for Half-Life 2: Episode Two

3rd February 2018

Explore a variety of coastal areas and locations in the first challenge of the Lambda Cup 2018.

You will find 14 official entries, along with 3 bonus maps.

Basic Details
  • Title: CoastVille
  • Filename: sdk-2013-sp-tlc18-c1-coastville-v2.7z
  • Size : 233MB
  • Author: Maki, Mark AKA Strontvlieg, Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar, krassell, easimer, Nick AKA supernocho, Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon, David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95, Justin AKA Jman005, IMakeLevels, Confused Travolta, Rocky B, Aqua, Alex Marcu AKA melc311, Jonny512, Stract, Seji-evan
  • Date Released: 03 February 2018

Download Options

Download to your HDD [233MB]


Manual Installation Instructions
  • Make sure you have the “Upcoming” branch of the Source SDK Base 2013 Singleplayer installed in Steam and run at least once. (Properties – Betas – select “upcoming” from the dropdown list).
  • Copy the “sdk-2013-sp-tlc18-c1-coastville” folder into your “SourceMods” folder.
  • Restart or start Steam.
  • RTSL.TLC18.C1.CoastVille should now be listed in your “Library” tab.


If you decide to use the Per-Map Opinion Images, please either watch the video below or use the file below:


Thank you.

Theme Details

The word “coast” is very evocative. Long walks on the beach, pretty little seaside towns, high cliffs with waves crashing against them.

We would like you to build a map that has “coast” as its main setting. We leave the exact type of location to you but here are a few ideas.

A port used for storing and loading containers, a beach with little coves to explore, a re-imagining of Lost Coast, a cliff wall with caves and walkways, and finally a map where the player has to work their way along the coast through outposts.

Driving maps will be accepted but please think carefully before choosing this type of gameplay – it often involves a lot of work for very little player interaction.

We have purposefully chosen this theme as we feel it is open enough for all standards of modders yet also offers the possibility for many types of interpretation.

Full details can be found on the challenge announcement page.


The deadline for submitting maps was:
Monday 22nd January 2018 at 23:59 CET
CET is Central European Time. Phillip’s Time.


Listed as they are displayed in the mod itself:

Beacon by Maki
Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg
Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar
Lines in the Sand by krassell
Dead Zone by easimer
Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho
Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon
Katadysi by David Mason (AKA Nukedrabbit95)
Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005
The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
Radio Control by Rocky B
Dessicated Shore by Aqua
Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311

Sea Terminal by Jonny512 – Bonus due to only sending VMF
Outport by Stract
The Escape by Seji-evan

The order of the maps was generated via

Winner and Points

Remember, the judges scoring is based on the final map submitted BEFORE the deadline. The actual released versions of maps and therefore the ones you played, may differ significantly from those initially submitted.

Here are the top three places.

  1. Winner: Beacon by Maki: 95 Points
  2. Second: Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311: 94 Points
  3. Third: Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95: 93 Points

Full details of all the points can be found on The Lambda Cup 2018 Public Points Spreadsheet.


Phillip, Don, Dan, Crowbar and Abraham are the judges for this challenge.

Community Poll

Time for you to share your thoughts! Vote for your top 3 CoastVille maps. Poll closes Feb. 17th.

More About The Lambda Cup 2017

The Lambda Cup 2018 consists of five mapping challenges, each with a different theme.
Entrants will 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 the grand prize but they will need to have entered at least 3 challenges to have a chance of winning the grand prizes.
For more details visit the Lambda Cup homepage.

Release Versions

0.9 – Developers’ and Judges’ Version. First versions of maps. Version used to judge the entries.
1.0 – THIS RELEASE. Beachbank, Egmontkey, katadysi, Maritime Harassment, Outport, Radio Control and Sea Terminal have been updated.


Crowbar made the chapter images and organized the background maps.

Steam Grid View Images

There are no custom gridview images for this release – sorry.

General Entry Rules

Maximum two maps per mapper per competition.
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 & RunThinkShootLive.Com the right to release the map as part of the Ville Mod.
Maps must not appear before the release and for one month after the release of the mod.
No assets from retail games other than HL2, HL2: Ep1, HL2: Ep2 and Lost Coast are allowed.
Other assets are allowed with written permission from their original authors, which MUST be included in the entry.
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: MapName_ABC.bsp (ABC is replaced with the code for the mapping challenge)
All entries must be sent to: no later than the deadline.


This challenge was not sponsored. If you are an individual or company and interested in sponsoring a challenge, please contact Phillip ( to discuss the options.

Panoramic Images

Coming Soon.


Coming Soon.

Playthrough Screenshots

Screenshots coming once I have played the mod.

Reader Recommendations
Avoid It!
Think Twice
Play It Later
Play It Now!

10 recommendations, average score: 4.8 (out of 5), standard deviation: 0.16 (what's that?)
Total Downloads
  • 1,148
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    Last 7 days
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    Last 30 days
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    365 days
Meta Review Data
Statistics based on 15 comment(s) with meta review data.

Using Gauge: Users
Manually: 15 Users

Time Taken:
Average: 4 Hours, 59 Mins
Shortest: 1 Hours, 30 Mins by WisePerson
Longest: 10 Hours by Dalannar
Total Time Played: 74 Hours, 45 Mins
If you believe this release is missing important tags, please suggest them in a comment?
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Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

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


  1. Perhaps a minor point to some, but a nuisance. The map names don’t appear in the game when picking Play an Entry, its the same overall mod description for every one. Sure I (had to) exit the game, come here, make a manual list, but this wasn’t necessary with most previous “Villes”.

    1. It’s been corrected now, but I don’t expect viewers to re-download 227MB to fix it. When other issues appear, I’ll make a small update available. If you have no limit and a fast download, you can download it again if you want. It’s just one small text file different.

  2. Lucia

    The map where you are a strider disabled the hud, but that carries over to every other map. So you will have to enter “cl_drawhud 1” in console to fix that again.

    1. krassell

      That is not true. The only command being run in that entry is “disconnect; startupmenu”.

      1. Lucia

        For some reason though after playing that map my hud was completely disabled. I don’t know what happened then..

  3. so I managed (barely) to get a Wine client installed an working, got SDK 2013 installed, but when I go to launch Coastville, it gets as far as the main menu then closes itself. keeping an eye on the terminal as I do this tells me nothing that I can see, It just won’t load past the main menu

    1. is your Source SDK Base 2013 Singleplayer on the “upcoming” beta branch? (Properties -> Betas -> Upcoming)

      1. oh thank Noire that was an easy fix, I still can get my non-Source windows-only games to work through Wine

        1. asterixer

          It runs also under Linux, description i wrote in a comment below

  4. Boocesther


  5. So since Crowbar is now one of the judges does that mean he won’t partake in the mapping anymore? If so then that’s a shame, I really enjoyed his entries in THC17.

    1. I might do bonus entries, but I also might make a full mod. I’m not sure yet. At the moment I won’t be starting any big projects since I have to finish my bachelor thesis. After that I’ll see. Thanks for asking though 🙂 Nice to hear that people enjoy your maps 🙂

      Maybe I’ll try making my own game too though. I’m finishing my bachelor thesis in at most 1-2 months.

      1. That’s great to hear you might do bonus entries or a mod, looking forward to that! Also good luck with your bachelor thesis.

    2. Same here, so much enjoyment provided and not just 2017 either. Many thanks and look forward to getting the thesis over with and back to game making!

      1. thank you 🙂 really appreciate it! 😀

  6. Personal Favourite

    CoastVille might actually be my favorite Ville on this site so far. There were barely any entries that I didn’t like. The average visual quality of entries is very high. A little unfortunate that so few entries used the new enemy. The few entries that actually used it made no effort to introduce the enemy, which could lead to some people not understanding or liking it, because you don’t set their expectations. It also means we won’t be getting too much data on the new enemy and get some feedback to maybe polish and refine it.

    Beacon by Maki

    A great looking compact map. Very polished pacing. The gameplay is underwhelming though. It’s not bad at all, but not memorable. The fight against the Stalkers is uncommon and nice, although they clearly aren’t designed for combat, since they don’t bleed when you shoot them. Feels like playing the censored version of Left 4 Dead 2 (which is awful). The fights against the combine soldiers later was fine, but also really simple, with very simple cover and geometry to move around.

    The helicopter bugged on my first playthrough, it got stuck until I shot it. If I remember correctly it used bombs during the fight, but it didn’t in my second playthrough. Not sure what’s going on there, but it wasn’t the most amazing helicopter fight, but solid. The portal opening at the end was a nice reward, but Odessa appearing out of nowhere and dropping a random line kinda ruined it and left me with confusion. The main problem of the map is its length. I mean, that’s not really a problem, it just wasn’t enough compared to some of the other entries.

    A well crafted, but unspectacular entry. Oh, and thanks for not making me shoot the helicopter 20 times.

    Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg

    The best map Strontvlieg so far. The best looking map he made so far and with the best gameplay he implemented so far. The map doesn’t look amazing, but it looks very much like Half-Life 2. It’s also not that long, but as I keep saying, quality is always more important than quantity. The weird combine structures in the background look really weird. Some don’t even look combine, but like something completely different, especially that ring.

    The combat is well balanced. Never too many or too little enemies. I like how the headcrab pods are actually used for manhacks, if I understood that correctly. The final fight isn’t ideal since all enemies come from the same position and there wasn’t too much cover, but it is okay. A compact, but well made entry.

    Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar

    Visually it has a consistent quality throughout the map, but it isn’t that high. I still value the consistency. The problem is that some areas are too empty. I’m also not sure if the fog settings are optimal. The map gets accross a coast feeling, but not for most of the map. Still, this is not a bad looking map, I enjoyed exploring and looking at it.

    The map has fine pacing, with a simple and slow zombie fight first, then some bigger fights. The first zombie fight felt a little pointless though, because they aren’t a threat at all. There is no reason to kill the zombies. A fast zombie or zombine wouldn’t hurt. I disliked the “press a button and wait for things to happen” section afterwards. Especially because the autosave is right before that, meaning if you die you have to wait for all that again, which is a no go.

    It takes way too long for the enemies to appear, while the music already started. After you dealt with the manhacks you potentially have to wait really long again for the soldiers to come. The manhacks are very trivial to fight by themselves too, since you have the gravity gun. The first fight against the combine wasn’t too interesting, since you have just a single type of cover and go back and forth.

    The combat space after this one is great though, offering different paths that loop into each other, with a single hunter to force certain behaviour from the player. The following combat is good too. I’m not a fan of the type of backtracking in this map, because it feels a little cheap. Barely anything changes during the backtracking except that enemies spawn. I would like to see more enemies before the backtracking (a headcrab or antlion here and there), and then a more dynamic backtracking section, where maybe enemies breach through areas that were previously closed off.

    The final section felt like filler. It didn’t offer any interesting gameplay and the section with the turrets was extremely annoying because they never stop shooting, which is due to the props not being static I assume. Should have used Block LOS textures there. The ending is okay, but not satisfying.

    What I also disliked was the use of music. It wasn’t paced optimally and it switches very quickly from one song to a completely different one. A single song for the main fight would suffice. Maybe with a more relaxed version before (dynamic music!).

    Lines in the Sand by krassell

    The map has problems that I’m sure will annoy some people, but to me letting the player play as a strider was worth all the compromises. I never controlled a strider before, or any other enemy. But the strider feels especially great. Now you can see how it feels on the other side. To demolish things with the powerful beam of the strider. Although there could have been way more to destroy, more enviromental destruction. It was really hard to aim too, because of the missing crosshair, but I’m sure the author knows that himself. Movement also was annoying sometimes, because often when I press W and A or D simulatenously, the Strider stopped moving completely.

    The distances at which you fight enemy is too high. Often I could shoot the enemies before they could do anything against me. The rebels with RPGs then often just moved back and forth until I was close enough. But it also isn’t fun to hunt and shoot pixels, especially when aiming is so hard. The weakest point of the entry is the final fight, because it didn’t feel like one. It felt like any other fight of the map. But I don’t know what else the author could have done. It’s not the best entry because of its problems, and it also doesn’t look amazing (but good), but it still is a success in my opinion. Oh btw in my opinion it took way too long to kill a single rebel with the primary fire.

    Dead Zone by easimer

    The map starts at water, but later it completely looses any coast feeling. It feels like the author implemented that beginning just so it qualifies for the theme. Visually the entry has some problems. Some areas are too empty. The lighting isn’t ideal. Sometimes textures are not aligned properly or not chosen well. It’s very blocky at some parts and it doesn’t feel like a single consistent world. Still, the map doesn’t look bad. It’s acceptable, and the further you play the better it gets visually.

    The fights in the map are okay, but never really shine. I liked the hospital part because it was a bigger area where different enemies are attacking each other, although this also feels a little arbitrary. The area with the sniper could have been a good fight without the sniper. It’s easy to forget about the sniper or simply not notice it and get punished with a lot of damage because of that. But don’t get me wrong, not a huge problem. The gunship fight at the end is extremely awkward. It’s very easy to fall off the roof which forces you to go through the entire map again. I think you also can ignore the gunship and just press the button to finish the map.

    Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho

    The map isn’t too detailed and most of the cliffs look very artifical, but overally the map still looks good. Although I’m not sure how much here is copied from official maps (the hangar with the mounted gun and the area outside of that look very close to parts from HL2). I didn’t like the first part of the map where it throws a lot of zombies at you. You can simply walk past them and there is no reason to fight them.

    The map has some foreshadowing of hunters and while I appreciate these simply existing, I didn’t like the execution. You go around the corner and it looks like the Hunter was waiting for you all the time and then goes away, instead of like in Episode Two where the Hunters walks on the roof, sees the player and then walks away. It’s a tiny difference, but makes a huge difference. Especially because there is no reason for the hunters to do whatever they are doing, why aren’t they helping their soldiers?

    All of that hunter foreshadowing leads to an extremely unsatisfying ending. Surprisingly many maps in Villes end by turning the screen black and making the player die or get captured or whatever, but I don’t see the point. I really would like to hear an explanation from the author what he wanted to achieve.

    Another problematic area is where you have the mounted gun. All enemies come from the same door and you can just mow them down. After the fight enemies randomly appear behind you. It’s not awful, but dull. The map isn’t really bad, later combat sections are much better with never too many enemies (except manhacks) and well balanced cover for each party. The pacing also becomes better later. I especially liked the small fight with the collapsed combine “furniture”, because it was interesting cover.

    The gunship fight was really weak. The rocket crate is in a safe area and there is really only one opening to shoot the gunship from, and the gunship really just around moves in front of the building, so just keep going to the opening, shoot the gunship, go back to the crate and repeat. It would be more interesting if the crate wasn’t in a safe area, if the gunship destroyed parts of the building to make it more challenging over time and if it attacked from more sides. The building could be open on the other side too and the gunship could move back and forth.

    Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon

    No cubemaps for HDR, unacceptable. The far Z clipping plane is very obvious in this entry. The author probably made that cause the map becomes too laggy otherwise, but that just means the entry isn’t planned very well. There just need to be certain structure inbetween areas that block visibility. The concrete structure at one section could have been bigger and there could have been rocks/mountains inbetween the trees. The map is extremely flat, which is very unnatural and boring. Later the author tried to make the floor less flat, but did that by adding noise to the displacement. With that noise it makes driving over the displacement much more annoying.

    The biggest flaw of this entry are all the invisible walls. Probably the laziest invisible walls I’ve seen. There are ramps which are blocked by invisible walls, but the invisible wall is actually a cube, not a ramp, so when you go around and enter the upper level, you can walk on the air when you jump on the invisible wall. There is also random water at one section which simply kills the player for no reason. There isn’t even a reason for that water to be there, even if it didn’t do damage. The combat is very basic, with enemies placed very far away from the player, making the crossbow the only viable option to fight.

    In the final section fighting isn’t even necessary because you have so many allies that they do everything for you. I still fought all the enemies because I had no idea what I’m supposed to do. I guess the guy who talks to me explained it to me, but I couldn’t understand a word he says through all the explosions and fighting. Even if I understood it though, if you shoot the things infront of the ship they don’t react all. You have to be very close and shoot very precisely for the things to explode.

    A huge flaw is how the enemies are inside the water. I have no idea how that happens. Do they actually spawn inside the water? Or are they nodes in the water for no reason so that enemies can go there? Why do enemies don’t take damage from the water while the player takes tons of damage from it? It is clear that this entry was made by an inexperienced mapper, and that is fine. Please aim for a more compact entry next time. One thing the entry does well, at least compared to some other entries, is having a coast feeling, especially because of the skybox and the horizon. I also liked the sound when the ship explodes, but the shooting of the NPCs should have stopped there, it ruins it.

    Katadysi by David Mason (AKA Nukedrabbit95)

    This is one of the entries that doesn’t mainly take place at a coast, but at a coastal town, but this is the only entry where the town actually felt like a coastal town. It think that is due to the type of buildings, the fog and the soundscape. It looks very “wet”. I also love the atmosphere of the map in general, it reminds me of silent hill. I also like the colors of the map. It’s a little washed out and it’s mostly white, but I like that. It has a clear color pallete, which gives it a very consistent look throughout. I loved exploring the town, but it could have been a little better if there was more to actually find. Even just a random headcrab or zombie would have been fine. I mean, the map already has that, but it needed more.

    A little problematic is how the player will very likely explore the town before the map tells the player to look for very specific things throughout the town, which potentially means that the player has to explore at least some sections twice. Usually I’m not a fan of “find X amount of Y”, but I think this entry did it well enough. I liked the sound and the red meter on the generator which showed your progress. To me it wasn’t tedious and didn’t take too long, but I’m sure for some people it will.

    There isn’t much more gameplay aside from this, which makes this type of gameplay stick out more. The survival section against the combine wasn’t ideal. There were too many, and too little space for the player to move around, since one half of the town is inaccessible due to the combine laser. It could have been amazing if the fight took place in the entire town. If there were maybe three or four hunters spread throughout and the player would have the whole town to move around and avoid them, maybe even with some enviromental hazards the player could use against the hunters. Or just combine soldiers.

    I still really like the entry and its probably the most memorable one for me. Oh, I also want to mention the voice acting, because this one isn’t actually bad. Also extra mention for the music. The music when exploring the town is great, and I like how the author didn’t use the most epic music for the survival part like so many other authors often do.

    Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005

    Missing cubemaps for HDR, not acceptable. The map is way too big for what it offers. Most of the time you are just running accross very empty corridors or in big open areas with nothing in them. There is a player_speedmod towards the beginning which is not only pointless, but also dangerous. It’s pointless since it’s used only for an arbitrary event of a black headcrab getting smashed by random objects for some reason. Maybe the author was just playing around, looking what he can do with what. But it’s dangerous, because if the player changed entries during the speedmod, that effect would become permanent. It’s unlikely though.

    Visually it is very basic and random objects are floating in the air. Later the sky gets very buggy too. Clearly this map was made by a beginner, at least I hope so. The gameplay at the final section was also problematic. Enemies spawn very far away with no cover for anyone except those stairs. The only long range weapon I have is the 357, but I don’t get any new ammo for it, which leaves me with the shotgun and smg, which are awful at this range. At least give me the pistol. What’s really bad is how the combine use headcrab pods but attack those themselves simultanously. That just doesn’t make sense. Especially when the combine are shooting the headcrabs they just called … Mechacrabs attack normal headcrabs that come out of the same pods. I know the default behaviour doesn’t make them friendly, but nothing is stopping the author from implementing that relationship.

    Also too many invisible walls and awkward places. Glitched ladder. Bad autosaves.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels

    The entry starts really well with a boat ride that shows you the town before you enter it. I bet the author tried to replicate Dishonored. But it was weird how Strider is demolishing the town, while the citizen in the boat is chillin his life. I also don’t think the standard lines from the citizens were used too well, since it’s very clear when each line starts and stops. First the citizen says something normally, then he suddenly shouts etc., clearly made for different situations. For a Ville entry that’s completely fine though and better than bad custom voice acting if you ask me.

    When you enter the town I realized that it actually doesn’t look that good. There is some weird geometry and it’s too empty for my taste. Later sections look better, especially the final section, but those are where the combat happens, not where I have time to slowly move around and inspect every area. The combat was good for the most part, but very simple. The final fight is where the map falls apart though. There is just a lot of wrong things there which I don’t want list all. Just watch the playthrough and you’ll see.

