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.
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.
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:
- The layout
- 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
- The time of day (Morning)
- Concurrently, the lighting that goes with it
- The key elements
- The introductory music
- Flyby (Camera), its speed and focus
- The sounds that I will use
- And a few other meaningless stuff
-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.
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.
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.
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-
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.
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.
All of this creates the base for our second detailing 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.
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.
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 :)