Escape From Springfield
A Half Life 2 Level by Aidan Grennen
Everyone who enjoys video games has at one point or another considered what they would do if they woke up to find their house was overrun with zombies, I created this level to put my zombie plans to the test. The player must search the zombie and ant lion infested area to find three keys that open a large gate which allows the player to escape!
Platform: Hammer Editor (Half Life 2 engine)
In order to evoke the spirit on classic key hunting FPS games such as Doom this level was created with three things in mind: nonlinear exploration, constant action and hidden areas.
There are three major areas that the player needs to explore in order to complete the level. They are: the house, the church, and the junk yard. As soon as the player starts they can immediately go to any of these areas.
The level begins in the kitchen as many great adventures do, in the kitchen. On the players left in the pantry is a shield charger. The right side of the kitchen has a pistol and an SMG along with some ammo. The door on the left side of the kitchen is locked, and the door on the right side of the room leads to a bathroom with a headcrab and a grenade inside. When the player exits the kitchen and heads down the hall they will encounter two zombies and a boarded up door. The player can break the boards and enter that room but, its safer to head into the room on the opposite side of the hallway where the shotgun is located. Once the player has the shotgun they can easily clear out the first floor. When the player walks into the living room (the room with all the couches) part of the ceiling breaks and a poison zombie falls from the hole. Observant players will notice that they can stack objects in the area to get up into where the zombie came from. This is one of the secret areas which has a health pack and the combine machine gun.
There is one other secret on the first floor, next to the box of grenades there is a bit of wall that looks different. This wall can be broken by a grenade, inside is another health pack and a magnum. The items are guarded by a zombie torso and a headcrab. The player can then head upstairs. When the player gets to the top of the stairs there is a zombie on the left. This is intended to draw the player toward the rooms to the left of the stairs. The rooms are attached to each other and there are two zombies and a fast zombies along with a health pack and some shotgun ammo. To the right of the staircase there are two doors, one is next to the staircase the other is across the hall. The room next to the stairs has some health and ammo, and the room across the hall has the first of the three batteries the player needs.
At the end of the hall is a bathroom that contains a poison head crab, the next room is filled with wooden boxes and three zombies. At the back of the room is a staircase that leads to a door that is boarded up. Earlier in the level the player encountered another door that had boards on it so they should have learned that they can be broken. The door leads brings the player back to the kitchen and the player is free to explore other parts of the level.
The player will find now sanctuary in this church! As the player opens the door and enters the main room the door across from the entrance is kicked open by a combine soldier. This is intended to draw the player towards that room to stock up on ammo before the big fight. The main room has four combine soldiers and an antlion guardian. The player can sit back while the antlion and the combine duke it out or they can take a more aggressive stance. The alter at the end of the main room has a rocket launcher hidden under it if the player looks at the back side. When the main room is clear there may be two more combine in the side room that’s by the alter. This room also has the second battery the player needs to collect.
Outside of the church and house are very dangerous places. Antlions will endlessly borrow out of the ground and harass the player. The player will notice next to the building where the batteries are placed is a fenced off junk yard. The player can open the gate but when they enter the area the gate closes and locks behind them in true Doom fashion. The fence is also electrified but the player can deactivate it and unlock the door by pressing a button located next to the battery. Once the player has all three of the batteries they can open the giant metal door and escape.
Creating this level was a great opportunity refresh my Hammer Editor skills, I had not used Hammer in over a year and I wanted to get back into using it. I learned three big things working on this project. The first was time management, this was the first level design project I have worked on that wasn’t for a class or a design test. Since I did not set a deadline I found I was getting feature creep, I just kept adding things and making minor tweaks instead of finishing the level. I learned that a deadline can prevent feature creep and stop me from making tons of minor, unnoticeable tweaks. The second big thing I learned was better lighting design techniques. I feel as though lighting is one of my weaker areas as a designer however, working on this level has really improved my lighting design skills. I learned that white lights are often to overpowering and changing the color to something just a little darker can make a room seem normal instead of over-lit. It helped that I was modeling the rooms off of the rooms in my house so I could see how the rooms were lit in real life and try to replicate it. The final lesson I learned was to not be afraid to start over. About a third of the way through the project I was having problems with geometry errors, level leaks, and overlapping textures. I decided to just start over and I was very quickly able to get back to the point I was at while not making the same mistakes. When I got back to the point I was at before I restarted I was much happier with the quality of the level. This project was an excellent learning opportunity and I look forward to applying everything I learned to my next project.