Welcome to Hard Duty. This is a Half-Life modification with the objective of expanding the Half-Life universe with new content. Explore the Black Mesa Research Facility like never before and fight your way through hordes of enemies! How will you engage the situation? How will you survive?

Report RSS Blocktober - Hard Duty (Design Process Tutorial)

The first blocktober for Hard Duty is now arrived. See the workflow of the developers to have a better understanding how levels are designed.

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Blocktober - Hard Duty In The Making

Greetings from France...

For those looking for the media update, it's coming up shortly after, so stay tuned for it.

Wheeeeey, wazzup designers!?! How's it going? This month is BLOCKTOBER! It's time you get a view of my way of level designing for Hard Duty or any GoldSrc project for that matter.

In this article, you'll see how I designed the intro for Hard Duty, which is an exterior landscape. I took inspiration from Half-Life: Visitor but not only that, as you'll see in this article.

--PLANNING--

My inspiration for each and every level usually comes at night when I'm about to sleep, and I manage to keep it in mind until the next morning where I then start drawing a quick preview of what the level would look like. Now, of course, it is never 100% accurate when designed in the editor, but it gives a beginning as to what to design.

I make 3 drafts. It's the minimum. As I said, the first stage is a quick draft of what I had in mind. The second stage is getting elements and key features (gameplay, type of sky, which part of the day, landscape, art in general, so on and so forth). The third pass is getting a neat view of my level by doing a drawing in perspective. It doesn't have to be so perfect, it's just for me to know how I should layout the level, how I should light my level, where I should place detail, NPCs, etc.

First draft:
First Concept Art Draft

The two other drafts aren't as funny and my phone's getting a little tired apparently.

In this scenario, here's what I know:

  1. The layout
  2. The landscape (Desert -- ergo arid environments, drought, little to no sign of life other than wildlife and in specific locations (Black Mesa checkpoints), maybe some vegetation, but that's to determine through blocking out the level
  3. The time of day (Morning)
  4. Concurrently, the lighting that goes with it
  5. The key elements
  6. The introductory music
  7. Flyby (Camera), its speed and focus
  8. The sounds that I will use
  9. And a few other meaningless stuff

--DESIGNING--

-Part 1: Reference-

Right, so now that I have the base settled, I boot Jackhammer and open a fresh new file, but there is one last thing I want to do before blocking out anything.

I usually like to see how other games and/or mods designed certain areas, this is why I have various tools with me, one of them being Crafty by NEMs tools, which allows me to open BSPs and look around without having to boot up any game. The level I am looking for to set up a base to designing my cliffs is of6a1 from Half-Life: Opposing Force. The reason I want to be looking at the cliffs is to make sure mine look convincing enough.

Reference Image

For now, I will keep crafty open to check from time to time if my cliffs aren't coming out of some weird hallucinations.

-Part 2: Blocking out the level-

Now, I want to block out my level to get a rough idea of the layout and size.

2

I am not too much preoccupied by the brushes overlapping, that'll come clean later down the road. You can also see on the bottom left that I already made the beginning of what looks like cliffs. This was out of a quick test to see if I haven't lost my cliff design experience in the 2 years I haven't done much in GoldSrc. I am pretty satisfied, but I'll let you be the judge of it when more work is put into it.

As you can also see, I roughly respected the concept art I drew. The main path with an alternate path are there, the blocks that will be cliffs are seemingly the right size, which will be adjusted anyway if I have to, so I'm not too worried about that.

Now, of course, there is no ground, no Black Mesa entrance, but I am more interested in having the cliffs done first then I'll be working my way to other stuff.

This is what I ended up with after multiple iterations, rework and refinement.

5

6

You will also notice that I already established the texture choice and you can clearly see the environment I am going for. The first detail pass, so to speak, with the road and its markings, etc.

Now that I got the cliffs done, which usually takes a long time, I can move on to the more interesting stuff! The detailing!

-Part 3: Detailing-

First phase.

It's time to get the big details/general stuff up. Here, you can see I designed the entrance to the Black Mesa facility. The tunnel and the checkpoint are what I made first, then expanded later on to give it more life. The idea is to get to see that Black Mesa isn't a place for everyone and security is key.

