WaterVille – Mapping Challenge Announcement

12th August 2015

The Combine have been draining the Earth’s oceans.

Control, storage and filtration of water have become increasing valuable comodities.

If the Combine are not defeated soon, there won’t be anything left saving!

Theme Details

I want mappers to create a map that uses water as its focus.

That DOES NOT mean I expect huge coastal areas that the player simply drives past – I fully understand the amount of work that goes into creating those things and how quickly the player speeds past them.

I don’t want to limit your ideas but think about dams, underground storage facilities, Resistance-run filtration palnts. Perhaps the player has to drain an area for the Resistance or the opposite, flood somewhere.

A very simply canal could be used for the player to reach an area or how about an almost completely underwater map where the player has to find air pockets to reach the surface?

The player doesn’t necessarily have to DO anything with the water, although that would be preferable to not.


The link in the overview above could be a start but there must be plenty of places to look for water-related inspiration. In fact here are two from my Real Themes section of my blog: Three Gorges Dam and Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel.

Of course, feel free to be inspired from anywhere!


The deadline for submitting maps is:

Monday 31st August at 12pm GMT

That’s 19 days, with 3 full weekends.

General Advice

DO NOT GET TOO AMBITIOUS. If you can’t build it in 2 weekends then think smaller.

Something is bound to delay your progress. Leave time for testing, bug fixing and polishing!


I highly recommend The Beta Testers Collective. Although, they are quite busy at the moment with Real Life things, so take that into account.

Of course, you can get anybody you want to test your maps, but the BTC are very good at it and provide excellent feedback.


I will be giving away various Steam and ORIGIN games. A final decision will be made after the deadline, although there will be at least afew $5/10 games available.

Judging Criteria

The winner will be chosen by a readers vote lasting 2 weeks after the release of the mod.

General Rules
  • Maximum two maps per mapper per entry.
  • The map must be original and not have been released publicly before.
  • The map must run in system with only Ep2 installed
  • By entering the competition you grant PlanetPhillip.Com and RunThinkShootLive.Com the right to release the map as part of the WaterVille Mod.
  • Maps must not appear on ANY other website before the release and for one month after the release of the mod.
  • No assets from retail games other than HL2, HL2: Ep1 or HL2: Ep2 are allowed.
  • Other assets are allowed with written permission from their original authors, which MUST be included in the entry.
  • 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_wv.bsp
  • All entries must be sent to: [email protected] no later than the deadline.
Bonus Map

There is no bonus map for this challenge.

Final Thoughts

I’m hoping that this theme provides something for modders to focus on, but still leaves them plenty of scope for creativity.

If you have ANY questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, either here in the comments or by email if you prefer a private answer.


  1. Anon_1397527

    Hmm, sounds interesting, i’ll give it a shot.

    1. Mmm, the mysterious “Anon”. Well, I hope you manage to enter something.

      1. Anon_1397538

        Yeah, maybe I should give myself a name by the time the competition is over.

  2. I was going to Join the station 60 competition but was not in a position to do so. Annoyingly I came up with an idea the day the competition ended. This time however I think I have pretty good faith in a few ideas I’ve had before and never worked on it’s just a matter of narrowing it down. This will be my first RTSL entry!

  3. AnotherAnon

    last 3 times I wanted to enter a competition, either something happened in my life, or at my work.
    hopefully this time I will be able to complete a map and send it to you.

    It really saddened me that CombineBaseVille got only one entry, I was doing a pretty good map for that

  4. Salamancer

    Whilst I can’t enter this one due to other commitments, I just wanted to extend a “good luck” to the entrants.
    Source hates water with a passion, it’s a pain in the arse to get right, but it can be such an interesting gameplay dynamic to have a medium in which the player gets entire xyz freedom of movement within its boundaries.

    1. I think water is one of the esiest things to get right and somewhat flexible in source. as long as you dont have leaks and the water is surounded by brushes your just fine

      1. Salamancer

        A single body of water in a room is dead easy, you’re right, but from my experience multiple bodies of water and larger open bodies of water give source a bunch of issues both in terms of visual performance and gameplay interactions.

      2. No need to surround the water with brushes! It works just fine.

        But yes, water on multiple heights will cause graphical issues, making all but the most visible cheap water. Try to keep water at the same height, if not then keep them so the player can only see one body of water at a time.

