The Surface Complex

for Black Mesa

10th November 2018

Here is the third and final mapping challenge in the Mesa Cup.

The release contains 2 entries.

For this challenge, entrants needed to make the surface of Black Mesa as the main concept of the map.

For full details of the announcement, please see the original theme announcement.

Basic Details
  • Title: The Surface Complex
  • Filename: mesa-cup-c3-the-surface-complex-v1.7z
  • Size : 17.00MB
  • Author: JamaicanDave, Skorly
  • Date Released: 10 November 2018

Download Options

Download to your HDD [17.00MB]

Manual Installation Instructions

If you require more help, just ask, but please read and follow the instructions carefully or watch the video first – thanks.

  • Locate and open your Black Mesa installation folder. For example, mine is D:\SteamLibrary\steamapps\common\Black Mesa\.
  • Open the mesa-cup-c3-the-surface-complex-v1.7z file.
  • In it you will see two folders: bms and platform.
  • The platform folder contains a file which will overwrite a file in your installation. This is NOT a problem, but if you are unhappy about this follow the Optional Step below.
  • Optional Step: In your Black Mesa installation folder, open the platform folder, then open the resource folder. Rename GameMenu.res to GameMenu-original.res. This means your original file will not be over-written – but honestly, it’s not a problem.
  • Copy the bms folder into your Black Mesa folder. You may receive a message saying that you already have the same folders in there, don’t worry, you are only adding new files, so just say YES.
  • Launch Black Mesa
  • You now have a new menu item: BONUS MAPS (That’s what the GameMenu.res files was.
  • Select BONUS MAPS.
  • This will bring up a new window.
  • Select the Mesa Cup: C3: The Surface Complex folder.
  • You will now see both entries and can select them in any order.
  • Play and enjoy!
Entrants and Map Names
  • Disarray by JamaicanDave
  • A Stroll in the Park by Skorly

Dolmo The Douglas, Crowbar, Chon Kemp (Crowbar Collective), Ben AKA trumanji (Crowbar Collective) and Phillip are the judges for this challenge.

The Winner

Details will be published here once the judging has been completed.

Full details of the scores, including a breakdown of the categories (but not by judge) can be found on The Mesa Cup: Public Google spreadsheet.


If you decide to use the Per-Map Opinion Images, please either watch the video below or use the SPECIFICALLY created mesa-cup-c3-rt.txt file. Thank you.

ReadMe files and Map sources

The compressed archive contains the readme files for each entry as well as the VMFs. These are included for educational purposes ONLY and MUST NOT be use for ANY other use.

Release Versions
  • 1 – THIS RELEASE – First version. No known issues.
  • Screenshots

    Coming Soon.

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

    4 recommendations, average score: 4.25 (out of 5), standard deviation: 0.19 (what's that?)
    Total Downloads
    • 254
    • 22
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      Last 7 days
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      Last 30 days
    • 254
      365 days
    Meta Review Data
    Statistics based on 3 comment(s) with meta review data.

    Using Gauge: Users
    Manually: 3 Users

    Time Taken:
    Average: 0 Hours, 47 Mins
    Shortest: 0 Hours, 30 Mins by DeanAmythe
    Longest: 1 Hours by vancanucksfan
    Total Time Played: 2 Hours, 20 Mins
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    1. I’ve been waiting for this challenge since it was announced and very excited to play, but there are just 2 entries? Well, I’m disappointed tbh. I hope there will be more BM challenges in 2019.

      Can other mappers explain me why there is very low interest on this challenge? Is the subject not interesting enough, or you guys were pretty busy with your daily life lately?

      Than you JamaicanDave and Skorly. I’m sure I’ll enjoy both of the entries.

      1. Well, I don’t map for Black Mesa (only for HL2 + episodes). However, the most prominent reason for the low amount of entries for BM is that mapping for Black Mesa is more difficult than mapping for HL2. A higher level of detailing is required to sort of make the map come across ‘believable’. In addition, the assets available for BM mapping don’t allow a broad variety of possible environments.

        1. I don’t have the retail version of Black Mesa installed on the PC, so I’m assuming it’s not worth downloading as it won’t work for me…maybe others are the same..please correct me if I’m wrong.

          1. Yes, it’s designed to work with the retail version.

            1. OK, just bought it…hope it’s worth the download..

              1. This one might not be, but try the first two challenges. Of course, the base game is said to be great too.

                1. yes, played the base game, non retail version though…will also have a look at the other two…

        2. Let’s hope that after the full release Crowbar Collective will focus on making mapping easier.
          I hope they will, it will be good for mappers and for them, since mods greatly expand the lifetime of a game.

