May 2014 – General Chat

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

May! Yes, May! Can you believe it’s May already?

It’s starting to get warming and the days are definitely longer – at least where I live.

Can’t wait for Summer, can you?

Please use this post to talk about about anything you want to – except maps and mods, which should be done of the specific post, assuming there is one.

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48 Comments

  1. BadPeaceDK

    I’m starting up creating maps on my own. I’m still at the very basics, learning about simple functions and how to build up a world. It’s going to be a Half Life 2: Episode 2 Singleplayer map. Does anyone have any smart tips or newbie pitfalls that I should keep in mind?

    1. From one noob to another, if you haven’t already, read up on optimization particularly visibility optimization. It can save you a lot of time.

      https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Optimization_(level_design)

    2. Here’s some key advice points from someone who’s been round the mapping block a few times…

      Build your maps out of chunks of 128 x 128 unit brushes.
      Most wall and floor textures are that wide or tall.

      Don’t bother compiling your map on Full Vis.
      These days no one gives a crap and have computers fast enough to run poorly optimized HL2 EP2 maps. Focus your time on your map being fun to play.
      (psst… i don’t compile any of my maps with full vis and no one cares…)

      Your map being fun to play is more important than how it looks.

      Get people to test your map as early as possible. Find out if its fun before you put too much effort into it.

      Play testers are never wrong… How they approached the map and what they did was their natural reaction to what was presented in front of them.

      Don’t bother using dev textures. Apply real world textures (brick walls, and concrete floors etc) when you first start building and it will spark your imagination as to what areas could become (a garage, or shed or whatever…)

      Don’t try to force players to play the map the way you want them to. Just provide them with tools (i.e. guns, phys props, pickups etc..) and things to overcome (i.e. NPC bad guys, environmental challenges like puzzles) and let them have their own fun. Give them plenty of ways to deal with a problem.

      1. Huh, seems you can waste even less time with vvis. Am I right in thinking that when you say you don’t compile on Full Vis you do the fast compile instead?

        Also been finding that using Dev Textures is generally a bad idea if you aren’t creating custom textures. Creating brushwork to find that it doesn’t really work with the textures available is a pain in the ass. So I think I’ll take that advice.

        1. Yep… i only fast vis…
          My maps look ok. play fine and people seem to like them very much. 🙂

      2. JG

        I think skipping Normal VVIS in a final release map is a definite no-no. At best, I would say it’s extremely case-dependent. You might get away with it if your level is small and outdoors, but honestly, if you properly optimize your map, the difference between Fast and Normal compile times should be negligible.

        What Normal VVis does is test line-of-sight visibility from one cluster to another instead of simply making clusters. This will help inform the game, at run-time, what to draw and what not to draw. Naturally, you try to draw as little as possible.

        It doesn’t take much drawing to cause noticeable stuttering in Half-Life 2, even on a decent PC. This is especially true when you have world reflective surfaces, such as water, which tend to double the amount of drawing that has to be done. A stuttering framerate is a great way to undermine all the work one does to build immersion.

        Basically, what it comes down to is be aggressive with func_detail, use func_visclusters outdoors and put hint/skips in windows and doorways. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that alone should significantly decrease your vvis times. I honestly wouldn’t spend an obsessive amount of time on it, but those are some simple, practical things that will help and if you set aside a day or two to concentrate on them, you should be good.

        1. I’ve done it either way and I really don’t see a difference at all.

          This is a hobby. I build maps for fun. Optimisation is a chore to me. I do func_detail of course on everything I should, but leaving a map compiling for hours for a very negligible benefit simply is not worth my time.

          Of course if my playtesters complained that the map was unplayable due to slow down then i would certainly take another look. Outside of that, I really see it as some weird, Interlopers nerdy obsession and not really important…

          1. JG

            We all do this for a hobby and there is a non-trivial part of all mapping that is a “chore” whether we like it or not. I’m not a tremendous fan of covering my walls in overlays or molding displacement vertices – it’s quite tedious – but I do it because I know it makes things look ten times better and separates great maps from good ones.