    The looping music became extremely annoying at a certain point. Also dislike how the citizen moves back if you are faster than it, because it thinks the player hasn’t followed it. Don’t be a modern military shooter.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta

    Well. Which puzzle is the most boring you could think of? Not only that, which puzzles has been done is so many games already in the past? Pressing buttons in the right order. That is the entire gameplay of the map. And that is a shame, because the map looks really good, has a good atmosphere and the actual “buttons” are cool, with the gravity effect and the sound and such. But the gameplay simply isn’t interesting, fun or challenging. It’s literally trial and error until you realize what the arrows mean, at which point the map does everything for you. Still. The map looks great, has a great atmosphere and has a very active soundscape. Is that a custom soundscape made of existing ones?

    Radio Control by Rocky B

    It took me ages to find where I am supposed to go at the start, because it’s around a weird corner that wasn’t visible to me. The displacement work, if you even can call it that, isn’t good. It looks like a Half-Life 1 level. I don’t see the point of the whole introduction, since all you do is reach the place where the entry then skips time and switches to a different map. Why didn’t it start directly there? The map has only a single combat section and I didn’t like it. It was too overwhelming. Too many rushing enemies, most with AR2 rifles. Very little space for the player to move around, and it also simply is too long and tedious. Visually the upper area is solid, but the entry is really small anyway.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua

    An infuriating entry. No autosaves. Right at the start you take unavoidable random damage and are forced to fight soldiers in tiny corridors. Neither the enemy, nor the player can shine in these enviroments. It becomes very dull. Combine soldiers are best when they can move around and take cover at different positions. Same with the player. Give the player options to move around, maybe flank the enemy. Later when you come outside the map becomes very awkward. I didn’t even realize that I can go through the collapsed wall. There are some enemies with a hunter, but you can completely ignore them. Later a headcrab cannister gets launched and randomly kills you. Even when loading the save and sprinting past that section that cannister did a lot of damage to me because for some reason the damage radius is really high.

    The outside area isn’t that bad visually actually, but it doesn’t feel right at all. It’s just filled with so many things. It doesn’t feel carefully planned and composed. After this outside area you enter a very ugly and empty building, filled with zombies and fast headcrabs. Fast headcrabs can be really annoying, even a single one, but here the player gets ambushed by a lot of them. Also the map crashes if the poison zombie walks into the barnacle.
    The final section against the gunship is okay, but not good. All the sounds in this area, the headcrab pods, the gunships and the player shooting rockets become way too loud and annoying. The headcrab pods are pointless anyway. Also the map crashed here. Fighting the gunship is really dull, since you just have to strafe around the rock where the rocket crate is placed.

    I also dislike how another gunship spawns at the exact moment the previous one dies. It feels extremely artificial. The actual combat area is really big and has a lot of cover. It could have been great if I was forced to move around. The easiest way to achieve that is to simply give me no infinite rocket crate. When the player picks up all rockets there could be a scripted sequence that destroys something which revels the crate. The gunship does a weird laser beam attack sometimes, but I don’t see why. It doesn’t do it on me, it just makes the fight easier than it already is, since I can shoot it without having to move the rocket around the gunship.

    Honestly though, the entry isn’t really THAT bad. If each area was polished and playtested more and the entry was better planned and constructed, it could have been a good entry.

    Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311

    My favorite entry from this challenge. Visually it is absolutely beautiful, and not just that, it really feels like a coast. Many entries have a beach and water, but they don’t feel as “coasty” as this one for some reason. Maybe it’s the textures, maybe the soundscapes, I don’t know. I also want to point out the composition of this entry, which is something I usually don’t notice. It feels like it is very carefully planned what the player will see at each point, do provide landmarks and guide the player, and just to have interesting visuals. The displacement work is also just really good compared to most other entries, especially for the sand floor.

    The map’s only problem, if you can even call it a problem, is its length. But as everyone knows, quality over quantity. The map has three main gameplay sections. Two of them are great, one isn’t. The one that isn’t good is the house with the poison zombie. It’s impossible to die to that zombie or the headcrabs, it’s just tedious and annoying. Lots of poison headcrabs are jumping around in a very small area. And for some reason punting objects at the poison zombie doesn’t damage it. The only point of this area is to give the player the RPG earlier, but when I get the RPG anyway at the next section I feel cheated.

    The two main fights were really good and fun in my opinion, because they take place in big enviroments with lots of different and interesting cover. In the first fight I stayed in the same part of the area most of the time, which isn’t ideal. I think that is due to two reasons. First the hopper mines prevent me from pushing, and second the enemies are actually rushing me. I really like the hopper mines, because while they prevent me from pushing I can also use them against the enemies. It would be ideal if the enemies weren’t pushing so hard and I could use more of the space.

    The second combat area doesn’t have this problem, but it’s also shorter. It was really cool to fight around that shipwreck. The gunship was okay on my first playthrough, really bad on my second. It barely moves around. It would have been awesome if it moved around and over and under the bridge etc.

    Sea Terminal by Jonny512

    Why is this entry so huge? It is so very empty that all that space is completely wasted. There is barely any gameplay. Nothing to find when you explore. No autosaves. Sorry. Please try to make a more compact and polished entry next time.

    Outport by Stract

    What a dissapointing entry. It looks so incredibly beautiful and it’s huge, but gameplay is really bad. It starts with extremely out of place voice acting that doesn’t fit the tone and feel of the level at all. You never hear that voice ever again anyway. It’s pointless. Before I start ranting I just want to repeat again how incredibly beautiful this entry is. So, what’s the problem? First for most parts of the map you just walk along big areas, and the only gameplay is random antlions that unburrow. This is horrible, because it is always exactly one antlion, it always spawns right next to the player and the player always can just one shot it with the shotgun. It’s extremely artificial, it’s not challenging, and later I realized that these antlions spawn infinitely. Why is the author pushing the player so hard? Why not let the player take his time, look at the beautiful enviroment?

    It could have been mixed up with some antlion workers and different sized groups of antlions. There are some fights against combine too, and these are not really bad, but also nothing special. I find it weird how that one door above the ladder is locked first, but when you go a little further in the level enemies come out of it and you have to go there anyway. Fighting the gunship through the tiny chokepoint which is the door was very dull and the player could easily get stuck at the door or something else and take unnecessary damage. And that is all gameplay the map offers. A shame. Again though, probably the best looking Ville map ever made.

    The Escape by Seji-evan

    Frustrating and infuriating. I don’t have the suit because I have to find it, but there is still combat. When I get the crowbar and pistol I can clearly see from the viewmodel that I “have” the suit, which already just shows that this suitless state was never designed for combat. You can’t switch weapons, every time you take damage the screen flashes in a very bright red, and you don’t know how much health you have. Later there is a door barricaded with wooden planks, but I can’t switch to my crowbar. I had to waste all my pistol ammo to switch to the crowbar. This was the point where I really started to wonder what the author was thinking and it ruined the map for me.

    I barely had any ammo or health to survive the following fights. I couldn’t manage both before anyway since I didn’t know the values. You can fight some of the enemies earlier through the shield, but you don’t have close to enough ammo to kill them, even if you land perfect headshots on all of them, while all of them have SMGs. This whole area also didn’t look that great, not bad neither, but it is very empty and dark. For some reason the second half of the map looks much better and there you at least have the suit. It still never stopped being frustrating, but it became a map that I didn’t hate completely.

    Some of the later fights were much better, it still never stopped being way too punishing. Never enough supplies, never enough cover.

    I think most of my problems become clear when you watch the playthrough. (Playthrough has 2 parts, 2nd part in description!)

    1. I admit Hl2 combat is not much my thing, (yet, hope to get better at it as I map =P) i tought low ammo would give a bit of sense of “OMG i can’t fail this or i’ll die”, also, I’ll avoid the suitless combat thing in the future, it indeed not came around the way I expected now seeing a blind run of it.. is strange you kept bouncing back to the beginning.. it should had an autosave at the entrance of the spawn building to avoid that, not sure why it didn’t work.

      I get it that you r frustrated with the combat I rly apologize for it but, at the end, in a combat situation where there is an airship a lighthouse and a rocket laucher.. you not thinking in go up the stairs to the top kinda your fault, i get there is some design problems factoring in too but.. c’mon.. the stairs r indeed blinded by the texture.. but is a giant brush going upwards =P

    2. I’ve improved a lot on Outport in terms of gameplay since the initial release which I had to rush out despite being a little late. Several of the issues named in your review have been fixed or improved, and I think while it’s not great, it’s still an overall better product now. I hope you and others can better enjoy it now!

      1. If that is so I will try the new version 🙂
        Obviously the deadline version is used for judging, although your entry was a bonus entry anyway so ehh

        1. wow, the difference is day and night

    3. Thank you for the critic of my map.

      I agree with almost everything you wrote, and with what I could make out was going on in your head while watching the playthrough.

      I feel embarrassed that I didn’t realize while playing that the turrets wouldn’t stop shooting. Definitely something that will go in the back of my head with next attempts at using them.

    4. shark

      Sea Terminal is actually not bad if you don’t walk it all the way. Why didn’t you use the car? Neatly hidden away and a reward for those who actually take the time to play the game instead of hurrying to the end (you also missed quite a few secret places in the process). It’s the voyage, not the destination you know?

      1. aha so those who spend the time exploring the giant empty area get rewarded with something to speed up going through the giant empty area. There is no point in hiding the car if it’s essential for the experience. You can’t just call things “rewards” and get away with it.

        1. shark

          Hiding the car IS essential to the experience: it’s called playing the full game. And nope, the car is actually not hidden in the giant empty area. I found it fairly close (walking distance) to where I started. I agree that the beach is giant and open but I kinda like that. I just thought that your playthrough was rushed, didn’t really see you exploring areas. But we all have our way of playing the game.

          1. If you want to call something a “reward”, take Doom’s secrets for example. They don’t give people who finds them a whole new level of advantage of how a map should be played. They just give you some guns early and something to let you have an upper hand, but not too much. They also won’t ruin your impression on a level.

            But in this case, a car hidden inside a map THIS opened as a secret? You’re doing it wrong, it changes how the map plays out by a huge margin. People who did not are left with severe disadvantage due to how they have to bunny hop their way across the beach. While people with cars could just breeze through it, probably run over a few Soldiers in the base too. It should not be a secret at all, it’s a must.

            A good secret must not change how a level is played out.

      2. Anon_1606195

        Dude, I never rush through a map in a hurry. And yet still never found the car. You know, if 90% of the players can’t find something that’s important for getting through the map, it’s a problem.

        (This is Winterman, btw, just not logged in)

        1. shark

          Hmmm, crates placed next to a wall??? Wonder what they’re doing there? Two ways of dealing with them:

          1. Got no time to explore gotta get to the end quickly – result: missed the car, missed the GAME
          2. Let’s stack’em up and see what’s behind the wall – result found the car, played the GAME

          Sorry boys, maybe it’s an age thing but you guys play like my 22 year old son and miss half the fun by going route 1. Why don’t you just noclip to the end and do a speedrun if you’re in such a hurry?

          Half Life is an “atmosphere” game and should be played at the right pace and explored, otherwise just play Serious Sam. This map has a lot of faults but IMHO it deserves to be played and explored properly.

          1. Anon_1606630

            [Sea Terminal] The car was optional, the idea was to make the map playable both ways, with the car, or on foot, but I haven’t managed to implement that properly. the gunships were stuck in the bay, and there wasn’t much things to do on the beach, without them, I found that issue only few days after the release, (they worked all the time on my system since I used custom dll), also the map version that was sent around the deadline was terrible, the ship part wasn’t present at all, there was just an elevator, that took the player up to the rail car, and that was it. It has been updated 3 times since then. I’ll try to plan things better next time. Thanks for playing…

          2. It seems that you pretty much accused everyone for missing the car because they “rush the map”. You would think that reviewers just give a giant F on a competition and just play maps and be done with it. No.

            If something that important to the map is not placed on the main path, something that is a must have to play it properly, it’s wrong. Missing it left the player with a negative impression, and because the map has no checkpoint, no doubt they will be frustrated about it.

            And you just insulted me for being dumb. You said that to someone who is a Half-Life fan since when he was like, what, 8? I am sorry to say this, but I find it very offensive. I can go on about that but I’ll leave it be.

            But I guess opinion’s opinion. It’s true that reviewers can make mistakes, I guess I am at least half-guilty of that.

            1. shark

              No offense meant but honestly, if you are a reviewer/judge you should at least be a bit more thorough before being too negative. Anyone who has played HL knows where the lambda symbol is displayed there’s something to be explored… so you missed the crates, ok but for sure you didn’t miss the huge lambda symbol over the garage door. That shoud have sparked your curiosity. I never implied stupidity just lack of thoroughness. Can’t you just accept that maybe you could have spent more time on this map exploring it before dismissing it?

              1. Do you really think that me not finding the car is the only problem of the map? That with the car I would suddenly have a completely different opinion? It’s a bonus entry too, so I don’t even have to play it, I did though.

                1. Didn’t know the entry was updated multiple times for the public release. I’ll check it out again.

                2. shark

                  Crowbar I think you’re missing the point so here it is again.

                  In my opinion Sea Terminal isn’t as bad as you write in your review and I believe you didn’t give it a proper playthrough to judge it on its merits. By missing the car (and other areas) your gaming experience was diminished. Again by watching your playthrough I could only conclude that all you really wanted was to get to the end quickly rather than enjoying the full game.

                  No, nobody forced you to play it and yes it’s a bonus map. But by accepting the responsibility of judging the entries you should at least give them a fair shake.

                  You write “nothing to find when you explore”; that’s just plain false – you didn’t explore.

                  I don’t think it’s the best map here, but it certainly not as bad as you make it out to be – partly because of your own rushed playing.

                  1. The “nothing to find when you explore” bit is obviously aimed at all the other dead ends the map has throughout it. Not finding the car doesn’t mean a person did not explore the level, it means they didn’t find the car. I can build you a completely empty map, and after you don’t find anything I’ll say, “haha, but you didn’t click these obscure buttons in this correct order to find the most important bit of the level”.

                    Obviously that is an exaggerated example but I’m just trying to show how your argument of “there is something to find” is flawed in this case.

                    1. shark

                      Oh come on!!! Flawed? Hello???
                      Dude, the guy didn’t even try! He even noclipped to go faster.
                      HUGE lambda sign over the garage – never even looked, crates next to the wall – didn’t even go near them. We’re talking obvious signs here, not some obscure hints. Something’s flawed alright. But it ain’t my argument.

                    2. I hadn’t watched crowbar’s playthrough. I will agree with you that he did not play the map as you would expect a judge to play. But he did play the map as a player. A player that is not having fun with the map.

                      I wasn’t trying to argue about crowbar’s review. I was arguing with your points for defending the map. When you say you have to explore the map and play it slow that doesn’t make any sense. You explore the map and play it slow if the map is enjoyable in the first place. No one in their right mind is going to spend a long time playing a map that isn’t fun because in those last few minutes it gets good.

                    3. shark

                      Well, that’s exactly my whole point. If you review or judge something you should at least give it a thorough playthrough. Not just be negative because you didn’t like the first 30 seconds.

                      However I disagree with your argument that crowbar played it as any player would.

                      I for one like to take my time and really look everywhere, am I not a player? There’s no prize for finishing first, HL isn’t a race and to me (and many other players, I may add) that’s part of the charm of the game. Especially in big maps I like to take my time and explore and get that feeling of almost being lost. Remember the huge spaces in Offshore? Love ’em. Atmosphere above brutal action.

                      Finally if you look at other reviews of Sea Terminal you’ll find one that judged it “It’s Great” for the reasons I just mentioned. His review is just as valid as the others who played it in a way to fully “get” it. Crowbar in my opinion did not “get” it because he went too quickly, granted it may not be his type of game but that’s no excuse for the poor review he gave.

                      Do not make the assumption that everyone looks for the same things as you do in a game or that all players play the same way, they don’t.

                    4. hope you are aware that the video is just my first playthrough. This discussion leads nowhere and is pointless.

                    5. shark

                      I wasn’t aware that you also judge on whether discussions are relevant or not. Looking forward to watching your improved playthrough and reading your relevant comments.

  7. Personally I was pretty disappointed by this Ville’s turnout, there were some pretty good ones, mainly in terms of visuals, but the rest were kinda.. ehh. Most of the entries were really confusing to navigate and not very good combat.

  8. Where is the voting page?

    1. Unq

      Just added a Community Poll. This year we changed the scoring system and it was decided not to have the Community Vote count toward the map scores.

      1. Doesn’t surprise me in the least for RTSL and SMC not to include the communities opinion for voting this year- considering what a closed off, hostile, self absorbed community it has turned into the last couple of years.

        I look forward to when RTSL starts asking the general public (the same people you deprive an opinion) to contribute money for this years prize fund – I will make sure they’re aware of what RTSL/SMC thinks of their opinion.

        Nice job at progressing backwards, but hardly a surprise.

        C’est la vie

        1. I don’t know why you have suddenly become so against RTSL and struggle to understand why you think we are closed off, hostile, self absorbed community. I’m also unsure what the SMC has got to do with this, in fact it has nothing to do with it.

          The reason that I decided against having a community vote that affected the judging was because firstly, the public release and judges/entrants release are very different. The public release has maps that have been updated, admittedly not all and in some cases those changes would not have affected the result anyway, but the potential is there.

          Secondly, some of the votes have to be discarded because they were made by non-members of the site. The reviews act as a community vote anyway.

          Yes, I will be asking for donations for the prize fund and I am sure many people will be willing to donate money without feeling they should have the right to vote in the challenges.

  9. Play It Later

    Overall, a good ville. There are some bad maps, and many good maps and a few exceptional maps.

    Beacon by Maki
    It is great!

    Overall, great gameplay and design throughout the level, however, the fog colour doesn’t blend with skybox, which looks very jarring when viewed from the top of the lighthouse.

    Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg
    It is good

    Good gameplay – making great use of backtracking. I feel as though lighting could be used better to direct the player, however.

    Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar
    It is okay

    The gameplay could be much better with some refining: the combat needs reworking, as it is too difficult with too little health available. The displacements feel unnatural in certain areas.

    Lines in the sand by Krassel
    It is good

    Very inventive, but needs much more polish – The camera feels janky, it is hard to aim at enimies (suit zoom?) and at one point my allies refused to move unless I walked up to them again.

    Dead Zone by easimer
    It is okay

    The environments are alright, and the layout is actually quite promising, yet the combat is unbalanced and straight off the bat you are pushed into combat with no ammo.

    Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho
    It is good

    The gameplay is fun but I feel it could be improved by adding variety (it feels you go straight from one fight to the next). The environment looks good.

    Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon
    It is bad

    Missing textures, poor geometry and extremely easy to break. Likely wasn’t playtested, and I don’t think it should have been entered into a competition.

    Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95
    It is WOW!

    Excellent gameplay – even finding gas cans wasn’t monotonous because I felt like I wanted to explore the environments. Everything looked good. My only complaints are that the washed out look hurt my eyes after a while, and that the prescence of the autogun could be better communicated, rather than being left to trial and error.

    Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005a
    It is dire!

    There’s always one of these in very ville.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
    It is okay

    A little rough, but ech. I had to pile up props to reach the RPG ammo, because for some reason the door wouldn’t open. The geometry is also a bit blocky.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
    It is good

    A quick puzzle that feels pointless. Took me a while to figure it out, too. Not too fun.

    Radio Control by Rocky B
    It is good

    The gameplay was alright, and so was the level design. I think that more ammo could have been given to the player.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua
    It is good

    It’s an alright level, but there are some problems with crashes – due to posion zombies being close to barnicles.

    Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311
    It is WOW!

    Made fun use of the gravity gun and generally looked great. Nothing to complain about at all.

    BONUS: Sea Terminal by Jonny512
    It is okay

    A very bare-bones map that isn’t really detailed at all. Still, the layout is alright and the gameplay is decent. At the start, however, there is no direction.

    BONUS: Outpost by Stract
    It is WOW!

    Fun map with no real flaws.

    BONUS: The Escape by Seji-evan
    It is great!

    A good defense map – fun gameplay and great, detailed environments.


