Operation Black Mesa: Keep squadmates with you, or have good reasons why they stay behind

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  • Operation Black Mesa: Keep squadmates with you, or have good reasons why they stay behind

    Something that always bugged me in Opposing Force is that you'd encounter some fellow soldiers, briefly fight alongside them... and then just leave them behind, because they are unable to climb over an obstacle, or crawl through something.

    In 'We Are Not Alone' and 'Friendly Fire', you meet up with some soldiers in the office complex, fight aliens, an engineer can helpfully open some doors for you... and then you continue by jumping and climbing and rope swinging. Of course, we know the reason they don't follow is they don't have the AI or scripting to jump across things or climb ropes. But storywise, it makes no sense, they did the same Bootcamp training as Adrian, they were taught to climb ropes too!

    In the very next area, you meet a medic, then have your first encounter with the Black Ops. You find an an injured engineer, and need to bring the medic to the engineer to heal him, so he can then open a door for you. This is despite the fact that just 5 minutes earlier you were teamed up with an engineer in the office complex.

    Once you've gotten through that door, you encounter some other soldiers. They talk about using the train system to get to 'Lambda Sector', maybe escape that way, maybe even have a shot at getting Freeman. But you have to fight a load of Black Ops. Once you've killed the Black Ops, your solider buddies might be dead, on the other hand there might be several survivors. But none of them will step onto the train with you. They are physically unable to step onto it, and you end up driving down the track on your own, leaving behind a squad of several troops! Even playing the game back in 1999, I was infuriated by this - WE have just killed the Black Ops, WE are supposed to be going to Lambda Sector and hunting down Freeman, so why the hell am I driving there on my own? Why can't they come with me?

    Of course, even if there was some way for them to stand on the train and travel with you, when you get to your destination you end up having to do some jumping and climb up into a hole in the ceiling. So the squad wouldn't be able to follow you up into the Lambda complex anyway.

    The way I see it, there's two possible ways to address these kinds of problems:

    1) Good explanations for leaving soldiers behind

    Black Mesa had you needing to leave behind scientists and security guards in the same places as in regular Half-Life, but gave the NPCs new lines of dialogue to justify it. In Unforseen Consequences, the the security guard that helps you fight zombies says that he's going to stay behind at the security desk to try and call for help. (And you can hear him doing so if you stay there.) Explains away why he doesn't crawl through a vent with you. And then the scientist that opens a door so you can access weapons, says that he's had enough excitement and he's going to stay in that security room, as it seems relatively safe. In Office Complex, when you get to an elevator shaft, a scientist says "I can't make that jump!" and a a security guard says "Guess I'm on babysitting duty, then. Go on ahead."

    This method is the most faithful to the original game, but it does require you to come up with good explanations for why squads of soldiers don't want to stick with Shephard to escape or hunt for Freeman. I think that could be quite tricky though, I struggle to think of a good reason why those grunts wouldn't go with Shephard, especially when they actually have dialogue stating they want to team up with him, and have the same objective as him!

    2) Keep soldiers with you

    There was an Opposing Force mappack called 'Fallback: Fire and Ice' where the creator specifically wanted to give you the squad experience that Opfor lacked, and so you'd be able to keep your allies with you, as long as you can keep them alive. He designed the levels accordingly. Pretty cool. However, a remake of Opposing Force that cut all ladders/ropes/vents etc from the game for the sake of avoiding NPC obstacles would not be a very faithful remake. But there are some ways around this:

    The 'Sweet Half-Life' method

    The old HL1 mod Sweet Half-Life lets you team up with fellow scientists in HEV suits. The modder used clever scripting so that if you manage to keep them alive, they can accompany you across many maps. When you need to crawl through a vent, it seems like you might be leaving them behind... but once you have emerged and are a few metres from the exit of the vent, you can hear noises in the vent and then the HEV scientist emerges. The mapper basically teleports the scientist from the start of the vent to the end of it. Later you encounter actual teleport portals, and if you have any NPCs with you when you step through the portal, then a few seconds after you have emerged the friendly NPC will appear from the portal as well.

    3) The 'Azure Sheep' method

    In the mod 'Azure Sheep', half way through you team up with your girlfriend, female security guard Kate. When you crawl into a vent, climb a ladder etc she says "See you later!" Once you've accomplished something in the new area, there is always a path back where you can open a locked door from the other side to let her through. Could have a similar situation in Operation Black Mesa... could encounter one of those huge red fire doors, and your engineer could say "Hmm, there's no way I can cut through this! And I don't think I can drag this aceyelne tank through a ventillation duct. Shephard, you go on ahead, and see if you can find a way to get this open. I'll stay here and guard this area."

    4) Use advanced scripts and animations

    It would be amazing if grunts actually could be given scripts and animations so they can jump across gaps, climb ropes, jump over rubble. Similar to Alyx in Half-Life 2, and especially Episode 1, where she is scripted to jump over things, climb up buildings, or drop down gaps.

