Mods And Ends: Radiator And THAT

By Adam Smith on September 16th, 2011 at 5:30 pm.

Kitchen sink drama

Something old for you today, which you may well have seen before, but I think it’s worth reminding people of. It’s Radiator. I’ve included something new for good measure, but nothing blue because this isn’t a wedding, it’s a little article about mods. Sorry if that’s disappointing. You’re going to be even more disappointed if you don’t like pretentious artsy mods. I’m talking the kind that have trailers with sombre piano music playing and try to evoke a sense of loss while definitely never having guns anywhere in them at all. Imagine you’ve walked into a small cinema in Paris. Instead of popcorn and nachos, the butler (for there is a butler) provides you with a glass of port and invites you to take a seat. He places a keyboard on your lap and a mouse in your hand.

One of the things I want to do when writing about mods is to cover different games. It’s no fun for the people who don’t like Civilization V if I only ever cover that game, but it’s no fun for the people who do like it if I never cover it at all. So as well as exploring different genres and different types of modding, I want to make sure I cover lots of different base games as well.

It’s a well known fact that 99% of all mods in our present day and age run on the Source engine. Look it up. I certainly didn’t but I made a pretty broad assumption. This week, then, I’m going to talk about just a smattering of those Source mods. Two actually. Does that count as a smattering? Probably not. It’s a couple. A couple of Source mods.

The first, as foretold, is Radiator.

Notice how they quoted RPS twice there? We’re the guys to come to if you want delicate appraisal of mood-laden art mods, that’s for sure.

The two episodes do connect but it’s not necessary to play the first if you want to jump straight into the more expansive second. But it would seem silly to skip part one when it’s so short, beautiful and unlike anything else you’ve ever played, unless you’ve already played it.

I’m afraid I can’t give you the third episode. It’s still not out. But it is being worked on. There may even be an elaborate joke at play there. As it stands, Radiator is a double header of experimental Source goodness. I’m not going to tell you too much about why I love it because it’s the kind of thing a lot of people will find intolerable, dull or pointless. And by that I mean me raving about it as much as the mod itself. I don’t mind disagreeing with those people but I also don’t think they’re wrong. This is the kind of thing that either works for you, maybe with you, or it doesn’t. Fair enough. I’m sure we can all appreciate the piano version of Where Is My Mind? in the video above though. If you don’t like that, I’m afraid you are wrong.

Portraits hung in empty halls, frameless head on nameless walls

Even if you don’t expect to like Radiator, I reckon it’s worth giving it a shot. It’s free, it won’t take you long to play through and you might find yourself thinking about it a few days down the line. I’m not saying it will grow on you but it might linger for a while. Hopefully not like a bad smell or a potentially psychotic mad-eyed stranger in a bar.

There’s a reason I returned to Radiator after so long though. I still don’t think it’s been bettered. I wanted to write about what I’m calling art mods, for want of a better term, and I realised I hadn’t seen much to compare favourably. Then I thought I might have missed the third episode coming out and had a mild panic, as if I’d let myself down somehow. I hadn’t missed it, of course. But I did find a new picture from it.

it's more than we've seen of the other episode three

It’s Emily Dickinson’s lamp, modelled off a photograph of Emily Dickinson’s actual lamp. The third episode of Radiator will include Emily Dickinson’s ghost. I wish more games had poet’s ghosts in them. Like Dante’s Inferno. That was a very misunderstood art game.

My next treat is THAT. It doesn’t have the polish or thematic weight of Radiator but I found it quite engaging for the short time I ran around inside it. And its readme file is titled READ_THE_SHIT_OUT_OF_ME, which ensured it had my attention.

Imagine trying to hang someone on a palm tree. Impossible.

Part of its charm for me stemmed from the fact that it reminds me of the 3D Construction Kit I had on my trusty Amiga way back when. That doesn’t say much for the way THAT pushes the limits of the Source engine but it does give the mod a fairly unusual vibe in these modern times.

I was primarily interested in this because it’s an exploration mod, with no combat and nine varied environments to wander around in. The problem is, the environments are all very small so there’s not a very strong sense of exploration at all. It’s more like walking through a series of small rooms.

There’s a Philip Glass score (from the excellent Koyaanisqatsi), which provides as much atmosphere as anything, and some of the scenes are interesting enough. I like that there’s an optional challenge, which is simple and does nothing more than beautify the starting area slightly.

