Game Design Snippet 8: Vortal Combat Add-on For HL2 Deathmatch

Half Life 2 Deathmatch is a neat game. You have two teams: the Resistance and the Combine. Both use models from Half Life 2, so it’s like you’re playing through the battles that take place in the “missing week” in Half Life 2. There are a couple of anachronisms: everyone gets the Gravity Gun (in HL2 canon there’s only one gravity gun and Gordon Freeman has it), and all of a sudden everyone seems to be wearing HEV suits under their clothing, but it’s mostly just like playing out a Resistance vs. Combine battle.

The maps are neat and very detailed, covering many different areas of City 17. I was a little disappointed to find no levels based on Ravenholm or the Citadel, but you can get fan-made versions online. Like TF2, I haven’t actually played it online because of my crappy home connection, but in a sense this is a bonus because I can run around and appreciate the nice details to my heart’s content.

Anyway, I have a few ideas to improve it, mainly in the area of adding new Team Fortress type Classes to the game. That’s right: Classes in HL2 Deathmatch! And here are my ideas:

The Vortigaunt

Vortigaunts start off with a bunch of neat abilities, though they still need ammunition of a sort. Their freaky alien powers come from The Vortessence, and need to be recharged from Vortessence Nodes. (The need to recharge powers is purely a balancing mechanic.) Vorts on the Combine team have the slave collars to justify why they’d be fighting for the Combine.

Telekinesis: basically a Gravity Gun, but the Vort is holding his hand out.

Vortal Lightning: The Vort holds both hands out and shoots lightning with the primary trigger.

Shock Stomp: The shockwave attack you see Cecil using in Episode 2.

Recharge: The vort can recharge allies’ suits.

The Antlion Lord

While the name may sound like a scary giant Antlion Guard on steroids, this is actually just a resistance/combine member with pheropods. It could work just like pheropods in HL2, or the “Lord” might need to go scrounging for fresh pods as a balancing mechanic.

Antlion Minions: Basically just like the end of Sand Traps and the beginning of Nova Prospekt, the antlions slavishly follow the Antlion Lord around and attack anyone he commands.


“Here, have a medkit.” Instead of having infinite medkits as they effectively do in HL2, Deathmatch Medics would simply be able to pick up, use, and stash away medkits for later use.

Medkit Stash: When a Medic grabs a medkit, they don’t automatically use it. Instead, it goes into their stash until they use it on themselves or others.

Proper Medical Attention: Medkits used by Medics actually heal a little more.


This is the class you would play HL2DM as now. But it might need some tweaking after the other classes are introduced. Maybe the soldier class is the only one that can use all the weapons, or up their toughness a little.


The resistance version is called a hacker and the combine version is called an engineer, but both essentially do the same thing: use gadgets and multitools. These gadgets need to be picked up like regular ammunition, but only hackers and engineers can use them.

Multitool: used to reprogram gadgets to attack the other team.

Turrets: grabbing an inactive turret automatically turns it on and will make it fight for your side. Additionally, you can reprogram active or deactivated turrets, though this takes a little longer.

Manhacks, Hopper Mines, & Rollermines: Same as Turrets, but a bunch of inactive ones can be dropped and then all activated at once with the multitool.


Since there are such a variety of zombies in HL2, especially as of Episode 2, it makes sense to make a new team of zombies in HL:2 Deathmatch.


When a zombie dies, you still get to run and jump around as the headcrab that was controlling it if you don’t die from a headshot.

Zombie Swarm

Since normal zombies are pathetic and slow, each player controlling a normal zombie automatically has two companion zombies spawn at the same time. If the first zombie controlled goes down, control goes to one of the companion zombies. If all of the zombies go down and one or more of the headcrabs survived, the player controls the headcrab. Only if the last headcrab of the group dies does it count as a regular death. (This needs to be tested, and might need to be tweaked to just one zombie companion or possibly up to three.)

Claw Attack: zombies can’t use weapons but attack with their claws instead.

Fast Zombie

I think that’s all that needs to be said. You only get one fast zombie at a time, of course.

Fast Claw Attack: Same damage as normal zombies but faster.

Poison Zombie

Poison zombies are slow but tough and can throw poison headcrabs.

Throw Headcrab: If there’s another headcrab running around, Poison Zombies can grab it and throw it too.


Zombie Combine are tougher and slightly faster than normal zombies (though not as fast as fast zombies, obviously). Like all zombies, they can’t use most weapons and rely on claw attacks.

Grenade Rush: The Zombine pulls out a grenade and holds it. This will most likely end in the zombine’s death, but also has a decent kill radius if the zombine can run over to some enemies in time.

All Game Design Snippets copyright (C) 2008 Matthew Mather. Source engine used for illustration. Though, really, it’s perfectly fine with me if Valve uses this one.

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