According to Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman: "There's so much stuff going on in GMod that it's hard to pull out individual addons. I think the real great thing about GMod is that all these addons exist. It has a rich user contribution community. It keeps itself entertained."
It really is impossible to cover everything that the GMod community has made. I tried and gave up, instead creating an inexhaustive list of amazing things that have tickled me over the years as an on-and-off GModder. So this list includes my choices with a couple of Garry's mixed in. The upcoming GMod update might include modes that won't function for much longer, but that's okay. It's about wonderful, ephemeral things, not a list of things you have to do right now. If there's something I've missed you're absolutely more than welcome to drop it in the comments. Just make sure it's something that's set your Face Poser to 'stunned'. And remember: none of the below comes shipped with the game: it's all community generated.
One night I was wading through gamemodes to play, leaping across the servers like a sexy dolphin, and really not paying attention to what I was clicking on. This was when I first discovered a Spacebuild server. I spawned on a barren rock and looked around, not seeing much of anything. I walked around a little and noticed the level was a planetoid: through a haze of atmosphere I could make out other planets and space stations hanging in the air. I spotted another player in the distance and walked over to say hello. Then it got brighter. I hadn't noticed what he was building because it was so big, but I had stepped out the shadow of an enormous space craft. It hovered over the server, wobbling as parts were pinged on with the Multitool.
Spacebuild is a gamemode where you build your own spacecraft and take it into space, using the tools from the build menu, the Wiremod addon (below), and a pile of custom parts. The goal, such as it is, is to not die and make it to another planetoid. Your ship shape has to be shipshape, because beyond the edge of the little planetoid is a harsh, deadly vacuum. It doesn't matter what you build - a tiny shuttle is as protective as a giant transporter - but you need to think of life support, power supply, engines, resources, energy, and the ship's wiring. It isn't easy, but it's remarkably rewarding to be in a ship of your own design sliding from the atmosphere out into the night.
Spacebuild wouldn't be possible without Wiremod. You can kind of guess that this provides interesting wiring options for contraptions, enabling deeper connections between props. Basically: builds that previously needed a pulley system to set a door opening and closing can now do so with a button and wires. Thankfully there are some basic walkthroughs on YouTube that will let me bail out of any further attempt at describing its complex capabilities, because as much as I love it, it's long-winded to describe. I'll just moonwalk out of here while you have a peek at this video...
So, yes. Wires. But also CPUs, etc that make wonderful, surprising things. Again, I'm backing out because I'm terrible with Wiremod (as is Garry), but what it enables is ridiculous and I'm in awe of it and its users. Look at this:
Rube Goldberg Devices
It's not just mods. A lot of GMod's users are simply straight-up amazing builders, using vanilla GMod to create kinetic, impossible works of art that show off just how robust the physics are. This magnificent bastard is probably the pinnacle of the art:
Half-life: Full Life Consequences
Machinima of a certain type is well suited to GMod. That type is a slightly shonky, shaky, unrealistic movie of the Ed Wood school.. The most popular GMod Machinima acknowledges the game's odd collection of bits and pieces and their wobbly connections. There's nothing that exemplifies it better than Halflife: Full Life Consequences. It's based an alleged piece of "fan faction" that's so terrible that it has a cult following. It and GMod are a match made in heaven. No, look:
Garry says: "GMod Tower is kind of a big thing. It's like a big hotel with loads of different rooms that do completely different things. You can go in a theatre and watch YouTube with other people in-game. There's tonnes of different sub-games to play. It's pretty impressive, and I swear more work has gone into it than has gone into GMod itself!"
It's the sort of thing that could only exist as a mod: a communal space that houses whatever the players can build. That sounds a bit like Minecraft, but GMod Tower is a lot more involved and complex, with the sub-games showing off how it can be tamed with Lua: the newest addition to the tower is a top-down zombie shooter.
Garry also says: "Another gamemode that shows the strengths of GMod as a base for experimental gameplay." It's something RPS is familiar with, and as Garry points out, Elevator: Source is the best experimental co-op game set in a lift. It delivers you to randomized levels that you and your elevator chums stare at then move on. Did you really just see a T-Rex walking through a jungle? What song was the guy with the guitar playing? What's key here is that the elevator experience is as important as the crazy shit that's shown at each floor: it has muzac, you can check your watch, you can cough. It involves a lot of waiting, and if you're playing with friends that means you can all take the piss and chat about the levels that the elevator is delivering you to. It's not about game mechanics, it's about people reacting to what they just witnessed and giggling. That's what games do now. It's amazing.
Persistence is a surprising addition to a game built on crumbling, easy to break monstrosities, but DarkRP manages it. It's a role-playing game, set in the confines of a City 17ish dictatorship. Players are given jobs, from such random choices as hobo gangster, drug dealer, PC technician, and basically go about living their life on the server. City Protectors are on hand to protect the citizens should any of the criminal classes get overly keen. A good server is full of low-level criminals following a boss' instructions, while the city guard harass and arrest them. A bad server? Well I can't put it any better than this song does.
The natural home for this mod - which I think first surfaced around TF2 - is GMod. It's a multiplayer game where the hiding players can camouflage themselves as props strewn throughout the level. Remember when you'd play hide and seek as a child, and the seekers would come looking? They'd be close, so very close, but there'd be a plant or something between you? Well here you are the plant. The game is ostensibly a challenge of nerves: can you hold yourself together when a shotgunning Combine soldier is staring intently at you? On the seeker side of things, this is where you realise just how much your brain likes to troll you: you see twitches everywhere. And while it's blatantly ridiculous to be wondering if a microwave moved, it's even more ridiculous to find yourself chasing one down a corridor when it turns out that it's alive.
WARNING: This video contains bad swears
Trouble in Terrorist Town
Garry and I both picked Trouble in Terrorist Town, which is a sort of deathmatch-meets-psychological-warfare mash up. Three classes spread over two teams: the detectives and the innocents are on one side, the traitors on the other. The traitors' goal is to kill everyone they can, while attempting to retain the illusion of innocence. What follows is a dark, silly game where the chat channel and voice channel is thick with accusation, derived from the paranoid fear of the real innocents, and the prodding, devious twists of reality of the traitors. It's wonderful watching it unfold, especially when the cockier traitors are unmasked by the detectives tracking down the killer. There's more game here than you first realise: a dead body only retains relevant information for a short time, so a smart killer can hide the corpse out of view and hope the DNA tracing equipment won't be able to find him. Or he can kill with words, stoking up fear of any player and claiming they're acting suspiciously. I had one guy shout "Buck just took a swing at me" while standing over my corpse. I was, for once, innocent. It's brilliant, and the servers can be very, uh, passionate, so just be ready for shouting and rude stuff.
Let's end this with a bang.
Next time: the future of GMod.