HC Northstation was my first started from the scratch, original map designed for Half-Life 2: Deathmatch (HL2:DM).
I remember a casual conversation with Neolantis, while playing on his “Neolantis Roughnecks” server for HL2:DM, about how cool it would be to make your own map. It was Neolantis who showed me how to get Hammer (editor for Source SDK) working for HL2DM. It was autumn 2013 and I was set on a much longer road then I could expect to at this point.
I had no prior knowledge about designing maps for source engine before I started working on this project so everything was new to me. Back then, my only experience with 3D editors was with using MCEdit for Minecraft. MCEdit was one window editor, meaning user would perform most operations and navigate in 3D space in view resembling your 3D map in-game. Hammer however, welcomed me with screen split into 4 windows, one for 3D preview of the project and 3 windows showing different 2D perspectives: top, front and side views.
My time spent in MCEdit made it easier to move within the 3D Camera window, while for 2D perspectives the orthographic projections I used to draw for Design and Technique classes proven most valuable with understanding what I’m seeing.
With help of Valve Developer Wiki and with watching various tutorials on YouTube I’ve started my trial and error design process. I was starting from the beginning three times because my compiled map was crashing the game, or didn’t compile at all. I’ve learned the hard way to save a file with a new name each time instead of overwriting same file over and over till I reached the point of no return. But I did not give up…
And slowly bit by bit I was moving ahead with my first project. The fact of being able to navigate through virtual structures I’ve just created proven to be very rewarding. I’ve enjoyed countless times I was testing, improving and further expanding upon my project. This process of creation I can only describe as a craft bridging technique and art. What I created has become a part of reality. Despite the fact it was lacking the physical presence it existed in a form of the continuous series of images displayed on a computer screen. A form of communication between the man and the machine if you prefer.
I was not yet aware that there is a second reward upon completing and releasing the project to the public. This second rewarding moment occurred to me when people were playing my level and were expressing their emotions during the gameplay. And I’m not talking about people’s opinion about the created level. I am talking about the moment when people are engaging in gaming session and emotions they express are related to what is currently happening at their screens. Their emotions were an element of their experience occurring in 3D space I’ve created.
Multiplayer gameplay was more than form of communication between the man and the machine. The machine has become the medium of communication between humans.
At this very moment I knew I was hooked on creation of a virtual space for good…