            My point is that there are relatively straightforward, practical tips that can be followed to make most maps perform decently. This is not a black-and-white “Nerdy Obsession” vs. “Fast” proposition. You can get fantastic performance by following just a few basic rules of thumb.

            EndVille’s Excavation took a grand total of 4 seconds to Normal VVis. Didn’t even do more than a func_detail and area portal pass.

            That’s why I’m saying – in a modestly optimized map, the difference between Fast and Normal VVis is negligible. Rather than teach newcomers that Fast VVis is the solution, we should explain how to make Normal VVis a minimal factor in the first place through better construction techniques and understanding what VVis actually does.

            (As an aside, I would further assert that the difference between framerate is similarly not “unplayable” versus “playable.” As I’m sure you’re aware, a great number of Half-Life 2 gamers come from parts of the world that don’t have top-of-the-line hardware. If I see stuttering on my PC, I know they’ll see it much worse. Therefore, it behooves me to figure out where the problem lies).

            1. Yeah… That doesn’t really bother me.
              Luckily I ship the vmfs with all my maps so people can recompile if they want to. Or rebuild and enhance.

              I guess its just an alternative viewpoint. BSP mapping is dead in the industry and were mapping for a game that’s 6 years old.
              I think by now the majority of peoples computers can handle a bit of poor optimisation.

              I never said dont func detail. That’s essential…

              However all this stuff is secondary to the mapper building maps that are fun to play and that are fun to build.

              Don’t get bogged down in this stuff…

    3. JG

      This is a very broad question. Do you have anything specific in mind? Planning? Enemy placement? Pacing? Optimization?

  2. I just purchased Timeshift for 3:74 Euros, which I thought was a bargain:
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/10130/

    That’s one of the good things about the wishlist is that Valve lets you know when one of the games on your list is on sale.

    I bought it for myself, but probably should have added it as a gift, just in case I don’t make time to play it.

  3. Talking about Gift Games, I have a copy of Alpha Prime to give away.

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/2590/

    To enter your name into the free draw, just post a comment here on the May 2014 General Chat mentioning the game. I will select a winner at the end of the month.

    BTW, in case you hadn’t noticed, I have removed ALL the old giveaway posts and even the category. From now on any games I give away will be via the General chat posts.

  4. Never actually realized that you can complete the entire Highway 17 section on foot, no cheats. You do, however, need some patience… and a grenade jump. All that and I still missed what I was looking for.

    A google search found it though. In d2_coast_05 theres a civilian who committed suicide, for some reason I remembered that his revolver only had 5 bullets (on account of him shooting himself). I guess I remembered wrong 🙁

    1. How the hell do you get past the train on the bridge?

      1. You can crouch under the stationary train cars. It’s actually pretty easy on foot.

    2. Ade

      First time I played it I lost/ditched the car and spent quiiiite some time on foot, almost finishing the chapter but at one point I couldn’t go on, that’s when I purchased the game and played it properly on my own PC, WITH the car, and finishing it <3

      1. Trainzack

        Oh yhea, I remember that point. I first played Half-life 2 in a similar manner (I was playing another source mod, and I noticed that it included all the hl2 maps).

  5. Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast is available for less than £3 on Steam.
    This is one of the best first person shooters i’ve ever played. Its Quake 3 engine so looking a little old but still has a great story and excellent gameplay. Play close attention to the level design. It’s probably one of the best games for level design I’ve ever played.

    This, in my opinion, was the last great Star Wars game to be released. Before Episodes 1 2 and 3 ruined it all.

    Hope you give it a try!!

    1. I remember I used to load up multiplayer maps in singleplayer, use “notarget” and spawn a bunch of NPC’s, save the game and turn “notarget” back off. That was the closest thing to level design I could do back then. Never did quite figure out GTK Radiant. Probably easier to pick up now I can (sort of) use hammer.

      1. I used to build maps for this game in Radient… wasn’t that hard but I imagine going back to it now after the ease of using hammer would be a nightmare.

