The Lambda Cup 2018

Everything you need to know about the event

The Lambda Cup 2018 consists of five single player mapping challenges built for use with Half-Life 2: Episode Two, each with a different theme.

Each theme is announced at the start of each challenge.

At the end of each challenge, a mod is released which contains all the entries. You can view all the previous mapping challenges HERE.

The Format

Entrants receive points for each challenge they enter.

At the end of the event, the best 3 points totals from the challenges they entered will be added together for each entrant.

These totals will decide who wins the Grand Prizes.

This means that entrants do NOT have to enter each and every contest to win one of the grand prizes but they will need to have entered at least 3 challenges to have a chance of winning any of the grand prizes.

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The Dates

The Lambda Cup is one of a number of mapping events spread throughout the year. In order to keep events effectively and clearly organised, I have created a central CALENDAR of events. Please use this to check the dates of the events you are interested in.

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Individual Challenge Prizes

Each individual challenge will have the following cash prizes, which will all be paid via PayPal.

  • First prize: $50
  • Second prize: $25
  • Third prize: $10
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How the points work

Each entry will be played and judged by all judges. Each judge will give a score in five categories (detailed below in the Judging section) as follows:

  • 0 points: Terrible
  • 1 point: Bad
  • 2 points: Acceptable
  • 3 points: Good
  • 4 points: Great
  • 5 points: Fantastic
  • The points from each judge, in each category will then be added up and this is the entry's total points score.

    If there is a draw in any winning place, i.e. first, second or third, the prize will be shared. It's not complicated but sounds it when written. For example, if there is a two-way draw for first place, the both entries will equally share the first and second prizes ($75), with the next place getting the third prize.

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    The Grand Prizes

    The grand prize will be won by the entrant with their best three scores added together.

    This is done so that entrants do not have to enter all challenges to win the grand prizes.

    The same process for draws in the grand prizes will apply as in the individual challenges.

    • Grand First prize: $200
    • Grand Second prize: $100
    • Grand Third prize: $50

    As with the individual challenge, the grand prizes will all be paid via PayPal.

    This gives a total prize fund of 850 US Dollars

    If you would like to donate to the prize fund, please visit my PayPal Donation Page.

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    Other Prizes

    There will be two other prizes of $25 each, which will be announced at the end of the event.

    The Judging

    The guidelines below have been created for two purposes. Firstly, to ensure that each judge is judging the same things for each entry and secondly, to show entrants exactly what will be judged.

    Category 1: Design

    This category describes the scope of the map. Does the map make sense? Is it simply a series of areas joined together but never feel connected? Has the player been given clear instructions on what to do? Do things feel like they were made for a game or do they feel real? For example, Combine architecture is about height. High, vertical ceiling and rooms are normal. It’s very unusual to see a flat ceiling in a Combine setting. The design category covers basic layout of the map, interaction with the map elements and the player, authentic, map logic, pacing, flow etc. In a recent challenge, there were some APC’s with no way for them to get into that room. Elements like that create flaws in the design and should be avoided.

    Category 2: Visuals

    There are four main aspects to consider when judging visuals within a level: architecture, texture use, lighting and detailing.

    Aspects that should be considered are building proportions, layout, authenticity, interesting details. Judges will look at how these elements work within the whole level.

    Texture Use:
    Judges will look at whether appropriate textures have been used. The kind of questions they will be asking are: Has an entrant used a texture in an unusual way? Is that way good or bad? Is the texture at the correct scale? Do textures overlap (or brushes).

    How a level is lit can hugely affect how it feels to a player. Is lighting used to guide the player? Is the source (indoors) clearly visible? Does it feel natural? Have bright, simple colours been overused?

    Levels that have consistent detailing feel much more real than levels that have some areas very detailed and other areas almost empty. Of course, areas that the player can’t reach or play in, don’t need to be very detailed but completely empty streets are obviously not good.

    Category 3: Sound

    There are three main aspects to consider when judging sound use within a level: music, ambient soundscapes and functional audio cues. Your entry will be judged using the sections below.

    Music use during a level should be both appropriately timed and suitable for the situation. Musical cues could inform the player that a set scene is about to happen or simply provide extra information to the atmosphere and ambience. Timing of music is important, for example fast music that continues after a fight has finished is annoying.

