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I am a Gold Source and Source level designer since 2003. I have been playing Half-Life on my PS2 for a very long time before I discovered it on PC. I never expected to make a mod for Half-Life, but hey, unforeseen consequences are sometimes good. I made many maps for Source games but not really for Gold Source (I was a kid when I started on Gold Source and I was just messing with the editor but got some stuff out of it). To this day, I am a 21-year-old student and level designer. Please make sure you follow me on ModDB and track my Half-Life mod(s). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. If you wish to join the development team for my mod(s), contact me with some of your work and I will think about it. Thank you for reading and have a safe and productive day.

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Level Designing - The way things should be done

Peter Brev Blog 1 comment

Hello, guess it is my first blog, do not mind the mess.

How to level design blog

To be very honest, I made many mistakes in my young time of mapping and I believe I can say what to do and the mistakes to avoid.

First things first

So, at this point, you want to create a level? It is best to start with a level instead of going directly into a creation of a mod.

So, you have got an idea for the level's layout, great. But don't go too fast. Take a paper and a pencil and draw your level on a paper. Nobody cares if you do not draw like a god and this paper will only have sense to you, therefore do not mind what people say. Have on your paper the major ideas (whether the area is more on the emphasis of action, puzzle or just a narration dialogues). Write down what type of enemies/allies is going to be there and how you want them to perform an action (are they in a safe zone? Are they in action? Are they paying attention to what is happening? And so on...). If you have an idea on a story, write that down as well, it could bring a lot of vibe if a player has the story. Right now, your level is being built very well. Make sure to organise your ideas to avoid getting confused later on. Fiddle with what detail, ambience, etc... you want to have in this level. Once you have got all of this in place, look at your rough representation of your level. Apply the following: OOL => Optimise, Organise, Logic. Optimise means the following. Is your layout built to give the maximum performance to the player? Is your level enclosed or is it open? If it is enclosed, make sure to not make big areas or straight hallways that would render three quarters of your level. If your level is open (nature, outdoors, etc...), you will have to use skip/hints, areaportals, etc... to optimise as much as possible your level. Organise your ideas and place them around your level for fun and challenging gameplay, which brings me to, Logic. Make sure everything you want to set up in your level is logical and not randomly placed. You do not want to place a kitchen in the middle of a forest for example. Transitions must be as smooth as possible and not abrupt. This can only work if the player is in total hallucination (some mods do that very well). If you want to, add some colours to your drawing, sometimes it helps knowing what goes where or help you remember some ideas. After your have done all this, making two or three more verifications of your level. Is your level original? Does the level need some reworking on some bits? Does the level seem smooth? Are objects placed accordingly? Do you know how the lighting will look like in the level? If you can, have a friend see what he thinks of your level (explain to him what you expect the player to do, and tell him the story, if any). If your level is good to go, then we can move to step 2.

Time to hammer out

I am going to be using Source's version of Hammer. For this example, I worked on a remake of the final bit of Office Complex (before climbing).

Have a drink, you will need to take your time on making the level.

Start by setting your camera view on "Flat" because we are going to use Nodraw to block out our level and we do not want to hurt our eyes with that much yellow. Here is what I have done so far.

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Once you have made the basic blocs of the map, apply the dev textures, like this.

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You can then start by placing either placeholder stuff or place directly some props to get the general idea of what you want and where you want them to be.

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Once everything is set up the way you want, begin adding the first detail stuff. 1 or 2 textures can be applied as well.

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Go ahead and apply the textures here.

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I started to place nodes and enemies around. This step can be skipped if you are mapping for multiplayer.

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Ok, at this stage, you can start twiddling with your lighting and placing detail. You can start working on optimisation, even though it is best to do it last, but since this level is ridiculously small and is made for blog purposes, it does not matter.

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Then, these are the final stages where you make sure everything is right. In the screenshot below, I changed the lighting prop near the WC to 2 props above the doors.

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And here is the final version. While not perfect, it is good enough for this blog.

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And here you go folks.

Happy mapping :)

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