HL2DM 102 - Setup and Configuration
One of the problems that many players have is that they use a configuration that holds them back. The first objective of this course is to configure the game so that it runs smoothly. The second objective is to help you create a config that allows you to perform at your full potential.
Basic System Requirements
If you are just beginning, you will probably just want to make the most of the hardware you currently have. Once you have been playing a while and develop to certain level of skill, any hardware limitations you have will start to stand out.
Valve's minimum and recommended system specifications for Half-Life 2 are as follows:
Unless you have an old machine that you cannot afford to replace, you should ignore the minimum requirements. You should also try to exceed the recommended requirements if possible. A slightly faster machine and 1 GB of RAM is preferable.
The graphics card you are using is a critical factor in how smoothly HL2DM will perform for you. Your graphics card is responsible for rendering everything you see on screen. When talking about graphics, you wil hear the term FPS. In this context, FPS means "Frames Per Second", the number of images that are being rendered per second. If FPS is too low, or drops dramatically within a short period of time, the game will appear choppy. 30 FPS can be considered minimally acceptable. In HL2DM it is preferable not to drop below 60 FPS.
If you want to minimize issues related to rendering, you should get the best graphics card you can afford. While many low end cards will render HL2DM just fine, the actual FPS you get will depend on the complexity of the what is being rendered on screen and the settings you choose in game. If, for example, you have a low end card and run with recommended settings for the card, you may experience sudden drops in FPS during complex renders, such as explosions, fire, water, and dust particles. You can also have level-wide issues if the creator of the level did not optimize the map correctly, or the if it has a lot of complex features. This is not good in-game, because it causes things to get very choppy and makes it easy to lose track of your opponent, or other game entities.
To determine which card you should get, research online and find out which cards are rated highest by reviewers and gamers. For HL2DM, try to get a card with at least 256 MB of on-board memory.
Mouse and Keyboard
Although you can get by with a standard mouse, a gaming grade mouse is highly recommended. Look for one with a laser sensor and at least one extra button located comfotably under the thumb, such as the Razer Copperhead, or the Logitech G5.
Most modern keyboards are fine for HL2DM, just make sure the keys are light to the touch and do not make your hands tired. If you are serious about gaming, or just want better comfort and responsiveness, you may want to get a gaming quality keyboard, such as the Logitech G15.
A broadband internet connection is practically mandatory if you want to play HL2DM online. Cable is generally faster and more stable for gaming than DSL, but either way you should always verify the upload and download speeds you are getting for your money. Once again, get the best you can afford.
Game Launch Options
When you start up the game from the Steam Games menu, specific starting options can be set in the game properties.
Right click on HL2DM and select "Properties".
There are various options that can be set here. The one shown allows you to start HL2DM without loading the Valve video, making load time slightly faster. Other settings will not be discussed here, but it is useful to be aware of launch options in case you need to set something in there at a later time.
The HL2DM Console
There is a lot more configuration that can be done in HL2DM that is not available in the GUI. To manage the game fully, a text-based interface called the console is available.
Below is an image of the console. For now do not concern yourself with the text in the console, just know that you can enter commands in the console to configure and manage the game. Note that settings in the GUI can also be set in the console, you just have to know the correct commands.
Enabling the Console
Now you should be able to toggle the console by pressing the ~ key. Players with a non-US keyboard setup may not be able to locate this key, or the function may not work. If this is the case, for now you may set your console to open upon game launch as described next. Later in this course, a command to bind the toggle to a different key will be shown.
Setting the Console to Open Upon Launch
Using the Console
Useful Folders and Files
Before learning how to edit your configuration directly, it is helpful to be familiar with the HL2DM file structure. HL2DM is typically installed in the following location:
If you go into this folder you will see folders for all the games installed under that account name. Open the Half-Life 2 Deathmatch folder.
The HL2MP Folder
Open the hl2mp folder and look inside. Here are the files and folders you may need to access:
The Autoexec File
When you change your settings in HL2DM, the new cvar values are written to a file called config.cfg. This is useful because it allows you to manipulate the settings directly by typing them into the config file. It also allows you to share your settings with other players by making a copy of the file and sending it to them.
