Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I had forgotten to include Mel’s submission and I would like to apologize for my mistake. His story has now been included at the end. Sorry Mel.

Thanks to all those who entered.

I have created a PDF document with all the entries, along with an introduction, details of the winner and my comments about each story.

PlanetPhillip.Com Writing Competition January 2011.PDF

Right click and select your browser’s version of “Save As” to download it and view from your computer or click the link and depending on your system and set up it may open directly.

For those who just want to know the winner, it is….

Abandoned by Zekiran

Congratulations Zekiran – great story.

Thanks to all the entrants.

Your Favourite

Please use the poll below to vote for your favourite.

Original Post

Phew, what a time for competitions here on PP! Today sees the launch on yet another one, this time it’s a writing competition.

I have decided to go with the theme of simple fiction, set in the Half-Life universe. Since this is the first one, I am not going to get too specific.

The Theme

You must write a story of between 500 and 2500 words. The story must be set within the Half-Life universe from the day of the Black Mesa incident to the end of Episode Two. It MUST be canon – That means you can’t change any of the details of the games. You can’t kill Barney or have the G-man explode etc.

Of course, you don’t have to use any of the existing characters at all if you don’t want to.

You can create new location , characters, weapons, situations, vehicles, enemies BUT if I feel you have strayed to far from the universe you will be marked down.

I am looking for a story that combines character details, adventure and fits perfectly into the setting of Half-Life.

Not being a writer myself I may get help in judging the entries. However, since I am paying for the prizes, I might just decide on my own.


The winner will receive one $10 dollar game via Steam, so make sure you have a Steam account!
There *may* be one or two honourable mention prizes that receive one $5 Dollar game via Steam, but that depends on the number and quality of entries.

Closing Date

The closing date for entries is

10:00AM GMT Monday 24th January 2011

That’s six weeks from the date of the announcement.

To Enter

Please send an email with your story as part of the email or an attachment. Please ensure it’s laid out nicely, not just one block of text.

Questions, suggestions and entries should be sent to:


29th January 2011

Get the most from the comments
Follow these comments by RSS feed
  1. Jike 52 comments

    12th December 2010

    What if one would want to write a continuation of Episode Two, that doesn't involve hl2 characters. Then one isn't bound to that specific time and also can stay canon! :)

    • No, because I don't want anything to contradict what may happen in EP3 and your entry wouldn't be valid because I said "Up to the end of Ep2".

  2. GoodGuyA 38 comments

    12th December 2010

    I remember writing a script based on the Black Mesa incident, following four professors as they made their way through the complex and were hunted by the military. Can't do that since the writing span is too short to establish any definite character so I've figured out something else all ready.

  3. This should be fun! Competitions based on anything other than mapping to do with Half-Life are rare – this should be a good chance for those who aren't terribly good at that to have a go at something else. Nice idea!

  4. CovertChaos 9 comments

    12th December 2010

    Just for curiosity's sake, if we win, would we get to choose the game?

    ReplyEdited at 5:30 PM, 12th December 2010
  5. Grey Acumen 505 comments

    12th December 2010

    Heh, awesome. I do believe I'm going to win this. Provided I can get it UNDER the 2000 word limit.

    • I do believe I'm going to win this.

      That's what I like to hear: confidence.

      • Grey Acumen 505 comments

        29th January 2011

        Yeah, I probably would have had a better shot at getting it finished in under 2500 words if I had actually gotten around to writing anything. It's still a great story, but all my spare time has been getting sucked up by ideas I've been having for minecraft.

  6. voldomort42 7 comments

    12th December 2010

    Awesome idea! Will you be posting the winner and/or honorable mentions?

  7. George Campbell 146 comments

    13th December 2010

    NO! I haven't even finished my well over-due creative writing English essay!

    • Can't you somehow combine them?

      • NoFace 146 comments

        14th December 2010

        Nice pun ;) Hmmm, naa I cant because this story is extremelly unrelated. The main character is a 6 year old who gets lost and goes on a "big journey" only to find imself on the other side of his house bscly.

  8. Going to participate on this dudes.

  9. Armageddon 19 comments

    14th December 2010

    I've had ideas for stuff that happened after the world was saved from the combine.

  10. Poison_Berrie 68 comments

    14th December 2010

    I'll think I might just participate.

  11. I'm not entering but here's a short narrative from the HL universe you might like:

    Also looking forward to reading the entries, Phil
    Henry Swanson

  12. Count me in, Phillip!

  13. mel 736 comments

    15th December 2010

    Hi Phillip, any chance in extended the word count to say a max of 2500.

  14. Hey Phillip, what's the rule on swear words for this?

  15. zekiran 207 comments

    15th December 2010

    I will make an attempt to get some words down… if only I can figure out WHICH character/setting/direction to take… :D

    • There is no limit to the number of separate stories you can enter.