9

Looking at the desert section, we can see the road linking the entrance/exit of BMRF to the outside world. I am not American, but I tried to get the American type of road set up here. I used references but I am pretty satisfied. The point was to make the exterior interesting even if you're not going to spend a whole lot of time there.

8

All of this creates the base for our second detailing phase.

Second phase.

Because this level is created to be the intro to the mod, meaning that you won't be controlling the player but have a camera fly, I went ahead and made the entire detailing phase in one go here. Usually, I make a lot more phases, which you will see in levels that require solving puzzles, shooting or generally making the level feel realistic.

3

You will notice a lot more stuff got added. Poles, a car that crashed in a cactus (lol), some road signs, signs on the floor, cacti, etc. This really brings life to the level, especially that car crash because it makes you think that you aren't alone in the world.

10

The entrance looks a lot more convincing? Hopefully, every element should make sense. They aren't randomly placed just to say "here's detail". No, for example, the generators on the left power the gates, the hut and a few other things; the hut has a grate for protection, only allowing to pass small items (keycards...), the stop signs placed in front of the hut, for inspection before entering/leaving.

With all that said, these images below will wrap up this blocktober article. Stay tuned for the next update :)

Introduction to Hard Duty

Introduction to Hard Duty

Introduction to Hard Duty

Peace.

Comments
8chaos
8chaos

I see that you use jack, you may also be interested in trenchbroom for good vertex manipulations

Kristianduske.com

heres a video of it working with jack, notice how well trenchbroom does its vertex manipulations like cliffs and caves.

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

I'll look into it. Thanks.

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Thanoshld
Thanoshld

I love these kind of articles where someone can see how a map evolves from paper to map. I do something similar and it is always fun to see what changes and new ideas you will implement along the road, since creating something is not static, but a continuous evolution.

I also like the map and the design. And good job on those cliffs btw, I know how tricky it is to get them right. One thing though, what is the reference picture on the last pics? Is it the old version of your map?

Awesome work man, keep it up!

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

To answer your question, yes, absolutely. It was the very first screenshots I posted. Moddb.com

Most, if not all, of Hard Duty's maps will get an overhaul.

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Thanoshld
Thanoshld

Looks a lot better!

And good to hear, can't wait to see what else you have in store for us ;) .

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Blue199
Blue199

nice insight into your designing process, thanks!

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neophus
neophus

I like what you did with the circuit road , good work !

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

It's part of Valve's made prefabs, with a minor edit on my part.
You can download this rmf file which contains a huge number of prefabs: Dropbox.com

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

But dude there are no prefabs on J.A.C.K, did he first loaded the prefabs and then deleted all and kept the car?

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

Because Valve never used Jackhammer to begin with. All I did was group every prefab into one rmf file and I copy/paste the desired prefab into my level.

It's a drawback that there is no prefab option in Jackhammer, indeed, but that's the best alternative I have for you.

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

Dude sorry for wasting ur time but how do you actually copy i dont get you? open 2 j.a.c.k hammers and from the one copy and to the other paste?

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

You don't have to open multiple instances of Jackhammer. Just go to File > Open and switch map files with CTRL + TAB.

You can open as many rmf/jmf files in Jackhammer as you want (so long as it doesn't crash, but I had 6 map files open simultaneously without crashing).

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

6 maps hmmm well that means i can open more than 6 :D, oh one thing can i ask you just more question and i wont bother u anymore?

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

You can open as many as Jackhammer or your computer can handle really. I haven't had the need to open more than 6 maps simultaneously, but it's already a lot.

You can ask as many questions as you want.

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

I can't edit my .dll file from half-life i've downloaded from here the source code of half-life (src.dll) but it wont open on microsoft visual studio 2008 i seriously need it so much cause i want to make my mod that i put it 1 year agoo here (not released)

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev

Half-Life's coding will work perfectly if you use Visual Studio 2010 instead of any other version. I've made some adjustments to the HUD system here through the code and it worked like a charm with 2010.

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

Well Well downloading Visual studio 2010 :D

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Jancev™️️
Jancev™️️

Can you send me the source code of half-life so i can work on it the one i got is kinda broken i will see it tommorow now i gotta sleep

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Peter Brev AuthorSubscriber
Peter Brev Reply Good karma+2 votes
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