      2. A lot of it comes down to being unfamiliar with Black Mesa’s assets and the level of additional complexity needed to make maps that resemble the retail ones. Their organization scheme is unlike Valve’s, the lighting is almost totally different, and NPCs tend to lack options. A great deal of BM’s architectural detail comes from elaborate BSP rather than props, which is very time-consuming to make.

        It’s a difficult thing to learn within the limited time span of a contest, and it doesn’t seem like many are interested in making BM content on their own in the first place. It’s logical that BM doesn’t offer anything that the devs themselves didn’t need to have, but that also means you’re often limited to desert exteriors and concrete hallways with only a few standout locations in between like Questionable Ethics. In Ep2, you have so much variety. You can do forests, cities, coasts, canals, and everything in between. Many HL2 assets do exist in BM, but they tend to clash with the much higher-resolution BM assets.

        1. Thank you for your detailed answer. It definitely cleared the clouds in my mind.

      3. I wanted to enter but I gave up after scrapping a couple maps.

        I personally didn’t like the combat in most of the outdoor areas in the game so I had a very hard time coming up with something I thought was fun and fit the theme.

        The HECU is a bad enemy in huge open areas because they only provide the player with one option, hide behind cover. I hated most of Surface Tension because of this, especially the dam. I am an incredibly aggressive player so I despise waiting behind cover. Usually, I charge them and die. I really liked Disarray because it managed to completely avoided this.

        1. Black Mesa’s Surface Tension was also one of my least favourite chapters, whilst in the original Half Life I remember it being one of my favourite. I think for me a big part of the issue is anything related to the HECU in Black Mesa (that’s marines, vehicles, automated defenses, snipers) can deal a huge amount of damage very quickly and accurately. Unless they’re setup in a way that restricts or disadvantages them they’re just not much fun to fight.

          1. I have a similar impression of the HECU and Surface Tension in general. It’s one of the most tedious chapters in Black Mesa. I think JamaicanDave did an excellent job in Disarray of hybridizing an exterior and an interior. It plays like an interior map, but it has the visual appeal of being outdoors. It’s a great example of taking something you might find unappealing as a mapper and morphing it into a form that supports your strengths.

    2. To the 20 or so people who downloaded before this comment, I apologize. It was the wrong link. It’s working properly now.

    3. Play It Later

      Only 2 entries? Are mappers scared of Black Mesa or something?
      Anyway, the two entries we got were quite enjoyable.

      It is good

      Very enjoyable entry. One of the things I really liked was that it rewards you for exploring. You can find useful things everywhere if you just look for them.
      Combat was great too. You get a decent amount of weapons to fight with as well. There is a Chopper battle near the end which feels like a cool climax, but it keeps going a little bit after that with some battles against Soldiers. I believe it would’ve been best to first do the Soldier combat and THEN do the Chopper battle for the climax and a satisfying end.

      A Stroll in the Park
      It is good

      Another good entry. I really liked how the creator didn’t go for the desert-style surface, but did something new instead. This was a pretty long entry, you will shoot a lot of things. At the beginning there was an area where Vortigaunts fire at you while you are surrounded by crates, so the Vortigaunts knock the crates everywhere changing your cover. I am not sure if this was intentional, but I liked it nontheless.

    4. Play It Later

      As there were only two entries to this challenge, one of which (Disarray) is my own, this will essentially be a review of A Stroll in the Park. Despite only two maps I reckon there’s about 45-50 mins worth of gameplay and certainly recommend anyone who owns Black Mesa give it a try.

      A Stroll in the Park by Skorly
      It is good

      I quite enjoyed this map and it’s remarkably long for a challenge entry, taking me around 30 mins to complete at a steady pace. I think seasoned players may find it a little on the easy side, but I’d rather that than too hard.

      Its premise is pretty simple – you’ve been hiding out drinking with a couple of other scientists and when you wake up you’re contacted on a radio and told you need to make your way to the surface. This doesn’t make perfect sense as you can clearly see you’re already on the surface, but it does the job of getting the player moving. You’ll proceed through a series of mainly interior storage locations battling xen aliens who’ve been busy killing the military before moving to a large, winding outdoor area where the HECU form the major opposition.

      I liked the layout of the map, there were numerous occasions you could see areas you’d visit later on or had already been too and overall found the visuals pleasing to look at. Sound was fine, there was a nice ambience throughout and a bit of music near the end. There were a few bits of environmental storytelling and scripted sequences, which gave the map a nice atmosphere. There’s plenty of pickups along the way, some hidden in crates and a few slightly off the beaten track. The combat was pretty fun and for the most part the setups interesting. I didn’t have too much trouble with the HECU rushing me, which isn’t as easy as it sounds to pull off, and certainly made fighting them more enjoyable. Besides combat there’s a few semi-puzzles navigating explosives, opening locked doors or climbing objects.

