Download and documentation available.
Tools: Hammer Level Editor, Google Docs, Google Draw
Role: Level Designer, Technical Designer
Team Size: Myself
Development Period: September – December 2014
Overview: Port Authority is a custom level made for Half-Life 2 with assets from the game. The aim of the level was to provide a fun, well-paced 5 minutes of gameplay inspired by some of the locations in HL2‘s Route Kanal level.
- Design, Layout, and Documentation: I first drew out a layout on graph paper in order to get an initial concept of the level and make quick early revisions. I then transferred these layouts to a digital format and wrote a level design document (included below) in order to better communicate the ideas and establish a tentative asset list.
During this conceptualization stage, I wanted to focus on the player being given an interesting path to follow throughout the level. I was inspired by some of the areas from Route Kanal in Half-Life 2, where the player travelling on an airboat would be blocked by some large obstacle, requiring them to get off and complete a short on-land segment. As such, the level follows a vaguely circular path, starting from the player dismounting the boat and bringing them back to the same point shortly after removing the obstacle blocking their progress.
- Blockout and Gameplay Implementation: After creating a blockout of the level, it was apparent that the scale of the level felt way too small when playing it. Because I had only used default orangebox textures, I was able to easily double the size of the map in the X and Z axes, which felt much more appropriate.
Above: On the left, an in-editor screenshot of the initial blockout. On the right, an in-game screenshot of the final level.
- Player Direction: A big aspect of the level I focused on was making sure that the path of the level always tries to point the player in the direction to the next area. In general, when a player enters an area in the level, the next waypoint for them to reach should be almost immediately visible on screen.
Click through this gallery for a visual walkthrough of the level, explaining ways I lead the player through the area:
- Environmental Decoration: The use of a 3D skybox and fog effects helped further the theming of the coastal environment and make the map feel more expansive. However, I had to get it to align just right with the geometry that was actually in the level itself in order to make it appear seamless. For instance, the player starts the level in a tunnel area, but the outside of that tunnel that’s visible in the rest of the level actually exists in the 3D skybox.
Above: A comparison of how the first area in the level looks in-game and how it was constructed in the Hammer editor.
An in-game shot from the top floor of the lighthouse, showing the 3d skybox and fog effects working to create an open-feeling area.