For version 7.52 of Alien Arena, we have added four new levels, each of which presents a different style, visually, conceptually, and gameplay-wise. Each of these levels was carefully constructed over the last six months, some of them had to wait until some new rendering technology was completed. I will break down each new level, in the order that they were completed.
Some of you recall that a deathmatch version of this level was released back in march of 2011. The CTF version was planned immediately following that release, and was an ambitious expansion on that theme. This is one of the larger and more complex CTF maps in the game, with a dark, brooding atmosphere that features the improvements in volumetric lights and the extensive use of static meshes for detail. Violator is typical of all of the post 2008 Alien Arena maps with regards to the level of detail you will see.
The layout is a network of rooms that are connected by short, twisting corridors. The central rooms tend to focus on a more vertical style of gameplay. As you get closer to the bases, the passages splinter off, with a variety of paths to follow. This style of map was very typical of UT2k4 and UT3, as well as some of the original Q3 CTF maps. This should be a level that forces players to use a lot of teamwork in their strategies.
Sudden Impact was a level that had been planned for over a year, but couldn't be completed until the rendering technology that really makes it pop was finished. In fact, the original arboreal areas were used as a tech demo during that process.
The urban style of Impact was something that had been explored before in Alien Arena. In the original game we had an urban map, that was similar to many other urban maps in that era, flat streets with a variety of buildings scattered over several city blocks. Later we tried again with Invasion, and later Annihilation, representing a more dishelved look and layout. Impact expands upon both maps, with a varied landscape. There is a courtyard, that is bisected by a roadway bridge. There is a burned out crater that players can navigate up and down, getting under the streets. There are catwalks, ramps, ledges, and other sneaky areas. The map is big enough for FFA, but small enough for 1v1, and well stocked with weaponry.
What truly makes Impact one of our most exciting offerings, is the new shadowing techniques we used on our vegetation shaders. Foliage casting shadowmaps from sunlight really brings a level of realism and beauty that was previously unattainable.
Goregrinder was a level that had been thought about, and drawn on paper two years ago. The concept behind this map was to create something that was small and tight, but also complex. It's what I like to call a "little big map". It's gameplay is without a doubt geared towards 1v1, but it's complex enough that small FFA matches are possible. It's psycho-circus style and level of detail make it feel even more fast paced than it is, though it is, to be sure, very fast paced. There is a good amount of weaponry, as well as a double damage powerup. The layout is a mix of assymetrical and symetrical concepts, all with an emphasis on frenetic, almost paranoid gameplay.
What can I say about Zorn...other than..wow. Dennis "Emp" Zadlach has been working on this map for the better part of a year. I'd hoped for it in 7.50...then 7.51...but, alas, finally in 7.52 it has been completed, and the wait is well worth it. Many existing Alien Arena fans will read this and think "Zorn? That isn't a new map!", but they'd be wrong. 90% of the map's layout and architecture are completely new, it's really only resemblance to the old Zorn is it's name. The new map is, however, much like the old one, in that it's very large, very complex, and has the trademark "Emp" style that is amazing architecture and a painstaking attention to details.
When Dennis first uploaded the beta version to our SVN repo, my jaw hit the floor. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite all-time maps in the game now. It's beauty is only rivaled by it's incredible atmosphere. He makes good use of all that the engine has to offer, and the item placement is as always, impeccable.
Alien Arena 7.52 will be released in a few weeks time. As mentioned in other news posts, it's a pretty signifigant release, and will be the last release prior to a major overhaul of the menu and other GUI aspects. There may also be some signifigant renderer improvements as well in the future, and we'll certainly keep people updated about that.