        Also, I didn’t understand anything about level design at the time so my maps sucked balls… 🙂

        If I thought there was a sizeable player base I would consider making another map at some point…

  6. Oooh, ’tis was a long time since I played the original Half Life 2. I might just replay the whole thing, for good ol’ time and nostalgias sake. 🙂

    On the mapping front thought, as it has always been, can’t finish anything, but I will NOT give up. If I so release my first map as a 80 year old grumpy grandpa, I will.

  7. AI

    Got done playing “Bioshock Inf” E2, and was not very impressed with it! The ending for a game series was IMO a letdown! Phillip, I dug out my copy of “Timeshift”, for an older game (2007) it’s not too bad so far. Thanks for the reminder as I had forgotten all about it (old age)!! 😉

    1. JG

      The ending for the series struck me as a way to collapse the whole storyline on itself so no one else could touch it.

      I think Episode 2 (if that’s what you mean by E2) did a lot to tone down the repetitive Call of Duty-style gameplay of BioShock Infinite and return to the pacing of the original BioShocks and even System Shock 2. Elizabeth’s character and vulnerabilities make her a more interesting protagonist than Booker and I enjoyed the return to the breezy, backtracking flow and style of Rapture’s level design.

      The thing that Rapture and the Von Braun have in common is a fantastic sense of place. You feel like you are exploring persistent, living worlds that run independent of you, rather than following a meticulously scripted parade route for your amusement.

      (And really, go play System Shock 2. Yeah, it’s not much to look at – but we’re all used to Half-Life 1 visuals, right? If you let yourself go and submit to its eerie, drifting world, you’ll still find an amazing experience there. And that’s not nostalgia talking – I first played it a little more than a year ago and it still blew me away).

  8. Interesting discussion on one of the Sub-Reddits about being annoyed by the level of undue praise in HL2.

    1. With the way I play the game I can only assume the characters are being sarcastic.
      http://youtu.be/BW6KTEa47lg

      1. Ade

        Indeed the vorts have their style (they remind me sometimes of the butler in Prince of Bel Air, praising yet mocking at the same time) and I think both Alyx and the vorts are sarcastic and humorous at times, and if the author of that article can’t get it, he needs to unwind.

    2. JG

      It’s hard to argue that it isn’t over-the-top at times. Freeman is basically a god to almost everyone in the game with the exception of Breen, Barney and Magnusson. It’s especially noticeable in Episode One. For every thing Freeman does, we have to stand around in an unskippable “cutscene” and let Alyx shower praise on the player.

      There are a couple weird plot points that come out of that.

      The first is that Freeman’s mythical status was never really explained. Black Mesa wasn’t common knowledge. Did its survivors really travel from one Combine city to the next spreading the gospel about the great Freeman? How would they even know he was responsible for killing the Nihilanth? He wasn’t there when the Seven Hour War happened either.

      The second is that Freeman is at least indirectly responsible for turning City 17 into a smoldering crater along with every citizen who didn’t manage to escape. No one seems to mind.

      Of course, a lot of this is in hindsight. Playing it, you aren’t supposed to ask these questions. It comes with over-analyzing a plot that’s been held in stasis for the better part of 7 years. 🙂

      1. Eli Vance was at black mesa and he is the head of resistance against the combine. Datz how Gordon is known…. 🙂

      2. I would think Black Mesa would be well known, because the U.S Government coverup failed, and Freeman freed the Vortigaunts from the Nihilanth, who then spread the story of the Freeman.

  9. Unq

    Here is a Youtube list I put together of all the short films I could find that were directly inspired by Half-Life and HL2: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhY-OJdQBqHWMxBDOQhndX-GMNRo6XUFn

    You’ve probably seen most of these before, but maybe there are some new ones for you.

    Also a couple nifty headcrab clips: http://youtu.be/O0RInSvNpAE and http://youtu.be/19bxBvW1NNA

  10. Another Call of Duty game? Are they seriously going to make another Call of Duty game? Is this a joke?

    1. Nope. like EA sports games, the COD now has another tedious installment every year.

      Game franchises are the curse of the console world. So glad I’m a PC gamer.
      Console gamers deserve better…

    2. JG

      I choose to be more pragmatic.