    There are a few maps to skip, but overall, I felt it was a good ville. The bonus maps were some of the best maps.

  10. asterixer

    You have to copy the bin part of the 2013 Single Player in the bin of the Mod to run it under Linux:
    Phillip: if you want i can send you the bin part so you can make a Version 2.5 which also runs under Linux and should also run under MacOSX also.

    1. It won’t work that easily. The mod uses a modified bin that was specifically created for the Viles with some fixes and a new enemy. If you use the bin of the Source SDK 2013 base none of those features will function.

    2. You mean certain files that have to be included for it to work with linux? That are the same for all mods? Just asking so it should be included in the base mod too.

      1. asterixer

        Yes exactly im not sure if and is enough or we need the linux32 folder too.
        If you want i can test this for Linux. Maybe we have a OSX User, because there is a client.dlib and server.dlib for osx….

        1. please let me know after you tested it 🙂
          I’ll forward it to the programmer of the mod (maybe he is reading this himself)

          1. asterixer

            Ok, just tested it. You need only and so far (tested with 3 entries).
            So for OSX it should be client.dlib and server.dlib

            Under Linux i had tow issues with Map 7:
            – If i start the map normal i got a tons of red errors, the rest is working fine incl. weapons.
            – after renaming alle files to lowercase the red errors are gone
            – seems the red errors are the palm trees and the birds
            – but now im not able to change my weapons anymore, the player always keep the last weapon he gets..

            1. Darkicus

              I’ve been unable to run any of the mods released for SDK2013 Singleplayer [upcoming] on Linux so far. I’ve tried copying over the bin directory from SDK2013 as a comment here said but this hasn’t worked: there is no or present (and SDK2013 Singleplayer runs fine on its own without them).

              The error is of course the “Could not load the library client” engine error. This is rather frustrating as pre SDK2013 mods do indeed work (mostly) as intended.

  11. Wesp5

    Is there any reason why the Strider in the mission where you play it wouldn’t move at all?

    1. Unq

      It should move. It’s a little awkward and of course slow, but it should work as long as you keep holding the move keys.

  12. Play It Now!

    What a way to start a new year for the Lambda Cup! Most of the maps are at least on Good ratings! But the leeches in the water are kinda overused though, sometimes even on shallow water. Let’s take a look at these maps.

    It is great!

    Maki is here once again with one of his amazing maps! The visual and pacing are good as always. I really like how you introduce Mechacrabs as new enemy. But sadly, we only get to fight one. Fighting the stalkers was a bit awkward to see them as bullet sponges considering their frail size, but I blame it on the NPC programming. Fighting through the beach to get the RPG was amazing and seeing the chopper crashing into the lighthouse is an icing on the cake. But wait, I somehow created a superportal……aw, crap. And…. where did Odessa come from?

    Maritime Harassment
    It is good

    It has become a little cliché to me to have a title flashes up accompanied by Echoes of a Resonance Cascade, but it still has a dramatic tone to it. The visual was OK. It kind of contradicts the lore through to see leeches in this shallow water. The part where you charge at a mounted gun was challenging. I also like how the rockets contain manhacks instead of headcrabs. The area near the teleporter could use some more space though and for some reason the drainage pipes are pitch black in broad daylight.

    It is good

    The intro already made me impressed about this map. (Also, a representation of my driving skill in video games.) The visual on the coastline was fantastic. The fog effect really put a nice touch there. I understand about the time limit but the houses could use at least a prop or two. The part where you see the Combine rushing to your position was a little too long. The suppression device destroying the barrier was cool, but the area of effect is too big that its damage is unavoidable. There were too many Combine during the Hunter fight. The Combine showing up on the beaches was hard but also challenging, it really rewards you for saving crossbow ammunition. The cave also could use some more detail. An OK map overall.

    Lines in the Sand
    It is great!

    Oh my holy Jesus Christ in a basket! It seems that Maki has a competitor! Playing as Strider blew my mind! It was a fun and challenging experience and boy, I had a lot of fun wiping out those REBEL SCUM! (Philip, can we have CombineVille?) The controls are kind off wonky but still manageable. Also the AI was cooperating! It was fun gunning the rebels down but could use a crosshair though. The final part was challenging! I also like how your Strider will go “beserk” on low health. Well done!

    Dead Zone
    It is great!

    A polished map, dare I say. The pacing was excellent. Seeing you killing Combines while Dr. Breen’s speech blasting loudly in the background acted like some sort of giant spit to the face to him. However, it suffers from two technical difficulties though. There was a door that leads to nowhere and I couldn’t find a way to get out of the basement in the hospital. Also, the coast is barely presented here. But the map is still great despite these flaws.

    Coastal Strife
    It is good

    An OK-ish map. Seeing the Strider and the Dropships in the background fighting was cool, but we never get to see what were they fighting. In terms of combat, the first half was good. But the later half… not so much. While I enjoyed the laser room, dodging the sniper without cover is not my style. The scenery when you fight the Gunship was nice, don’t get me wrong. The ending was very abrupt and anticlimactic. Still an OK map.

    Egmont Key
    It is okay

    The visual, from the start, is a sight for sore eyes. It looks very lively…. until you encounter some sort of problem that makes everything shiny. The voice acting was too quiet to make out, especially during the finale. Also, I couldn’t destroy the ship legitimately. I had to spawn AR2 balls as I couldn’t find them anywhere. Also, you can die from the start by simply falling of a hole on the pier. There was also a house that serves no purpose whatsoever. And THAT “toxic water” was really cheap. It was OK, but it needs fixes.

    It is WOW!

    Another map to compete with Maki’s and in my opinion, this one wins it for me. I saw this map as a main menu background, I felt like it’s gonna be good. And it is! The atmosphere was amazing! The town really gave me a ghost town vibe, like Chernobyl. It was very creepy to here headcrab alert sound in subtitles and you see nothing. The map is very detailed too! The combat was alright, except the fact that the Dropship has autoguns, which I feel like it’s cheap since you would be fighting in the streets throughout the fight. Also, why did Lambda 1 sent me here with only a pistol and a crowbar? Goddamnit, Lambda!

    It is bad

    Seriously, what was that? Like what is…eh….WHAT?! Like I started off in a tunnel and see a poison headcrab dies from a cave in. Nothing makes sense! Like I don’t even get it. It was not fun sniping Combine from across the map with the magnum. I appreciate having Mechaheadcrab as new enemy here though, while there is some programming error that causes the Combine to ignore them and fight against their unarmored counterpart. And boy, they hit hard.

    The Light at the End
    It is great!

    I saw IMakeLevels making streams about this map, I decided to no watch them to not spoil myself for what he has to offer. This map started off good. You are inserted as the man who would destroy the Combine’s occupation of this city inside out. Sneaking into the office was cleverly done and the following gunfight was great. It was pure chaotic. But the second half was TOO chaotic, there was so many things going on! Like suddenly there is a Soldier manning a mounted gun and a sniper while I was fighting the Hunters! It was too frantic, I could barely think! The Strider won’t blow open the cache unless all rockets in the area has been fired. This means if you use them to kill the Soldiers and the Hunters, you would be left frantically searching for any remaining rockets. It was fun but not so fun. Still a great map.

    It is good

    A short, fun puzzle map. Good details, good visuals. The puzzle was not hard and also not easy either. Nothing more to say.

    Radio Control
    It is okay

    The first part sees you climbing the cliff to reach the radio tower. The pathway was blocky and unnatural, but the rest of the first half was OK. The headcrabs was overused though, they became annoying. It also does not make sense that why would I have to open the secret door first, I could have used my crowbar to destroy the wooden planks. Also, there was a boarded door that somehow opens.

    The second part was little bit unbalanced, the enemies were spawning everywhere and there is no source for armour. You have to heal by picking up small health kits from dead Soldiers. The crossbow guy dies too quickly and the RPG guy is killed off way too early during the fight. Unlike Crowbar, looping music never bores me for some reason.

    Desiccated Shore
    It is bad

    The Combine jumping out of the door was insanely abrupted and really soured my opinion from the start. A soldier also jumped out and died instantly. While the rest was good, there was too little health between sections. The headcrab rockets was spammed heavily, one even took off a good amount of my health! The gunship fight would be better if you were not spammed by those things at the beginning of the fight.

    Coastal Sweep
    It is great!

    The map’s visual was outstanding, pleasing to look at. I can even see that it will be good from the cover. The exploration inside lighthouse was very rewarding. The combat feels consistent. What I dislike though, is the minefield. The second fight was not great because of too many hopper mines. There is also a problem with a door at the lighthouse. A great map still.

    Sea Terminal
    It is dire!

    The map is too opened and most of the areas are very, very pointless. It is empty streets, beach, carrier ship, everything! Too many pulse rifle Soldiers here. Also, the Gunship was wasted as some sort of stationary turret. I wasn’t able to complete this map legitimately because the elevator did not work. No checkpoint, too. Sorry, mate.

    It is great!

    Man, this guy is so sick of the Combine he went out of his way to destroy every last one of them. The map’s visual was incredible along with the combat. However, this map also suffers from some flaws for combat too. The first dropship can easily open fire on you because of unblocked sightline. The Combine ambushing you at the top of the elevator was kinda cheap. This map gets a point for a ridiculous ending though. Did I just blow myself up with a nuke?

    The Escape
    It is good

    No, man. You don’t give players objective in a Half-Life map like in modern shooters, you give them objective by having them looking at it. The start was nice, though the creator maybe forgot that you can’t switch weapons without the suit so the fight into the warehouse was kind of awkward. The houses were too cramped for that number of Soldiers. The rocket crate was a little too hard to find, because when you throw this many enemies at you, the player would think that they need to defend before moving on. And that trunk was a lazy progress blocker right there. It’s still a good map though.


    Really looking forward to what Villes to come after seeing all of these maps. I have picked Line in the Sand, Beacon, and Katadysi as final picks for voting. A few maps were close to be picked too!

    1. Hey, thx for playing =D so, the objectives thing appeared because I started working on the gameplay too late and since I hadn’t time to test with people I included them hoping that the map wouldn’t endup directionless due the size of it, i’d prefer to not have’em here but going as far as “Never ever use’em” I don’t agree much, I think might be a place for this mechanic somewhere in HL maps, as for the other stuff, well, I have a tendency of starting the environment before planning gameplay.. it’s a habit that has been rly hard to overcome because although it might work more on P2 (a game I’m more used to map) in Hl2 I found that it can rly backfire.. I’m trying to overcome that tho, just dk which kinda workflow will work best for me yet here in HL2 mapping.

      1. Well, even though I never do any custom map, but here is a tip: Always think what the players would and will do.

    2. Surprised you found my map to be even okay, (especially visually), I thought it was abhorrent. In regards to the overly bright objects, this is because I only built cubemaps for LDR. I didn’t realize that the entire time I was mapping HDR wasn’t on, and as such all reflective objects look terrible. In regards to the ending, you are technically supposed to use the rpg’s to bring the ship down. The voice over did explain this, but for some reason no matter what I did it was way too quiet. Anyways, thanks for the review.

      1. I gave you that because the visual was really, really good. The gameplay wasn’t that bad for me since it was mediocre at least. I also forgot to mention that the beach fight is really some effort, it was alright. It gives me “reversed Normandy” vibe. Although, I don’t like the headcrab rocket rain during the fight.

    3. About Sea Terminal, the gunships ai setup was actually broken, that was the issue with my sdk
      instalation (custom game dll), they were meant to fly out and attack the player on the beach,
      the rpg found in the jeep was for fighting them, I fixed that already, added autosaves too,
      maybe the map will be included when the mod is updated(?) about the elevator, I wonder ,
      what version of map that was… When I established new path through the ship, I just disabled the old elevator instead of removing it. Nonworking elevator appears to be misguiding I presume, new way is through the catwalk to the left. I agree that all things are extremely overscaled, and without
      the gunships, shore part is very empty, town part is underutilized too, well… this was my first map.
      The concept really was too ambitious for my skills and given time (I’ve started at 8 January)
      I’ll try to do something more compact and finished next time…

      1. Hey um, I ran the map on GMod today and for some reason, the Gunships worked like what they were intended.

        Also, about the broken elevator. It appears that the map was updated and the elevator that Crowbar used in his playthrough no longer works, you need to take another path instead. I played this before Dolmo’s playthrough came out so I was not aware of the map changes so I noclipped to the top floor.

        But after playing it legitimately, I would say that the enemy placements inside the ship, the ones that just stand still in the rooms, feels too video game-ish. And I would never know that the vents can be opened by pressing E. You need to put a hint there, because you used unbreakable vent model.

        1. Originally the gunships used looped pathtracks that work in HL2, but do not work with episodic dlls, I just forgot, that my custom dll was built from HL2 code and not the episodic, Garry’s mod is based on HL2 codebase as well, so the gunships work in there too, I disconnected looped tracks in the final version, so they now work with the mod. I have sent the new version few days after the release, It might be added if the mod package gets updated. Good point about the vent hatch, I’ve remembered that in the original games (including HL1), they never opened like this, and always was a breakable grate, that’s just unusual design. I recently played it on hard, I now understand the problem with all soldiers having AR2, and no autosaves, that was a stereotype, that smg was for metrocops, and since AR2 is called Overwatch standard issue, then most soldiers are supposed to have it. I hope when AR3 will be introduced for the elite soldiers, the balance will be shifted, and it won’t be an issue anymore. Thanks for playing…

  13. Is ‘Beacon’ a prequel to ‘Hero Once more part 2’?
    That Odessa on a boat is a clear connection 😉

    1. No, they are made by different mappers.

      1. I know, still the question remains.

        1. Unq

          If anything it might be connected to Maki’s map for CombinationVille. Wasn’t Cubbage on a boat in that too?

  14. Play It Later

    This was an overall pretty positive competition. Mostly, maps hung around the “it’s okay” level, but there were a few peaks in quality here and there. I’d say this one is worth a play.
    DISCLAIMER: If I sound harsh in any of my reviews, I’m just a naturally critical person. It’s how I review things. Don’t take it personally.
    BIT OF A WARNING: I know that Philip doesn’t like strong language on the site- All of the reviews are clean, however the commentary in my video playthroughs does contain strong language. Just be aware of that.

    It is good

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Captain Bob Ross

    Every aspect of this map felt technically good. The detailing was nice, every step was well-designed, and there was generally nothing about it that stood out to me as bad.

    Like I said, detailing was pretty good. Not anything god-tier, but I felt it was a nice, pretty little adventure we went on. The only thing that sorta bothered me design-wise was the fact that the map teases you with a cool sniping position, then destroys the only way to get to it when it would’ve actually been useful.

    The thing that bugs me is the map just doesn’t feel like it has a hook. There’s not a single thing in the map that makes it feel like a unique experience compared to other HL2 maps. I always crave uniqueness in the maps that I play to a bit of a fault, so that definitely knocked it down a peg for me.

    Final warning: The gameplay impressions contain strong language. Would not recommend to small, innocent children.

    Maritime Harassment
    It is okay

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Abusive sewer-dwelling antelope

    This map felt like it had a lot of ups and downs. Well, more like it was in the sorta-up area, then took a plunge towards the end. The actual design for most of the map was okay. It had some good inter-connectivity. I really like the puzzle at the beginning with the propane tanks that you had to shoot. It could’ve done with a few more lights to tell you where to go, but it wasn’t strictly bad. There was one moment where it tried to replicate the scene in HL2 where you’re in the sewers and metrocops throw explosive barrels down on you, but it missed the important part where the sewer grate explodes to tell you something is going to happen.

    In the initial draft of this review, I completely ranted about the ending segment being, like,
    totally unfair and stuff. I realized, playing another one of these maps later on, that the hard mode in HL2 just really sucks, and I shouldn’t have been playing on it. So for the vast majority of players,
    this section should be fine.

    It is okay

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Estuary Banker

    This map felt consistently alright. It was obviously created by a relatively inexperienced mapper, so there’s a lot of issues with detailing, and the overall design feels a bit amateurish. The mapper clearly decided to play it safe with how things play out in the map, so there’s nothing here that feel strictly bad. Except one thing: There’s a moment when you’re just waiting for some combine soldiers who landed on the beach to walk all the way up to where you’ve been trapped.

    Also, the displacements REALLY need to be re-done.

    Lines in the Sand
    It is good

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Dollar Store Strider

    Long story short: You play as a strider. Through some insane input and output magic, the mapper got a strider to function as a playable vehicle. But only just barely. You never feel like you’re totally in control of the strider, rather it feels like you’re politely suggesting what it should do next.

    It was fun for the first five minutes or so, but it just dragged on way too long. It would’ve gotten an “it’s great” rating if it was only like 3-5 minutes long or so. It really just overstayed its welcome.

    Dead Zone
    It is great!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Urbanized Crustacean

    This map was… fun. It had a lot of enjoyable combat sequences, the detailing was very good, the atmosphere was nice… just overall, simply put, it was a fun map to play on.

    There were three prime issues, however:
    One: This ain’t no coastville map. You have some water at the beginning and… that’s about it. It’s an urban map- simple as that. Now, I happen to quite like the urban theme… so I don’t mind that much, but in the context of the competition, that’s a pretty big no-no.
    Two: Constant combat. The pacing was a bit off. From the moment you start, you’re in combat, and it doesn’t let up for a second. There should’ve been a couple more moments here and there for the player to take a breather.
    Three: The ending. You push a button. Fade to black. Whammo. The end.

    Coastal Strife
    It is bad

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Coastal Dude

    Uggh… where to begin with this one.
    I guess I’ll start with the visuals. They’re pretty alright. A bit basic in some areas, but it’s very “get the job done” aesthetics. The optimization is really problematic though, I have a pretty good PC, yet my frame rate was dipping down an awful lot.
    The base of the gameplay is a bit simple. It’s a very simple Half-Life romp, you go from one room with one obstacle, to the next room with a different obstacle. The pacing is pretty okay, too, starting out slow, picking up later, and giving some slower pauses in between.

    But I kept feeling these little design issues that just piled on and on. Frustrating enemy placement, a lack of autosaves, a few moments of bad conveyance, arbitrary level progression, etc. I think the moment where it all broke down for me was when the mapper asked you to cross a bunch of insta-kill death lasers while in front of turrets. That’s not fun, that’s a mess. It all just added together into an experience that felt below-average.

    It is okay

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Egg Monkey

    This map felt… hmm… alright. The glowy cubemap issue was a bit annoying, but I’m willing to look past that.
    The actual combat all felt fine, it’s just that there were some odd design decisions throughout that dragged things down a tad. A lot of weird clipping, strange geometry, and confusing visual communication overall made the map feel less smooth than it could have.

    Other than that… really not much else to say, other than it was a pretty good attempt at an island theme in HL2

    It is WOW!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Jeremy 5

    …Wow. Yeah. Good. Real nice… like… really.
    OK- So… atmosphere- spot on! I love the dreary coastal town atmosphere, I like the white color scheme, I loved all of it. Felt a bit like an alternate version of Ravenholm.
    The map was basically non-linear, which I ALWAYS appreciate. I love exploring non-linear levels, even if they are rather small.
    The combat section- well, at first I thought I didn’t like it, but it turns out this was the map that got me to stop playing on hard mode. It’s just stupid and it makes all of the enemies bullet sponges, so I’m not gonna do that anymore.

    The only thing I didn’t like was the invincible sniper turrets in the middle of the map during the combat sequence… that didn’t help make the combat more engaging, it just said- “We’re going to restrict your playable space to 1/4th the size it should be”

    It is dire!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Cardboard-cutout-of-Gordon-Freeman


    Okay, this map was a strange beast. The detailing was very simplistic, but that’s not a crime.

    There was just so much stuff in this map that was just tossed in… haphazardly. There is no rhyme or reason put into anything about this map. You just… go forward… and things kinda happen to you. It doesn’t feel designed, it feels like a trash heap.

    The Light at the End

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: “HL2.exe has stopped working”

    I’m not rating this map because for whatever reason, it kept crashing on me, so I decided to stop playing it. A shame, too, because what I had played thus far was actually pretty fun. If I had to rate what I had gone through so far, it would rank at “It’s great”

    It is good

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: MYSTerious Stranger

    It looked nice. You pushed buttons. The end.