    5) Come up with excuses to kill or remove allies

    If there's a chance that the player might have some surviving squad mates, and you need the player to be alone for the next section, and there's no good reason why they wouldn't go with Shephard... could script some unfortunate event that kills off or separates the squad.

    There could be a hole in a wall, that is seemingly empty. But if you have a squadmate with you, the squadmate is scripted to walk near to the hole... a headcrab jumps out of it and leaps onto his face, instantly headcrabbing him.

    Or, have a Race X shock trooper teleport in right next to a squadmate, grab them, and teleport out. (Just like early in the game where a shock trooper kidnaps a scientist and teleports away with him.)

    Or perhaps have a corridor where walking ahead of the squadmates triggers the ceiling to fall in or the floor to collapse. The squadmates could be crushed by debris, or perhaps it is nicer if they are simply seperated, they are on the far side of the rubble, or they've fallen into a level below. They say "Damn! There's another route here we can take, you go on ahead and we'll meet up at Lambda Sector! And if you run into Freeman before us... you give him our best regards..."

    Post was edited 1 time, last by your evil twin ().

  • Glad someone mentioned it.
    One of these has to happen, we're not in 1999 anymore. As for myself I think doing something like the 'Sweet Half-Life' method would be best, as it's not very difficult compared to making new animations and scripts, and it's cool.
    *To Devs* You Guys are amazing keep up the great work
  • I had that feeling too

    Didn't think that someone else felt that feeling when you have to abandon your buddies in Half Life. I remember having an entire army of scientists and guards following me right until that damned elevator ( Ya know the one, with the scientist hanging on to the ladder ). I just wished I could have them follow me right until the end. That's an awesome suggestion for an awesome feature that would totally fit this already awesome project! I like the Sweet Half-Life method since it's more realistic and sense making, would be awesome if the coders could code that in. ( Man, I can't resist repeating the word "AWESOME" )
  • I do not consider it very good in many ways, but I agree that they must improve the (AI, and scripts) in this sence, so that let the marines are allowed to follow us until the end of the game (in max case 1 or 2), and so that this will work, has to improve the (squad system), so that when the player orders, the (NPC) execute more specific actions, such as interact with specific (item, other npc, doors, radios) and looking for coverages (objects, walls, doors) but that a multitude of NPCs follow us will only damage the lonely experience that this title means, because we will always abandon them to clean the area (so they do not die) and those actions will damage the rhythm of the adventure (as it happened in the original), I believe that they should keep a safe area waiting for other orders and questioning to shepard for continuing to press the step without authorization, and see how their partners die.

    One thing I would also appreciate would be that, in the combat zones (large) there is a quantity of (NPC) so that the player can feel the scale of the combat, which can be observed in the skybox (helicopters, fighter aircraft, c-130 and enemy ships) in combat doing pirouettes and other things as happened in the "BMS" before entering the core "Lambda", (in addition to explosions "radom" by the level as in "L4D2") things that I consider necessary due to that when we control (Shepard) at the moment of its plot, most of the confrontation between "Xen & HECU" takes place.

    I do not want a "Ludonarrativa" dissonance that we are in an invasion, losing thousands of militants and civilians, and that there is no chaos, that the sky is clear, that there is no dust in the air due to the explosions, that corpses, injured and that in the radio frequencies do not call for help.

    Post was edited 4 times, last by 24seg ().

  • I agree, it annoyed me that your squad simply stayed behind without giving an explanation simply because of an obstacle I could easily have crawled over/under in real life.
    You've added some excellent ideas, and for what it's worth, I have actually been looking into ideas (story mechanisms and scripts) to maintain the same squad over a longer period of time, or give excuses why they cannot continue with you immediately.
    At the very least, I expect to be looking into the back-to-back areas where you must leave a squad behind due to an obstacle.... to literally meet another squad with similar guys on the other side of an obstacle.
    (end post)
  • I totally agree!

    These changes would not only allow for more interesting gameplay, but it will up the player's personal stakes in the story! Writers can often get so hung up in the lofty reasons that you want to save people, when the best solution is as simple as More Player Effort = Friends Survive.

    There are so many opportunities in this:

    - Squad mates that have been with you longer can reflect their experiences in dialogue ("Hey, that's the same ugly bastard that killed *old squad mate*!")
    - Preserving special technicians (Medics and Engineers) could enhance game play (Locked supply rooms can be broken in to, medics continue to heal player and other squad mates)
    - If the player really grinds to keep them alive, there could be an almost warlike sequence (think Resistance battles against Combine in HL2) of two or three whole squads coming together against a platoon of Race-X before the Geneworm battle. If they have memorable character models and names, this could be an emotional moment of sacrifice and brotherhood in the military. Could even be room for a speech that quotes Drill Instructor Barnes

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