Monday, September 28, 2009

Wow, so exactly one year after my last post I've returned to my very much neglected blog. Not to be the least interesting man in the world, I've been very busy with life, school, and work, so I have been doing very little mapping and hence very little writing about mapping.

I hate leaving projects unfinished, so we'll see if I can pull together a few more projects over the coming months.

Thought I'd leave off with a mention of Left 4 Dead, which I think is the most beautifully mapped out game I've seen in a long time. The user interactions are great, nowhere does the gameplay stagnate, and the npcs are terrifying. It's made me feel a little self-conscious about my own work because their mapping is so great. I can totally see why they only released four map series with it, because it must have taken at least a year to tweak just one map to the perfection it is now. The lighting alone make me drool. I can't say enough great things about the game - it's amazing, and so is it's mapping.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Vote for Obsidian Conflict to be distributed over Steam!

Hey all, just a quick post to ask you to vote for Obsidian Conflict to be the next mod distributed over Steam. The poll is at http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/, on the right-hand side a little ways down the page.

You can also see the poll here: http://planethalflife.gamespy.com/sympoll/index.php?dispid=46

I was really thrilled to hear that a bunch of mods would be released via Steam, but very disappointed to hear that none of them would be Obsidian Conflict. So let's show people out there that we want Obsidian Conflict to be released over Steam!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Return to City 17 (part V)

If you haven't already read them, you may want to read:
Return to City 17 (part I)
Return to City 17 (part II)
Return to City 17 (part III)
Return to City 17 (part IV)

Return to City 17 (part IV)

Warning: long post!

Well, now that Return to City 17 parts 1-6a have been released, I can finally get some things off my mind.

SPOILER WARNING: I talk about the events in Return to City 17 04-06a below. If you don't want the story spoiled, don't read below.

All the maps have been released, so you can find most of this out by playing it, but I let you know a little more about what I was thinking during this map.

You sure you want to continue?

Great. Just thought I'd let you know. Just in case. On to the post!


First I'll go into what happens in the maps to refresh your memory (or spoil the story for those who didn't stop reading), then I'll go into a bit more about what's going on, and I'll end by detailing some of the problems that went into mapping this section.

oc_return_c17_04
The players start off in the trainyard behind where Gordon gets off the train at the beginning of Half life 2, in the cargo container that Gordon eventually goes through. They have the crystal, and must get it to Dr Kleiner. After fighting through a number of metrocops, the players make contact with Alyx, who guides them into Dr Kleiner's lab. In the lab the players overhear Dr Kleiner talking to Barney about the arrival of Gordon Freeman (this is a scene at the beginning of Half life 2). Alyx takes the crystal and installs it in the teleporter, while Dr Kleiner readies the generator. They are contacted by Barney again, who reports a major domestic disturbance down the street, and requests that the players help out.

oc_return_c17_05
Alyx searches for Gordon and the players meet up with Barney, who lets the players know that nine citizens are hiding out down the street. He explains that you've got to get them to a safe location, but the Combine are active so you'll have to take three at a time. On your first trip, you come across some Metro Police who are executing a group of citizens. (If you act quickly, you can save one of them). After a few more fights, you end up meeting Gerrard, a friendly Metrocop who will guide the citizens to a safehouse. Your second escort is interrupted by a Dropship, and your third by a Strider, all to some epic music. After killing the Strider, Barney returns from the lab with news that the teleporter has malfunctioned, tipping off the Combine. Gerrard has radioed him with information about a train leaving in a few minutes. The players quickly escort the last citizens and jumps aboard a train.

oc_return_c17_06a
The players are on their way out of City 17, but the Combine aren't going to let them get away without a fight. Three helicopters chase the train as it races out of the city.

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So there you have it, that's (in a nutshell) what happens from Return to City 17 04 to 06a.

Now a few thoughts of mine and some interesting facts/tidbits:

The goal of this section is to accomplish the task that was set out for the players in the first map, namely to deliver the crystal to Dr Kleiner. A side goal was to attempt to explain a few of the events from Half life 2, and to set the players up with a new goal: make their way back to Green Bay (though that will come up a bit more in 06b).

