Well, I decided to come back to this old LiveJournal thing and revive my old account. Only instead of using it as a personal journal, it's going to be my new game development blog. It's partly a replacement for my Figments and Pigments site which I've now lost hosting for and partly a completely new project so we'll see how it goes.
I thought I'd start by talking about my add-on map for Half-Life 2: Episode Two which I've been working on over the Christmas period. It's set in Nova Prospekt and basically involves finding a way to escape after it's been overrun by Antlions. The player must team up with a stranded Vortigaunt who will help out in tricky situations. The map is nearly finished and I'm quite nervous as it's the first map I will have ever released despite building levels since the days of the first Half-Life. Unfortunately it's all on my other computer so I don't have any screenshots right now, but I'll get some added soon.
I'm still unsure whether designing maps set in the Half-Life canon universe is easier than creating a new world or not. On one hand you have a set of established conventions and visual rules (for example, the big blue plugs used for Combine machinery puzzles) which the player will instantly recognise if they've already played Half-Life 2, so you don't need to do much tutorial work. On the other hand you are somewhat restricted to those same rules and it cuts down your freedom a fair bit. You have to constantly ask yourself: Would this look out of place in the Half-Life world? On the whole I tend to avoid completely new worlds as it means I don't have to create all the art assets like textures and models, I can just use Valve's own material. I'm far more interested in the layout of the level and writing its story than creating pretty new grass textures.
I consider Adam Foster's Minerva: Metastasis to be the finest single-player Half-Life 2 mod released so far and it barely has any new content. It just goes to show that you can create something hugely enjoyable just with clever level design and challenging gameplay. These are things I have been considering for my standalone map.
For anyone who's interested, I use the following PC to build my maps:
- 19" Widescreen LCD Monitor
- ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB
- 2GB RAM
- Quad-core 2.6 GHz processor
- Windows Vista 32-bit
- Sexy blue neon strip down the front of the chassis
Finally, here's a little video I found on YouTube showcasing some phenomenal CG facial animation.