    Ambient Soundscapes:
    Using sounds to bring life to your life is very important. Whatever sounds you select should be suitable for the desired effect. A variety of sounds should be used in different places of the map with very few sounds being heard throughout the map unless there is a very good reason for it.
    Pay attention to the abrupt starting and stopping of sounds. This ruins the ambience of a map. especially if the changes in sound occur in open areas.

    Functional Audio Cues:
    Using the accepted sounds for actions is important. You might feel that changing the sound of an electric door with another sound from the game helps make your map feel fresh. However, if that sound is associated with another action, then you confuse the player. An example of this was seen in a TeleportVille map where an entrant used the sound normally used to indicate an error when opening a Combine glass door. When the player first used this door there was doubt whether it had opened or not.
    We are not saying you can't change sounds, just make sure that the sound you use doesn't have another association within the game.

    Category 4: Gameplay

    This category describes how the level plays. Imagine a dev-textured map, does the map play well. Are enemies used in sensible and interesting ways? Is it fun to play?
    Ideally, maps would encourage players to replay them because they offer various ways to approach situations.
    When judging gameplay, the judges will essentially ignore the visual and sound sections. Of course, Design and Gameplay are very closely linked but for judging of entries, the judges will look purely at how much fun and interesting the level is to play.
    Have the enemies been used in the correct space design? For example, if you use Hunters in small spaces have you planned this carefully?
    Another aspect to consider is bottlenecks: this means there are large quantities of enemies forced through a small space, thereby ruining any fun. If the player can stand in one place and simply wait for the enemies to come through the door, then that's bad design. Phillip often uses the end of a battle to illustrate this point: if all or most of the enemies die in the same place, then the gameplay probably wasn't very interesting.
    Gameplay is not just about contact with enemies, but how puzzles are explained and solved, how players reach certain areas (jumping, for example), essentially any interaction of the player with the level.

    Category 5: Use of Theme

    How well is the theme used in the map? If the theme were removed or changed, would it make much difference to the map?
    For example, if the theme is a bridge, does the player simply run across the bridge at the beginning or does the bridge play a central role in the design and gameplay?
    Ideally, the theme should be both central and obvious. What's important is the clever and interesting use of a theme, rather than simply using it.

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    The Judges

    Three of the judges are the same from last year's Hammer Cup, but there are also two new judges.

    Phillip Marlowe AKA PlanetPhillip

    Phillip owns and runs RTSL. He has been doing that since 2003. His playing style is pretty weird and he always tries to get out of maps. He is not a good player but a great beta tester as he has this uncanny knack for breaking things.

    Don AKA Unq

    Don grabbed Half-Life the week it came out in 1998 and has been hooked ever since. He's released a few small maps for Half-Life and wrote a ton of reviews for Ten Four. He has dabbled in Source mapping but his heart and skill are forever in Goldsource. He's been heavily involved in the PP/RTSL community starting with the 100 Summer Days of Nostalgia in 2011.

    Abraham Lee AKA ihonnyboy

    Abraham is a mapper and animator. He really came on to the RTSL scene in 2014 and has made entries for multiple competitions as well as the one-map mod Local-Motive. He is an AI whisperer and choreography junky. He's a decent player who enjoys Half-Life 2 on hard difficulty (cause that's when the ai really shines). He's since fallen away from the modding scene, but all the knowledge and techniques are still second nature.

    Daniel Jordan

    Dan Jordan is an engineer, game developer, level designer, musician, and wiseass. He is the creator of the Left 4 Dead 2 custom campaign "Urban Flight," custom Portal 2 test chambers including "1971," and mutliple mapping competition entries. He think highly about himself enough to list those things, but not high enough to provide links. His favorite Half-Life 2 enemey is the fast zombie and his favorite Half-Life: Opposing Force weapon is the sniper rifle.

    Abdulhamid Cayirli AKA Crowbar

    Crowbar joined the RTSL community in early 2016 when the first challenge of the Hammer Cup 2016, ChasmVille, was announced. He entered most challenges since then. Before making maps for Half-Life 2 he made puzzle maps for Portal 2 and competitive multiplayer maps for Counter-Strike Global Offensive. What Crowbar values the most is a clear singular vision and subletly. What he despises the most is redundancy and pointless design decisions.

