Last week I finished dm_mudanchee, a map I started 2.5 years ago. I’ve probably worked on it for 6 or 9 months altogether, which means I had some big hiatus along the way. At some point I had even decided I wouldn’t do any serious level-design anymore…
Creating levels for games like Half-Life 2 can be a very labour-intensive process, especially when there’s a lot of custom content involved. But what’s especially painfull is finding out that your map just isn’t fun… after you’ve put in months of work. I’ve had that happen a lot of times, which often resulted in yet another unfinished, abandoned map.
That’s where I learned the value of planning ahead. dm_mudanchee, despite it’s irregular development process, is the result of proper planning, early playtesting and many more iterations – and sheer persistence, I suppose. When I started, I built a few style test maps: a cave filled with water, some wooden planks here and there, some more caves. I also built quite a few layout tests, that were extensively playtested by me and a few friends. After a few of these maps I settled on a design, which I then filled in, using the style test maps as a guide. 50 versions and quite a bit more playtesting later dm_mudanchee was done.
It’s actually amazing to see how many people don’t plan ahead. Keeping that in mind though, it’s not so amazing to see so many levels, mods and game projects fail.
Anyway, after finishing up that map, I got the hang of level-design again. So I started on another map. I’m still in the layout testing phase, but here’s a rough sketch that shows what I’m working towards (it’s the same tower, drawn twice): a small vtol launchpad, an outpost tower built on top of a rock, surrounded by endless swamps with occasional mountains and other outposts dotted on the horizon.