Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Union is in beta stage


My map pack Union has entered beta testing stages! Expect a release within the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Union, Luminesca

Well there is some good news and some bad today.

The good news is that my mod now has a name: Union. It is also pretty much complete gameplay-wise. I just need to tweak a few things, add some detail and but it through some playtesting sessions.

The bad news is that in splitting the one large map into two more easy-to-handle-for-low-spec-computers I have created an invisible wall which prevents the player progressing... and I can't figure out why. In Hammer there is nothing there. It's infuriating to say the least.

Hopefully it should be fixed this week, testing will take place over the next few weeks and Union should be released before March. Not a promise, but a realistic target.

Side note: I submitted it to ModDB but I haven't heard anything since... Hmm...

In other news, my uncontrollable imagination came up with this delightful little creature the other day. I called him Luminesca. One day he will be the star of a weird and wonderful game which involves luring harmless creatures into your fat gob.

This image can be used as a PSP wallpaper. Click it to go to the right size version. Enjoy, but not too much.


P.S. I also stumbled across this interesting post-mortem of the original Half-Life. It provides some interesting insight into the development process, in particular the Cabal system that Valve implemented which turned the game from a dull, generic heap which was no fun to play into the winner of over 50 Game of the Year awards. Worth a read if you're into that sort of thing.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Preview: Soul Calibur IV, Patapon

Those crazy cats at Namco have announced a new twist on Soul Calibur IV: it is set to include characters from the Star Wars franchise. Now, borrowing characters from other IPs is nothing new as Soul Calibur II featured exclusive characters depending on which console you were playing on (Heihachi, Link and Spawn for the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox respectively), but come on, how are you supposed to stand a chance against a lightsabre?! This trailer features Vader and Mitsurugi locking swords together... I just don't think it's plausible.

Oh well, I suppose the series isn't exactly designed to be super-realistic is it?

Anyway, enough cynicism. I also just set eyes on this little gem for the first time. It's called Patapon and it's a new title being released for the PSP. The trailer doesn't really explain how the game is played too well but it's a rhythm-based game mixed with some other elements. I'm not a huge fan of rhythm games (because I ain't got rhythm), but what drew me to this was the art style. I love the silhouetted characters - there's something so clean and attractive about it - and the backgrounds are just beautiful in their simplicity. I think the style suits the PSP's crisp, small screen as well.

It makes me wish that Limbo would be released.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Screenshots of my map

I got round to taking some screenshots in all their HDR glory. Remember that this is still work in progress and they will probably look better in the final version. So here is a sneak preview of my currently untitled prison break map for Half-Life 2: Episode Two.

Edit: the map pack is now titled Union.

Click the thumbnails for a larger screenshot.

New Blog

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.