The Mesa Cup 2018

Everything you need to know about the event

The Mesa Cup 2018 consists of three single player mapping challenges built for use with Black Mesa, 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 2 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 two challenges to have a chance of winning any of the grand prizes.

The Dates

The Mesa 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.

Individual Challenge Prizes

Details to be published in January 2018

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, with the next place getting the third prize.

    The Grand Prizes

    The grand prize will be won by the entrant with their best two 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.

    Individual Challenges:

    • 1st: $60
    • 2nd: $30
    • 3rd: $15


    • 1st: $150
    • 2nd: $100
    • 3rd: $50

    Special prizes 2x$25.50

    Total prize money: $666

    Thanks to the fantastic guys Crowbar Colelctive AKA BlackMesaDevs for supplying the majority of this.

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

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

    Other Prizes

    There will be two other prizes of $25.50 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.

    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.

    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.


    Dolmo has been creating source level design analysis videos for quite some time. He has covered a wide range of topics and techniques in his videos that cover Half Life 2 and Black Mesa Source maps and mods. Dolmo values fun and thought provoking game play. He likes to see a balance of combat, puzzles and exploration. He does not like maps that feel boxy and linear or maps that only include enemies to fight through with nothing else for the player to do.

    Chon Kemp AKA DIGITAL SPORTS (Crowbar Collective)

    Chon joined Crowbar Collective in 2013 as a level designer. His work on Black Mesa includes game design and balance, the multiplayer maps Gasworks and Lambdabunker, the singleplayer "Surface Tension Uncut" maps, and the unofficial "On a Rail Uncut" mod, among others. He is also chapter lead for "Interloper," to be included in Black Mesa's version of Xen. He likes maps which are cohesive, well-paced, and legitimately challenging - without being frustrating.

    Ben AKA trumanji (Crowbar Collective)

    Benjamin Truman is a Game Designer, Comic Author and Teacher. The Half-Life series is responsible for his love of solid game design and compelling narrative. He is a senior dev at Crowbar Collective, having worked on Black Mesa for over 10 years.

    Custom Content Note

    Custom content can be included in an entry but it must be used with prior, written persmmision, which must be included in the entry readme.txt file.

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

    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.


    The Mesa 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.

    Questions, feedback, suggestions, comments.

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

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

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

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