    Okay, I have a bit more to say than that. It’s obvious that the map author wanted to make a map that was as well-detailed as possible, and, well… he succeeded! The issue is that a good looking map only gets you so far. If there’s no gameplay to support it… well then… you’re kinda screwed.

    I ultimately rated it as “it’s good” because I don’t want to fault the mapper too much simply for what he tried to pursue.

    Radio Control
    It is good

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: The Spongebob Time Card Guy

    I was worried for a moment when I saw how simple the visuals were, but the gameplay mostly made up for it. The platforming at the beginning got a bit annoying, but the general experience of progressing through the map was fun, and the combat sequence at the end was very well designed. I also just like the thematic element of turning this house into a rebel base and then having to defend it from the combine.

    There was one issue, though: That one puzzle with the house. I could not for the life of me figure out how to get in the house, so I just wound up noclipping inside. That needs to be made more clear.

    Desiccated Shore
    It is bad

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Stale Macaroni

    I wound up rating this at “It’s bad” because it was a generally average map capped off with a sudden lapse of immense frustration.

    So it’s a very basic Half-Life romp, linear progression, room to room, obstacle to obstacle. Nothing new there. Most of the combat is a bit boring, with the exclusion of maybe one fight. I felt like a lot of it was reduced to “stand still and shoot”. The map has an over-reliance on zombies, and it doesn’t really know how to use them properly. They try to use them as chock standard enemies, when they’re usually better used as a level design tool, and/or almost akin to a physical obstacle.

    The ending really pidlidoodled me off. It’s another freaking gunship fight, the same one you’ve no doubt seen a hundred times, only they forget to give you health before you fight it. I got stuck trying to fight the thing with 14 health. Yeah, no. I just put on godmode.

    Coast Sweep
    It is great!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Jeff Goldblum

    This map… is… pretty. I think that’s a good start.

    The gameplay starts off a bit awkward, the combine encounters just felt a bit… off… somehow. Like the map hadn’t gotten its footing yet. I also like how the most iconic piece of architecture in the map is a completely optional area. I always like when level designers do things like that. This is also the first place in the map that you can find a rocket launcher in, and, to my surprise, you don’t immediately get assaulted by a gunship seconds after you pick it up!

    Then you head back down to the coast, fight some more combine…
    then the gunship shows up.

    And it does wind up being a “fight-gunship-to-make-the-game-arbitrarily-fade-to-black” ending. I’m starting to hate these. They feel so video-gamey, and it makes the whole trip you just made feel like it had no point in existing. However, when this is the biggest flaw that the map has… you know it’s good.
    Despite how critical I sound, I did REALLY like this map. It was a good one.

    Sea Terminal
    It is great!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Gordon Adventureman

    So, a lot of people aren’t going to enjoy this map, because it strays really far from the typical HL2 school of level design… but wow, for me it was perfect.

    Well, maybe not perfect, I could’ve done with a little more direction in the opening city, but other than that, this kinda more open design is some of my favorite stuff in level design. I really like how massive the map is. Despite how simplistic the detailing is, the huge spaces create an atmosphere that just isn’t present in base HL2 most of the time. It gives me the vibe that I’m exploring this giant, interconnected, climactic facility.

    Long story short: It really appealed to my tastes.

    It is WOW!

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Old Man Gordon

    Okay, so, the map already starts off with 5000 bonus points for that hilarious intro.

    Moving right along, the whole map is well designed, looks amazing, and is just fun from beginning to end. I didn’t really have a lot of critiquing to do while I was actually playing it, so I just wound up playing the whole thing while doing an old man voice (which slowly devolved into a southern farmer voice) as a reference to that amazing intro bit.

    The only real issue I have is there’s one bit where the lighting and where your eye is led feels like you should go one way, when really the level wants you to go the opposite direction entirely. That took me a couple minutes, but it’s not a big deal.

    Fun level through and through.

    The Escape
    It is okay

    I’m dubbing the protagonist of this map: Nuthin’ at all!

    Phhew… so this map started at “It’s Dire” levels of bad, then worked its way up to nearly “It’s Wow” quality… how do you rate a map like that?

    So, you start out, and you have to do a fair bit of combat while you don’t have your suit. Don’t ever do this. Ever. End of story. You can’t change your weapons, you have no hud, and you can’t sprint. If you have any sort of combat whatsoever… Give. The. Player. A. Suit.
    Also, there was a door that arbitrarily stayed locked until you broke all the boards, which I was hesitant to do because I couldn’t switch to my flippyskraggling crowbar! That got me confused for a good chunk of time.

    Once you get past that hurdle though, things smooth out a bit. The next part of the map is a fairly simple area where you need to knock out some power. The combat here is a bit iffy, as well.

    The last area is actually really fun, has a good APC fight, and the battle with the gunship is pretty well done. My only complaint is the house is a bit awkward to navigate.

    It’s a real shame, because I came out feeling equal parts positive and negative, each in completely different areas. If the first part were redone, this could be a really good map.

    In Conclusion

    While I did like this mappack at the end of the day, I feel like more often than not, the maps just got kinda boring, which is a real disappointment. I’m not sure how much I like basic setting themes… I feel like just the concept of “make sure your maps looks like this in some way, shape, or form” doesn’t inspire enough creativity. But at the same time, the benefit of that is the contestants have more room to just make what they wanna make, which I can respect.

    Looking forward to the next one!

    1. Anon_1605217

      Hey thx for playing =D so, ya can find a more complete, “postmortem”, on other reviews.. so yh to avoid repetition here’s the bullet points:
      -Yh regret to do the suitless thing it backfired
      -Kinda still learning how to do combat
      -There is ladder_dismount
      -Worked on environment first then gameplay that screws things up for myself =(

      1. /\ It’s me, i wasn’t logged.. didn’t knew you could comment without an account O_O

    2. Glad you liked my map! Watching your video commentary I feel like you started to notice the echoes of my original design goals with the Combine ambush.

      I actually wanted that fight to be hard. Impossible, even. I wanted to really play up the fact that you’re just some hapless rebel, and not a power armor wearing messiah wielding an entire squad’s worth of weapons. I wanted the player to merely escape, not kill all the Combine single-handedly.

      But as I drew up plans for that, I realized there was no way in hell I was gonna pull that off well in less than half a week using vanilla HL2 combat. So I rapidly shifted gears and made it a more traditional arena fight where you had to wait for backup.

      I still wanted the Combine to feel like they had tactical superiority, though, which is where the autogun came in. In hindsight I didn’t actually introduce it, so it just felt cheap when you walked out into the street and instantly got shot.

      And while I wanted the autogun to force the player out of the open and in between the buildings for cover, it effectively closed off half the map, making the fight much more closed in and predictable.

      I think there was a better idea for a fight in there somewhere, I just didn’t have the time to flesh it out since I was in rush mode.

    3. [Sea Terminal] Thanks for positive review and for making a video. I agree that the town can be confusing. I didn’t realize that when you get there for the first time, the path might be not so obvious, the gate should’ve had more details, to hint that it can be opened. The town part was planned to be more linear. I thought, I’ll set up some layout, and then establish some intricate path through it, but that didn’t work. I’m glad, that you appreciated my attempt on making large open space level. After making a couple of maps in GoldSrc, I really wanted to go wild with this new engine, and get a sense of it’s limits, not everyone liked the result though… I’ve learned, that large things like this, require a lot of time to make them look and play decent. Thanks for the video again, I really enjoyed that, it was new thing for me to see my map played by others. Thanks for playing…

      1. Actually, can I like, just, steal your map? Because I have some ideas as to how I could re-work it, and I kinda want to challenge myself. It would really just be working off of the premise more than anything else, though. (So I wouldn’t need the VMF)

        1. Anon_1606617

          [Sea Terminal] The vmf is free to modify and redistribute. details are in the readme for the map.

  15. Play It Now!

    This the first ville I’ve ever entered. I like coasts and water, so the theme was a no brainer for me. As such I felt like I should take the time and review it. All in all, I thought this was one of the better villes. Probably not one of the best, but still pretty good. Most of the maps were at least servicable, very few were legitimately broken or terrible. And even the bad ones weren’t so bad they made you feel you’d wasted your time even playing them, with one exception. (I’ll get to that later)

    Beacon by Maki
    It is great!

    A solid entry to start us off. The visuals are were very good, aside from a couple of floating trees and the wet sand which oddly extends far beyond the beach, and well into the forest behind it. Looking out from the shore, the dark, stormy sky meeting the water combined with the flashing buoy lights reminded me visually of Virmire from Mass Effect. There were a couple little touches that I personally liked, such as the soda cans in the sniper’s nest. A fun little characterization of a combine soldier. The gameplay and combat was good, if not super inspired. Pretty standard Half-Life 2 gunfights. Sometimes it’s not 100% clear what you’re supposed to be doing, exactly, particularly underneath the lighthouse. And there are some minor issues like how on my second review playthough, the helicopter didn’t attack until I’d already hit it several times with the RPG. But nothing game-breaking or too detracting from the experience. The ending was perhaps a bit awkward. But Overall a solid, worthwhile entry.

    Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg
    It is great!

    This was another solid entry in my books. The gameplay is well paced and directed, and while the visuals aren’t absolutely stunning or anything, they’re still fairly good. The huge combine structures in the distance were pretty cool, and I like that they weren’t plastered in awkward, fully opaque fog that doesn’t blend into the background. Too many people do that for some reason, and it never looks good. I liked the slow ramp up from wandering around the interiors to combat. Manhacks coming from headcrab canisters was enough to make me think “hey, that’s kinda neat”. The final fight was perhaps a bit bland, as the combine units scarcely had a chance to get out of the chokepoint they were funneled through, but at the very least they could take cover. Decent overall. Don’t really have much else to say.

    Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar
    It is good

    This map is again fairly solid, but not as good as the last two. The level geometry is pretty rough, but the lighting is decent, and the gameplay and scripting are well put together enough to be able to move past that. The introductory segment was well concieved and executed, and I liked having to jump over the zombie to get to the ladder. Though at the very beginning, there’s a foot-deep puddle of water that makes you take damage immediately. I don’t like it when maps put watery death triggers so close to the shore, it feels strange and cheap. It doesn’t make sense that the leeches would infest literally every square inch of water right up to the exact waterline. The combat later on was engaging, which I always prefer to not engaging. Both the player and the soldiers have some room to move around, and there’s enough of a threat to the player that it’s not a complete cakewalk: a decent player can still convievably die on normal without it being frustrating. My major criticism would be that it’s aimless. There’s no objective or direction given, you just move from area to area and stumble across what you’re supposed to do without ever knowing why. There are a couple of minor rough spots but overall it’s not a bad map.

    Lines in the sand by Krassel
    It is okay

    The premise of playing as a strider is very unique, and one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I’m really curious as to how this was done. The map earns a lot of points from me just for that. Unfortunately it has a lot of issues in execution. Without a crosshair of some sort, aiming the strider’s weapons is very difficult and fiddly, especially with targets so small. Aiming the main cannon is virtually impossible on the first try without using the impacts of the minigun to line up your shot, and it takes too long to try again if you miss. The citizens are also very spongy and take too many shots to go down.There’s too much down time walking between rebel outposts.

    The rebels seem to have trouble firing their RPGs, too, which is probably a good thing for balance seeing as how there’s no way to avoid their shots, and no opportunities to regain lost health (at least as far as the player is aware). Occasionally the strider will bug out and refuse to walk forwards, making progress very difficult. The final fight is also way too hard since there are so many rpg enemies whose rockets again you can’t avoid. And it’s hard to take them out quickly since you can barely aim and the enemies are sponges. The concept is great, and I’d love to see a more fleshed out version of this. But ultimately it just wasn’t that fun to actually play.

    Dead Zone by easimer
    It is good

    I liked this one. The start was abrupt and had me thinking it was gonna be worse than it was. Shoving the player straight into combat usually doesn’t leave a good first impression. However it did even out as it went on. The combat was well scripted and functional, and there weren’t any serious frustrating or broken moments. There could stand to be a bit more signposting of where you’re supposed to go near the beginning, as I felt lost a couple of times.

    I liked fighting to the backdrop of Breen’s speeches, as it provides a little more engagement than a plain firefight. The end fight with the gunship was somewhat awkward and could be skipped entirely, though. Visually this map was only servicable, with nothing spectacular or standout. The brushes were pretty blocky, and I’m not a fan of fully opaque fog that doesn’t blend into the skybox, leaving strange solid-shaded silhouettes in the distance. Some of the buildings felt unnatural. And as crowbar pointed out, there is barely anything coastal about it. It just felt like a normal city street that just happened to be next to some water. But overall, it was pretty good.

    Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho
    It is okay

    I wasn’t really a fan of this map. The visuals weren’t terrible, and were even pretty good in some places, but the layouts of the areas and the composition of buildings felt random and unrealistic. The displacements were lackluster, but brushwork was pretty good, though as crowbar pointed out, some of the buildings did feel almost copy-pasted from HL2 (though I know they weren’t). The bright and cheery lighting made it pleasant to look at, at least, though as crowbar pointed out The combat was uninspired and occasionally frustrating, and relied too much on combine soldiers running at the player through open spaces with little cover.

    There was no goal or focus, and the map started to drag on after a while. The ending was awkward, abrupt, and anti-climatic. The buildup to the hunter was nice, but to have it just drop in out of nowhere and then fade to black was lame. This map also commits the cardinal sin of NOT HAVING ENOUGH AUTOSAVES, particularly in the beginning. It’s really annoying even on good maps to be forced to restart from the very beginning after dying a third of the way through, so on a map that’s just okay, it completely zaps my desire to even finish it. There are far worse maps, but there are far better ones as well.

    Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon
    It is bad

    This was the first map in this competition that I’d say perhaps isn’t worth playing. However it’s not as bad as some later maps. The start is actually fairly good. You approach an island on a boat while a voiceover explains your objectives, and there’s actually a bit of intrigue and mystery as to what may lie ahead of you. A great premise. And it’s even set on a real-life island that I’ve been to before! Neat! I can forgive the lackluster voice acting, since that’s really a luxury in these competitions. Unfortunately, when you go ashore and discover what actually does lie ahead, it’s not all that impressive. The brush geometry is very blocky, though not the worst in the competition. There are no HDR cubemaps. And this tropical Florida island is filled with episode 2 boreal pine trees, in spite of the fact that the author managed to find a custom palm tree model to use in certain places! The real island is covered in palm trees, why even use the episode 2 trees at all? The lighting is pretty good, though, so at least there’s that.

    Sadly, this map has major structural problems. The map is true to its real-life inspiration in that it is extremely flat and covered with trees. Unfortunately, this is a worst-case scenario for BSP optimization. There is nothing blocking visibility at all, so the author was forced to use the fog far-z clipping plane in order to maintain a playable framerate. A better solution would have been to eschew representing the entire island, and instead make more hallway-like segments which can be hidden from each other by skybox brushes. Episode 2 did this wonderfully.

    The gameplay of this map leaves a lot to be desired, as well. Too many combine standing in the open with little to do or places to go. The final fight is a confusing mess. The narrator explains what to do, but the audio can easily be drowned out by combat. And if this happens, there is no chance at all you will figure out what to do in a reasonable amount of time. The fight itself is also pretty lame. Combine standing on a beach while rebels gun them down from cover. Later some antlions and headcrabs show up. And there are some strange errors as well. Headcrab canisters fly in an inverted arc under the ground. An entire squad of soldiers spawns underwater. Ultimately the map has heart and a good concept, but the execution is too poor to really recommend it.

    Katadysi by Me (Postmortem)

    Well, it seems like this ended up being a somewhat polarizing map. People either love it, or they don’t. To start off, I should point out that this is only my third publically released map, ever. The other two are an ancient, terrible, babby’s first Garrys Mod map from 2009 or so which has been lost to time, and a CSS map back in 2011. I entered this competition as an excuse to force me to finally complete and release an HL2 map, and I’m super happy I managed to finally do it. My aim with this map was to play up the atmospheric and environmental storytelling elements of HL2’s coast chapters, as I rarely find maps that successfully harken back to this brilliant aspect of HL2. To this end, I think I’ve succeeded. I’ve gotten several reports from people saying they loved the atmosphere and exploration, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

    However, I also got several reports of people getting stuck on and frustrated by the puzzles, and I can absolutely understand why. I didn’t do a great job guiding the player or teaching the mechanics, which some people can do without, but others need. I lack experience in this area, so I’m glad to be able to have so much feedback about it. The ultra gray and flat lighting was also a point of contention for some people, and I agree that it needs work. Interiors are too dark. Important objects are hidden in darkness. There’s not enough contrast, which can get hard on the eyes after a while. I get the impression that some people simply don’t like the style and prefrer something more colorful, though, which is fair. The combat was also lackluster, which I’m totally aware of. Unfortunately due to time constraints I had to rush the latter half of the map, meaning I couldn’t give it the love and attention it deserved. And again, I don’t have very much experience directing HL2 combat, so I was pretty much bound to make some mistakes. While I did have the map playtested, I was not able to have it playtested extensively enough to be able to fully discover these issues and rectify them in time.

    Overall, I’m proud of this map, but it’s pretty far from perfect. As I mentioned already, time constraints and lack of experience kept this map from reaching its full potential. Hopefully the experience gained from this ville will allow my future maps to be better.

    Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005a
    It is dire!

    I’m sorry, but this one was just… bad. You start off in a black room facing an improperly lit rock. You find your suit and weapons just lying on the floor in the middle of a dark hallway. The slomo part with the poison headcrab was hilariously awkward and bizarre, and didn’t always kill the headcrab. No cubemaps. Floating props. Broken ladder. Blocky square brush geometry. Floor textures on walls. Dark outdoor lighting not matching the super bright skybox (and given the fact that it was sky_day01_01, i.e. the default skybox, I’m not sure was even intentionally selected). Nothing disguising the edge of the skybox. Weird invisible combine force field stretching across an entire beach. What little combat there was was simply combine soldiers in an open field and some headcrabs. I could go on, but honestly, there was almost nothing in this map that made it worth playing. This map was so bad that it made me up my rating for two of the other maps from dire to bad, as I didn’t think they belonged in the same category as this one.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
    It is good

    The idea of the beginning section was nice, with lots of friendly npcs and dialogue. It felt awkward in practice, though, especially the guy in the boat. The boat also doesn’t wait for you to actually get off before leaving, so you can be taken out of the level if you stay on. The fact that none of the npcs ever look at you while talking is of off-putting, as well. Overall I get what you were going for with this part, but I’d say sometimes it’s better to have nothing than to have something that’s not done proper justice. The building firefight was well done and I don’t have too much to say about it, but I have no idea why that combat track was looped. It started to become grating after the second go around, especially as it continued to loop both during and after the next song when the strider appears.

    The end fight was also seriously overwhelming, there were just way too many enemies. Hunters, dozens of soldiers, a sniper, a strider: it was too punishing to handle even on normal. The map sometimes crashes at this point, too, as I know the author is aware. It was also not clear at all how the player was supposed to access the rocket crate in the gas station warehouse, and it presented too tantalizing a target for the player, making them fixate on it instead of waiting for it to be made accessible as was intended. And visually, while the map was alright, it wasn’t spectacular. The brushwork was blocky and boring. The lighting was kind of flat (like I have any right to talk about that), though there was some nice fog. And the bobbing bouys were an excellent touch. Overall a decent map, but let down by some combat scripting issues and lack of polish.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
    It is WOW!

    An atmospheric little puzzle map straight out of a Simon Stålenhag painting. I don’t want to spoil it (even though there’s not that much to spoil) so I won’t go into detail about what it is. The puzzle is pretty short and not hard to figure out, but I don’t see this as a problem. I love that it’s set in a non-HL2 environment, it reminds me of Svalbard. Could perhaps use some more visual polish, but aside from one minor graphical glitch (the reflections on the ice behave strangely) it doesn’t really detract from the experience. Maybe make the fog less opaque so you can make out the towers in the distance a little bit better. Overall extremely well done. One of my favorites of the bunch, but probably not for those who want more substance.

    Radio Control by Rocky B
    It is bad

    Boy do I have a lot to say about this one. The beginning of the map was awkward, with annoying platforming, unnatural, angular displacements, and too many barnacles. The upper portion of the area was better, though the puzzle was again awkward. The boards on the house feel like they should be able to be broken, and it’s not clear enough that you have to go back down the cliffs after starting the generator, as he wire leading back down is thin and easily missed behind the chain link fence. A sprite or sparks would have helped.