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    Generic Rules


    • Download the RTSL Mod Template (updated for each challenge) and use that to build your entry.
    • End your map with a point_clientcommand firing this exact command: disconnect; startupmenu
    • Maximum two maps per mapper per entry.
    • The map must be original and not have been released publicly before.
    • The map must run in system with only Ep2 installed
    • By entering the competition you grant PlanetPhillip.Com and RunThinkShootLive.Com the right to release the map as part of the RTSL-THC2018-C1-CoastVille Mod.
    • Maps must not appear on ANY other website before the release and for one month after the release of the mod.
    • No assets from retail games other than HL2, Lost Coast, HL2: Ep1 or HL2: Ep2 are allowed.
    • Other assets are allowed with written permission from their original authors, which MUST be included in the entry, preferably a link to a public page that shows permission has been granted..
    • All files submitted MUST be in lowercase and any custom assets must have unique names, both folder AND files.
    • Entrants are requested to send their VMF files in with their entry. A section in the ReadMe.txt file will make it clear that they are for educational purposes ONLY and MUST NOT be used as the base for other levels without prior permission of the respective author.
    • Phillip's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into about it.
    • The map MUST have a proper name.
    • The map MUST have a proper filename: entryname_tlc18_cX.bsp
    • Submit a mapname_readme.txt with your entry. Even if it is just your name and your entry, although you should try to create a proper one.
    • If you do not receive a confirmation email without 24 hours of sending an entry, contact Phillip IMMEDIATELY.
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    Submission Details


    1. Enter well BEFORE the deadline. I will accept all late entries as bonus maps.
      Last year, I was flexible regarding entry deadlines, but NOT THIS YEAR.
      Even 1 minute is late!
      It is also WHEN when I receive it NOT when you send it.
    2. Read the General Rules above
    3. Please follow the submission guidelines, included in the submission template carefully.
    4. This submission template must be used UNLESS you are sending in just a BSP file.
    5. Upload your compressed file (rar, zip or 7zip), using the Submission Template to a free file sharing service.
        (Try,,, or mediafire)
        Please avoid Google Docs - it's often difficult for me to download from them.
    6. Send an email to [email protected] with the following details:
        SUBJECT: TLC2018-C1-Entry name
        BODY: TLC2018-c1-Entry name (Not filename)
                     The name you want used for credit. For example "Phillip Marlowe AKA PlanetPhillip"
                     Link to compressed file (or attach it to the email if it is small enough)

    In addition, any custom content must be able to be used in monetised playthrough videos posted on the internet.

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    Event Sponsor

    Details coming soon.

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    The RTSL Mod Template

    This year, each mod will be created from the RTSL Mod Template.

    Use of the Mod Template is not compulsory. It currently contains one new enemy and two fixes to the EP2 engine.

    However, the use of theSubmission Template is. This is to ensure consistency in submissions.

    The template is packaged as a mod and allows entrants to easily test their work as well as submit it.
    It will contain any new content, as well as fixes, for example the antlion worker flash bug, but must be used with the "Upcoming" branch of the Source SBK Base 2013 singleplayer engine.
    We DO NOT guarantee that each challenge will have new content, so please don't expect it.
    Mazur has made miscellaneous changes to the codebase, for which I would like to thank him.

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    Challenge Theme Announcements

    At 11am GMT on the start of the challenge, a post is made on the site describing the theme in detail, giving some examples of use and listing all the rules and requirements.

    A live countdown timer is also visible.

    Entrants can ask questions via the comments system of the site, direct emails to me if they want to ask private questions and finally questions can be posted on the official RTSL Mapping Challenges channel on the Source Modding Community Discord server.

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    Event History

    The Lambda Cup is an evolution of the Hammer Cup, which ran in 2016 and 2017. Before that there were various challenges during the year. These started in 2010. Please see the Mapping Challenges homepage for full details and a full history.

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    Questions, Feedback, Suggestions, Comments.

    If you have any questions, feeedback, suggestions or comments regarding the Lambda Cup , mapping challenge or ANYTHING related to the site, please don't hesitate to contact me: [email protected].

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    Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon