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Half-Life Diary Update!?!?!

Alan Stock

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Hi folks. I've started working on my level again after a long break over christmas and New Year. Once again I'll be keeping a little diary in these hallowed pages to motivate me and hopefully interest you.

Today finally fought off the designer's block I'd been suffering for the past week and started to construct the next area roughly. Following an Ask the Forum foray last week, it seems that the best plan is to get most of the level knocked up in rough form first, so I can get the gameplay and scale right, instead of making it all detailed and pretty, and then going - doh, it's shit, now I have to remake it all!

To the testing team, I haven't forgotten you, I will be utilising you in the upcoming weeks and months to playtest my level and give me feedback. If anyone else would like to be a tester please email or PM me, with your email address.

Here's a few shots of the area which I cut way down from the massive size it used to be. Thanks very much to Neb for hosting and resizing the images!


It's a sort of cavernous area (don't laugh I know it looks like a bunch of huge lego blocks...). The lighting is going to be a lot more natural in the final thing, at the moment I just use super-big floaty lights to light up the whole area so I can see what I'm doing. The less lights you have, the less time it takes for the level to compile (compiling is converting from level editor format to the level you can use in the game). At the moment it takes about 15-20 minutes already.


That grey ramp with the explosion mark will be a wrecked walkway segment. The grey mass at the top middle will be a room with a scientist in. Where the crosshair is is where you'll come into the area. And that's a pipe I'm standing on of course. Brown stripes are in fashion this year you know.


Feel my wrath Houndeyes! That's a truck (haha) on the left there, and some sludge too. It looks stupid though in the dark, it still glows, so I'll probably move it or just get rid of it. There is usually a Barney here too but the Houndeyes got him :o

As you can see it's looking rough, expect the rest of the level to take shape at this kind of standard now (compared to the more detailed ones from before), as I am more worried about getting the structure and gameplay in than detail and texturing at the moment.

This is what it used to look like, as you can see I've shrunk it considerably - it used to be stupidly MASSIVE - check out the size of the Barney body in the distance, erk! (just above the left most white line thing):


Here's some shots from the rest of the level so far.






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The interior sections look spiffy (though i might check the scale of the toilet looking area, that chap could easily get under those doors, which isn't normal). The doors are also really wide.

I know you are just getting the shape sorted out first on the but just incase i'll point you over to this tutorial on cliff faces, which may provide some insperation.

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Thanks. The scale of things in Half-Life is a bit funny, but I think the shower room is actually ok, when you are running around it it's not too massive. They are shower cubicles not toilets which explains the gap a bit more, but you're right I'll lower em a bit. Comments like that are definitely what I'm after, though a lot of times I already know of the problem but just won't be sorting it till the rest of the level's built.

Thanks for the cliffs link, I haven't really used CS map sites to help me yet, I forgot about them really. My cavern is definitely going to be as low poly as possible.

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Sorry I haven't managed to sort out your CMS webspace with my host.

If you need stuff hosted it's probably best to lemme know when I'm next online and I'll do it for you. I should get a username and password sorted for you at some point soon though,.

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Update Saturday Feburary 15th.

This week I haven't done much on the level. I mainly have been planning out the bit I'm working on on paper, and getting some of the scripting done in the new area. That's things like getting lifts working, scientists doing what they're supposed to, and stuff like that. I did a wee bit of visual additions this evening like some added lights, but you can't really see the main additions without seeing the game in motion. Now I've got most of this bit of the level in playable form, I'm going to try and make it playable this week - it'll still have plenty of bugs and will look awful, but it'll be good to get feedback at this early stage.

I'm making my level in different Zones. A Zone is the area between loading points, so you start in zone 1, hit a loading point to enter zone 2 etc. I'll start tweaking the events to get them timed right, and get zone 1 connected to zone 2 so we can play em back to back. After I get the first 2 zones to a decentish standard in gameplay and events (hopefully over the next 2 weeks) I'll start making Zone 3. So far I only have the general concepts and ideas for what's going in Zone 3 so I'll need to think about that a bit more too. I like the concept of revisiting areas in games (as shown in the original) - and in Zone 3 you will be revisiting some areas which makes it even harder to plan out. I have my work cut out for me!

Here's 3 screens of the cavern area - as you can see visually they're practically unchanged, but its the nuts and bolts underneath I've been fiddling with. I've got my own webspace for uploading images now, but may well need somewhere to upload test versions of the levels as my space is limited.


Above you can see it looks pretty much the same. I added some barnacles, added a lift and more lights, changed the positioning of a few things, that's all you can see.


This is a wee room, and I had a bit of nightmare getting Mr. Scientist there to do what I wanted in the level editor. Git. I might have to get him killed off later on for that. Oh, all of those objects are prefabs (i.e. someone else made em). I just threw them in to add some detail and give an impression for what I want it to look like. I'll probably replace most of them eventually with my own creations, but they'll do for now.