    The second half of the map felt disjointed from the first. It’s not clear what’s going on until the Combine show up randomly with no announcement or buildup. The combat itself is overwhelming and frustrating. There are too many enemies and not enough health or armor for the player. There’s not enough room to maneuver without getting shot, so you end up hiding in the house, which leaves you surrounded with nowhere to go. The rebels die too quickly, and many of them don’t even spawn with guns. Even on normal, it dragged on for too long and was too difficult to feel worth my time, so I ended up cheating to get through it. And a personal pet peeve of mine (though irrelevant to gameplay), I don’t like it when maps throw in metrocops, normal overwatch soldiers, and nova prospekt soldiers all in the same combat scenario. It doesn’t make sense lore-wise and it reminds me of shitty gmod battle videos.

    The map’s visuals leave a lot to be desired, as well. As mentioned before, the displacement work is flat and angular. The brushwork is slightly better, but not much so. There are some very obvious repeating textures that haven’t been masked with overlays or decals. The lighting is bland and drab, and doesn’t line up with skybox. There’s no HDR support, and the classic Source problem of colorful blotchy shadows in dark areas is readily apparent in the house before the lights turn on. Overall it’s just not a very good map in my opinion.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua
    It is bad

    This would have earned an “It’s Dire” rating from me, given the developer oversights and the fact that this map consistently crashes my game towards the latter section. But after Cascade I had to change my rating to Bad. The first impression is not good. The starting hallway is really awkwardly lit and bland looking. Decals are thrown up all over the place with no rhyme or reason. The first few enemy encounters are boring hallway firefights, and the entrances of the soldiers are weird. In the first one, there’s no entrance into the room at all. No door, nothing. The only way to access it is to blow down a wall (which the soldiers did), which brings up the question: how’d they get in there in the first place? The second one is less logic defying, but it’s not clear exactly how the door came down. There’s no explosion, so what did the soldiers do, kick it? Why did it shatter into a million tiny pieces then? The whole map feels like this, nothing makes sense or feels like it had much though put into it. Everything’s just thrown in willy-nilly.

    In the third encounter, there are just too many damned headcrabs in a small space. But at least it makes sense. The next combat section is a little bit better, though skippable, and still nothing mind-blowing. There are a couple of unavoidable setpieces that force you to take damage, which is a very bad thing to do unless you know exactly what you’re doing. As mentioned before, there are also technical oversights such as enemies spawning right in front of you, or sleeping zombies making idle noises, and it’s clear all the walls of the starting section are made of func_details given that the environment light seeps onto the floor through them. The map did start to ramp up at the zombie warehouse (too much), and the explosive barrels trap was almost a little exciting, but unfortunately I couldn’t play past this part without crashing. Fix the crashes and technical problems and this would earn an okay rating.

    Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311
    It is great!

    This was a very nice map. A refreshing change of pace after the last one. The visuals were solid, a good blend between Lost Coast’s atmosphere and the HL2 coast’s buildings. The only possible complaint I could make in that regard is the use of the ugly coast terrain skybox model, but that’s a minor gripe. The introduction of the combine soldiers was a great touch, with the soldier investigating his dead team leader’s body. Rare to see combine soldiers have behavior outside of combat. One note though, the episode 2 advisor broadcast audio clip after defeating the first group of soldiers was used incorrectly: The sound file is distance fading, meaning the left channel plays up close and the right one far away (this is used in npc gunshots). These are intended to be played from a position within the world. Here it was played with the “Play Everywhere” flag set, meaning both channels were played in stereo at the same time, making the sound strange and too much to the left. What was being said also didn’t really fit what was going on in the map.

    The setup of fighting soldiers in a minefield was interesting enou gh to keep me engaged, with enough objects and cover to provide a little bit of maneuvering potential. Climbing the lighthouse was nice, and makes me wish there had been more exploration in this map, given that the atmosphere is so nice. There should have been a better reward, however, seeing as how it was optional. Getting the RPG slightly earlier didn’t matter in the long run. And finally even the gunship fight at the end wasn’t annoying, like so many of them are. I did manage to get the gunship stuck on top of the bridge on my second playthrough, though. And finally, I liked that you could actually go in the water a bit without getting instantaneously swarmed by leeches. That’s as it should be: the leeches should simply be a barrier to prevent you from going out too far, not an immediate punishment for simply sticking your toes in. Overall a really good map, and short enough to not overstay its welcome.

    BONUS: Sea Terminal by Jonny512
    It is bad

    This map gains a few points from me for its seeming HL2 Beta inspiration: Brush APC, desert-looking coastline, Traptown-resembling first area, elevated combine railways. All it needed was a submarine wreck! Unfortunately, it gains almost no points for almost anything else. The first section is alright, but it slowly devolves into a slog of boring fights in open fields. Everything in this map is so empty and sparse. This makes some sense seeing as it’s a driving map, however it’s totally possible to miss the car entirely, which is not necessary for progression. If this happens, the player is left wandering empty wastelands, shooting combine in the open at long range. The ship portion is better, but the impression of the map has been ruined by this point. The visual quality has dropped from kinda okay to total block fest. The gameplay is boring and it’s a total slog. And this section is marred by problems. The gunship simply hovering in place over the dock is strange. The train at the end doesn’t always work right. Sometimes it fails to detach from the crane arm and goes forward with arm in tow at an agonizingly slow speed. No autosaves at all, either, at least that I came across. All in all it’s obvious that the scope of this map far exceeded the author’s ability to deliver within three weeks, and it resulted in a dissapointing end result. Short and sweet is always better than expansive and boring.

    BONUS: Outpost by Stract
    It is WOW!

    A superb entry. Shame it didn’t get finished quite on time, otherwise it would have assuredly beat mine out. Since crowbar already gave his thoughts on the judges version, I’ll review the revision. My first impression is that it’s kind of funny to hear your own voice featured so prominently at the start of someone else’s map. Not used to being a voice actor. Though I guess I can’t really be surprised seeing as how I agreed to record it. My second impression is that this map is absolutely a top contender for visuals. It probably doesn’t dethrone Katadysi in terms of raw fidelity or architechture, but it makes up for it with gorgeous expansive vistas and great lighting. The combat was originally a huge point of contention, but it’s been vastly improved since the initial release. Gone are the one-at-a-time infinitley respawning antlions. The initial combine firefight has also been touched up, too (Though you do mix Standard and Nova Prospekt soldiers, which like I said earlier is pet peeve of mine! Arrgh! But not really a valid criticism). Overall the combat is pretty standard HL2 fare, which is about all one can ask for in an HL2 map.

    One point the map falters on is pacing and buildup. Right off the bat you start with fighting combine, then fight a couple headcrabs, then more combine, to more headcrabs, to more combine, to a gunship, to some antlions, to combine and antlions, to finally combine and then it’s done. It all feels kind of random and relentless, with only a momentary break before the gunship fight to reconnect a plug. And there’s an issue with the gunship battle: not only is it kind of annoying with the player stuck shooting out of a doorway on account of there being no cover outside, but if a player decides to run, however, they’ll find that the battle is actually 100% skippable. Once you get out of range of the gunship, it won’t follow you up river, meaning there is no obligation to stay and fight. And finally, the ending is rather abrupt and unexpected, though clever. In summary, this map is a very well crafted and mostly well executed combat map, and more or less follows Valve’s example to the letter.

    BONUS: The Escape by Seji-evan
    It is good

    I didn’t dislike this map as much as some other people did. The suitless section was pretty rough, though. I don’t know what the author was thinking with that. It would’ve been alright if it were just for a little bit, and you only had one weapon and a couple of enemies to fight, but an extended suitless combat section with multiple weapons just does not work. Fortunately the map gets a lot better from there on out. The gameplay is pretty much just non-stop combine firefights until you get to start of the final section, where there are some friendly npcs with dialogue, and you’re given a chance to stock up. The final fight itself is pretty brutal, but not impossibly so. It was usually the good kind of hard that made me want to try again, not the quit in frustration kind. Admittedly this is the only map I didn’t play twice, so my memory isn’t quite as sharp on it as the other maps.

    It had a couple of issues, though. After the final fight ended, I don’t recall there being given a good goal on what to do next, you kind of just have to wander around till you figure it out. And there should’ve been some bigger windows on the second story of the house to shoot rockets at the APC out of. As it is, they tend to impact the wall far too often even if your crosshair is not on a wall, and the house is really the ideal position to shoot from. Visually this map is mostly good, but it has some problems. The brushwork is on the better side of this competition, though some of the cliffs are laid out in unnaturally straight lines. The lighting is strange as well. The ambient light is almost pitch black, which is completely wrong for an overcast day. Parts facing light are very bright, while the opposite sides are cast in complete shadow. It looks bizarre and unnatural. With a brighter ambient setting in the light_environment, this map would have looked a lot better. But it’s still overall a pretty decent map.

    1. [Sea Terminal] Thanks for the extended review, The town was actually meant to resemble Ravenholm at some point, I was going to add physics puzzles but those things appeared to be much harder than I expected. Sorry about no autosaves, I completelely forgot about such thing,
      have fixed that along with the gunships. The driving part wasn’t much fun, so the car was left as a secret. I was trying to create impression of the desert travel, but that doesn’t seem to fit into this game combat style, maybe developing it as a driving part would’ve been better. Have no idea what happens with the rail car in the end, gonna take a look at it…

    2. the reason Desiccated Shore crashes at the zombie warehouse, is because the mapmaker placed a Poison zombie in a corner, surrounded by Barnacles. the moment the Barnacle tries to eat the Poison Zombie, the game will crash. because there was never a moment in the original games where a Poison Zombie was in the same place a Barnacle was, so an animation was never scripted

      1. Actually there was a moment in the game where a poison zombie can run into the tongue of a barnacle, you have to specifically lure him there though. It’s near the end of the chapter Anticitizen One, after the part where Alyx was kidnapped.

    3. Anon_1605712

      Thanks for the review. Suprised you had actually been to the real location. Unfortunately I had to use pine trees because the palm tree model was extremely repetitive and didnt obscure the areas ahead enough. There aren’t any HDR cubemaps because when I was building them, I hadn’t realized that HDR had been disabled by default in the mod template. Anyways, glad you (at the very least) found something in the base premise of the map.

      1. Just to clarify, the comment by “Anon” was mine. I forgot to log in before I posted it. Oops.

  16. here’s a bit of a tip for the Author of Desiccated Shore, NEVER EVER EVER, place a Poison Zombie somewhere it could stumble into a Barnacle, there is no animation for a a Poison Zombie being eaten by one, and it WILL crash the game

    1. That’s not really true. You definitely can place a poison zombie near a barnacle, several mods have done that and it works. Why does it work? Because the author either set the barnacle to completely ignore the zombie so it can just walk through or have the zombie walk a scripted path around the tongue.

  17. Play It Now!

    It’s been a long time since I’ve played a ville and even longer since I’ve entered one. Overall, I think that this ville was a bit disapointing in terms of the quality for most entries but perhaps that’s just me not remembering the vibe of these competitions quite well, or perhaps due to the theme which I think is quite a hard one. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Still, it’s great coming back and seeing that the community is still alive and kicking.

    DISCLAIMER: My reviews aren’t so much reviews as they are feedback to their respective authors. I’m much more likely to talk about the things I disliked than anything else since I feel those points are more important.

    Beacon by Maki
    It is great!

    I think it’s fortunate this map was the first on the list. Certainly one of the better ones in this ville.

    The start of the map didn’t look too promising to me. The wet and glossy sand texture coupled with the random grass sprites looks quite bad in my opinion. However, after getting to the beach it improves massively. I really liked the atmosphere that the map had at this point, with the seagulls cawing in the distance and the ambient music. The lights from the lighthouse and buoys were really nicely done.

    The fight with the sniper works alright, but I think it needed thicker cover. The light posts in the middle of the pathway are very thin and it’s quite easy to end up strafing too much to the left or right of them, ending up in clear sight of the sniper’s line of fire.

    The inclusion of stalkers feels unnecessary, and not very pleasing seeing as they don’t have bullet impacts or collide with much anything in the map. I would have just left the area empty or added a couple soldiers.

    After pressing the button I was left wondering what else would happen, as it just turns orange and not much more. I feel like the player definately needed a bit of a push at this point to get him back into the elevator.

    Coming out of the lighthouse, the soldiers were not well highlighted. On my first playthrough I didn’t see them for a while and was turning around trying to figure out where I was getting shot from. I think that either the cover needed to be lower or the texture at the end of the pathway needed to be changed, because the soldier’s tiny little heads blended right in to the environment. However, I did like how the battle flowed in this area, right after coming out of the lighthouse.

    The next combat however, did not feel as good. During all of my attempts at the map I just sprinted to the house because the soldiers completely ignored me. There was definately something wrong with the AI or the scripting, because even standing next to them they wouldn’t shoot at me and were completely focused on storming the end of the beach.

    I also don’t think the helicopter was a good choice for the final enemy. Unlike the gunships, the heli AI doesn’t know how to shoot down the rockets, and so it just stands there getting hit with rocket after rocket, which makes the fight rather trivial. Once the helicopter explodes however, there is quite a nice sense of accomplishment, as it crashes into the lighthouse and we see it blow up. Very simple explosion sequence, but still a rewarding.

    The Odessa bit however, kinda took that feeling away. My first time playing I didn’t even see the boat come up and was surprised hearing his voice out of nowhere. It felt so strange, I don’t understand why it was added. Perhaps if Odessa had dropped off the player at the start of the map then it would have been nice, but as it stands it takes away from the gratification of completing the map.

    TLDR: Nice looking map with a good atmosphere. Buggy combat.

    Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg
    It is good

    I quite like the atmosphere of this entry, especially at the start. The dirty and grimy feel of the underground area where the player starts is really well done, I and really like the use of cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. Coming out of the underground area the music fades out quite nicely. Even though it fades out pretty much instantly, it did feel very appropriate.

    In terms of visuals I generally liked the look of this map. The 3d skybox especially, with the giant combine ring feels intimidating. While it doesn’t conform to half-life’s combine architecture it still somehow doesn’t seem out of place to me. And because of that it has quite a nice novelty to it, without detracting from the experience. The only thing that bothered me about the visuals was the wall extending along the water. I understand why it could be there in terms of realism, but it still felt like it was just there to hide the end of the water, and it didn’t look very appealing.

    Moving on to the gameplay, I can’t say I enjoyed it too much. For one, there was a lot of long range combat, while the player is given very few crossbow bolts. The combine gun entrenchment was the worst of all. It’s so far away from the player, and yet it’s so accurate that it acts as a constant barrage of death. If the player had already exhausted all of their crossbow ammo this section feels virtually impossible.

    The ending fight also felt really, really hard. As someone who always plays on hard, I had a really difficult time with this one. Almost no real cover, very poorly armed and fighting both elites and hunters. In this scenario the hunters will consistently force the player out of cover and into the hands of the extremely accurate elites. I think it could have been toned down quite a bit, taking away one of the hunters, and perhaps replacing most of the elites with regular soldiers.

    I also would have liked to see more physics props to use with the gravity gun, as well as making use of the combine gun entrenchment, which was facing the wrong way for the player to use.

    Lastly, I think that placing weapons inside of supply crates just feels wrong. Very wrong. I don’t understand why this was the case, but it’s quite frustrating when I’m breaking open a bunch of crates with the crowbar and I constantly need to stop because I picked up a new weapon. Besides that, if a player decides to save the crates for later they will completely miss out on the weapons, without even realizing it.

    Lines in the sand by Krassel
    It is okay

    My first reaction… “wow! This is prety awesome”. My reaction after a while… “come on, just walk forwards”. It’s a great a idea, and I guess it’s probably a very good attempt at doing it but it falls short of expectations.

    It’s quite hard to critic because it’s such a difference from the normal HL2 experience, that it might as well be a different game. Mostly it comes down to, it doesn’t feel good to control. The movement barely works, the elites and hunters on the ground do nothing except stand right beneath the player and prevent them from moving even more. It’s incredibly hard to aim, especially using the beam attack since the player can’t adjust their aim based on previous shots. The rebels also keep running back and forth like headless chickens most of the time, and they don’t seem to know what to do.

    There were also instances where I got stun locked, getting hit by rockets constantly until I died.

    I think that, in this case, the fact that the visuals aren’t particularly good does not matter in the slightest, because of the novelty of the gameplay.

    It feels crappy giving this map a “It’s okay” rating, because it really tried something different. Something that to me, seems quite hard to pull off. Yet, when it comes down to it, it’s not particularly fun to play pass the initial novelty of the gameplay, and that’s what matters in the end.

    Dead Zone by easimer
    It is okay

    Starting out with an instant combat is not something I think should be done. The player needs time to understand the environment they are in first, before any sort of gameplay takes place. Especially if the player has such little in terms of weapons and ammo.

    From the start to the end there is nothing but combat. There is very little down time where the player doesn’t have to worry about getting shot, and most of this “down time” is just spent moving towards the next combat bit. To compound this, the map feels so ambitious in terms of individual areas, I think it definately could have been scaled down a bit.

    As with a couple other maps in this competition there is just so much going on. You start with metrocops. Then soldiers and elites. Then an APC, just before entering the hospital and encountering every kind of zombie there is in the game. And including of course, the gunship finale and a random sniper for good measure, which seems to serve no real purpose.

    I have quite a lot of nitpicks that I can’t really write on cohesively so allow me to just list them here:

    – Constant manhack noises and combine shield noise during the start of the map.
    – Complete overuse of locked doors, instead of making them flat brushes.
    – Random floating lights acting as buttons.
    – Breen’s announcement during combat is really annoying.
    – Having to do weird prop climbs during the hospital area in order to progress. These sort of climbing bits I feel should be used just for secrets. Having it be the way to progress doesn’t sit right and feels like I’m breaking the map.

    I do have to say, I really enjoyed the little bit of destructable terrain there was, where the player can blow up a building entrance cover with the rocket launcher. That was very unexpected and it felt great. Just wish it had been used more, instead of that one time.

    There is also the fact that there really isn’t a coast here. It feels almost like a cheat of the contest theme.

    Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho
    It is okay

    The second map in this competition that I feel has too much going on. There is really no pause in this one unless the player stays in the same place. The start prompts the player to just run straight through everything, which is what I did. Whether that was intentional or not, I don’t know.

    The first ambush in the hangar really wasn’t good in terms of combat gameplay. It’s just a stream of combine coming from very far away, funneling in throught the same place. It’s not fun. For that matter, I don’t think any of the combat encounters were good.

    The rest of the map sort of feels like the same thing over and over again unfortunately. The visuals don’t really change. The combat doesn’t really change. It becomes very monotonous. The most interesting bit was in the area with the second force field, where two combine blast through the doors. It creates a nice effect, but not good enough to make the rest of the map enjoyable.

    In general the map just suffers from very boring combat, and very long range combat when the player isn’t given a crossbow or gravity to save up on ammunition. There were two hunter reveals/teases that felt completely pointless because the player never gets to fight one. I also found a game breaking bug, during the manhack ambush. If the player doesn’t kill the zombie that is right before the door, manhacks can get distracted and start attacking the zombie instead of bursting through the windows. After this, at least during my playthrough, the manhacks can’t seem to make their way into the building, leaving the player stuck forever.

    It also has a very unsatisfiying ending, where it just fades to black very quickly and very randomly.

    Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon
    It is bad

    I’m sorry to say, I find this one pretty bad, and my least favourite of all of the entries. While objectively Cascade might be worst, this one infuriated me quite a lot to the point where I didn’t finish it the first time I played.

    It doesn’t seem as bad at the start, while riding on the boat towards the shore. But it didn’t take long for it to get on my nerves. Firstly there’s the horrible looking shiny things everywhere and framerate issues due to a very poorly optimized map. Then, once the player gets the car and drives around a bit, the map decides to have uneven roads which makes the car not only difficult to control, but utterly infuriating.

    I thought the map would make a better impression with some off the road exploration, but unfortunately, apart from a single bit at the start there is none. I hoped there would have been bunkers off in the woods or whatever that would act simply as exploration.

