Linear Level Idea

2nd June 2008

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

Level ideas are ten-a-penny, so why am I writing about mine? Well, two reasons, firstly because it’s my site and I can and secondly because I want to challenge a level belief…

I Like Linear

Let’s get this out the way immediately. I LIKE LINEAR. The problem is that many people associate linear with boring and that doesn’t have to be true. I know I’m a little different from most gamers and people in liking straight and simple but that’s just how I am. When I lived in London I used to run along the wall of Buckingham Palace. Everyday the same perfect straight route. No change, always the same. I also did the same when I visited New York; along the river, up and down. I did try running through Central Park but didn’t like it. Also people kept stopping me and asking directions. They seem to do where ever I live, even in Spain. Must be something about the way I walk or run! I digress, back to levels.

I’m a level designer. Well, allow me to qualify that. I design thought levels. I’ve done it since I first played UT back in the previous millennium. And before CubeDude89 chimes in with some comment about learning to make real maps, I’m going to this summer, all right already!

One basic idea that I keep coming back to is the long, straight road.

Multi-dimensional maps are great and gaming would be boring if everything were the same but for some reason I want to believe that it’s possible to make great straight levels. So, hopefully this rant will be the catalyst for some discussion on the subject, in the meantime here’s my level idea…..

Scenario

The rebellion is getting stronger everyday and the tide is turning with regard to power within City 2. The last of the Metrocop and Combine Leadership have barracked themselves in a large building at the edge of the city.

They have setup plenty of aerial defences, so a chopper attack is out of the question. The only way in is on foot. Due to the fighting and ruins the only approach is along the old main avenue. This avenue is about one kilometre long and lined by other buildings.

It has been decided that you, Gordon Freeman, will lead one of six groups who will attack the building simultaneously. For added effect you will attack at dawn.

Snipers have been spotted along the route and counter snipers have been allocated to each attacking group, although their success rate is quite low.

Your objective? Simple: Reach the building and enter.

Design Details

The route is of course littered with turned over cars, trucks and tanks etc, all offering cover and rest areas. Plenty of doorways to reach and take stock. The level starts with light engagements with the enemy but as you progress it gets increasingly heavier. There are some side roads but they don’t lead anywhere. The level is just one straight road.

You encounter some Hunter Choppers and plenty of ground based enemies. The idea is to simply provide a challenge for the designer to create interesting situations for a simple geometric form: the straight line.

Of course that doesn’t mean just 2 dimensional because there is plenty of scope for the third and maybe the fourth, if you can include some time-based events. For example perhaps reaching an area too early will result in you being killed by a bombing run from the rebels.

I would aim for a very clear increase in tension and pressure.

Manhack Hack

A new model would be made for dropping ammo and health. It would be an altered manhack. They would simply fly in a straight line because the sensing equipment has been removed. Your task is to shot them down to collect the supplies.

Alternatives

I’ve used the simple straight road but I am sure this idea could be adapted to work with a tunnel or bridge.

Technical Issues?

Not being a real level designer, means that I have no idea what trouble this may cause regarding technical limits. IF they exist, then instead of complaining about them let’s look for suitable solutions that work both from a technical point of view and also from the whole scenario’s point of view.

One Day

When I eventually learn to map I will make this map. Sure, the first few versions will be terrible but as I hopefully get better I plan to try again and again. Each time improving on the previous version.

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10 Comments

  1. Count_de_Monet

    Straight is a good idea, but why not duplicate the map: one straight, one twisted (in every sense) everything else the same. Then play both and give ’em a rating.

    Please insert a beach trip and lots of crossbow sniping. I love maps with a beach and cliff part and I really enjoy the nailing effect when you hit a combine properly. Some ballistic grenade throwing would be nice too, especially in the straight line version. Sort of a previsional clean-up.

  2. Bladesinger

    I agree. I like linear maps/games and I really dislike backtracking (especially when everyone is dead).