    • Duke 92 comments

      29th January 2011

      Congrats…and yes, the story would be good as a map…maybe a little longer, but along the same lines…well done…

      • Zekiran 207 comments

        30th January 2011

        Thank you :) yeah I had hoped to make Abandoned as a mod myself, but I am entirely noobish when it comes to knowing how to use Hammer and such. I worked from my own mod outline when making the short story, but I did leave out some things (antlions in the mine area, the actual putting-together of the rig that would destroy the Strider) that would be more fun in a mod than just writing about them.

        I'd consider it to be more of a puzzler than an action mod, though fighting off headcrabs, antlions or the spare combine troop would certainly not be out of the question.

  16. Can we send more than one submission?

  17. hey phillip, so can we have the story span a shorter length, like instead of ending at the HL2EP2, we end it still in black mesa

  18. Fuzone 1 comments

    18th December 2010

    umm, must it be from the Black Mesa Incident to Episode 2? Because I don't have Episode 1 and 2, only Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2.
    and I don't know what happens during episode 1 and episode 2, so….

    • I think you have misunderstood the rules. All I mean is that your story can start and finish anywhere between the Beginning of Half-Life 1 and the end of Episode Two. I just didn't want people to write speculative stories about Ep3 or change what might happen after Ep2.

      You actual story can be set in one day, one week or any other time frame with those periods.

  19. Major Banter 6377 comments

    26th December 2010

    I would rather like STALKER Clear Sky, so my entry is going to be rather good.

  20. Major Banter 6377 comments

    26th December 2010

    And on that note, I intend to hit around 1500. Quality, not quantity.

    Long = waffle.

  21. Poison_Berrie 68 comments

    11th January 2011

    My story is a bit longer than even the up-scaled 2500 surpassing, after cleaning up, with a neat 100.
    Is this going to be a problem, Phillip?

    Personally I find 2500 a little on the low side once you get started.

  22. Major Banter 6377 comments

    17th January 2011

    I'll be hitting 2500 – and it's a very gracious limit.

    Considering the amount someone COULD write, and how Phillip has to judge this on his own, I think it's perhaps a little too much.

    But hey, I've steered away from any philosophical "I'm a Combine and I kill shit" 'this will win a competition cos it's different" mentality and gone for good old storytelling and technique.

    I hope it works out well.

    2177 at the moment. Be done shortly.

  23. I hope to announce the winner sometime tomorrow.

  24. The winner was definitely my favourite. It had a good storyline, and was well written.

    I'm going to give a critique on it, though, as I think it could do with improvements.

    There was very little character development. I know it was a short story, but it seemed that the main character was kind of empty, and the others didn't really do a lot.

    The plot was very linear, and I must admit, boring at times. Whilst it did develop well, there were no real obstacles to the character's progression. The ending was also very open.

    Other than that, the story was well described, though it would have been nice to see some more intriguing imagery, as the environments weren't always very clear in my mind. Your first place is well deserved!

  25. Frohman Zelinsky 75 comments

    29th January 2011

    Well , I didnt win but thats not the point where I will drop my gun into some zomibies ribs n bacon. I think that I have learned from my errors and will do something better next time , or if there will be any oher comp befor those pesky combine kids blow it up… Anyway good work on the Abandoned story , it was a full succes and I enjoyed reading it.

    PS: My story is the first after the winner announcement :D

  26. Zekiran 207 comments

    29th January 2011

    THANK YOU Phillip :)

    Abandoned was actually the bare bones of a mod that I'd love to make some day (provided I grow some Hammer skills), and yes it was very, very bare of personality ;) Given the 2500 word limit, I had to slice about … like, half that amount off to make it meet the limits. I'm used to writing long stories (two of my still-unpublished works, Dawnlight Chronicles and run over 900 pages a piece, and have plentiful sequel action).

    This made my freaking day, thank you so much. It's the little things in life that make me smile, and honestly having anyone read it and enjoy it is a much bigger boost to my mental health than you'd think. :)

    Now… *cracks knuckles* I should expand it to its proper length and update it on my deviantart account.

  27. Major Banter 6377 comments

    29th January 2011

    Your criticisms regarding the death of CB214 and the Shepard thing are well founded; they're the result of a rushed ending to a story I plugged hours into. That's not to garner sympathy; that's to state that the finale was done to a standard that was massively different from the rest.

    And seeing as the whole story rests on the finale, I messed up, and I know that.

    As for the – to be frank – "showing off" in terms of writing style, that's the entire point. Why enter a writing competition if you aren't going to push, push, push? You characterise to the extreme, you underdescribe to force the reader to build their own impressions. If I enter a competition, I want to win, therefore I'm going to show off like a four-year old on a bicycle.