    When I lost my faith on the map was when I turned off the first generator, because of the character that’s guiding the player. Why the hell would you talk down to the player for progressing in the map ? I’ve just deactivated the first generator, and I didn’t take time off to go have tea by the beach so tell me again how I’m wasting time and how I should have done this quicker… There’s an obvious attempt at giving off an atmosphere of urgency but in my opinion it fails completely. “Insulting” the player is not a good thing…

    I had a couple of instant death scenarios that infuriated me even more. One of them with bad scripting during the final bit of the map, where a cannistor fell directly on top of me, which I’ll excuse because it was definately not intended. However, I will not excuse the instant death electrified water that the player finds off to the side during the second generator. Why the hell does the water kill the player ? It might not be instant kill, but with 25 hp left, it killed me immediately.

    The final area was confusing because I couldn’t hear what I was supposed to do. I shot the poorly lit areas of the combine ship quite a lot because they looked like weakpoints. Then I finally understood that I had to shoot the other, not so obviously marked bits twice. After doing that it’s a very unsatisfiying moment of loud sounds and fade to black.

    I couldn’t really find anything I liked about the map, and it felt like an asset flip game you’d find on steam. With that said, I hope the author can learn from it and still feels motivated to enter another one.

    Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95
    It is good

    This is how I would describe the map. Beautifully made, but lacking gameplay-wise. I’ve changed my stance a bit with repeated playthroughs of the map, but my thought still stands. I feel like the map was designed with the visuals in mind, and only later had combat jammed into it.

    An example of this bad gameplay comes right at the start of the map. The ladder up the cliff is almost invisible because of how well it blends into the background. The obvious direction for me was the rock archway which had the barnacles and the supply crate, so that’s where I go to first. Afterwards it sort of looks like the way forward is to climb on the boat and progress along the coast, which just leads to an out of bounds area.

    Once I found my way into the town I liked it quite a lot. The atmosphere was great, the architecture was great, the mood was great. I especially liked that the buildings were realisticly done, with bathrooms and rooms that don’t seem out of this world. And there was a lot of detail around the map that really made it feel like a real place. The only problem I had with the aesthetics is that the windows were not breakable and the player could just pass right through the bars.

    The gas puzzle I felt was really poorly done. Apart from the fact that it’s not very well highlighted, it doesn’t really teach the mechanic correctly. It gives the player an empty gas can which can still be put on generator and looks like it’s doing something. It doesn’t however, teach that some (most) cans are empty and that there are very subtle sound cues to tell which ones are empty and which ones are full. I didn’t pick up on this I just kept throwing empty cans at the thing wondering if that was the whole gameplay or not, and being infuriated by the amount of cans I was supposed to find.

    There was also a text hint telling the player to find “filled” (doesn’t exactly tell me that there are empty ones) gas cans to fuel the generator. If you have to tell the player what to do with text I feel that you have failed your puzzle.

    After getting stuck in the trap, the place where the player has to throw a grenade into is very poorly highlighted. I was throwing grenades randomly until one of them accidently fell into place.

    The main combat is alright, but the space doesn’t really seem good for a fight. It’s serviceable, but like I said at the beginning, it seems that the area was built for visuals first and only then had combat added. During the combat I pretty much just got stuck at the back of the village and didn’t really interact in the main square until the helicopter showed up. And might I had, I didn’t even understand that the heli was friendly, because the voice acting had this annoying noise filter put over it, which made it quite hard to tell what the character was saying.

    Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005a
    It is dire!

    I don’t think there is much I can say about this one that hasn’t been said already or that isn’t obvious. I feel like the only reason I even finished this map was because of the challenge of it, playing on hard difficulty. There doesn’t seem to be any thought or design put behind any of the map’s features, if you can even call them that.

    I find it hard to critic, because there’s nothing more to say than it’s bad. The slowmo bit is bad and doesn’t even work as intended (most likely). The fights are boring and unfairly hard. The visuals are non-existent.

    There’s nothing else I can say. I’m sorry.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
    It is good

    The intro for this map feels odd, and I am mixed on how I feel about it. On one hand it feels really strange to have a battle going on in the background and the guy on the boat being totally chilled about it. On the other hand it acts as comic relief, and it did get a chuckle out of me. It did however, make me think I would start out with combat as soon as a left the boat but that wasn’t the case, which makes me lean on the side of “it wasn’t the best of things”.

    After a couple scenes which I didn’t care much about, it sets an expectation of a bit of a stealth section, which doesn’t really pan out as stealth. I also didn’t pick up the weapons right in front of the stairs, as I was crouching down trying to not get spotted and didn’t notice them. During my first attempt I ended up dieing because I didn’t have any real weapons, and got overwhelmed by the combine.

    The rest of the building sequence plays out nicely, there were a couple of explosive moments which felt particularly good because of all the gibs flying around the place. I was a fan of those. The explosion puzzle, or whatever you want to call it, felt a bit random. “Just lob a grenade in there because what else is there to do” ? I didn’t understand what was supposed to happen before throwing the grenade, which means it felt gamey. As in, “I know this is what I’m supposed to do, but I don’t know why I’m supposed to do it”.

    Coming out into the road, the fight played out alright again, but there wasn’t a moment that really fancied me. It was just mindless combat for the most part. I was able to find the ending of the level before finished the fight which felt strange, and is something that probably should have been fenced off somehow. I was also disapointed by not being able to use the combine guns in the bunker, next to the lighthouse.

    It never crashed for me, but I did have music problems, with music that looped multiple times (essentially being constantly playing), and multiple music pieces playing at the same time, which detracted from the experience quite a bit, as it made it seem like a mess.

    It terms of visuals, it didn’t seem very cohesive to me, and it didn’t seem to keep a consistent style throughout. While it wasn’t disgusting, it also isn’t great. It’s serviceable for the map and it didn’t stand out.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
    It is great!

    There’s not much for me to say about this one, simply due to the nature of it. It’s pretty good for what it is. And what it is is a slightly simplistic puzzle with a very well done atmosphere and look to it.

    There was nothing bad about it, other than perhaps, the use of the arrows to convey the solution felt gamey and unnatural. After completing the puzzle I think it takes too long for the “machine” to turn on and it’s not intuitive that the player needs to go to the light. That’s pretty much it.

    The cold breath was a great touch, that added a lot to the atmosphere of the map, and the number at the end of the credits got me curious, if only for a while. I wonder if there is a deeper puzzle that goes beyond the map itself. Unfortunately, I probably won’t feel motivated to look any further.

    Radio Control by Rocky B
    It is okay

    I think that the best part of this map is the initial bit, where the player needs to make their way up to the top of the cliff. And that tells a lot, because the cliff geometry looks like something out of Tomb Raider 1. It’s a neat concept in my opinion.

    However, I don’t particularly like the rest of the map. The initial puzzle to get into the house is very poorly presented. Obviously it has something to do with the generator at the top of the cliff but it’s not very clear what the point is. The place where you’re supposed to place the battery does not stand out at all, and to be honest, it looked like something that was part of the generator model (which I guess is a compliment).

    After getting in the house the exploration is a bit lackluster because it feels so crowded. Activating the radio feels awkward because as soon as the player touches it it fades to black and kinda “robs” the player of any more exploration they felt like doing.

    The second map doesn’t play out particularly well. To me this comes down to one simple mistake. The single most OP spot I’ve seen in HL2. The rooftop with infinite rockets is the best place in the entire map, and is virtually untouchable by the combine. Once there the player has instant rockets with which to quickly dispatch any enemy, and all the combine seem more focused on targeting the rebels down at ground level. Even when they shoot at the player, there is quite a bit of cover that prevents most, if not all of the bullets from ever reaching the player. I spent all of the my time up there, because it’s the best spot, which made the combat very, very boring.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua
    It is okay

    This is another map I feel has too much going on, and too much crammed into such a small experience. The start of the map is annoying, with an unpredictable explosion that does a lot of damage and is completely unavoidable. Throughout the entire map, it feels like there aren’t any nodes for the AI to know what it’s supposed to do. They never seemed to follow me around corners, and never tried to come after me. They just stood there waiting for me to turn the corner and blast them. I also had a few instances where I was able to see the enemies spawn out of thin air.

    The hunter combat is alright, although it could use some more cover and/or space to move around in. After this, I hated the boardwalks to the next section. The angle that they were at made it very awkward to move around, almost impossible to sprint on, and very easy to fall out of. When I did fall out I was greeted by almost invisible pools of water with leeches, and the way back up the boardwalks was unintuitive and hard. There was also a headcrab cannistor, that either by pure luck or malevolent intent, was perfectly timed to fall on top of the player as they run the last stretch of the boardwalk. That was incredibly frustrating.

    The zombie hangar felt like a complete mess, and prone to crashing, I believe due to the mixture of barnacles and poison zombies. I just sprinted through it all and it felt completely pointless. After that I was not a fan of the gunship fight(s). It made me turn on god mode to be honest because at this point I just really didn’t care. One gunship was hard enough already, in the space that it was in. When the second gunship came up I was left scratching my head. I don’t really understand the point of both of them. Is one not good enough ? Is adding what amounts to another boss to the ending of the map really something you should be doing ? I feel like one boss is enough. The second one doesn’t add anymore challenge, it just bores the player.

    There were also no save games, which caught me off guard during my first playthrough, and something I don’t forgive easily.

    Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311
    It is great!

    This is my favourite map from this ville and the overall winner in my opinion. From all of the entries this is the only one that captures the original HL2 coast vibe, including an optional exploration house (lighthouse in this case). The exploration houses from highway 17, as I like to call them, are one of my favourite parts from the original game. Most of the visual elements in this entry were on point, and looked like they belonged in HL2.

    There are only two bad things I can point out about this map, and one of them is a mere annoyance. The annoyance is the fact that the lighthouse, which is completely optional, looks and feels at the start like it’s the way forward. And the reward the player gets for exploring it is the rocket launcher, which feels pointless because they will get it at the end of the map anyway. The player didn’t gain anything from exploring the lighthouse, other than the vista and the experience of it going through it.

    My other grip with the map is a bit worse. The first gunship, the one that drops off combine on the beach is allowed to shoot at the player. Not only that, but when exiting the level it will fly right above the player. It feels like cheating because just a couple seconds in its line of sight are enough to kill the player (at least on hard) and there’s very little cover you can take that will protect you from getting shot. On top of that, the fact that the gunship flies right over the player’s head is rather unpredictable.

    My favourite moment has to be the last gunship fight thought. I think it was done beautifully, and presented me with a very fun and challenging fight. The way the gunship weaved throught the arches seamlessly made it felt rather threatening, while still fair. It’s by far the most fun I’ve had fighting a gunship, which normally I don’t find very engaging or interesting.

    Unfortunately the fact that I can’t fault the map too much means I don’t have much more to say about it. I liked it a lot.

    BONUS: Sea Terminal by Jonny512
    It is bad

    I’m sorry to say I did not finish this entry myself, but I have seen others play it so I’ll give my review according to that. There are a couple of unfortunate reasons as to why I didn’t finish.

    Firstly, I had 4 or 5 game crashes in a row the first time I played the map. The crashes always occured when driving the car out of the building that it’s in. The crashes made me put off the map for a later date. When I then decided to play the map again I found it very difficult, for reasons I consider to be the map’s fault. Constant deaths and no save games eventually got me sick of the map so much that I lost any will to complete it.

    Why was it so difficult then ? Two reasons. Wide open and long range combat combined with almost every combine weilding an AR2. I feel like the map was made while considering easy difficulty, or at maximum normal. Now you might say this is my fault for playing on hard and that I should just lower it down. Well no, hard is balanced for the original HL2 and when designing your map for it you should too. Don’t make your map harder by playing on the lowest setting and taking that as the benchmark.

    Aside from that, the map is one huge expanse of nothingness. All the off-shoots from the way forward are dead ends with nothing to offer. No gameplay or rewards of any kind.

    I liked the visual style the map was going for at the start. The torndown, almost WW2 style industrial area was hopeful, and I think the best part of the map. The combine base felt barren and didn’t look good. It was also just one big empty space after another big empty space.

    BONUS: Outpost by Stract
    It is good

    Along with Katadysi, the way I would describe this map is: Great visuals, disapointing gameplay.

    My first small gripe with the map is voice acting at the beginning. It felt cringy and forced, especially the way the swearing was added. Definately didn’t get me in the mood to play the map. But alright, I’m willing to ignore that if the map is good. And from the visuals it does look like it will be good.

    It’s an expansive map, and I had no performance issues at all. It’s quite impressive in that regard. The gameplay however is very lacking in my opinion. It’s constant battle pace throughout the entire map. There is no time to stop and explore, it’s continuously moving forward and getting into new fights. It just gets tiring after a while. It also doesn’t help that the combat is plain boring or not working.

    After disabling the combine thumper to open the door, the combine dropship poses absolutely no threat. If the player doesn’t go down the hill, the combine just wait paciently at the dock without moving, making very easy targets for the crossbow. I don’t think there is any way to make that encounter good. The headcrab cannistors are very much overused in this entry, and they are done in such open areas that the player can just run straight through them without thinking.

    The area with the combine shield is very poorly made in my opinion. Firstly, I feel like the door at the top of the ladder is much more of a drawing point for the player. However it turns out it’s locked, which is disapointing. Once the player triggers the shield though it suddendly becomes unlocked. Ignoring the fact that the combine that spawned on the rafters just stand there waiting for me to shoot first, it’s also not a fun combat space.

    And I’m not going to forget to talk about the lack of space to fight the gunship in. Why only a single tiny doorway ? I really don’t understand this one. Adding a couple windows or broken wall would have made the fight so much better. As it stands, it is, like the rest of the map, boring.

    For most of the rest of the map there is again no threat. As long as the player swims across the middle of the river the antlions do nothing, the combine can barely get a shot in and no headcrab is going to attempt its faith. It feels like a cheat almost. Then there is the elevator bit which feels so unfair. No only do you put soldiers waiting for you at the top of the elevator, you also make sure that two of them are elites… I’m baffled at this decision.

    The ending feels… random. That’s all I can say about it to be honest. It was well made but there was no real context.

    BONUS: The Escape by Seji-evan
    It is bad

    I did not finish this map on my first playthrough. The gimmick got infuriating to the point where I wasn’t having any fun with it at all. By the gimmick, I am of course talking about the lack of a suit. I don’t know how the author thought this was a good idea. For one or two fights after “escaping” it could have been fine, but it stretched out for a very long time. The fact that you have to shoot at boards to progress because you can’t change weapons without the suit. The fact that every time you get hit there is this blinding red flash that gets annoying super fast. I don’t see how these didn’t make it very obvious that it was a bad idea.

    The building with the car in is not particularly good for combat. The player has one tiny entrance and as soon as he steps a foot in the door they get in the line of sight of pretty much every combine in there. There is also barely any cover inside the building which just forces the player to stay at the door and keep shooting at combine one by one.

    The car was infuriating to drive, because the “roads” were so akwardly built. There were a lot of bumps in the road that just threw the car about the place and a lot of 90 degree turns that made it very laborious to drive around. Thankfully the car doesn’t last very long.

    The last area of the map feels like a big mess. You have a giant house filled with rebels, an APC, combine soldiers and metrocops, antlions, a dropship and a gunship all pretty much at the same time. It felt very crowded and not pleasant at all. It was also an akward space to move around. The house was crowded with rebels. The cliff around the house was clipped beyond belief, to the point where the player is not allowed to jump over simple fences, and getting into the lighthouse area is done only by a single ladder which is out of sight of the player.

    For the most part the map just felt like random bits of gameplay. I was also not a fan of giving goals to the player throught text on the bottom of the screen. Most of the time I didn’t even notice them, but if you feel the need to use them I think you’ve failed at designing the level. The upside is, there is no need for them in the first place. They don’t tell the player anything they didn’t already know.

    Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar (Postmortem)

    It’s been a couple years since I’ve interacted with the RTSL community or even worked with hammer in any real capacity. It was a bit of a challenge getting back into the zone to build efficiently, especially because I was also traveling during most of the competition.

    Overall, I am mostly pleased with how my entry turned out. It’s quite different from what I initially envisioned. Very little from my original plan actually ended up in the final version but thankfully I can say that the map evolved instead of changed. It was also the first time I had people playtest one of my HL2 maps which gave me quite a lot of insight and was responsible for quite a lot of changes in the map.

    There are still problems with it obviously. I agree that it takes too long to wait for the combine to assault the room. The player is left with nothing to do, and I can definitely feel the anguish whenever I watch someone play it. It did come up during playtesting of course, and I did my best to shorten the time the player needs to wait. However, redoing the scene or rebuilding something else felt impossible to do in time to submit so I had to deal with that mistake.

    The second biggest problem I see with my entry is the lack of detail everywhere. This really just comes down to the fact that I got burnt out of working on the map to be honest. I did all of the gameplay first and after submitting the map for playtesting I sort of lost the interest in finishing it. I ended up fixing and changing parts of it based on feedback and went on to do pretty much the most basic of detailing I would allow myself to get away with. It feels very empty for the most part. The cliffs don’t look good and overall the atmosphere of the map doesn’t really shine at all.

    I’m quite happy with the “puzzle” that gives the player access to the crossbow. From what I’ve seen there seems to be a 50/50 split between the people that managed to get the crossbow and the people that didn’t. This is exactly what I hoped would happen, because I meant the puzzle to be completely optional and not entirely trivial to understand. I meant to really reward the player for exploring the world, and that is also why I chose the crossbow instead of another weapon, since it helps a lot during the last fight.

    Overall, I think I came up with a good enough map for a comeback, and hope to work in full swing in competitions to come. My entry for the billion units EMC is already a much better experience in my opinion so I think that bodes well.


    So overall, it feels great to play some more half-life 2 again, and it feels great to map for half-life 2 as well. My top three picks for this ville are: In third place Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95; In second place Beacon by Maki; And in first place Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311.

    1. Anon_1605746

      Thanks for the review, sorry you had such a bad expirience with my map. I’m not terribly proud of it, since I ran into a plethora of issues trying to get it to function on a base level. Don’t worry though, I will be entering again, and I will be making much better maps than this one (I hope, lol) 😉

      P.S I’m the creator of egmont key. Forgot to log in.

    2. Anon_1606048

      [Sea Terminal] I actually forgot, that I had difficulty set to easy when building this map, sorry if things got too tough in there… About the car, that is simply a car in the world, without any triggers or scripting bound to it, or anything at all, there is no triggers nearby either. Vehicle script is jalopy.txt which apparently belongs to it, there is nothing to fix or change in there, if anyone else got this issue, please let me know, that’s really strange. Thanks for playing anyway…

  18. Thanks to all the people who took the time to provide reviews here on RTSL and on YouTube for this Ville. The given feedback allows me to sort of identify flaws in my own entry; Maritime Harassment. The fact that I probably cranked up the combat in the final section a bit too much seems the biggest problem by the looks of things and might have knocked this entry down somewhat in the rankings of this Ville. I’ve frequently tested this map on normal mode while in development, but didn’t take the folks who play on Hard mode into account. In hindsight, it wasn’t a clever move to place the health and suit chargers in 100% exposed areas and there aren’t a lot of weapons provided on the primary route. It looks like Maritime Harassment won’t gain a foothold in the top-3 in Coastville, but I’ll certainly be content if it ends up as a mid-tier map.

    My personal top-3? Well, I’ll pick Beacon (short ‘n sweet), Katadysi (stunning visuals, gameplay OK) and Coast Sweep (excellent visuals and gameplay). Btw, Coast Sweep is the #1 in this mapping contest in my opinion. Well done!

    1. all that the final combat section was missing was some player-height cover, something chunky to hide behind, and not just one thing. Would have been even better if there were more than one spot that enemies came from (aside from manhacks). Also be very carefuly with rushing AR2 enemies, especially on hard they demolish you.

  19. Play It Now!

    CoastVille, on the surface was really enjoyable. It had a fairly good turn out and included some great and memorable entries. As usual, you may want to watch my YT videos on this Ville to get full feedback although be warned, I recorded most of these maps whilst extremely tired and may not be as on point as usual.

    Beacon by Maki
    It is great!

