I’ve decided to make this post just to write about the other stuff I’ve made. I’ve been pretty busy this year with level design stuff and it’s been a blast. Some stuff I’ve made has been neat, some not so much, so I’m gonna talk about it all.
Complex – Half-Life 2: Episode 2
I guess a decent place to start would be near the end of last year with Complex, a level I made for “HardVille”, a Half-Life 2: Episode 2 mapping competition where the goal was to create a hard level that was still fun to play. This was the first “ville” I entered, but it probably wasn’t a good decision considering the theme. The way I interpreted the theme was to make a level that was hard on all difficulties, and I took it very seriously. I was unable to find playtesters so I ended up balancing the difficulty around myself, a huge mistake considering, at the risk of sounding narcissistic, I’m very much above average at FPS. The result was a level that was simply too hard, very frustrating to play and simply not enjoyable. The feedback was largely negative with players feeling that the level was very unfair and frustrating.
The level was set in a nondescript industrial complex (hence the name) where players would come across a new challenge in each area, each increasing with difficulty and mainly focusing around combat. Some of the challenges included;
- Weaving through Zombines in a narrow series of hallways, weaponless.
- Moving from cover to cover to avoid 3 highly accurate and lethal snipers while being fired on from above, whilst only having a pistol.
- Avoiding 2 rollermines while being fired upon by a turret in a relatively open room.
And there were more, but I’d rather not spoil it all.
These challenges might have been fun if I had paid more attention to the balance, making them a bit easier and a lot less unforgiving. It taught me the absolute importance of playtesting, the hard way.
One of the biggest mistakes I made with this level was only creating difficulty in the form of combat. There was only one non-combat related puzzle and it was very simple to solve. Creating truly difficult but fair combat scenarios in Half-Life 2 is extremely tricky, and a combination of a lack of experience and some dumb decisions caused me to fail at this task quite spectacularly.
Complex was a valuable learning experience, if nothing else. It drove me to put my best into my next Half-Life 2 level.
Abstraction – Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Abstraction was a level I made for Half-Life 2: Episode 2. It was my entry into MinimalismVille, a 50 hour mapping challenge where players had to create a minimalist level over the weekend. It received very positive feedback and was one of the two winners of the competition.
The theme of this challenge interested me greatly. Due to me being busy over that weekend however, I only had the single day to work on the level from paper to completion. I knew from the start that I wanted the “minimalism” of the level to be in the aesthetic so it would be easier to create in the time frame I had, and I had a general idea of what I wanted the level to look like. As soon as I heard of the theme I looked into the concept of negative space. From this I decided the aesthetic I wanted to go for. Two flat colours, red and black, with black being objects and enemies and red being the environment. Like that iPod commercial. I accomplished this by creating custom solid colour textures which were self-illuminating. Every object in an unlit room would stand out against these textures, appearing to be pitch black.
Unfortunately, it took about 3 seconds of playtime in this space for me to get a headache.
I dulled the red colour significantly but it still felt like a bit of a strain on the eyes, so I showed it to the guys on the Source Modding Community discord asking what they thought and they suggested changing the colour entirely. This led to me making it a lighter shade of grey, arguably more boring but a lot easier on the eyes. With the colours sorted out I moved onto my next issue which was being able to figure out where exactly the walls were. I solved this by creating black lines on the edges of the ceiling and the floor.
The gameplay of the level was simple. In the majority of the rooms you would need to collect a glowing blue sphere to open the door to the next area. Each area would also contain multiple enemies, guarding their room’s blue sphere. Upon completing the level you would be treated to a short but vague scene, showing you why you were collecting the blue spheres.
This level, while relatively simple, was still very satisfying and fun to make. I was able to adhere to the theme’s requirements in both gameplay and aesthetic, while also delivering a level that was enjoyed by the community.
The Live Fire levels (Conceptual, Titanfall 2)
The Live Fire levels were a labour of love by me as a tribute to my favourite franchise, Titanfall. As Titanfall does not have a level editor available to the public, I created each level in Hammer, doing a lot of guesswork and estimation as to what would work and what wouldn’t for each level I made.
I was even contacted by the Lead Designer at Respawn Entertainment, which was absolutely awesome.
I have made 7 so far, and am currently in the process of making more.
I’ve written about each level under the relevant pictures.
LF5 was my attempt at creating a Live Fire map that got rid of any semblance of symmetry, while focusing on verticality and “swiss cheeseyness”. It was a strange level, as it didn’t really end up feeling like a Titanfall map as much as it felt like a Halo 5 or Call of Duty map. As a result of this, I decided to port it over to Black Ops 3 and continue working on it.
The Sixth Live Fire level is probably never going to be finished, simply because I’m honestly lost at how I could complete it. LF6 is essentially a reverse Rise sort of deal, with the playable space being on top of the large wall running corridors instead of underneath.
I feel like the idea works, but making a playable space within that idea would take a lot of careful thought.
LF7 is the first Live Fire concept I made in Radiant. There was no special theme or goal aside from making something that I think would work in Live Fire. Initially I had planned the so that there would be three lanes, with the left spawn having faster access to the top lane and the right spawn having faster access to the bottom lane. It would take both teams roughly the same amount of time to get to the mid lane. While I feel like this design was sound, it felt a bit too big for a live fire map. So I ended up removing the bottom lane altogether and shifting the right spawn.
I also added paths through the large blocks in front of each team’s spawn so they could go through them and reach the mid building via the bridges.
LF8 is the last conceptual map I’ll be making as I’m redirecting attention to some other projects.
This concept is a lot smaller than most of the other concepts I’ve made so far, and would encourage fast, aggressive matches where players come into contact with each other seconds after the game starts, regardless of which route they decide to take out of their spawns.
Destruction of Innocence – Doom (2016)
This was my first and only Snapmap level, created with the goal of making something that would be fun and challenging for Doom Veterans to play through. The level could be played solo or in co-op, though only 5 lives would be available between players. The level is mostly wave encounters and arena fights, with the finale being a fight between you (and your friends, if you brought any) and a lot of Barons.
I made this the weekend after Doom came out, and found the process to be easy but interesting. I’ll never be a fan of the jigsaw-style method of building levels but the scripting system was actually pretty intuitive and extensive, considering that Snapmap is an in-game tool created to be utilised by all platforms. People have made some really impressive stuff with it and I’m glad that Id spent the time and effort required to make it instead of leaving a level editor out completely.
In The Dark – Half-Life 2: Episode 2 Mod (Dead)
This was my first attempt at a Half-Life 2 mod, which ultimately died due to over ambition. It was going to be a horror mod in the style of Silent Hill, with the player trapped in an alternate version of our world filled with monsters and littered with the corpses of the unfortunate souls who had been trapped beforehand. I did create a few levels for the mod, using the default Half-Life 2 zombies and assets as well as other assets (created by me and others) along the way.
The specific reason for the mod’s death was my lack of knowledge in 3D modelling and animation, as well as programming. I was unable to find anyone willing to help and my own forays into these areas would only be met with limited success. You can’t become proficient in these things over night, after all. I wanted a new set of enemies with specific behaviours, instead of the default Half-Life 2 zombies or alternate, headcrabless zombies with the same behaviours as the default ones. I don’t think my goals were foolish, but my lack of preparation and forethought was. I did manage to make some headway in the 3D modelling area at least, with me creating, texturing and partially rigging one enemy character, the puppet.
–Post 2 Coming soon–