  5. I actually have some ideas for this, even with school starting on the 27th I should still be able to get something done. No promises though :^(

    1. Fingers crossed you manage to submit something.

      1. Yeah, I hope me not submitting stuff doesn’t become a recurring theme.

  6. Damn, now I really wish the challenge would have started later!

    I’ve been wanting to do a level that’s water/ocean related for a long time and I really want to make something for this. Let’s just hope I find enough time until the deadline 😉

  7. I’m gonna have a shot at this.

    Hope I can make it in time. 😀

  8. I like the theme, but nothing is really popping into my head about it.

    For those planning to enter, make sure to read up on how Source handles water. It’s kind of a tricky thing if you want to get fancy with it. If you want water to exist on multiple planes, for example, you need to use cheap water. An example of this is in d1_canals_13 (the Hunter-Chopper battle) where water_canals_water2 is used.

    Func_water_analog can be used to raise water up and down, but the few textures that work with it are very ugly. Consider following the “Creating a Waterfall Material” tutorial on the VDC to create a Refract texture that looks better and accomplishes the same thing. See my EndVille entry or Forest Train for an example. You don’t need a Water shader to have water properties (i.e. being able to swim in it, fog, etc).

    The ocean wave textures don’t work correctly out of the box. Minerva and Riot Act created their own vmts to deal with it. So, don’t waste time putting those in unless you’re planning to do that too.

    Lastly, as I’m sure everyone knows, the Ichthyosaur doesn’t work. I mean, you could try to hack something together with a prop_dynamic and func_tracktrain, but trust me… it’s not going to look very good. 😉

    1. Thanks for sharing the advice.

    2. I’m still working on a Quake map for the Map Jam Daz is running over on func_msgboard, so I may not have time to enter this, but a couple of things if I may:

      According to the “Adding Water” page on the SDK wiki, you can have multiple levels of expensive water in a map, as long as they’re not in the same PVS. Is that still true/has that ever been true? I haven’t done much water work.

      I have fiddled a bit with Source water recently, though, and the experience taught me that if your water surface is more than about 2048 units above the XY plane (not sure about below it), you’ll get crazy flickering of the water’s underside while you swim around in it. It only seems to happen to polygons that are a significant distance from the camera, so it may not be noticeable in smaller water features, but the artifacts get worse when you position your water brushes further from the world origin.

      I don’t know if it’s just my system or not, or the fact that the map I made was for Garry’s Mod, which is a different branch of the Source engine from the one in Ep2, but it’s something to keep in mind: if your water flickers from underneath, try moving the surface closer to 0 on the Z axis.

      1. AFAIK, that’s true. If you have two expensive waters on different planes, the engine will only render one of them fully, flickering back and forth depending on which one the PVS “sees” first.

        Valve avoided this scenario for the most part – d1_canals_13 is one of the few examples where the player could potentially see two planes at the same time. If you play through the level normally (killing the Hunter-Chopper and opening the crank gate) and get to the area where you’d normally pull the switch to open the dam gate, you can see the two planes of water. The lower plane will default to being a foggy bluish color, but pop into a more detailed version if you look away from the higher plane. There don’t seem to be any fancy entities in the water, so my guess is that if the water doesn’t render, it may still be rendering the fog in the water (as well as maybe a cheap fallback) rather than nothing at all. They also stuck a smokevolume there which hides it somewhat, but it’s really obvious if you’re looking for it.

        1. Having looked into this a little more, yeah, there doesn’t seem to be any way around it. If you want to have water on multiple planes, you have to sacrifice translucency on at least one of them. Which looks pretty bad, since it will render as a solid color with some waves in it.

          The Refract material trick lets you have multiple levels of fake water, but its problem is that it only distorts the textures beneath it because it doesn’t support the Water shader’s volumetric fog. Although you can add a tint, the bottom line is that the area beneath the water is crystal clear at any distance.

          1. But that’s only a problem if you can see both at once, isn’t it? What I was getting at earlier was that if you need multiple levels of expensive water, and can afford to have them cut off from each other so only one is visible at a time, it won’t be a problem. I had always thought the restriction was “one level of expensive water per map, no exceptions”, but that seems not to have been the case.

            1. Yes, that’s not the case. If the two planes of expensive water can’t be seen at the same time, it’s alright. And as that level demonstrated, even if they can, it’s not the end of the world.

  9. In terms of underwater combat it’s worth noting that the only weapons that work underwater are the Gravity gun, the crowbar, the small pistol, the crossbow and the pheropods. Surprisingly the grenade doesn’t fire under water and the pheropods.

    Also does anybody know if there is a way to trigger the players oxygen levels to refill while under water? I’m just playing with ideas at this stage.

    1. Yeah, sadly, there’s just not much to underwater gameplay in HL2, unlike the terrifying Ichthyosaur in HL1. There aren’t any enemies that really take to the water, so any gameplay involving water is really going to involve navigation, such as from air pocket to air pocket, or a “floor is lava” kind of scenario using electricity or leeches.