    This maps structure was solid and the mechanics it included were intuitive. The combat was well orchestrated. Especially with the many combine soldiers it had. The decision to have the rocket crate at the end was smart as it prevents the player from staying in a safe location and having an easy fight. The only thing that was missing was a difficult/challenging encounter once the player got down in the elevator to the combine underground. That place warranted a bigger and more challenging fight. Otherwise the map was enjoyable and fun.

    Maritime Harassment by Strontvlieg
    It is great!

    There were many things in this map that made it an enjoyable experience. It captured the “Route Kanal” chapter fairly well even though it was not set in the same kind of location. This map did well at guiding the player and ensuring they never got board or lost interest. The map made good use of space and its puzzles were well put together.

    Beachbank by Dalannar
    It is great!

    There was a lot of atmosphere portrayed in this entry. The lighting and fog effect created an ominous feel. The game play was well laid out and the combat encounters were structured well. There was plenty of space for the player to move during encounters like the hunter battle and it was always clear to the player what they had to achieve.

    Lines in the Sand by krassell
    It is good

    This entry was not a bad concept at all. It was quite surprising to playing in the shoes(???) of a strider. The mission messages were necessary and clear as to what the player had to achieve. The combat was alright, if a bit iffy at points. Without a crosshair, it made the alt fire nearly impossible to hit first time or even get close. This slowed down game play by quite a bit and the flow was often lost in the combat scenarios.

    Dead Zone by easimer
    It is okay

    Dead Zone made really good use of space. Its layout was easy to understand and you always got the idea on what the player had to achieve. The combat was slightly messy at certain points but a lot better at other points. The hospital section was really well done in terms of feel and looks. Overall, this map would still need a few adjustments but it is a step in the right direction.

    Coastal Strife by supernocho
    It is okay

    This map had a lot of content in it. Some of it was good whilst others would require a bit of work to get it up to a good standard. It was good that the map included a range of enemy types like the combine sniper, man hacks, the gunship and the soldiers. The drop ship section was quite well orchestrated whilst the turret/laser was smart but the area was too enclosed for the player so move without having a large chunk of health taken off. The other issue was with the hunter. The hunter was teased but the player never fought it. It had been built up to be quite an exciting fight yet the fight never happened.

    Egmont Key by Event Horizon
    It is okay

    The map ensured that the player knew what they had to achieve although the voice line could have been made a bit louder so as the player would not miss any instructions. The combat was okay with it often turning into a free for all run and gun massacre that was not very fun for the player to partake in.

    Katadysi by Nukedrabbit95
    It is good

    This map had a really good atmosphere. The players’ goal was clear throughout each stage of the maps progression. The two major points to outline are the generator section and the “Stuck in the shield section” The generator section is actually quite good but making the player retrieve a second can after they found the first is just tedious and not fun. Again, the shield/grenade part was not a bad idea in itself but even with the arrow, the wire and the noise, its super difficult for the player to see the hole to get the grenade into. Revising this would be something to think about for next time but the puzzle itself was okay.

    Cascade by Jman005
    It is bad

    This map could do with a bit of adjustment. Even though the black headcrab part at the start server as a “cool” encounter, you have to make sure that headcrab gets crushed, otherwise, it may lead to the player misunderstanding what is going on and tring to continue playing in slow mo witht he headcrab attacking them. The combat needs to be tidied up a fair bit. It was slightly uninspired, especially when the combine were just standing at the bottom of the slope waiting. Having the combine doing things when the player enters the room is a good way of making the map feel “alive”. The other combat encounter that could be tidied up is the one on the beach with the massive amount of combine soldiers. Having a lot of enemies fighting you in a large open space is not fun for the player. Also the more soldiers does not equate to a harder experience. The red/white boxy thingy was not obvious nor was it intuitive as to what its function was. There needs to be somthing that makes sense so that the player a. Knows how to interact with it and b.knows what it does. Overall, this map can serve as a learning experience and by working on the things outlined, better maps can be created in time.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
    It is great!

    This map does well at telling a story through npc actions. You can see the strider destroying things on the way in and the man getting eaten by the leaches. It is very “Dishonoured” like which would be welcome to a lot of people. The map always makes it clear where the player has to go and make very good use of space. The combat for the most part was good. The soldiers that you first encounter were set up really well so that it create a feeling of the world being alive and not “player focused” because the soldiers were talking to each other and walking away giving the player time to think about how they could take them on. The final battle was a bit messy and could have done with being more focused. Having the player fighting the strider, the soldiers and the sniper at the same time was far too overwhelming on the player. Overall the map had its good points and the things that need worked on.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
    It is great!

    Even though this map was one big puzzle, there was more fun and challenge in this than a lot of entries that have combat and mundane puzzles. The puzzle in this map was super simplistic. This was not a bad thing as the map made it easy to interact with the “buttons” and understand they were part of the puzzle whilst making the player hunt about and understand what order to push them in. The setting was really beautiful and it felt nice to just be on that beach not knowing what this weird robot/spaceship/time machine/all of the above was as it sat there ominously watching you.

    Radio Control by Rocky B
    It is okay

    Whilst the physical map design was simple, the mechanics were easy to understand. It was good that it included various enemy types and a wide range of things to do. The pace could have picked up quicker at the start as it is quite slow and uninteresting to begin with. The battle at the end was well paced and it made it clear what was happening and what enemy was attacking.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua
    It is okay

    The beginning of this map had a few issues as the combine were far too close to the player making the encounter not very challenging or exciting. Once the player got onto the coast, things got a bit better with the area being more open and making mobility for the player better. There were certain design choices that were strange for instance the leaches in the water at the point where there was a shallow puddle near the building at the end. Overall, this map was going in the right direction but the combat could be cleaned up a lot.

    Coast Sweep by melc311
    It is great!

    This map included plenty of good game play features. The part with the first combine encounter was really well orchestrated and the route to take was always clear. Each combat encounter was focused and often required the player to think about their positioning and weapon choice. The inclusion of the gunship battle at the end was a good choice and whilst it was nothing grand, it still server it purpose at rounding off the map. Overall, the map was fun and challenging to play.

    Sea Terminal by Jonny512
    It is bad

    This map was very open. This did not help with the gun to gun combat but it was great when it came to the driving section. The combat elsewhere could be tidied up and the route of progression was sometimes very unclear.

    Outport by Stract
    It is great!

    This map was a really good looking map that felt like an authentic place. The game play was often very intuitive and the combat was mostly enjoyable. The inclusion of the story part at the beginning seemed rather pointless as it was quickly forgotten about but the map did make great use of space which allowed for foreshadowing. Overall, this make looked good, played well and included a lot of tools and techniques designed so the player could have a good time.

    The Escape by Seji-evan
    It is okay

    This maps goal were always clear but there were certain things it could have done better, for instance not having the suit means you cannot change weapon which was slightly annoying at the beginning. It would have been good if the player found a way out of their cell instead of the door being opened for them. The lighthouse part at the end was well thought up but having antlions, combine and the gunship made the battle extremely unfocused.

  20. My game is crashing after the valve opening video, anyone also have this issue?

    1. do you have Source SDK Base 2013 Singleplayer installed and is it on the “upcoming” beta branch?

  21. Kind of late to the party, but I’ve finally figured out the (hopefully the only) crash in The Light at the End. if you enter this into the console before the final combat area hopefully you won’t encounter any crashing. This basically disables the mounted gun on the rock wall in the final combat area. sorrrrrrrrry everyone =(

    ent_fire c_fodder_c2_counter add 4

  22. Personal Favourite

    I really liked this theme and was glad to see such a large number of good maps. Thanks to everyone who contributed entries!

    My choices for the best were:

    1 – Lines in the Sand: I know it’s not perfect and controlling the strider is tough, but it was tremendously ambitious and fun.

    2 – The Light at the End – This entry had a great start with the boat scene and the leeches devouring the floating body. The combat area was well designed and it had a good ending.

    3 – Coastal Strife – Great navigation and combat and more play time than some of the shorter entries

    There were lots of other good entries as well, but some of them were a little shorter and therefore I ranked them a little lower. Overall though the quality level was very high. I will definitely be replaying all of the entries soon.

  23. Personal Favourite

    The coast levels in Half-Life 2 were pretty neat and had a lot of optional exploration in them, and I hope that these maps will be able to provide an experience with this in mind.

    Beacon by Maki
    It is good

    This map is well-designed with good combat and good-looking areas, but there are some oddities like the helicopter staying put until I shot it and never actually attacking me (Which unlike everyone else here, happened on my first playthrough) and Stalker combat. The ending was also kinda weird, with me randomly hearing Cubbadge’s voice and the map fading out.

    Maritime Harassment by Mark AKA Strontvlieg
    It is good

    There wasn’t much to this map, but it still made a good impression with its combat. The only problem is that there’s WAY too many guns given to you. You can get all of the weapons in the game besides the Bugbait and the Rocket Launcher in this map, which is pretty ridiculous for what can easily be taken out with only one gun. (Pulse Gun is OP on Easy.) Overall, though, the map isn’t frustrating or boring.

    Beachbank by Pedro Marques AKA Dalannar
    It is great!

    This map has some neat areas, like the not-quite-Ravenholm and the airboat cave, and offers great combat and atmosphere to go along with it. It was fun to play through!

    Lines in the sand by Krassel
    It is great!

    Playing as a Strider was a great and unique concept! The battles were lacking, though, with the AI not really being so smart and often deciding to run around instead of shoot rockets at me. But still, this was very fun to play, even if it dragged on a bit. At the same time, it isn’t something I’d want to return to due to how slow the Strider is.

    Dead Zone by easimer
    It is good

    This map had a lot of locked doors. The combat was great fun, and the hospital was a pure adrenaline rush in some ways. The ending felt kinda half-baked, though, being just a gunship fight and a fade to black.

    Coastal Strife by Nick AKA supernocho
    It is great!

    Unlike everyone else, I enjoyed this one a fair bit. The combat was engaging and moderately challenging, and the visuals were pretty spectacular. That Hunter didn’t really fit in at all, though, so ending with it attacking (and presumably killing) Gordon just kinda felt… off.

    Egmont Key by Matt71490 AKA Event Horizon
    It is okay

    Well, something had to hit the bottom half of the rating scale eventually… For some odd reason, everything is shiny, and I’m told I should’ve taken down the first generator “a while ago” even though it only took me 30 seconds to turn it off. I don’t like being scolded for progressing, especially if I have no choice in my actions. I got launched high in the air at one point for… some reason, and I was able to bypass a weight puzzle by jumping on poorly-done collision. I couldn’t hear what the guy was saying at all when I reached the ship, and when I took donw the weak spots the bangs were LOUD. Then it just… ended. Definitely a weird map, but strangely enough, I had some fun.

    Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95
    It is okay

    This left an interesting impression on me. The puzzles were either tedious (It seems that there were certain gas cans that were full, but I didn’t know so I just poured every single can into the generator) or extremely precise (That arrow mislead me until I used noclip to see where the hole was, and even then it was still a hard throw). Not to mention the gun thing from Episode 2 returns here and is very annoying, forcing me to stay in one area instead of roaming around the map killing Combine. The voice acting was also hard to make out at times. All that said, the combat was still interesting, and the visuals were excellent, reminding me of Silent Hill thanks to the fog. I did like how there was a story, and getting out of the town alive felt like a pretty good accomplishment. Having to choose between an “It’s Good” and an “It’s OK”, however… The issues I mentioned prevent it from being any more than just OK.

    Cascade by Justin AKA Jman005a
    It is dire!

    A pretty badly-lit cave and a random cave-in killing a Headcrab is just the start of this trainwreck, which continues with a ladder that I can barely get onto the next platform from. Then I touch a stone that slides down, giving me an airboat that I ride to the end of the map. Oh, and I can see the void, too. And it makes that weird effect happen, I don’t know how to describe it.

    The Light at the End by IMakeLevels
    It is WOW!

    Really great combat and a really cool exploding floor propel this map to amazing. It’s definitely a great map, but I had to noclip into a locked door room to kill a Shotgun Combine that didn’t exit from the room in order to trigger the ending. It’s still a blast to play, though.

    Dropsonde by Confused Travolta
    It is okay

    It’s just a very easy puzzle. Nothing special at all to make it stand out, either.

    Radio Control by Rocky B
    It is okay

    The first map was pretty much completely pointless, just leading to the actual combat portion of the level. The combat is fine, but the Gunship fight is somewhat underwhelming.

    Dessicated Shore by Aqua
    It is good

    The introduction was odd, being cramped combat without much connecting it to the rest of the map. The outdoors section was pretty neat, though, and I liked going along the boardwalk. I skipped the zombie warehouse in fear of the crash with the Poison Zombie that has been mentioned here. The final Gunship fight was decent, with there being two Gunships instead of one. Overall, it’s a decent map.

    Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311
    It is good

    This map has good combat and level design, and that is really all I can say about it. At the very least, it’s fun.

    BONUS: Sea Terminal by Jonny512
    It is bad

    It’s too big! There’s so much terrain to cover and so many Pulse Rifle Combines that it’s hard to go anywhere in this map. Not to mention that you can skip most of this map by jumping across the rooftops and falling down onto the rail tracks… It isn’t fun at all.

    BONUS: Outpost by Stract
    It is WOW!

    Cheesy opening aside, that was amazing! It was fairly big, and that ending was just spectacular! That was great combat, too! It’s just a wonderful map overall.

    BONUS: The Escape by Seji-evan
    It is bad

    It’s too hard, honestly. There isn’t enough healing and the final fight goes on for way too long. It was promising at the start, though. Maybe it’s because I play on Easy, but I found the suitless section to be rather easy.


    I think this mapping challenge was great, with only a few bad entries and good quality overall. My three favorite maps are Beachbank, The Light at the End and Outport.

  24. I have posted the results in the main post section, but here is a summary:
    Winner: Beacon by Maki: 95 Points
    Second: Coast Sweep by Alex Marcu AKA melc311: 94 Points
    Third: Katadysi by David Mason AKA Nukedrabbit95: 93 Points

  25. Play It Now!

    Overall, I enjoyed these entries but felt they rarely captured the feeling of the coast areas of Half-Life 2. None of the levels started the player in a buggy, and none took the player down the winding Highway 17 past deserted buildings or other set-piece points of interest. Many involved beaches, some involved the kanals, some were merely along the water. There was a wide spectrum of visual (and, to a lesser extent audio) fidelity among the submissions, for better and for worse. Similarly, while many entries demonstrated a clear idea of what Valve maps look like in terms of their component pieces, these entries didn’t always come close to matching the style of spatial density, variety of gameplay types, and ebb and flow of pacing. Obviously certain players get certain things out of Half-Life, and wish to focus on and be challenged by particular elements, but the overall effect is occasionally a diminished experience for other players. Overall, a significant variety of entries, quality, scope, difficulty, ambition, and ideas.

    It is great!

    Beacon is quite enjoyable. It’s a concentrated experience, with a lot going on in a relatively small space. It demonstrates good use of its bounce layout, traveling to the lighthouse and back, even if it lacks a clear larger context for what the objective (a) is up front, or (b) what it accomplishes. In fairness, you rarely get that with a contest entry, and fortunately this does more than simply presenting a series of encounters and ending after the last is killed.

    It provides a good variety of gameplay elements without feeling like the developer threw in everything but the kitchen sink. This is, in fact, the aspect of Beacon that I think truly shines, mixing things up just often enough that the player doesn’t feel fatigued by any one element. It begins with quiet exploration before introducing some mechacrabs. This is followed by dodging sniper fire approaching the lighthouse. Mild combat, some more mild exploration, capped off by a return to the surface for intense combat and the requisite gunship fight (which I was pleased to see make use of the covered boat storage as more than just eye candy).

    Beacon largely delivers on everything it attempts. It’s visually modest but appropriate and attractive. It’s condensed nature means it doesn’t waste much time or space. I found its combat to be challenging enough without getting annoying or tiring. The gunship fight is a good balance between exposed and sheltered. I enjoyed the reveal of the combine beacon, and the inevitable tension that comes from not knowing whether the stalkers would remain passive.

    Some mild complaints, though: it’s more than a little disappointing to get access to a sniping vantage point that nevers gets used for sniping. On a meta level, while gunship fights are fine, they suffer from largely playing out the same every time, and this entry does little to mix things up. I was hoping for a little more, such as the boat sheds getting blasted to splinters over time to keep players on the move. Alas, no. Additionally, the ending boat arrival is a little hokey, but it works as a mild victory prize. Overall, this is a solid entry.

    Maritime Harassment
    It is great!

    Starting in the tunnels by a beach, the player proceeds through a series of rooms that gradually open up and loop back on themselves. Emerging onto the beach, the player finds themselves confined by a series of energy walls that they must find their way around. After defeating some combine soldiers, the player finds a way to disable the energy fields, at which point they can proceed back down the beach, fighting more combine to a crescendo that includes Hunters and Elites on a small little peninsula.

    A significant portion of the level does a good job of evoking the feeling of Route Kanal. It’s a bit of a shame that it’s largely divided into an indoor, exploration-heavy first half and outside, combat-heavy second half. The early stages of this level offer some nice, atmospheric exploration in grimy tunnels before moving out to the combine-patrolled beach with tall seawalls over which the player can glimpse of the city beyond. I appreciate what the initial beach area is going for with trying to find ways around the energy walls, but I found it surprisingly short-lived. There’s definitely potential there for a longer sequence involving surpassing and knocking out a series of them. The final fight probably strives too hard to be challenging, throwing a lot of enemies into an area. While I appreciate that the point-of-no return jump over to the land means the player isn’t inclined to backtrack and fight from cover at a safe distance, much of the fight is still spent hiding behind cover as enemies rush your position. There’s certainly ample health, but not much breathing room to make use of it in the moment.

    Maritime Harassment is attractive, well designed, engaging throughout and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It would feel at home as part of a larger chapter.

    It is good

    This was an enjoyable entry that is well designed and conceived in terms of its various encounters, but suffers a little due to its specific level design and pacing.

    After waking on the beach from a car crash, the player crosses a beach until encountering a shack with items beside a locked gate. Proceeding past a single zombie (while weaponless, which is interesting and a suitable warning of further zombies to come) to the shack allows you to get armed and proceed through the gate. On the other side you glimpse a closed combine gate and a beachside cluster of buildings, the latter of which is infested with more zombies. Deactivating the combine wall draws manhacks, combine, and a hunter. Proceeding through the combine wall leads to a cave with barnacles and a airboat guarded by two senties. Grabbing the boat offers a swift escape.

    In terms of architecture and layout, the map is a awkwardly proportioned, both aesthetically and gameplay-wise. Some areas, like the early pier and larger beach area, are strangely wide open and empty, while other areas, among the buildings, are surprisingly tight and claustrophobic. All areas tend towards too lightly detailed. Similarly, the map’s pacing is a little unusual, building gradually but peaking about 2/3rds of the way through with an intense fight against combine and a hunter in a narrow, claustrophobic environment. After that, the next wave of combine is far easier to dispatch. The subsequent cave is the best-looking part of the map, but it feels like more of an afterthought, especially after the natural gameplay and narrative climax of defeating the combine and accessing the gate.

    At the same time, the map does demonstrate thoughtful level design: providing a view of the combine door on first approach and from the location it is unlocked, gating the player in position to watch the dropship arrives, allowing the player to walk through the portion of the cave they will soon speed through, and multiple interconnected paths through the town that allow players to evade and run circles around both zombies and combine. Overall, it is in need of more consistent proportions, much more detailing, and greater attention given to its pacing, but is nevertheless enjoyable.

    Line In The Sand
    It is okay

    This entry is interesting, incredibly unconventional, and only mildly enjoyable.

    You control of a strider, piloted in third-person and leading a small squad of combine. Proceeding at a snail’s pace, you move along the beach to follow objectives that print out on the screen: destroying a generator, some airboats, and plenty of rebels at a port. It’s an amusing concept largely saved by its novelty and giving players control over both the strider’s pulse cannon and warp cannon.

    Unfortunately, the strider’s plodding speed and the environment being a wide, empty channel between mountains means that that moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t particularly exciting, challenging, or fun. Perhaps it would have been with a smaller, more agile and aggressive enemy like a Hunter. Or perhaps it simply takes away too many of the interesting affordances of normal first-person Half-Life, with is varied interactions, weapons, and physics.

