Report article RSS Feed A Light at the end of the Tunnel

So it’s been a while, in fact it’s been almost 4 months since my last update, however, during this time I have been tirelessly working on the third level of Dear Esther and have finally reached the point where I think it is good enough to show some of what I have been up to during my absence.

Posted by chineseroom on Jun 29th, 2010

The third level of Dear Esther takes place at the heart of the island, through its many sprawling caves and tunnels. I have to admit, this was one of the levels I was most excited about working on as I'd never attempted this kind of environment before, and it allowed me a much greater freedom and creativity that is sometimes restricted when creating large outdoor environments and so I was able to add in much more detail and complex shaders to really help bring the caves to life without sacrificing performance.I think the caves in the original were the one area that was most lacking and so I made a real effort to make sure they raise the bar both visually and atmospherically. (Note: As always these shots are pre-alpha and lack proper polish)

Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - Caves
Dear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - CavesDear Esther - CavesDear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - CavesDear Esther - CavesDear Esther - CavesDear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - Caves

Dear Esther - CavesDear Esther - CavesDear Esther - Caves

It's been a tough journey on this one, both technically and creatively, with so many unique assets being made and pushing the 2007 Source Engine to its limits to meet my high standards, it took me a lot longer than I predicted to finish the level (hence the abnormally long absence), however I'm so close to finishing now I can almost taste it and I can't wait to get started on the next (and FINAL) level!

Anyway as an added bonus for waiting so long, I've compiled a quick montage of the third level, and also showcasing some of the many effects that has been added/hacked in such as realistic flowing water and caustic effects.

For more media, including high res wallpapers and a HD Youtube video head on over to my devblog!

Post comment Comments  (50 - 100 of 107)
PhyOS Jun 30 2010, 8:38am says:

Wow. Really impressive.

+1 vote     reply to comment
FootBallHead Jun 30 2010, 8:54am says:

And I thought the pictures were stunning... I almost cried during the video. The way the rocks shine, how the light was reflecting off the water and onto the rock, the water effects and shaders, and... the waterfalls were just stunning. There is a huge difference between the old, bland, brown caves and the new, living, colorful caves. I am really impressed. This is going to be freakin' amazing.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Saint_Stan Jun 30 2010, 9:11am says:

**** ME.. that's beyond Godlike

+1 vote     reply to comment
boredgamer Jun 30 2010, 9:30am says:

This looks so...surreal.

No, really.

+1 vote     reply to comment
PrivRyan Jun 30 2010, 9:41am says:

This looks like a commercial game. No kidding. This is stunning.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Bluedrake42 Jun 30 2010, 11:00am says:

holy ******* balls... that's source?

+1 vote     reply to comment
alvarojmarquez Jun 30 2010, 11:08am says:

Great work.

+1 vote     reply to comment
JopiMan Jun 30 2010, 11:18am says:

oh my god that is pretty

+1 vote     reply to comment
JoshZemlinsky Jun 30 2010, 11:31am says:

Most beautiful source mod ever :O

+1 vote     reply to comment
Vcc2cc Jun 30 2010, 11:35am says:

i would really, really love it if you didn't showcase ANY pics of the last level. Though most of us here have played DE, I think it'd be a nice surprise to not show the last third of the game.

Yea people will bitch, but I think (like the Black Mesa team is doing with Xen and a few other chapters) it'll make people want to SEE and PLAY the final area, rather than just look at the screens.

+2 votes     reply to comment
DazJW Jul 1 2010, 2:10pm replied:

I think it'll be fine as long as the stronger visual moments are kept. There's one particular epic view near to the end that really needs to be held back to give it the most power possible, though I suspect it might end up being shown as it's also one of the more intriguing sights that might get people to play Dear Esther if they haven't already.

+1 vote     reply to comment
awesomepossum Jun 30 2010, 11:49am says:

Impressive as always, Best looking source mod I've ever seen!

+1 vote     reply to comment
sauerfreak Jun 30 2010, 11:53am says:

My lord, it's even more of a dramatic change than how Crysis was to Far Cry. :O Such massive improvements, I can't even tell it's the same mod. You've dethroned Raindrop as the best-looking Source-based mod in existence, IMO.

+1 vote     reply to comment
D3VIL Jun 30 2010, 12:02pm says:

Absolutely incredible! You have serious talent!

+1 vote     reply to comment
sadobash Jun 30 2010, 12:13pm says:

Fantastic work!

+1 vote     reply to comment
sadobash Jun 30 2010, 12:27pm says:

Very atmospheric!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Ekonk Jun 30 2010, 1:23pm says:

I think I died and went to heaven.

+1 vote     reply to comment
liamh101 Jun 30 2010, 1:38pm says:

Wait one second...this is "Pre-alpha" for you? For anyone else this would be done and dusted if there level looked like this on any engine. You sir are a graphics god!!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Jokerme Jun 30 2010, 2:09pm says:

Jealousy is killing me T_T

+1 vote     reply to comment
eldes Jun 30 2010, 2:32pm says:

Seriously, is your mappers/artists team the same as Fallout 3's or Half Life's? (Not Half Life 2, Half Life 2 maps kind of suck)

I saw the video, and judging by the waterfalls, I don't think this is source...I mean...artists can do alot by themselves, but the tools have limits...