      Of course, it’s notable that BioShock – a game which takes place in an underwater city – doesn’t use underwater gameplay at all. However, they do utilize water’s conductive properties quite well!

  10. On a side not of npc interaction with water, it’s pretty bad. Headcrabs, rollermines, and antlions drown. Manhacks engine’s also get bogged down, and I don’t think they can damage you when submerged. Your best bet is to use barnacles or maybe turrets attached to some barrels or something. The other npcs can survive underwater, but they don’t really swim, so it looks pretty weird. One possible interaction is that zombies can “sleep” underwater, but we’ve already seen that. The only other npc thing I can think of is that the ai tends to miss more when you’re underwater. They’ll aim in front of where you’re going so that you can see the fancy bubble trails (fyi, hunter flechettes leave bubble trails too).

    I’m excited, though, I’d love to see some coast maps. Give me some of that compound combat!

  11. I knew that Source can be a little bit difficult with water but I am hoping that we still get some fun and intersting entries.

  12. Anon_1397666

    Oh no, one of my puzzles isn’t working out, I thought that spools could float.

    1. Props that are wooden will automatically float if their mass is below some number. The spool has a mass of 200 whereas the pallet is 20 and a crate is 30.

      It’s easy to override the spool’s mass by changing its properties. You can set its Mass Scale to something smaller (like 0.1, which would make it 20) or manually set it with the Override Parameters, something like mass,20. You do this on the prop_physics you placed. 20 should be enough, but go lower if it isn’t.

      The side effect is that the prop will be lighter than expected if it gets tossed. It’s probably not a bad trade-off since, in real life, the spool probably would float.

    2. Valve used phys_keepupright entities with their spools in the classic water rising puzzle.

      1. Anon_1397684

        It’s alright, I decided making my water shallow would work better for it instead.
        On an unrelated note, the source SDK wiki shows a “HL2 prefabs” folder in their hammer which seems to be missing from mine, it’s not urgent right now but I would like to use some of them to add to my level. Is there anything i’m doing wrong?

        1. You can get those from the ordinary “Source SDK” which you can find in the Tools category of your Steam Library. Copy them to the Prefabs folder in common/Half-Life 2/bin/prefabs.

          I don’t quite remember where they were in the Source SDK. I think it was something like common/sourcesdk_content/orangebox/prefabs.

  13. I’ve just realised, if Phillip does another competition on the 2nd of September (which he said was possible) it leaves him with just 3 days to release waterville, and the remainder of that time for us to play the maps before some of us enter the next competition.

    Hope there isn’t going to be another one so soon

    1. I won’t necessarily have to release the WaterVille mod before starting the next challenge.

  14. Anon_1397966

    I’ve almost finished the blocking out of the level, there’s a problem though, I want to spawn citizens with RPGs to shoot at a helicopter but when they spawn all they do is just stand around while the helicopter kills them all, I can’t seem to find an answer anywhere on the internet on how to make them shoot so I thought i’d ask here.

    1. Use an ai_relationship to make npc_citizen Hate npc_helicopter.

      According to the VDC’s default relationship page, rebel Citizens are normally Neutral toward Combine Gunships. I’m not sure what a Hunter-Chopper is classified as, but for consistency’s sake, I’d imagine it’s a Neutral relationship there too.

  15. OJJ

    I’m still anon because getting myself an account is giving me no end of trouble, i’ve tried setting my password but it keeps deleting itself whenever I try to type in the “confirm password” when I press “lost password” it tells me that the key has expired as soon as I click the link i’m sent and so i’m pretty much stuck as being a non-member for now.
    Anyway I came here to post this screenshot of my level; http://postimg.org/image/jdsv82e1f/full/
    I’m not too satisfied with how its turned out but it getting released will give me feedback which will be nice so I can know what people liked and disliked about my level, I just hope I can polish it properly in the next week.

  16. OJJ

    I’ve almost done, has anyone else submitted/is working on an entry?

    1. Not yet, but most people don’t submit until the last day anyway.

    2. Dr. Hammer

      Man, I havn’t submitted a map to one of these contests in years, there’s no way I…

      But wait, what’s that behind your ear?

      Ew, you really need to wash there more.

  17. OJJ

    Okay, it’s doing a full normal compile (no HDR because the level looks really bad with it on) hopefully there’s no game breaking bug that i’m missing because that would suck. One worry I have is the optimization, i’ve tried to optimize it but no matter what I can’t seem to get the hang of it, the map has no lag for me so I hope it’s not too bad for people with worse computers than me. Well i’m off to bed so it can compile overnight, see you all tomorrow.

    1. OJJ

      Submitted…I hope

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