Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Gordon is forced to venture through a dilapidated, hostile environment in order to clear the tram line of an alien infestation.
Offering approximately 15-30 minutes of gameplay, Scylla takes the player through a winding environment full of deadly hazards and enemies. Your performance may alter parts of the level as you progress. Be sure to watch out for special NPCs; not all are obvious.
For designers interested in how the author set up certain scripts and what not, here are the source files for the project:
BM Scylla Source Files
There are a couple small, custom models that I made for Scylla, but they aren’t in the source files listed above. So if you open one of the vmf’s and see some ERROR models, that’s ok. You can dissect the maps as much as you want, but please don’t reupload the files anywhere else.
- Title: Scylla
- File Name: scylla.vpk
- Size : 135.49MB
- Author: Rhett Barlow AKA hscsguy
- Date Released: 09 September 2016
This map was built for the retail version of Black Mesa. I do not know if it works with the mod version. For more information about this type of release, please see the Black Mesa Workshop section on the About page.
View in Steam Workshop [135.49MB]
***To play, press the tilde(~) key and type: map sp_scylla. Then just press Enter.***
There are no manual install options for this release. It must be installed via the SUBSCRIBE button on the Steam workshop page.
Scylla sees the introduction of a new feature here on RunThinkSHootLive: 10 Author Questions. Think of them as a mini-interview. For larger or better releases, I will contact the author and send the questions. Hopefully they will respond and if they do, I will publish them as part of the main post. This is the first one, but they will be tagged, so once I have added more, you will be easily and quickly be able to find them by clicking the 10Questions tag.
I started Scylla in about mid July of 2015. Though I took some periods of time away from development for various personal reasons, so development time really was maybe 9 – 12 months overall. Better planning would likely have shaved off even more time, but I’ll get to that later.
Initially, Scylla was going to center mostly around the tentacles as a primary obstacle AND enemy, rather than just an obstacle. I wanted to develop a map for Black Mesa out of a desire to make content for a Half Life game made on tech closer to this decade. Given the fact that, currently, the tentacles only appear once in the game, I thought it would be a fun idea to bring them back in a different setting. However, it seems their AI is designed specifically for its sequence in Blast Pit. Making its application outside of an identical environment more difficult. This is why the tentacles appear to climb up and start swinging at nothing on rare occasion. They’re trying to attack an enemy that would be on a higher level of the silo from Blast Pit, rather than trying to find the exact location of an enemy in their vicinity.
This lead to a change in direction, making the map progress in a more traditional, Half Life style manner. I was partly inspired by bm_bravado by Jason Gimba in this regard. He developed a very short, but polished map for Black Mesa that helped me decide to make Scylla just a simple Half Life map that didn’t strive to be too big with a bunch of fancy mechanics that never appeared in the original game. Ultimately the project still grew to a scope that was perhaps just a bit too big for me. But focusing on the simplicity of the map helped me reach a reasonable conclusion to the map’s development rather than spend another two months suffering with a severe case of ‘perfection-itis’.
Admittedly, I committed a pretty big no-no of game design where virtually all testing was internal and never saw any proper beta test. This isn’t a mistake I intend to make with my next project, though. Next project will be designed under the philosophy of “release early and often.”
Firstly, I would have created more instances and prefabs earlier on to help speed up various menial tasks like adjusting all the lights in a single area. I would also have tried having a more concrete layout established ahead of time instead of practically making it up as I went. Also, now that features like CSM and godrays are available, I would have designed the map with those features in mind so that they could actually add something to the gameplay rather than have them simply be nice graphical features that just make the scene look prettier. For instance, with CSM, exterior environments can now be more dynamic and animated. More moving set pieces would likely have made the end game much more exciting! And on the subject of exteriors – more line of sight breakers would have allowed for me to add some more areaportals and occluders to improve performance. Source doesn’t like rendering over large distances, it’s not what it was designed for. So breaking up the outside area more would hopefully have helped boost the framerate during the high-action sequences. A problem I should have, but did not foresee.