-3 votes     reply to comment
Kiory Jul 2 2010, 5:37pm replied:

He's created his own unique shaders specifically for the waterfalls and such.

+1 vote     reply to comment
legio_noctis Jun 30 2010, 2:37pm says:


+1 vote     reply to comment
swiftseraph Jun 30 2010, 3:15pm says:

So, I'm not going to waste many words, as pretty much it's all been said before, but this is the most impressive thing I've seen artistically in a mod. Have an award, please. Someone get this man an award. If you don't win at LEAST one moddb award, I think something is wrong with the process.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Master_Of_Hiddenry Jun 30 2010, 3:23pm says:

Bloody stunning. Simple as that.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Krayziee Jun 30 2010, 4:12pm says:


+1 vote     reply to comment
LORDDEREX Jun 30 2010, 4:17pm says:

amazing :)
If not valve get an eye on this, they have missed something very very good art!

Keep up the good work, man so nice.

Seems to me we wont be able to stop the tears of beauty ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
flameknight7 Jun 30 2010, 5:39pm says:

i just jizzed my pants because that level is so awesome

+1 vote     reply to comment
Gearson Jun 30 2010, 5:40pm says:

oh god. Its beautiful.

+1 vote     reply to comment
UKcharlie Jun 30 2010, 6:16pm says:

Cant really add any more original praise for this that someone else hasnt already said but this really is amazing. Big congratulations

+1 vote     reply to comment
Theon Jun 30 2010, 6:40pm says:

Holy shi-

+1 vote     reply to comment
blobb.karkov Jun 30 2010, 6:45pm says:

hell man, this is too awesome to believe. seems like source engine with proper mappers is getting closer to cryengine than ever thought.

+1 vote     reply to comment
HellsHigh Jun 30 2010, 7:08pm says:

Lack proper polish my ***! Man thats amazing!!!

+1 vote     reply to comment
KompressorIsCool Jun 30 2010, 7:52pm says:

If only you could send all of these to every reviewer who criticized the original for its terrible mapping and forgot about it 3 days after.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Dr.Worm Jun 30 2010, 10:47pm says:

Is this real life? I wanna visit that place!

+1 vote     reply to comment
dvlstx Jul 1 2010, 1:00am says:

" As always these shots are pre-alpha and lack proper polish "
" pre-alpha and lack proper polish "
" lack proper polish "

Like hell they do :P These look fantastic as-is

+1 vote     reply to comment
Rikachu Jul 1 2010, 2:00am says:



+1 vote     reply to comment
Darthlex Jul 1 2010, 5:51am says:

You need to change the "Dear Esther" preview image, on your website, with one of these beauties.

I am .. Impressed .. Beyond any level of comprehension.

+1 vote     reply to comment
RKotern Jul 1 2010, 11:18am says:

not bad, not bad.... :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
SpaceRanger Jul 1 2010, 12:21pm says: notices you

+1 vote     reply to comment
RocketSurgery Jul 1 2010, 8:22pm says:

you are some sort of demigod

+1 vote     reply to comment
bobsbarricades Jul 1 2010, 9:04pm says:

this is unreal!!! congratulations man! I'm super impressed with the quality that you've managed to achieve on the source engine. Can't wait to replay one of my favorite mods!! Any idea if Korsakovia will get some lovin'?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Stone.Heart Jul 1 2010, 10:25pm says:

ITS LIKE A MIND *******!


+1 vote     reply to comment
kfhammond Jul 2 2010, 2:25am says:

no ******* way... omg....

+1 vote     reply to comment
Ithilgore Jul 2 2010, 1:33pm says:

Bloody hell.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Piuneer Jul 2 2010, 11:49pm says:

I've heard people say things along the lines of "ZOMFG I CNAT BELEEV DIS IS SOURZCE!!!" and every time they seem to be stupid and underrating the potential of this engine. But after seeing this in all its glorious glory, I am now one of those people...

I just cannot believe how great the Source engine can look.

Thank you, Rob for your tireless work for us humble modders to enjoy.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Door Jul 3 2010, 5:35am says:

I swear some of those screenshots look like paintings, and in motion it's simply staggering the amount of detail and effort you have put into it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Sleepl3ss Jul 6 2010, 7:09am says:

Good job! The caves look stunning :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
sbman Jul 8 2010, 4:45pm says:

Absolutely Epic! Wow this is on source, why hasn't valve offered you a job yet

+1 vote     reply to comment
Qured Jul 9 2010, 2:00pm says:

I... I think I love you.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Youngtusk87 Jul 22 2010, 2:10am says:

This looks just amazing. I cannot wait for this to be finished!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Post a Comment
click to sign in

You are not logged in, your comment will be anonymous unless you join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) which we encourage all contributors to do.

2000 characters limit; HTML formatting and smileys are not supported - text only

Report Abuse
Report article
Related Mods
Dear Esther (Half-Life 2)
Dear Esther Half-Life 2 - Single Player First Person Shooter
Related Games
Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 Single & Multiplayer First Person Shooter