The only problem is that the game also writes to this file. This means that many cvars managed by the game are mixed in with your custom ones. There is also the possibility that the file could be completely written over or corrupted and your settings lost.
In order to avoid these issues, you can create a separate file called autoexec.cfg that you store all your custom cvars in. This provides a very clean way of separating out your personal settings, making them easier to maintain. It also allows you to delete a corrupted config.cfg and let the game recreate it without losing your settings.
The autoexec.cfg file is not created by default, so if you don't already have one you will need to create it. Before doing so, ensure you can edit file extensions in Windows. Open any folder on your computer and go to the Tools drop-down menu. Select Options and then click the View tab. Look in the list shown for the "Hide extensions for known file types" checkbox and make sure it is unchecked.
Creating an Autoexec File
Go to the hl2mp folder and open up the cfg folder:
C:\Program Files\Steam\SteamApps\your_account_name\half-life 2 deathmatch\hl2mp\cfg\
Create a text file here. Rename it from New Text Document.txt to autoexec.cfg. Even though the file type has changed, you will still use notepad to edit it (right click on it and select Open With -> Notepad).
Now that you have the autoexec.cfg open in notepad, you can add in your custom settings. For now, let's add in the mouse sensitivity cvar as an example. Type into the autoexec.cfg:
You can also put comments in your autoexec if you want to add notes to remind you of what something does, or why it is set the way it is. Anything following double forward slashes is ignored by the game:
// This is a comment in a config file
Save your changes and close the file. Now the mouse sensitivity cvar is permanently set and will be executed each time you start a new level. You can also force the autoexec file to run in the middle of a game by bringing up the console
Protecting Your Autoexec File
To ensure your settings are never accidentally overwritten you should keep a backup copy of the file elsewhere on your computer, plus you should set the file to read only when you are not editing it. If you need to make adjustments you will need to temporarily change it back to being a writable file. Simply right click on the file and select properties. You can check and uncheck the read-only attribute as necessary.
It is recommended that you maintain your long term settings in your autoexec.cfg and use either the GUI or the console to make temporary changes. By doing this you will always start the game with consistent settings and it wont matter if you forget to change something back at the end of the previous game.
This section will discuss some of the basic factors that should be taken into consideration when creating your config. We will also construct a basic autoexec file that takes these factors into account.
Note that many of these changes will feel like you are going backwards instead of forwards in terms of skill. You may want to make one change at a time and integrate the changes slowly rather than changing everything all at once. In the long run, having a good config will enhance your game significantly.
Note: The following recommendations were written for a keyboard with a QWERTY key layout. If you are using a different keyboard, you will need to translate the keys accordingly.
There are two recommended sets of direction keys. The first is the default set: WASD. The second is touch-typing position: ESDF. Both are suitable for advanced play. Test how comfortable each feels when resting your three middle fingers on forward, left strafe and right strafe, and your little finger and thumb on left shift and spacebar respectively.
Recommendation: If it is comfortable enough, use ESDF for your four direction keys. There is a raised dash on the "F" key that lets you feel home position. It also has more adjacent keys within comfortable reach for binding other commands to.
Although you can stick with the default sprint and duck keys, it can be awkward when trying to move in an advanced manner. The alternative is to move one of these keys to the thumb button on your mouse. This means you have one finger dedicated to each key instead of relying on your little finger to press both.
Recommendation: Put sprint on the thumb button on your mouse and move duck up to the left shift key. If you don't have a mouse with a thumb button, leave sprint and duck in their default locations. Keep jump on the spacebar.
bind "X" "use weapon_physcannon" // Grav-gun bind "X" "use weapon_crowbar" bind "X" "use weapon_stunstick" bind "X" "use weapon_pistol" bind "X" "use weapon_357" // Mag bind "X" "use weapon_smg1" // Machine gun bind "X" "use weapon_ar2" // Combine rifle bind "X" "use weapon_shotgun" bind "X" "use weapon_crossbow" bind "X" "use weapon_rpg" bind "X" "use weapon_slam" bind "X" "use weapon_frag" // grenade
Try to bind each weapon to a key that is close and easy to access. The best ones are next to the direction keys you are using.