Honestly, while there most certainly are areas that could use improvement, I’m actually proud of the project as a whole. It really did turn out a lot better than I thought it would. The beginning of the firefight in the warehouse was a pretty shining moment for me though. Turning around that corner and seeing aliens spawn out of thin air, soldiers rappel down from the ceiling, music blasting over the sounds of explosions and gunfire…..all hallmarks of a memorable fight I think.
I’m probably least proud of the quality of the soundscapes and the use of “ugly-text-prompts-on-the-screen” towards the end of the level. Directing the player to mark mortar targets with flares rather than using the control panel was actually a late design change. The mortar control was fairly buggy and wasn’t very fun to use under the circumstances. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much opportunity to place a similar mechanic earlier in the level to introduce the idea gradually, rather than dump it on the player right at the end. But I felt letting the player move around while marking targets would make the mortar more useful even after its purpose has been fulfilled. Standing in front of a monitor while tanks are trying to blow your head off isn’t all that fun. Throwing lit flares while running to cover sounded like a more fun alternative.
So far there haven’t been many, but I try to catch as much as I can. Video playthroughs (particularly first-runs) offer invaluable information for designers. Just one video showed me new bugs, exploits and pacing hiccups that I had never seen in hundreds of hours of testing!
[SPOILERS]There are three NPCs whose existence in the game determine the size of various engagements and the spawning of certain supplies. The changes aren’t super dramatic, but it’s enough to help the player feel like how they play has an impact on the game world. Even if that impact is fairly subtle. The first NPC is actually the one people almost certainly miss first. That first houndeye? It’s not hostile! No, actually if the player refrains from attacking, it will run upstairs to introduce you to its “friends”. However, not killing him will result in fewer hostile houndeyes showing up…and him running off to cry in a corner. The second NPC is the one most people likely interacted with. He’s the guard found at the beginning of map 2. Saving him (or resisting the urge to murder him) will lead to a short dialogue exchange and eventually him opening up a supply closet full of weapons and ammo. His impact on the actual gameplay is the most significant. If he makes it to the cache, your first engagement with HECU will be a bit bigger with fewer supplies and the next engagement in the warehouse will be even bigger with two guards there to back you up. Killing him will spawn some supplies in the checkpoint and fewer HECU. But you won’t have any backup in the warehouse and there’s only a small reduction in the amount of enemies. The third NPC is a scientist in a building outside who will lead you to an RPG if you save him from an active ceiling turret. Not saving him doesn’t really result in any gameplay changes, but you won’t be able to kill the sniper from across the map unless you’re really good with the MP5’s grenade launcher.
Again, these aren’t exactly massive changes to the game. They are completely optional and really are more like additions to help the player feel like saving that character actually was worthwhile. You aren’t presented with a multiple choice answer and told to pick one. The “decisions” result purely out of gameplay without too much flare and are fairly subtle.
A lot. Seriously, I have so many more instances and prefabs ready to go and I’ve learned how much they really speed up development. But one thing this map suffered from more than anything else was bad planning. I didn’t plan out the progression of events and this lead to an increase in development time as I kept adding new areas and making it all fit together. I’m not saying it’s a miracle that everything turned out as well as it did. Just that it could have been handled a lot better.
Well there are some things I’ll need to adjust for Scylla, of course. I have some concept tests that I need to run, but I’m going to continue with Black Mesa for the time being. I’d like to make something smaller that focuses on replay value and pseudo-procedural generation. As I stated before, it’ll be developed in a different way. Instead of releasing a map months down the line after it’s “done”, I’ll get the framework of the map working with some content, release it, and then continue to add onto it. This way feedback from the community will help determine future content and people who keep coming back will have fresh content to experience on a more regular basis. Provided it all works of course…
WARNING: This panoramic contains spoilers.
WARNING: The screenshots contain spoilers.
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