Boom! I'll get this event tweaked over the next week or two so it isn't just a random explosion. Bits go flying, it's cool and pretty easy to set up in the editor. Events like these take a wee bit of time to do though, you've got to set up a whole bunch of stuff . For example, it needs to be triggered by something, then you need to put a sound in, a visual effect, make all the debris and stuff happen, make things move, add other effects and so on. The more practice I get though the faster I become at adding these scripted sequences.

Hopefully I'll get a playable version for the testers out next weekend or earlier. Tune in another time!

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Update Saturday Feburary 22nd.

PLAYABLE TEST LEVEL AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD - Note you need Half-Life to play the levels!

Hi people. I've spent a lot of time this week working on the level, annoyingly one particular thing (a falling object has taken up a lot of time - literally days) or I would have more to show. Finally I have something for you to test! Hurray! Everyone is welcome to download and test my map, feel free to leave feedback in this topic or by the methods voiced below. If you'd like to be an "official" tester please let me know and you will be emailed with updates and be one of the team! Everybody else is of course welcome to leave feedback, but please bear in mind this is NOT a final version, it's just an early test build of one chapter!

This is the first Chapter of the level: Awakening, It's short but I want to get it tested and get feedback on it in this early stage. What I'm looking for is feedback on anything and everything. Gameplay, look and feel, arctitecture, events, combat, scale, you name it, I want to hear it. Remember though, that visually the level is in infancy. A lot of the models are placeholders for now, and stuff like blocky cliffs and things will be sorted out after the gameplay's added. There is also a lack of detail in the map which will be added to as I progress. DO worry about the gameplay though. Did you die lots? hard/easy bits? Satisfying? FUN? Areas you liked and disliked?

Suggestions are also welcomed. Don't be afraid to voice your opinion, good or bad I'll take everything into account and respond to all feedback. Oh, there is CD music on the first area too, so if stick your HL cd in your PC you should be able to hear it.

Instructions for use.

- Download the zip file from: http://alan.irvined.co.uk/alanslevel.zip

- Extract the files.

- First of all, stick the .bsp files into half-life/valve/maps (i.e. within Sierra directory if you used a standard install).

- Now, go into half-life/valve (the folder named valve within the HL directory). Create a new folder and call it "sound", without the commas...

- Stick the sentences.txt in the new sound folder. This text file lets me create custom sentances for the computer voice, grunts, and allows me to play the correct wave files I want.

- Ok, we're almost done. Run Half Life and see if the Console option is in the main menu, or try pressing the key to the left of 1 on your keyboard. If you can get to the console (its a drop down box where you can type commands), great, skip the next bit.

- If you can't get the console up, we need to create a new shortcut to run half life from. Don't worry, this won't affect your original half life install in any way. The simplest way to set this up is to create a shortcut to the half-life executable file called hl.exe. You will probably already have a shortcut somewhere in your start menu which you can copy. Then bring up the properties of the shortcut by right clicking and selecting properties. In the target field it'll say something like:


Change this to:

"C:\Sierra\Half Life\hl.exe" -console

Now when you run the game there will be a button in the top left of the screen that says console.

- Now go into half life and go into the console. To run maps that I've sent you, simply type:

map *mapname*

in this case the starting map is start12, so you want to type: map start12. You can load the second map if you wish seperately to test stuff (map hev40), but be warned you won't start with anything.



QUICKSAVE THE GAME IN THE VENTS - when it says "Level 2 should load up here". When the next level loads your PC will calculate the AI nodes (where the monsters move), but afterwards you'll be standing up - and stuck! IT only does this calculation the first time you play the level but you will be stuck, so let it do the node graph and then load your quicksave. Sorry, but I'll find out how to add that into the files next time. Also HOLD CROUCH whilst the level is loading - it seems to reset your height so you'll get stuck!

If you die, you should be able to restart by pressing the console key and typing "restart", then enter. Remember, F6 is quicksave, F7 is quickload. I'll soon find out how to make the game autosave and autoload!


If you find a bug or want to bring anything to my attention, it helps me if you take a screenshot. The default key to take a screenshot is F5, so hit that to take one. Screenshots are stored in your Half-Life directory as .bmp files, before you send them to me it would be useful for you to open em in a graphics program (even just Paint), and save them as a JPG file instead (just go to Save As and change the file type). Best way to reach me is on MSN Messenger - jigsawn@yahoo.com

Otherwise email me stuff, don't overdo it though, I only have a few megs of storage! Jigsawn3@yahoo.com to send stuff to.

Known Bugs (most obvious ones):

- Bugs with the security scan and doors, overlapping speech etc. Also be warned that you can get stuck with no return if something blocks the security scanner doors!

- Visual overlapping things, and crap looking areas. Please screenshot any non obvious ones you might find just in case I don't know about em.

- Getting scientist and barney to final scanner together may cause faults.

- Timing needs tweaking on events.

- falling debris getting stuck between objects

- sound not playing when opening sliding glass doors sometimes

- Zombie does not teleport in by the office

- debris may get stuck on the pipes and make annoying noise (if this happens restart the level)

- falling crate appears and reappears

- security scanner does not appear and vanish properly

- warp in monsters at wrong time after meeting Johnson

- vansishing doors in suit capsules

- Johnson sometimes won't follow you like the git he is

Basically use your judgement on whether reporting stuff to me, but better safe than sorry - I don't play the level as a player much so I may well have overlooked simple things.

Now go play! The more feedback the better don't forget. Remember this level is still a baby, there's lots to do yet!

Thanks for any feedback,and if you're not sure of something, or need help, get in touch!


Screenshots to follow shortly - or should I force you all to play instead? :)

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Bug Update

A number of bugs have come to my attention, I'll update the zip file for you to download with a few fixed.

When you try to load a quicksave in Area 2 you get a model error.

Pipe does not always fall for some reason.

Graphical glitching on doors on some systems.

I've fixed the quicksave error for now.

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Bug Update

A number of bugs have come to my attention, I'll update the zip file for you to download with a few fixed.

When you try to load a quicksave in Area 2 you get a model error.

Pipe does not always fall for some reason.

Graphical glitching on doors on some systems.

I've fixed the quicksave error for now.

alan, is that related to this?


quickly posted from my own notepad :P

In the air vent, just after loading the next section (?), I moved back then forward about twice.. obv trigger' load/reload. On the second attempt the level returned me to the title screen with the following error msg.then  bombed out completely.  Had to reload HL,.

if theres some sort of logging i can turn on, then let me know (if its of anyuse to you) - i've managed to get it to bugger up at least 4 times now :)


EDIT: duh, i guess it was. shoulda downloaded the newer version before hand. nothing to see here. move along.

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Yep thanks, the first person to respond let me know about that bug - it was an easy fix so I quickly updated the zip.

As for the level change - I think that there are some problems moving backwards and forwards between the levels, I'm looking into it. The reason I never picked em up earlier was because yesterday was the first time I linked the 2 areas together in-game.

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Hi peeps. After the frenzy of last week I calmed down a little this week. Sunday and Monday were spent getting feedback on the downloadable level, and learning how to add detail.

I added some detail into the first map, with some texturing changes, lights added and stuff like pipes added too. Made the laser feckup a bit more elaborate, and spent some time building a mockup of an area in the next chapter and getting the scripting working for it.

These screenshots show the added detail in the area - I know it's a bit hard to see because of the size but it does make a difference ingame.




So not a great deal to show for this week, for next week I'm hoping to have planned out some of the next area and maybe have constructed a little of it, as well as adding some more detail to the first chapter. See you then.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a quick update, I've been offline for 3 weeks (BT buffoons), so have been working a bit on the next room of the level. It's slowly coming along, and I've been adding detail and tweaking bugs on the first areas.

However I've got an interview for designer on the 8th of April so my priority over the next week or 2 will be to tweak and add more detail to the areas from the first chapter. The reason being that I want a nice working version to take along for them to play.

One thing I am struggling with a bit at the moment is effective and interesting lighting (Half Lifes engine can only support small numbers of lights per room), and making things more interesting architecurally. If anyone has any advice or link then it would be appreciated.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Well it's been a long time since the last update, because truth be told, I haven't spent much time on the level lately. Really I've been concentrating on getting a job and getting some detail added for those all important design interviews. Anyway things are back on track now, the next room is getting there now (I'll release screenies when it's nearly ready for testing).

Gameplay wise nothing has really changed in the 2nd area, except making the electricity arc lethal and adding a switch to turn it off. I've messed with the lighting, texturing and look of the first few rooms though - here's some shots. I really appreciate constrctive Feedback on the look and feel of the level: if you don't like a room, post and tell me why!

Bit dark this area still. At least you can turn off the damned electricity now!


New texturing, spotlights, shower pipes. Still need to make the room a bit brighter though.


They actually look like showers now... note the bar of soap and the drips of water :blink:


More detail added to the lockers (on the right) and I'm working on the scanning tunnel (in the distance) at the mo.


"Proper" levers and some retexturing makes this panel look a bit better. Still need to make the HEV capsules a bit more snazzy though.


Some new machinery. I'm still not happy about the lighting in the rest of the room, it's on my to-do list too. It's a bit too gloomy still.


Hopefully over the next few weeks I'll have more detail in the cavern bit and have an early version of the next room finished. Feedback as ever appreciated!

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