      I do have a few criticisms. Some of the interior lighting was a bit too yellow and the flicking lights actually hurt my eyes, whilst outside it was slightly too dark and difficult to see. Some encounters could have done with refinement. Examples include occasions where npcs were simply standing there waiting for the player, the HEV zombie appeared invulnerable, I managed to pick off almost all the HECU in the car park with the crossbow from outside the AI’s ability to respond and the trigger to teleport in the aliens could be skipped if the player jumped over the truck blocking the left hand path. Navigation was generally fine but I did get stuck for a couple of minutes after pressing the button at the end as the big screen showing the opening door was almost entirely in shadow and displayed a mostly black image. I had problems with all the physics enabled crates, especially when it was necessary to climb on them. This is partly from my own dislike of sources physics, which I find really janky, but they got quite obstructive and were responsible for my one death when I got wedged between two and the game gibbed me. This is more a problem with source but the mapper should try to work around it.

      I guess one small, final gripe is the map didn’t actually feel like it was set in Black Mesa nor did I find it a particular believable location, though honestly that’s not much of an issue when the maps fun.

      1. I really enjoyed your entry, very good level design.

    5. Play It Later

      Uhh I love Black Mesa and I do love these outside environment levels.. So I had high hopes for this contest.. It saddened me to see there were only 2 entries sent. Never the less thanks to Phillip and my thanks to the 2 authors of said maps. Without you and one another I doubt that we would’ve seen either level.

      My general opinion for both maps combined is as follows:

      Disarray by JamaicanDave
      It is good

      Certainly a brilliant map and well polished for the short amount of time given to the author. If I wouldn’t know any better I say make this claim (School kid) the author still has plenty of time at his disposal. I envy him.

      NPC scripting and monster placement as well as voice lines are making this little map kinda fascinating and it could very well fit in with the (extended surface tension chapter = steam workshop – a restoration of surface tensions original length and beyond, very recommendable)

      That being said the layout and texture choices are well made. Good job on this one. The rough play time of this is approximately 20 minutes.

      A Stroll in the Park by Skorly
      It is okay

      Another great entry. Well the only other entry that is… While I enjoyed this map immensely you finally get to feel that this map was meant as as competition map. That results in some areas looking rather barren and doll or assets being used as place holders although there appearance making zero sense on said place. For example we get this huge parking deck or at least what appears to be a parking deck.

      How ever what is interesting about that fact is that there is only a forest with no visible route or street leading off and 1 huge steel gate leading to the interior of a building. How ever once inside you notice immediately that this is supposed to be just a drop off point for trucks carrying various goods for the building. Things like that hurt terribly on the immersion when you get to realize “Something’s quite foul here”.

      Now that aside the map offers it all. Decent combat and plenty of supplies to remain in the fight.
      The fact that it was created during a limited time frame only makes it even better. It lacks npc scripts other than the initial radio message and a passing by Gark I didn’t notice anything unusual.

      I’d say this map would be my morale winner, for at least trying hard to get the job done in a short time. Unfortunately the mapper failed to plan the map properly through by the layout but that’s about it.

      At least we get to see a nice night time themed map which in some aspects reminded me of some regular hl2 maps. Approximate play time 15 to 20 minutes.

    6. Play It Now!

      I love playing BMS maps and was disappointed to see there were only 2 entries. I still got an enjoyable 60 minutes of play time from them so I’m not complaining. Here are my thoughts:

      Disarray: I liked this one the best. I thought the layouts and enemy placement were really good. You never got into situations where the combat seemed unfair or impossible. In fact if you looked carefully there was usually a solution to any challenge hidden somewhere, like the explosives tucked away near the tank. It was good to be in the middle of a battle with combatants fighting with each other sometimes instead of with you. It might have been nice to re-trace your steps once you completed your objective; that could have increased the play time considerably.

      A Stroll in the Park: This was a pretty good entry which was let down a bit by the ending. It starts well enough with you having really nothing except your crowbar for some time. If there was a regular pistol I must have missed it. The combat keeps escalating as does your weaponry, until at the end you reach the boss battle. It’s not much a battle though as all you can do is run away. I thought I was supposed to go down into the power equipment area outside and ended up getting stuck there with no way out. Also, when I stood on a box near the end I could see out of the map when I jumped up. So I think the ending needs some tweaking.

      2 pretty good entries is better than none. I hope there are more BMS competitions coming up.

      1. If I remember correctly, the regular pistol in A Stroll in the Park was at the beginning, right when you get out of the vent.

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