    I think your idea might work out quite well, the only problem might be the framerate (if not optimized properly) since Source doesn’t really like large and open enviroments.

  3. bobdog

    That’s an interesting take on the linear level, but I would love to see some heights worked in, if only to enter a building, have to climb to the top (Combine the whole way), use grav gun to place some construction supplies to create a rickety board bridge over the streets which are barricaded below, and back down to street level. I think a designer could take this in a number of directions to make it “linear” and yet “crooked” — catering to most players” tastes.

  4. Straight is a good idea, but why not duplicate the map: one straight, one twisted (in every sense) everything else the same. Then play both and give ” em a rating.

    That’s definitely an interesting idea. I wonder if you could just bend the whole level and see what players think of each one.

    I think your idea might work out quite well, the only problem might be the framerate (if not optimized properly) since Source doesn’t really like large and open enviroments.

    Yes, I thought that might be the case. I was thinking in the same way as Count_de_Monet and perhaps just curve it enough to avoid framerate issues. I was also thinking of that when I mentioned the dawn. I didn’t know whether a lower level of light made a difference.

    but I would love to see some heights worked in, if only to enter a building, have to climb to the top

    Yes, agreed. I didn’t really explain that properly. I still want height involved (My third dimension reference) but was always thinking of staying outside the buildings. That’s just a personal preference in this case. Across ledges (NOT JUMPING PUZZLES!), perhaps over/through a building that has collapsed across the main street (Could deal with the frame rate issue mentioned above).

    I think a designer could take this in a number of directions to make it “linear” and yet “crooked” – catering to most players” tastes.

    Yes, that’s possible and most levels are linear in that there is only one way to go but I would really like to see something even more restrictive.

    The idea would be to try and remove the normal construction of levels. Distilling it down from puzzles/explore/visual/action to just ever increasing action.

    I’m not suggesting this for all levels or mods, just one focused level. I like the idea of starting the level with a reverse flyby (Similar to what happens in Trackmania) and basically saying This is what you will face. No fancy routes, no clever puzzles, just plenty of enemies and brute force.

  5. Kasperg

    Adding fog and restricting the far Z clip plane (as in old N64 games) for the drawing distance would solve any performance issues. Of course, the possible vision of this long street with your objective visible at the far end would be gone.

  6. firba1

    I love linear games, like Max Payne. There was never ANY question where you had to go next. I think that the straight-line road idea would be very interesting. I just had this really weird idea for like a “support” NPC. They would set up stuff like Health and Energy dispensers. Just an idea. But I’d love to see this get made.

  7. feckineejit

    I like the idea of a long linear path to a goal, I did outdoor paintball a couple of times, and one of the “games” was road war, the objective was to get to down the road using trees as cover.

    I like the modified manhack idea, that would be a great reward for being able to react quickly to audio cues and aim properly so that you claim your reward for your good reflexes.

    it’s too bad source doesn’t like big outdoor areas (well, we don’t like waiting for them to load). As long as the level is built up on both sides by buildings (which you can enter to get around obstacles blocking the street)you could do a long road straight or bent without it being too huge.

  8. fragmaster

    I wouldnt mind if you would consider as a suggestion to have every building or area thats open I really dislike the whole locked or static object.
    If a roadway maybe add some straight short sewer under the pavement.
    Good idea with the man-hacks. Why not have the Elite “white armored” Combine drop armor pack cells.
    Id like a great seaside levels without the annoying antlions.
    If its for EP2 maybe include Secret Area Achievements.
    I just love the Expolration side of things adds atomsphere & texture makes you want to replay it more than once.in case you missed something the 1st time through.

  9. Stranger

    A kilometer of straight road with have problems with vising unless it was low enough detail, you had fog, or a fast machine.

  10. A kilometer of straight road with have problems with vising unless it was low enough detail, you had fog, or a fast machine.

    Yes, we know. This has been discussed. What is more important than stating the obvious is new and interesting solutions.

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