    In general, I like and appreciate when mappers and modders take risks and try out new ideas. I certainly never expected something like this among the entries, and it was a surprising change of pace. Unfortunately, it simply definitely doesn’t feel like Half-Life and stops being exciting well before the end.

    Dead Zone
    It is good

    Starting on an outdoor staircase by the water’s edge), the player proceeds down a street to a combine-guarded building. The player is lead through the building, an adjacent alley and building with zombies, onto a street fo an APC fight, into a hospital overrun with both zombies and combine, and out onto the roof for a gunship fight before activating the objective.

    I appreciate that this map overtly states its objective, though sometimes that can be a sign of the level design not accomplishing enough on its own. As it was, I did not realize that the “tower” in question is technically visible from the player’s starting position, half concealed behind a roof. This probably would have worked out better if more attention had to been given to composing that opening perspective in such a way to draw clearer attention to the tower.

    Pacing-wise, the level is a bit uneven. It begins with an immediate firefight with 6 combine while armed with only a crowbar, pistol, and the gravity gun. It’s also possible to find oneself entering the final gunship fight while still being attacked by a sniper and combine on the street below, with no way to backtrack and safely take them out. Additionally, there is extremely little cover for the gunship fight.

    A brief note: lock-and-key gameplay is most common (and arguably most effective) when the player is first encountered with the lock — a door or other gating mechanic — that they must then find the key to allow access. A design where the key is encountered first can be okay (depending on the specific lock and keys), if the player recognizes that it’s a key. Dead Zone trips itself up a little bit, presenting a non-deactivatable combine energy wall, upstairs from which is a switch that deactivates another, different energy wall, which is outside in an alley. I assume the developer expects this one to be visible and noted by the player from the street, but because they pass it during an active gunfight, it might not register.

    Points in this level’s favor: Dead Zone is very attractive, covering a few different kinds of architecture and largely succeeding in matching HL2’s style. The hospital in particular looks and feels on par with the hospital in Episode 1. It’s also refreshing to receive a rocket launcher and put it to immediate use fighting an APC rather than a chopper or gunship as expected. As with other entries, this map makes little attempt to follow the “coastal” theme in any meaningful way, but it still has a lot of good moments on offer.

    Coastal Strife
    It is good

    The player begins by crossing the zombie-populated beach beside a pier. The early stages on the beach involve fighting zombies on safe, spacious terrain. Zombies are slow enough that they work best in tight areas and where they can ambush the player, so their use here is fairly suboptimal. Similarly, a later room presents a fish-in-a-barrel situation where the player enters a room with zombies safely atop a catwalk.

    Proceeding up onto the pier proper offers a foreshadowing glimpse of a Hunter before introducing combine. These sections are decent, capturing a similar look and feel to some of the more industrialized parts of Highway 17. I have a strange fondness for sniper fights, but I was surprised to discover that this one is purely optional. You can simply run past it and proceed with the rest of the level. After that, I love the moment of the player being locked in a room that gets flooded with manhacks. It goes on a bit too long, but it works as a swift change of pace.

    Following this is an unusual room criss-crossed with red trip wires and sentries firing upon the player. I had expected the red lasers to activate the sentries, but in this case they instakill the player via explosion. What first appears to be a puzzle of careful navigation is essentially just a run for cover before climbing on top of architecture and moving out of sight of the turrets. While the Half-Life games have used tripwires for both sentry-activation and explosions, the design of this particular room — using them for explosions but also requiring the player to have a way to navigate around them and the sentries — is less interesting than either option by itself.

    The final chopper fight is also pretty lackluster, as the player is afforded unlimited rockets in an extremely safe position. Without being forced or compelled out of safety, the fight is an easy and underwhelming climax. It’s not the true conclusion, however, as this is followed by the player being cinematically ambushed by the Hunter as the map ends. Unusual.

    All told, this level is enjoyable, if more than a little rough around the edges in many places. It definitely has a lot of potential, and does a great job capturing the feeling of the coast in a way that’s both meaningful and consistent with visual and design elements from the Half-Life games. There’s also a strider following a path in the distance, fighting with resistance members. Neat little bit of storytelling, but that probably isn’t the best use of time during a mapping contest.

    Egmont Key
    It is bad

    Conceptually, this map is an interesting attempt at something fairly novel: a trek across an island, winding down a road past combine installations, to attack and destroy a combine freight ship. Compared with other mods, the final battle is an unconventional beach assault where the player must use rockets to blast three…things…on the side of the massive ship while you and other rebels are under attack by antlions. This objective is given to you through custom dialogue, and, well… Custom voice acting in a mod (or any other low-budget game) is a double-edged sword: it’s extremely useful for imparting narrative, motivation, and objectives; it’s extremely hard to do well. Best to avoid at all costs.

    It’s fairly lackluster visually and structurally, and the gameplay suffers as a result. Large open-world spaces are hard to pull off, especially with Source engine tools, and this entry gives some insight into some of the challenges. The island is large, flat and sparsely detailed; primarily just an S-shaped path bordered by plants between two beaches. Though the road is elevated, providing an awkward lip that the buggy can and will get stuck on. The concrete fortifications directly beside the road mean there’s a little strategy to be had other than driving up and shooting. Poor placement of clip brushes actually prevents the player from going places the geometry should otherwise allow them.

    There is a nice little counterweight puzzle involved with getting up into one of the fortifications, but its placement in an otherwise barren an under-detailed setting means it feels unnatural and arbitrary. Additionally, the inclusion of rebels at the final battle gives the sudden impression that the player is late to a party that has started without him, rather than leading the charge, and the inclusion of antlions for them to fight with means (at least in my experience) the player is largely ignored while they move about firing rockets at the ship. While there’s definitely a clear vision of an intended experience, the result is not a particularly impressive entry.

    It is great!

    After a boat deposits you on the shore below towering cliffs, you ascend a ladder and a staircase to find an eerie, deserted town. Instructed to start a generator to open a door, you must search the town for gas cans. As always, custom dialogue is underwhelming and should generally be avoided, but hunting for gas cans is unconventional enough that it was a good idea to reinforce. It’s a suitable enough task — fairly mindless and a good opportunity to force the player to scour the town and encounter what few headcrabs and zombies lurk. Initially, it seemed like there were just enough to put the player on edge and engaged, but anyone who clears out the town BEFORE trying to use the generator will inevitably find themselves running around empty streets and buildings. As one would expect, starting the generator draws out numerous zombies, and hitting the objective button draws out numerous combine soldiers, including a chopper.

    Visually, Katadysi is a treat. This map simply oozes atmosphere. It feels like a foggy, murky Ravenholm by the coast, with enough detail and set dressing to make it feel real and ramshackled. The detailing also enhances the gameplay, as it provides a more cluttered and messy environment to comb through for the gas cans. The pacing is great, as there’s a directed, incremental build in intensity, from headcrabs to full zombies to combine+hunters, to a chopper. The environment does not quite have enough interwoven circular paths to support the combine and hunters (which seems to be in vogue as a fairly challenging combo), and several playthroughs all seemed to result in a fierce fight directly outside the gated building. Fortunately, the lack of a rocket launcher means the chopper must be simply evaded, running from building to building, while escaping back to the beach. This made for a a surprisingly fresh change of pace, and a nice conclusion to an altogether enjoyable map.

    It is dire!

    I’m prepared to give the benefit of the doubt that there was more going on than this entry lets on. Maybe it was a new mapper’s first outing, or they ran into problems, or they ran out of time and just decided to submit what they had. Either way, it is clearly incomplete and unfortunately the weakest entry.

    A featureless tunnel leads to an unusual cinematic moment of slow-mo followed by barrels killing a single poison headcrab. This is followed by a wide, featureless canal with two combine, a ladder climb to a room with a stalker, and a doorway to a large open plane. A button in a random metal shed calls into a headcrab canister barrage and an inexplicable room full of combine opens. The rest of the map is more empty expanse and an end tunnel.

    With these sort of mapping contests, and level design in general, a good process is to understand the larger picture of what you want the player to experience; determine the components you need to build and assemble to provide those those moments, interactions, spacess; and proceed building from small, rough elements to more refined, detailed spaces. This can save you from building a giant room and running out of time or ideas to fill it with. Indeed, some parts of this entry feel like the developer experimenting with effects (the slow-motion, the barrage) or interesting props (left sitting in appropriate places), or maybe general ideas for spaces without a clear idea of how to turn them into appropriately detailed places. For someone’s first foray into mapping, it’s a start. For a contest entry, it needs work.

    The Light At The End
    It is okay

    Despite the initial boat ride and water-adjacent setting, this feels less like a coast level and more like one of the later, combat-heavy, inner-city chapters of Half-Life 2.

    The early areas feel a little rough and underdeveloped, with unexciting sequences in an under-detailed part of the city. Once combat begins in the large, multi-floor building, gameplay picks up dramatically. These spaces are large enough that the player has a lot more freedom of movement to run around, hide behind desks, blast every prop within reach at the various soldiers, etc. The last room also works as a simple but effective end to this sequence. The simple remove-the-energy-wall puzzle is brief and different enough to offer a refreshing change from the combat. I particularly enjoyed the unexpected destruction.

    The finale, unfortunately, is something of a mess. Somewhat low on health, I found myself having to hide in the room with the collapsed floor, trying to keep out of sight of a sniper, two hunters, and a number of combine, including one using a mounted turret. It can be underwhelming when a combat encounter involves hiding and fighting at a single bottleneck, and I found this to be a particularly egregious one. This feels like three or four different potential fights all taking place in the same place at the same time. With the Half-Life games’ approach to variety and pacing, these would have been interesting beats to hit along the way, but cramming them all together creates a fight that is chaotic, overwhelming, and punishing. After that, the strider fight came across considerably more laid back, although a lot of time was spend just hunting for the rocket launcher, which, depending on explosions during the preceding battle, can actually be launched clear out of the map due to it being a physical object.

    Overall, the map is kind of a mixed bag. There’s some great atmosphere and bland set dressing, fun combat spaces and crazy punishing firefights, and an appropriately foreshadowed strider fight finale that may not even be winnable.

    It is good

    This entry was surprising. Similar to Line In The Sand, it’s doing something quite different from other entries, for better and worse. This map is less a Half-LIfe map and more a Myst puzzle — a first-person “what is this thing and how do I make it do a thing?” puzzle. The actual puzzle logic is fairly arbitrary, which is something of a disappointment, especially given that the puzzle is all there is. On one hand, it certainly feels too short. On the other hand, such an arbitrary puzzle — not grounded in the environment as Half-Life puzzles typically are, would surely have felt misplaced sitting alongside normal gameplay. Unfortunately, the lack of follow-up content is somewhat tarnished by the map ending with several seconds of the crazy visual effect — just long enough for players to wonder what’s next — before the credits start.

    Visually, this map is solid. Its centerpiece is a giant device that looks like nothing we’ve seen in the Half-Life canon, sitting on the icy shore. Despite being made of basic brush shapes and props we’ve seen before, the overall impression at once screams “sci-fi technology!” and “mysterious!” The rest of the level is attractively detailed. While it’s easier to decorate a small, condensed level than a much larger one, the end result is still impressive. There is a interesting color correction affect the closer the player gets to the device, and the player even has visible breath from the cold, which I appreciated. As a subtle audio effect, the getting close to the device also trips the player’s geiger counter.

    For what it was, I enjoyed this map, but can think of two ways to improve it: One is to lean /hard/ into Myst territory, where the puzzle is internally consistent and logically driven by something more than “do something in an arbitrary order.” This is admittedly phenomenally hard both to conceive and execute on. The other would be to frame it like a more typical Half-Life objective: the 5 pillars still need to be activated, but they are further separated, scattered, and getting to each one involves more involved and varied gameplay. A different sort of design could lengthen the gameplay, make the puzzle feel less arbitrary, and help foster gameplay interesting enough to support its interesting visual.

    Radio Control
    It is okay

    This was a fun map. Starting at the base of some coastal caves, the player must wind their way through them, involving some very Half-Life 1 style platforming. Topside, the player has some headcrabs to clear out before venturing up the hill to find a generator. This is followed by a brief hunt for the battery to power the generator (I’ll forgive the bizarre logic of needing a battery to power a gasoline generator.) After gaining access to the building and using the radio, the map shifts to night. Rebel friends have arrived and the combine are on their way. The remainder of the map is a fight against waves of combine and eventually a gunship rocket fight.
    Visually, the map is decent. For such a small environment, it’s fairly under-detailed. Some of the brushwork, particularly in the opening cave, is blocky and simplistic (but trying to create that out of more naturalistic displacements would probably be an absolute pain, so it’s understandable).

    Amusingly, by the time I explored around the top, cleared the headcrabs, found the battery and powered up the generator, I’d completely forgot about the locked door down below. It was just far enough removed spatially, visibly, and temporally that I completely failed to note its connection to restoring power, especially as it was far more obvious that light and power had been restored to the building. “Why are all the doors sealed?”

    Gameplay wise, the map has a decent mix of platforming, exploration, simple puzzle, and light and intense combat. None of these elements are particularly groundbreaking, but the simple variety is nevertheless appreciated. Unfortunately, the final battle becomes more than a little stale as it primarily involves a steady flow of combine from one direction before the inevitable gunship.

    Dessicated Shore
    It is okay

    This map starts with the player stepping through a doorway and taking damage from an explosion directly in front of them. Not a great start to the journey from a rebel hideout to a cargo shipping area being bombarded by headcrab canisters, to a warehouse full of headcrabs, to a fight with gunships on a rocky beach.

    One challenge with short-term mapping contests is that they’re often a good opportunity to create interesting spaces and scenarios but it can be difficult to really polish them. This level has a lot of potential, with good ideas that fall flat or don’t pan out for one reason or another. The opening combat is abrupt and takes place in painfully tight quarters with no space for any meaningful strategy. The subsequent outdoor fight suffers similarly, especially when fighting a Hunter so early on, but at least there’s room to loop around. Conversely, the later zombie-filled warehouse is unusually spacious, offering ample room for the player to keep a safe distance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the falling headcrab canisters, bombarding the player while they are preoccupied fighting enemies in front of them, close enough to damage them feels kind of cheap.

    The map unfortunately feels lacking in visuals and atmosphere. There is no ambient audio. The opening hideout and first shipping container-filled pier area look fine, but other areas are more sparsely decorated or haphazardly thrown together, particularly in the zombie-filled warehouse and the early section where you cross the docks. As far as the finale goes, few options for evading the chopper means the player is limited to just standing under docks or behind rocks. Fighting a gunship on a beach being bombarded with headcrabs is a novel idea. Fighting two gunships back to back is asinine.

    Coast Sweep
    It is great!

    This was a very enjoyable entry. It’s premise is straight-forward: traversing a beach strewn with obstacles and enemies. While some maps involve a more concrete objective, this one works okay without it, like a section out of a larger chapter such as Highway 17 or Sandtraps, but that does mean its conclusion is somewhat abrupt and arbitrary.

    Structurally, it’s fairly simple: the player is immediately spotted by a combine squad. Dropping onto a beach littered with a hopper mines, another squad approaches. Midway through, a lighthouse occupied by a poison headcrab zombie provides a brief change of pace before the player returns to the beach for more combine and a final gunship fight.

    This pacing was a little surprising. Combat begins immediately, and players who explore to the top of the lighthouse will acquire rockets very quickly (and also, it seems, potentially softlock the level by preventing the gunship from spawning later). Besides the lighthouse gunship fight, the combat sections all felt fairly even in intensity. I enjoyed the beach covered with mines. However, presenting them so tightly packed in the middle of a firefight meant that the fight was mostly spent sitting in one place, as the rush of combine meant there wasn’t as much room or time to use the mines strategically: just grab them and throw from behind cover, or ignore them and shoot the from behind cover.

    As with a few other entries, this map also has a bit of overreliance on supply crates to keep the player healthy enough to continue — an admittedly common crutch to fall back on. While it’s important to ensure players have a sufficient chance of surviving, it’s not a particularly elegant solution. Visually, though, the map is wonderful. It has a great level of detail and does a good job presenting its props and debris in a way that they’re meaningful to gameplay — as barricades, cover, physics objects to be hurled at combine, etc., and feels appropriately like a real place.

    Sea Terminal
    It is bad

    Sea Terminal features a town beside a sprawling beach, off of which is a combine container ship. Frustratingly, all environments involved feel simply too large and too empty. The city is barren streets running among featureless brick buildings. The player is given little guidance. If the developer intended to foster freeform exploration, the result is fairly boring and meaningless. A trio of combine roam the street on one end of the city, while two others are in a building on the far end. Similarly, a headcrab zombie and long poison headcrab are also on opposite ends of the city. Finding one of the few buildings that’s more than facade leads to a vehicle, as well as a tower from which the player can open a gate to proceed out of the city.

    The path down to the beach is overlooked by an APC with mounted turret that can be used on the approaching combine squad. However, the placement of the APC, the combine, and the hill they’re cresting means you’re effectively just mowing them down one by one with little difficulty. And the beach itself is a fun enough drive, but most of it is spent easily outrunning the antlions. The two gunships bug out every time I play. I’m assuming you’re meant to fight them on the beach near the rocket cache. Two gunships at once is silly, so I’m not disappointed that they bug out.

    The container ship is massive and easily navigable with the car, but it’s not clear whether you’re meant to stop and fight the dozen or so combine there or simply drive past and up to the elevator. Tried both ways, neither is particularly compelling. The fights throughout this map only seem to grow in intensity due to the increasing number of soldiers in each fight, and this last one was kind of ludicrous. Elite combine with three hunters, with almost no cover except for the pillars around the edge of the ship’s deck.

    Overall, I appreciate what the map is going for. Elements of it feel very reminiscent to parts of the Half-Life 2 beta. Unfortunately, I don’t think it works in any compelling way.

    It is good

    After a fairly unnecessary opening voice-over and mildly amusing bridge duel with a single combine, the player proceeds around the coast. An Elite soldier guards a thumper, antlions rise from the ground beyond, a dropship deposits a squad on a dock. The player follows a river inland, taking over a small combine checkpoint to destroy a gunship and deactivate an energy wall. A second antlion+thumper section is followed by a long walk along the beach and a cliff with absolutely no combat, puzzles, or exploration opportunities.

    While Outpost does follow the coast and a river, it lacks the opportunities for exploring off the beaten path in comparison to, say, Half-Life 2’s coast. Combat encounters are decent enough, even if they come and go without leaving much of an impression. I’m always happy to see an appropriate inclusion of antlions that rise out of the ground, but without the level design affording ways to try and avoid the ground, they’re effectively just a rush of infinite enemies for players to run from. Similarly, the gunship fight falls victim to a similar problem as many others: a rocket stash position that allows players to fight from almost perfect safety.

    This is a gorgeous map that absolutely nails the look and atmosphere of Episode 2’s wildlands, but definitely falls flat in terms of gameplay as it seems to run out of ideas and effectively gives up once the player arrives back on the coast.

    The Escape
    It is good

    This map starts a little rough but gradually improves over the course of the level. While the opening section is offers a decent difficult curve of gradually ramping up combat, the fact that it’s largely just moving from room to room is a little underwhelming. Once you exit the building, things open up — possibly more than necessary, as there’s a lot of ground the player can explore but no real purpose or reward to it. Assaulting the warehouse with the vehicle feels a little more directed and the subsequent areas feel increasingly more thoughtfully designed. Aesthetically, the outdoor environments are solid and visually approaching Valve’s style for Half-Life 2’s ports and Episode 2’s wildlands, even if, as with many other maps, it barely feels like a “coast” level.

    The finale is a house and a lighthouse on a hill overlooking the sea. This area could definitely be something special with a little more care put into how the player approaches and moves through it. Unfortunately, you are quickly beset by combine and an APC. This begins a sequence that reminded me of the White Forest Inn, with combine surrounding the house. The player is presented with a rocket launcher to fight the APC, but insufficient rockets to fully destroy it. As the player reaches the beach to flank the APC, a gunship arrives, and it turns into a mad scramble to get up onto the lighthouse peninsula while being attacked by the APC, the gunship, and antlions. This area could be set up for a more layered series of encounters where the player has to sneak around the APC before finding a suitable weapon to take it down, fighting combine, then having to defeat a gunship, but throwing out everything at once turns the finale into a mess.

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