameplay devices and themes from the original 2004 release OR seek to emulate the monolithic release schedule of the commercial game industry. HL2 modders should abandon this practice immediately.
Here are some guiding values of Radiator, collectively known as "PIES" because pies are delicious:
So you made a level, that's great - but does it have a point? Do you have anything to say? Any commentary on what you perceive is a great injustice in the world? Insights on the human condition? While it may be debatable whether games are "art," they are most definitely a medium. Convey something with your work - it doesn't have to be novel or mindblowingly insightful or a coherent message, but it should at least be something.
Yeah, it's the latest game development buzzword, but it works. Do not plan out every detail of the project; rather, design the main gameplay systems and core mechanics, produce a prototype, and gradually test and refine that prototype. It is faster, produces greater results, and keeps focus on the player's experience.
There is no point in copying Half-Life 2 and building another map set in City 17; even Valve has grown tired of it and used Episode 1's plot to make sure they could never use City 17 again. Amateur maps should take design risks and pursue a new setting, art direction, gameplay mechanic, or (ideally) a combination of all three.
Keep it short and (unlike the majority of mods today,) feasible. The goal is to finish your work, a problem that all of us have. To help you overcome that, remember: if you're going to reach for the stars, settle for the lowest one you can find!
Don't cargo cult - meaning, don't have dedicated PR managers and don't focus on pumping out screenshots or weapon renders. It's a waste of time.
Don't remake your favorite game - instead, make something interesting.
Make something somewhat interactive and fun. The "art game" movement would have you believe that "fun" isn't necessary - and maybe in 50 years it won't be - but for now, fun and challenge are the primary means of engaging players. Games that strattle the middle line, between art game and mainstream, combine the best of both worlds; games like Conor O'Kane's Harpooned, for instance.