With that in mind, I had to ensure that the players were closely involved with, but never actually interacting with, Gordon Freeman (the protagonist in Half life 2), because that would create all kinds of paradoxes and etc. The observant player will note that the path of the players in Return to City 17 is the reverse of the path taken by Gordon during Half life 2: In HL2, Gordon starts in a train, goes into the street, ends up in Kleiner's lab, then proceeds to the trainyard. In Return to City 17, the players start in the trainyard, go to Kleiner's lab, end up in the street, and proceed to a train.

Little things that intrigued me while playing Half life 2 led to a lot of the little additions throughout Return to City 17. For example:
+ How did Alyx know that it was Gordon when she first meets him? (She was just a baby when Gordon was put into stasis. HL2 Quote: "Dr Freeman I presume")
+ When Gordon arrives at Dr Kleiner's lab, the teleporter is obviously operational, but hasn't been tested. Why not? (Dr Kleiner even says in HL2: "Alyx has just installed the final piece of our resurrected teleporter!" (Can you guess what the final piece was? =) ))
+ Why is Lamar hiding out in the HEV suit chamber, and why is Dr Kleiner looking for him in his cage?
+ Where does Barney rush off to after giving Gordon back his crowbar at the Trainyard?
+ Why is that red cargo container in the Trainyard the only one open?

The answers to these questions and more can be found by playing Return to City 17. (Come on, I'm not going to give it ALL away =) )

There's also a number of more subtle tie-ins to the HL2 story, like the soda cans and paint buckets lying along the street where Gordon has knocked them off the roofs, or the camera pointing at Gerrard that Gordon sees in Kleiner's lab, or the helicopter going past in the first level of Route Kanal.

Also, if you manage to make a complete mess of Dr Kleiner's lab, he'll make a few interesting comments when you leave. =)

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I'd just like to take this space to point out a few of the mapping difficulties I encountered when mapping this section. (04 and 05 especially). First of all, half-way through my mapping came the Orange Box Update. This was a great thing, because it came with Orange Box! This was also a really horrible thing, because it screwed up so much of my maps! So along with the difficulties outlined below came the difficulties of having to redo large sections of the entity-work, because it had been broken by the update.

Anywho, you might think that 04 and 05 would be a piece of cake. Well, that piece of cake is a lie. I thought they would be easy when I started. I mean, Valve supplied .vmf's for trainstation_01 to 06, so I had all the files. All I had to do was match them up, delete the stuff I didn't need, and add in what I did.

Boy was I ever wrong!

First of all and most annoying, the maps don't line up! For example, if you take the map from d1_trainstation_03 (the courtyard and house), and you paste it into d1_trainstation_04 (the rooftops and street), the house and the street don't line up, there's no door in one of them, and the position of the street is different in both! It took a lot of hacking and slashing to get each of the maps synched together, especially since each of 04 and 05 had two of the trainstation maps in them!

Another problem was that Valve crammed every last bit of detail, entity, and glory into their maps, and yet tried to make them as small as possible to load faster. The result was a lot of stuff I had to go through and delete in order to make the map work.

On top of that, I had to rework all the measures that prevented Gordon from advancing and reverse them for the players!

All in all, if I had to choose between creating a map from scratch or modifying an existing map for a completely different purpose, I'd prefer creating it from scratch. Though it was a very interesting experience seeing how all the pieces from Half life 2 levels fit together. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out some of the example maps Valve supplies in the SDK.

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So there you have it. The latest installment for Return to City 17.

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All credit goes to Valve for most of the sections in 04 and 05.

P.S. Disclaimer: I am not trying to "steal Valve's work". I am not trying to "rip stuff off". I am not trying to "claim that I made it all". I AM trying to create an enjoyable, playable map with a particular storyline. If you have a genuine complaint, post it! If you just want to rag on about how I ripped off Valve's work and used it as my own, see my previous post.