    "Look mum, no hands!"

    However, that child will inevitably fall off. Ergo, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts Phillip, and ANYONE else's on my story. I'm often told I "overwrite" but it's hard to deal with that when it's referenced to so generally.

    You don't have to be qualified to analyse; you're the reader, and thus your opinion counts more than anyone else's. You review mods, Phillip, yet you don't make them.

    tl;dr version
    Why didn't mine win? Plz halp. Need criticisms. Ignore shitty ending.

    • Zekiran 207 comments

      29th January 2011

      I enjoyed your story quite a bit, and did think the ending was a bit rushed. I believe that within the constraints of this contest, it didn't work so well to "show off". In a slower-paced, longer worded setting – 20 or even 50k – it would likely have had time to give us glimpses into why each of the characters were where, and who, they were. You should definitely consider using this for nanowrimo, in November. :)

      Trying to pack too much into a small space was difficult at best for me. My own style CAN be as simplified as I used here, even more so if I've got a max of 1000 words I know I can pare down with the descriptions and leave the action intact.

      Problem with some stories – like yours, and I think like mine – is that they sort of suffer with few words. Obviously you have a gift for description, so it's kind of a race against word count to get those descriptions in and still show what goes on. When I continue mine, I will use it as the outline and probably take whole paragraphs as they are, but I can likely squeeze another 100k out of it. If I stop to describe a tree, I will soak up a thousand words right there.

      But that wasn't the point of the contest, eh? :) So I have no issue with the content (though I'm not a great fan of Ashep he does have his uses), myself, but it did feel rushed and cut off. Learning to write big OR small is difficult, if you're not used to doing one or the other, it's often quite hard to switch.

      If you can stomach the background (I'm so, so sorry ;) ) this is an under-500 word story. I used the trick of "only use long words’. It makes for difficult reading, but the story itself is still there.

    • As for the — to be frank — "showing off" in terms of writing style, that's the entire point. Why enter a writing competition if you aren't going to push, push, push? You characterise to the extreme, you underdescribe to force the reader to build their own impressions. If I enter a competition, I want to win, therefore I'm going to show off like a four-year old on a bicycle.

      I see two completely different points here. I too, enter everything with the desire to win, but showing off is not as the same as trying to win.

      There's a saying in teaching that I think might be applicable here: "Teach them what they need to know, not what you know". In this case it wasn't a competition about how well you can write but it called for a short, as set by the word limit, complete story. As you said your ending was rushed and as such lacked the detail of the previous passages. In many ways I suppose you need to write the minimum required to win, although knowing what the minimum is is impossible.

      If the competition were for a florid, ultra-descriptive piece then yours might have won, but I feel you sacrificed flow and completeness for detail early on.

      However, that child will inevitably fall off. Ergo, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts Phillip, and ANYONE else's on my story. I'm often told I "overwrite" but it's hard to deal with that when it's referenced to so generally.

      I re-read your story and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is and it might just be I didn't quite like the way you described things. Here's an example of what I considered florid: The Citadel behind them lit the darkening sky with an evil glow, the tumult of the sky casting a dull orange light, mediated by the yellow, ash corrupted, diffused sun.

      Of course, to say it didn't win because of that one sentence is stupid and I can't ignore the ending being rushed because that's very important. If the limit were 3000 and you finished it properly you might have won. However, I probably would still have chosen Abandoned because it had more excitement.

      You don't have to be qualified to analyse; you're the reader, and thus your opinion counts more than anyone else's.

      I agree in principle but here I think it's different because A: I am giving a prize away and B: I thought I might have been called upon to justify my choice, which is really what you are asking me to do.

      You review mods, Phillip, yet you don't make them.

      True, but I have never claimed to be qualified to do that either!

      Well, I hope the above has helped clarify in some small measure.

      ReplyEdited at 3:16 PM, 30th January 2011
      • Major Banter 6377 comments

        30th January 2011

        I looked over my piece, and you chose the one sentence that I thought summed up the issue.

        Bugger, I guess.

        Well, I really appreciate both Zekiran and Phillip's comments. Thanks guys.

        Roll on the next one.

  28. I'm glad you liked my story, phillip. Anyone else, have a read. By the way, Zekiran, congratulations!

  29. UPDATE 2
    I had forgotten to include Mel's submission and I would like to apologize for my mistake. His story has now been included at the end. Sorry Mel.

  30. It was fun to write, although I still think I didn`t do my best.

    Anyway, suggestion, Phillip, how about the next contest being a comedic contest? Make a fake Half-Life 2 musical, or a cartoony Half-Life fanfic. You could also expand the universes allowed to be used to the Team Fortress 2 and Portal universes.

    And if you need some help judging, I would love to.

Post a comment