Recommendation: Bind your gravity gun next to your right strafe key and grenades right above it. This will help you grav-nade more efficiently (see HL2DMU 201 - Advanced Techniques). For example, if you are using ESDF for
your direction keys, you would add the following binds to your autoexec:
bind "G" "use weapon_physcannon" bind "T" "use weapon_frag"
You can still use some of the slots if you prefer them, but at a minimum you should turn on fast weapon switching. This can be done in the advanced keyboard options, but it is better to add it to your autoexec:
Fastswitch means you do not have to click primary attack an extra time when selecting your weapon using slots. It is best to have this switched on at all times.
Recommendation: For melee (crowbar and stunstick), continue to use a slot. With fastwitch enabled, this gives you instant access to either crowbar or stunstick, depending on whether you are rebel or combine:
bind "X" "slot1"
In addition to weapon switching, there are a few other weapon related cvars that you should set. The first is the weapon you start with when you spawn. Grenade is highly recommended as it is the strongest starting weapon available for offense. Some people prefer gravity gun to deflect incoming object when they first spawn. These are the only two options you should choose. SMG and pistol are suicidal choices against other weapons and will usually assist your opponent by giving away your position while weak.
The second is automatic weapon switching. If this is enabled you will automatically switch to any weapon you pick up that the game deems more powerful than the one you are holding. This is bad because it means you do not have complete control over your weapons. For example, if you are fighting someone at close range and are using the shotgun, then step on the RPG, you may find yourself blowing yourself up with a rocket instead of finishing off your opponent.
The third is last inventory. This brings up the last weapon you were using. Use of this is personal preference. Some people like to use it when switching between weapons, others prefer just go directly to each weapon they require. It is also used in some advanced techniques, so it is useful to have regardless.
The last one is reload. Most good players do not reload very often. You will automatically reload if you empty a clip, and weapons will also reload while not in use. For this reason, placing reload in a close location is not as important as other functions.
cl_defaultweapon "weapon_frag" // Starting weapon grenade cl_autowepswitch "0" // Auto switch off bind "X" "lastinv" // Last weapon used bind "X" "+reload"
Mouse and Crosshair Configuration
sensitivity "4" // Mouse sensitivity m_pitch "0.022" // Non-inverted vertical movement hud_quickinfo "0" // Bars around crosshair off
First, lets ensure the console is always enabled and set to the preferred key (this is where non-US keyboard users can set the console to a different key):
con_enable "1" // Enable console bind "`" "toggleconsole"
Another important function is the "use" key. This is what you press to open doors, activate buttons, recharge health and armor, and various other function determined by the map you are playing. The use function should be placed somewhere
where it wont take your fingers off the movement keys. Stopping at a charger is risky and you must be able to react and move away instantly if caught using one. If you have extra buttons on your mouse, you can place it there, otherwise
a key you can reach with the little finger on your keyboard hand should be used.
bind "X" "+use"
Many players do not use suit zoom very much, but you may like to use it, and it can be used to perform the mag sniping technique. How useful this is depends on how good you get at it. If you choose to use it, you should bind it in
a place where you can zoom and strafe at the same time. Just like use, it should go either on the mouse or on a button that can be held by the little finger on your keyboard hand.
bind "X" "+suitzoom"
Lastly, you can move the scoreboard toggle to lower priority location so that the TAB key is free to use for something more important, such as a weapon bind.
bind "X" "+showscores" // Scoreboard
A Note on Scripts
1. Scripts are illegal in most leagues and tournaments.
Like many aspects of this game, it is just a matter of opinion whether it is cheating or not. Advocates will argue that everyone has access to it and it is built into the game. Critics will say it is either cheap, or is blatant cheating. In reality, scripts are usually a poor substitute for real ability and you shouldn't even worry about whether someone scripts or not. Once you get better at the game you will realize that most scripts are worthless and wont save someone from losing to a strong player. Anyone accusing you of scripting when you perform advanced moves are probably not aware of what can be achieved with a little knowledge and practise.
