Recently, I stumbled upon Concerned – a Half Life 2 based comic, created using the in game locations and character models. It tells a story of Gordon Frohman – a concerned citizen of City 17 and author of one of many of letters Dr. Breen reads during his broadcasts and a loyal combine sympathizer. If you haven’t read it before, you should definitely check it out. I found it’s unique brand of humor quite appealing.
The comic didn’t actually use HL2 engine. Or rather id did, but by a proxy. It was done entirely using a sandbox Source game known as Garrys’ Mod. After seeing the tool in action I was intrigued and I decided to pick it up. You can buy it for measly $10 on Steam or get it for free as a package deal when you buy Team Fortress 2 or Counter-Strike: Source. Very good deal if you ask me.
Garry’s mod is neither a game nor a level editor although it possesses characteristics of both. If I had to describe it in a few words, I’d say is a platform for creating new game modes, mahinimas and comics. It allows you to utilize resources, maps, characters and items from the Source games you own and combine then to build your own structures, contraptions and scenarios. It allows you to build crazy Rube Goldberg machines using the Source physics engine, or use the rag doll posing tools to something like this:
This is actually one of the first things I made with Garry’s Mod and I was still getting used to the controls. You see, you don’t actually get to drag and drop and position things with your mouse like in most of similar tools for other games. You actually do it using a “physics gun” which is a bit like Gravity Gun but it allows you to pick up, reposition and lock just about any object in place. For example you can take a limp rag-doll of City 17 citizen and plop it on top of the Ant-Lion defender thing locking his limbs into these positions.
It actually takes a while to get used to this scheme. The hardest part is probably “standing up” your rag dolls. You see, when you pick a ragdoll of a character from your menu it sort of plops out of nowhere, and lands on the floor in front of you completely limp and prostrate. You have to pick it up with the gravity gun and when you do it, the whole body sort of slumps. So for example you grab it by the torso, lift it high enough so that the feet are not dragging or bending, but low enough so that they still touch the ground. Then you lock the torso in place, and reposition the legs so they look like the character is actually standing. Then you do the head, hands and etc. There is even a face posing tool:
The whole experience is a little rough. There are 3 very short animated tutorials that show you how to get started, but beyond that there is very little in game help. Most of the tools have little or no in-game documentation beyond 2-3 line description and a tool tip here and there. Many tools have quite complex panels which consist of switches, buttons, sliders and etc. It’s quite intimidating at first but the game is very tolerant of experimentation. There is really no wrong way to use these tools, so you quickly get used to learning by experimentation.
Pretty quickly I was comfortable enough to start posing characters in much more realistic way started messing around with their facial expressions. Here is Alyx and two random dudes at the City 17 train station:
Actually, I dare you to caption this image. What could they be talking about?
The best part of the Mod is probably the vibrant community. And when I say vibrant, I mean, dude, you need to see what these people are coming up with. The sheer amount of downloadable content out there is astonishing.
You see, Garry’s Mod let’s you to use your own skins, textures and wire frames and make them do stuff using LUA scripting. This means that you are not only limited to using resources from your Source games. You can build your own content, and distribute it to other users. Sky is the limit! Whatever you might want need, it probably exists somewhere. You want to do something Star Wars related? Here you go! You want to do HL2 and Mario crossover? Be my guest! There is probably over billion different versions of Alyx model dressed in various outfits, or without any clothes on. Not that I looked for that stuff, mind you. I just noticed it while browsing all the different download packs.
Oh, and did I mention Garry’s Mod has a multilayer feature? Yeah, you can share all this craziness with your friends. I haven’t really played in that mode much, but you can sort of imagine what can happen when you put bunch of players with God like powers in one area.
If you combine the flexibility of this engine, with the sheer amount of content, different game modes and custom tools you are really looking at a great value for your money. I highly recommend it, whether you are a level creator, someone trying to make a machinima or a comic or if you just want to mess around with the source engine.