      Every publisher needs its cash cow franchise, whether it’s Activision with Call of Duty or EA with Madden. That’s the money that gets routed into smaller efforts where actual creativity happens. Without Madden, we wouldn’t have had that holy trifecta of Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space and Boom Blox which all came out in the same year as part of EA’s original IP initiative.

      To Call of Duty specifically, though, there’s quite a bit that goes into each new installment, certainly more so than Madden. CoD is a jack-of-all-trades suite of gaming. You have a small single player campaign, cooperative missions, competitive play in all its forms, etc. It’s a lot of bang for your buck and the people who enjoy its multiplayer will net dozens, if not hundreds of hours playing it. That’s why they buy it year after year. How can you look at a successful product and condemn a company for continuing to make it?

      And honestly, the first Modern Warfare was really, really good and if Advanced Warfare aims to accomplish that, I’m all for it.

  11. 23414tgwttgtw

    I hate it when Hopeless Suitor characters try to be sexual. (In fanart or otherwise.) It’s like, if they could pull that off convincingly they wouldn’t be in this mess, you know?

  12. If you guys have not heard yet, Facebook have bought Oculus rift for a insane amount of money. 2 Billion dollars to be exact.

    If you don’t know what Oculus is, its pretty much a really good Virtual Reality Helmet/Googles. Its even compatible with Half Life 2! But now that Facebook have bought it….Well I don’t know…

    Yay! Now we can talk to people without getting out of our chair! Right, Facebook?

    1. JG

      I’m sure it’s nice for Oculus to have $2 billion to play with, but it’s kind of ridiculous how delayed their consumer model has been. After years, it’s still “Done when it’s done,” and has no foreseeable release date. They deserve to have someone to beat them to the punch at this point.

  13. Jim Schuster

    I have a question for those proficient in creating HL2 mods: Is it possible to either create a new mod, or re-code an existing mod, to run on Lost Coast?

    I realize that LC is more of a tech demo than anything, but the reason I ask this is because it would seem to me that people would want to take advantage of the improvements to the Source engine that LC has, if there were any way to do so.

    Apologies if this a dumb question, but I can’t seem to find an answer anywhere else.

    1. JG

      It’s not a dumb question.

      I don’t think there’s much in Lost Coast that hasn’t appeared in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes when Valve updated HL2 (for better or worse) to subsequent engine versions. Aside from the Fisherman, the textures and a few of the models, we have the HDR and such already.

      The Combine Overwiki points out that Lost Coast is actually the last bit of Half-Life 2 content that was never updated to the new engine (like Sin Episodes). A flythrough of the level is part of Source SDK Base, however, so to some extent the assets are out there.

  14. 5 Badass New Sci-Fi Movies You Can Watch on Your Lunch Break

    I’ve seen a couple of them and they are actually pretty good. The number 1 contains strong language in the sound track.

    Thanks to StumbleUpon for telling me about them.

    1. Ade

      I don’t see people that are used to upgrading their pcs instead of getting a new one suddenly chucking their hard earned money to buy something that can’t even bind hl2’s 12 weps, idk why they went that direction in the first place, who wants to compete with what’s in the living room when everyone says no console can ever beat a keyboard and a mouse.

    2. JG

      I have yet to meet a person who is the target audience for a Steam Machine. I wonder if they even exist.

      The thing that I find funny is how they preach about all this research that goes into their controllers as though Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo don’t spend tons of R&D money doing the same thing. They have and there’s probably a good reason why most controllers have settled on variations of the PlayStation DualShock design. It’s a good design.

      All they’ve really done here is swapped the analog and button placement and are standing by this notion that touchpads are superior to analog sticks. I’m not convinced of either, myself.

  15. EddieLee

    Phillip,

    The display matrix hasn’t worked for a while now. Not sure if you’re aware of it.

    1. Yes, I removed it because I felt it was draining my resources. Was it something you sued much? If so, what for exactly?

  16. Ade

    with the risk of this being buried under the next general chat soon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiIyvJfq0hA was amazed to hear this track on the psyradio channel

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