Recommendation: Do not bind more than one command to a single key.
A Sample Config
This configuration file is a very basic example of the essential binds and settings you should have in your autoexec file. For a more advanced configuration and the official HL2DMU config, please see HL2DM 203 - Advanced Configuration (coming soon).
Note that this basic configuration is an example only. You may have additional buttons on your mouse, giving you greater flexibility, or you may need to adjust for a standard desktop mouse. Set everything up in a manner that is comfortable for you while still adhering to the principles discussed in the previous section.
// Movement bind "e" "+forward" bind "s" "+moveleft" bind "f" "+moveright" bind "d" "+back" bind "SHIFT" "+duck" bind "MOUSE4" "+speed" bind "SPACE" "+jump" // Weapons bind "MOUSE1" "+attack" // Primary fire bind "MOUSE2" "+attack2" // Secondary fire bind "g" "use weapon_physcannon" bind "t" "use weapon_frag" bind "c" "use weapon_crossbow" bind "v" "use weapon_357" bind "r" "use weapon_shotgun" bind "q" "use weapon_rpg" bind "b" "use weapon_slam" bind "MWHEELUP" "use weapon_ar2" bind "MWHEELDOWN" "use weapon_smg1" bind "1" "use weapon_pistol" bind "w" "slot1" // Crowbar or Stunstick bind "TAB" "lastinv" bind "5" "+reload" cl_defaultweapon "weapon_frag" // Starting weapon cl_autowepswitch "0" // Auto switch off hud_fastswitch "1" // Fastswitch On // Mouse and Crosshairs sensitivity "4" // Mouse sensitivity m_pitch "0.022" // Non-inverted vertical movement hud_quickinfo "0" // Bars around crosshair off // Misc bind "MOUSE3" "+use" bind "a" "+suitzoom" bind "KP_ENTER" "+showscores" // Scoreboard
Optimal Mouse Sensitivity
When you choose a mouse sensitivity, be aware that there is a tradeoff between aim and movement. If you set your sensitivity low, your aim will generally be stronger, but your movement will suffer. High sensitivity will typically result in better movement, but cost you in terms of aim.
There are a few factors that contribute to mouse sensitivity. First of all, operating system mouse speed makes a difference. Set your mouse pointer to a comfortable speed for your computer and make a note of the setting (such as a screenshot) in case it gets changed later and you want to replicate your exact sensitivity. Second, an advanced mouse will allow you to increase the DPI (Dots Per Inch) that the mouse can read. Higher DPI means greater accuracy, but also makes the mouse more sensitive, which you will need to adjust for. Again, make a note of the setting for future reference.
Recommendation: Set your mouse DPI as high as it will go for maximum accuracy, then adjust the in-game sensitivity down accordingly.
Once you have set your sensitivity outside of the game, it is time to experiment with the in-game sensitivity to find your optimal balance of aim and movement. A good measure is the ability to turn 180 degrees in one mouse motion. Use something as a target behind you and practise turning with one motion and shooting the target.
It is difficult to compare sensitivity with someone else because of all the factors that go into the final value. A player with a higher value in-game may in actuality have a lower real sensitivity because their operating system mouse speed is set lower and/or their mouse DPI is much lower.
A standardized test of real sensitivity is to see how many 360 degree turns you do in game when you roll your mouse from one side to the other of a 10-inch wide mousepad. One rotation is too low, because it means you have to cover half the mouse pad to make a 180 degree turn. Anything above 6 rotations is probably too high, as your aim will get very twitchy. Experiment and try to find a balance that suits you. You may need to make adjustments at a later time. As your aim and movement improve, your preferred sensitivity will change as well.