Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Personal Updates

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Lots of updates I'm sure everyone is dying to see!


Firstly, I got First Place in the Overwatch Level Design Contest! I submitted OWC_Traverse, set in City 17. The rebels have to fight their way through the city to reach an Combine forward base and destroy it. The goal of the contest was to create a new map for the mod, which pits up to seven player controlled rebels player from the first person perspective against the "Overwatch", a human player controlling all of the Combine troops facing the rebels from an RTS-lite overview. Sort of Sven Co-op meets Half-Life Wars. It provided some interesting challenges, like providing the Overwatch player with a clear overview of the map, keeping the rebels from wandering into the Combine spawns, and a lot of entity scripting work for the objectives. It will be included in a future release, so I'm looking forward to that! I'm supposed to receive some notes and feedback from the playtesters, which is also great. Congrats to the other winners!

In other level design news, I'm working on a level for the Rooftopville competition over at PlanetPhillip. It's blocked out and I'm starting to add in enemies and encounters before I start texturing and detailing. I think A Brief Detour suffered in that the combat encounters were too tight and left no room for maneuvering. The enemies were right in your face, and there were no alternate paths to take or ways to flank the enemy. The courtyard in particular, where the Combine rappelled in, had no full cover and nowhere to hide or regroup, just eight Combine rushing in, giving the player no choice but to stand and fight it out.

I knew there was something wrong with the combat, but it took someone else playing through and telling me in different words for me to realize what was it was. But now I have a much better understanding of how combat spaces work. I know I was thinking about alternate paths and varied cover the whole time, but somehow that didn't make it into my map. It was way too cramped, and almost all the encounters dropped you into a space with little to no options. The player needs room to maneuver and possible cover between them and the enemies, including actual alternate paths. Thinking back to the encounters with enemy grunts in the first Half-Life, some of the most interesting encounter spaces were large warehouses, with multiple elevations and dozens of potential paths through stacks of crates, allowing for flanking and giving the player breathers from combat. Hopefully I can incorporate those ideas into my Rooftopville map.

On the job front, I'm still sending out resumes and soliciting feedback on my portfolio, since there seemed to be a burst of level designer positions posted in the past few months. I'm certainly getting some practice writing cover letters! No responses yet, but I'll keep at it.

I also have a new portfolio up at http://samcombs.carbonmade.com. Check it out and tell me what you think! I'll be adding OWC_Traverse up there shortly.