This is what Ravenholm used to look like

I hope THAT is a prototype for something larger though. I’d quite like to wander around a more fully realised version of the City area right now. It really would be like going back in time to those 3D Construction Kit days when, if you’d shown my boyhood self Minecraft, I would have thought you were a sorcerer and reported you to the police.

Why do I like art mods? Because they allow their creators to design something personal or experimental on a small budget and (potentially) in a short space of time. And because they the architecture of a professional release behind them, they make a nice change from dour indie retro-styled pixel-gazers. Not that I don’t like them too, you understand.

So, any favourite arty mods, for Source or otherwise? And, yes, I know Dear Esther exists. Anything else? Or Source mods in general? We’ll be going somewhere else completely next week, so feel free to share all that stuff right here, right now.

__________________

« | »

, , , , , .

50 Comments »

  1. LowKey says:

    Where is my mind?

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I was stunned to hear the Pixies so tastefully covered. So I checked out Maxence’s site, the music is spectacular.

    • baaoma says:

      Value for money, do online shopping in the unexpected, a mix of world famous brand. Reliable quality! Welcome to :
      http://bit.ly/mKuTNF

    • arboreal says:

      Lovely. I also like the UK Surf mix of Wave of Mutilation.

      I shake my good frame.

    • Ace Jon says:

      It broke my heart when Maxence’s album with this track left Spotify :(

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    Speaking of Koyaanisqatsi: Baraka, anyone? And while we’re on artsy and pretentious, Stalker – the (Andrei Tarkovsky) film that inspired the game?

    • rclesham says:

      Stalker which was in turn inspired by the rather excellent novel Roadside Picnic by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky. Well worth a read.

    • Waltorious says:

      I personally found the novel much more interesting than the film, but it’s worth noting that Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, the authors of the novel, also wrote the film. It’s really quite different though.

      Now that I’ve read the book and seen the film, I can finally play the game! Once I’ve played all these other games I have to play first…

    • felisc says:

      well, since we are on tarkovsky, if anyone’s looking for a good documentary for this evening, the one Chris Marker shot about our favorite russian director is excellent.

  3. Carter says:

    I love pretentious artsy mods! Does this mean more of a return to writing about mods?

  4. Inigo says:

    Isn’t port generally supposed to be drunk after a meal?

  5. Berzee says:

    /doesn’t know how to install source mods

  6. Thany says:

    Stanley Parable doesnt count into the artsy mods?

  7. KindredPhantom says:

    Are you looking for specifically singleplayer or multiplayer mods? I suspect you will be getting a lot of both mentioned in here.

  8. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    I must express my disappointment that the weekly mods roundup has been replaced with infrequent ramblings about artsy mods. I found the roundup was a great way to find out about mods I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.

    Ah well.

    • PetiteGreve says:

      Mods, as we knew them, are dead.

      Dead and buried.

      And don’t try to shovel them out, you’ll just be troubling the poor lost souls of these unique gaming moments.

      There’s no more multiplayer mods (except for very-nichy mods, and the vast majority is more surviving than living).

      While singleplayer mods are either experimental prototype (too short and not pushed further), artsy mods (with less attention to gameplay), or student project (either for their diploma or for their portfolio only).

      It would take an enormous mental effort to bring back mods, there’s many reasons why people (even the most mods-oriented) stopped playing mods.

      Mentality, games lifecycle and how we recognize/qualify gaming entertainment truly changed, and the repercussions are so numerous it would take weeks to list them out.

    • Nick says:

      “Mods, as we knew them, are dead.

      Dead and buried.”

      Uh, no, there are plenty of active modding communities for a variety of games.

    • mejoff says:

      @PetiteGreve
      What on earth are you talking about?

  9. trigger_rant says:

    Its good to see that mods get a bit of exposure, again. Personally im looking forward to Cry of Fear for HL. I loved Afraid of Monsters.

  10. Felixader says:

    I have a question. If i download the free portal today can i play the mods for Half Life 2?

    • KindredPhantom says:

      Yes, you can. You can also play any of the many Half-Life 2 mods for free just by downloading the Source SDK Base under tools, there are two versions of them (2006 and 2007) so download them both as not all mods use the same one.

