Rise, Darth Freeman

Single-Player Half-Life 2 Level  || Source Engine, Half-Life 2 Hammer Editor || 8 Weeks || 250 Hours

Overview

G-Man helps Gordon Freeman escape from a large Combine re-purposed Supermax prison by giving him Force Powers and a Lightsaber.

Project Summary

This project was the originally the main assignment of a Level Design class at the SMU Guildhall. This class focused heavily on scripting, requiring us to create a new mechanic that would affect the standard Half-Life 2 gameplay in significant ways. For this mechanic, I chose to turn the main character, Gordon Freeman, into a Jedi. I used the Visual Scripting system and BSP tools to create a working Lightsaber and several Force Powers including Jump, Push, Dash, and Lift.

 

I worked on the original version for around 180 hours, but was unsatisfied with the overall flow of the level and how it used the new mechanics. In a later Guildhall class focused on polishing old work, I smoothed out the overall gameplay flow, re-created the tutorial sequence to add more narrative flavor, redesigned about 30% of the level to better capitalize on the mechanics, removed the Force Lift mechanic, and polished the Force Power scripts to remove a few annoying bugs. This second class brought the total hours up to 250.

This project was my first exposure to the Source Engine, Hammer Editor, and Half-Life 2 Visual Scripting system.

Design Goals

 
  • Design and script a new outside-the-box mechanic that significantly impacts the standard Half-Life 2 gameplay

  • Build a level using Half-Life 2 assets that introduces the new mechanic and creates scenarios that promote its use

  • Gain experience with the Source Engine's Visual Scripting system

Postmortem

 

What went right

  • Intrinsicly fun Jedi mechanics

  • Interesting combat scenarios that make use of the Force Powers

  • Smooth level flow and difficulty curve

  • Good scripting that performed well and offered interesting gameplay

What went wrong

  • Original level had a poor gameplay flow and did too little with the new Jedi mechanics

  • Overscoped level layout size led to a rough Aesthetics milestone

  • Original difficulty curve was bumpy, preventing several playtesters from finishing the early iterations

  • Original tutorial was poorly designed and too direct

What I learned

  • How to build levels using the Hammer Editor

  • How to create interesting scenarios focused on fun aspects of gameplay mechanics

  • How to properly and efficiently use the Half-Life 2 Visual Scripting system

  • How to properly scope the size of Half-Life 2 levels

  • ​Semi-large levels run very poorly in the Hammer Editor

Gallery