Greetings Facepunch - welcome to my thread about progression through level design/making - this isn’t a work in progress thread (well technically it is, but whatever) It’s more of a insight into how I design my levels and detail them (And to also impress my interviewer during a college application )
This is copied and pasted from a word document so be quiet about the extra details about Valve.
The inspiration for making the caves came when I saw a picture posted by another mapper on a discussion board; I became interested in the art style and lighting and decided to try it out for myself.
I started these caves off by creating a brief layout, I’d previously tried (And failed) at creating an Antlion themed cave in a 512x512 unit block, however the confined space meant that not only was it rather frustrating to create in as imagination was confined to such a small area. When starting this project my experience with subdivision was minimal, the only time I’d ever tried it is when trying to recreate something I’d seen (Which failed… miserably.)
After that failed attempt I moved onto trying out certain areas at a time, such as the curved pillars in the reference photo, but was eventually scrapped due to complications, but it stayed with me throughout a big chunk of the level design.
In the first few hours of creating the second attempt I’d managed to get down the basics – layout, and several other ideas – keep in mind that for the moment the creation I was doing was merely a test, I had no level layout and so forth to aid me. After a few minor edits I’d decided it was time to test out my layout and lighting which I’d rather hastily prepared, the outcome wasn’t what I’d expected – but still; a start.
After looking at my reference image and comparing the two I’d decided it was time for a change in lighting, and prop layout, I’d consulted a friend who was interested in caves and other rock formations who told me about the layout of stalactites and stalagmites and proceeded to change the layout of the ceiling, amongst other things.
After judging the situation I’d decided that It was time to add more detail and after looking at both my reference picture and Valve’s “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” layout of props and NPCs I decided to add some Antlion Grubs – more of a detail prop than an NPC I might add, but still - useful. Along with those changes I’d also added some extra lighting and sprites to add detail to the Antlion combs previously placed, I also changed the colour of my green lighting.
This stage was one I was most proud of apart from the lighting, I felt I’d got the terrain work right – but as with anything: It’s never perfect, so I soldiered onwards to my previous aim: “…more detail…” and determined that the area would look better with water, or as a friend of mine says “A cheap way of making something look pretty” and I agree with him, but if it makes it look pretty – why should it matter? Along with the addition of water I’d also changed the lighting setup adding a green tint to further follow my reference image amongst that added another NPC called a “Barnacle”, not reference from anywhere – just a personal touch.
After that compile I finally decided it was time to further add multiple props – such as more stalactites, a charple (Body) and a rather oddly placed boat which stirred quite a bit of questioning amongst the discussion board when I asked for criticism (and also a bit of a laugh too. Again I also changed the lighting setup by a small amount.
As you can see to the right of the image, I hadn’t fully sealed off the area, so that was my next task, which was by far the most irritating as with subdivision you have to have each vertex (Brush corner) aligned otherwise when subdividing you won’t get the smooth effect you’re looking for, so the pillars I had spent the good part of an hour trying to make perfect had to be scrapped for a more efficient method, and the outcome was the image below.
At this point I had already been considering expanding the caves to reference Valve’s “Half-Life 2 Episode 2” even further by adding an abandoned rebel outpost several meters back, but before I could do that I wanted to add something else I’d seen in Half-Life 2 again – a bridge.
That might sound slightly odd when I’m talking about caves but what I meant was a rock formed bridge, after blocking it out once more I subdivided and edited the terrain, added some more props, such as stalactites and combs, transferred the lighting scheme over and compiled the map.
After those caves I decided it was time to fully get into the part of the map I was most anticipated for, but also – the most worried about, and for the simple reason that I’d never tried this type of area before but I was eager to attempt it, so I launched Half-Life 2 and decided to check out the areas I’d based it off for myself.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Map: Antlion caves ep2_outland_03
The image above was the type of scene I was heading for, so – I set out on following said goal and started with the basics – the walls. The walls were obviously easy, a few out-cuts and ridges to split it up and add detail.
After walls I decided to start on my first building which was based off the building in the top image on the left, I also found that the building only really suited the texture in the image, so I launched up Half-Life once more to see what the texture was using “Mat_crosshair” and “Impulse 107” which gave me a list of all the textures I needed, of course amongst that texture I found out other textures such as the side wall textures and the ground texture which I then proceeded to add to the brushwork.
Next was detailing the walls, such as pipes and mining buildings, amongst all this a few extra items were added, but would be a bit tedious to read about every single detail, so I’ll summarise it in a few images.
As you can see (or therefore, a lack of) the lighting still needed some work, but the change in outside lighting to match the area highlighted the areas worked on, so once more, similar to the caves, I set upon changing the lighting.
In the last two images you can see a, quite frankly, abysmal lack of detail, but more to come! I further litter the area with relevant props and decals to give it that extra detail it deserves.****
These next images took several days to create, working in conjunction with a friend (Bug fixing and detail) we managed to detail the surrounding areas by adding props, detailing the brushwork further, improving the lighting and thus making the area more aesthetically pleasing.
The lighting at this point still seems rather dull and the ceiling above requires more detail by heightening it more to give it the feeling that you’re further underground similar to that of Half-Life 2 Episode Two’s.
From further looking at the imagery I find that the lighting in Half-Life 2 is being lit by the lamps, not the sky – so I set out on detailing the roof even further to follow up on my previous statements.