    • Felixader says:

      Thank you very much for your answer. ^.^

    • Theory says:

      This should be mentioned in the post. You don’t need to own any games to play the two mods it talks about.

  11. Hoaxfish says:

    John Freeman/Gordon Frohman have unfortunately damaged my ability to see things in the source engine as anything but silly

  12. Synesthesia says:

    the 3rd picture alttext made me close my eyes and grin a little. Nice post, im just beggining to discover the modding world, and im liking it so far. Maybe you could make this a weekly column? You know you want to.

  13. Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Imagine trying to hang someone on a palm tree. Impossible.

    :)
    I was disappointed to discover the logo change wasn’t in fact a titanic victory for whingey pedants everywhere, but rather the ESRB being a trifle irked by the depiction of an hanging.

  14. Brahms says:

    You could try http://www.moddb.com/mods/attempt-to-survive

    Not super artsy though.

  15. .backslash says:

    Ah, Radiator. The idiots running around arms flailing, screaming “OMG GAY” when it first came out was one of my bigger moments of disillusionment with the PC gaming community.
    As for the ‘never been bettered part’, how about Dear Esther, or that doesn’t count, since it’s going to be a ‘real’ game now?

    • felisc says:

      wasn’t “the definitive” dear esther supposed to be released a month ago, by the way ? anyone knows when it will be out ?

  16. Iain says:

    Hmm. I got lost in the stars. Nice idea, but I got frustrated.

  17. allen says:

    Art for me has to provoke some kind of emotion. I received nothing from “THAT” only sheer boredom. I fail to see how one could call it art.

    while not an art mod, you should post Ruins: http://cardboardcomputer.com/games/ruins/

    a much better and an actual mood provoking art game. made by the fellow who did A House in California. if that means anything to you guys.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I found THAT relaxing and enjoyable, Ruins was definitely mood provoking and I felt the similarity to A House in California in the dialogue.

      Thanks for the recommendation.

    • trigger_rant says:

      To be honest, non of those games do anything special for me, however, im not that shortsighted to not realize that all of them might provide some sort of value to people with different tastes. I definitely would not go as far as to say any of those are boring or bad, just because they do nothing for me.

  18. DrazharLn says:

    I quite enjoyed THAT, actually. I felt that the different worlds evoked real places from my memories and it was relaxing to wander around and see the little details hidden around.

    I play Minecraft in much the same way, as an exploration game. I spent >10 hours exploring a single cave system, for example (it’s huge) and naming different passages. The spelunking was a little more exciting than THAT due to the increased risk from falls and the way I had to clear the caves of monsters, though.

    Radiator I’ve played before.

  19. Craig Stern says:

    Great post–Radiator looks fantastic.

  20. Matt says:

    Radiator 1-1 is pretty great; Radiator 1-2 has a mildly interesting theme but some of the worst gameplay I’ve ever encountered (stacking crates? oh, what fun). I’ll still check out the 3rd installment though.

  21. Burky says:

    The Radiator games are just asset tours with zero gameplay. I don’t get the “art mods”, they just seem to be emulating short films, which is hardly a good inspirational framework for an interactive medium.

    Korsakovia was pretty good though.

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    ..and then you bash the heads of hordes of zombies in all game long?

  23. yourgrandma says:

    Found radiator’s subject matter as boring as its gameplay…. awful. THAT has some somewhat interesting level design though gameplay is not really existent (though still better than radiator). Someone should turn it into a hl2: deathmatch map or something. Neither of these are worth your time.

  24. LTK says:

    You know your mod is pretentious when the trailer quotes reviews in several different languages.

    Not that this is a bad thing. ;)

  25. PetiteGreve says:

    Radiator 1-2 (stacking explosive crates) was an error, I only finished it to see the end.

    Half-Life 2 default object handling (“press E to carry in front of you, press E again to release” + object will freak out if you’re closer than 3 meters from the wall) wasn’t made for precise puzzle game requiring objects handling at all, it’s like if Bumper Car (Half-Life 1 mod) would have been released as a F1 racing game, it’s a complete nonsense.

  26. DOLBYdigital says:

    Great to see more articles about Mods!! Thanks and always lovely to hear Maxence… that man is amazing

  27. lobo4123 says:

    That is the most pretentious trailer I have ever seen for any medium.