Category Archives: Level Design

FINAL: “Bender” (Prey)

We just wrapped up another challenge at MapCore: the Cube Challenge. The goal of this challenge was to build a level completely contained within a 1024x1024x1024 cube (based on id Tech scales and adjusted proportionally for other engines). We ran a similar contest back in 2007, but I never finished my entry and was itching to release something this time.

One thing that bugs me about these dimensions, though, is that horizontal and vertical spaces aren’t created equal. Unless you fall back on ladders, elevators, or teleporters, covering a 128 unit vertical shift requires somewhere in the realm of 256 units – 25% of the horizontal bounds allowed in this challenge! As a result, many levels tend to fill every possible inch of X/Y space, but often can’t utilize the full 1024 units on the Z axis.

I decided I wanted to take a crack at this in Prey. I’ve long held that Prey is the best of the Doom III engine games; it remains one of my favorites this generation, and I’ve always wanted to experiment with some of the crazy level design possibilities opened up by variable gravity and seamless portals. The result is “Bender,” which is now available for download.

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Last month, as I was shifting my portfolio to a new host, I made a fairly significant change in the site template. Down at the very bottom, the copyright information now reads:

© 2001-2011 Andrew Weldon unless noted

Indeed, the oldest levels on my site were released in late 2001, now going on ten years ago. I had just graduated from high school that spring and, with the assistance of a two week post-graduation LAN party celebration in my parents’ basement, shifted into a mostly nocturnal level-building frenzy.

I built and released five levels that summer – Zeta Sector, Phreneticism, Sector A, and Repair Bay 4 for Half-Life deathmatch, and Wormhole for Opposing Force CTF. I also began to involve myself in community sites like the original Snark Pit and the late Valve ERC. I met fellow aspiring designers who would become friends and future colleagues, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day. My CTF level, Wormhole, found its way into the rotation on Gearbox Software‘s official server and I found myself receiving feedback from developers at a studio where I would end up working 6 years later.

Of all the levels I released in 2001, the most important was my first – “Planet Half-Life HQ,” released in January. Planet Half-Life, then one of the central sites of the community, started a map contest in late 2000. The top ten entries would be combined into a PHL map pack for release after the contest’s completion. I got the wacky idea to try my hand at a submission of my own.

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20 Brush Challenge: The Results

The polls are closed and the results of MapCore’s 20 Brush Challenge are in! I hoped for a better fate for “Don’t Mess With Hexas,” if only in the gameplay category, but it was a difficult field and I just didn’t get the votes against some really great competition.

Most of my votes went to the often-mentioned-here Matt Breit and his entry, “Ludonarrative Dissonance.” It’s a gorgeous level in screenshot form, but you really have to see it in motion – his teleporter, jump pad, and dodecahedron face textures are animated from unique pencil-drawn frames, creating a look not unlike that of the classic video for Take On Me. Matt has talked about wanting to do a full map in this animated pencil sketch style and you should encourage him to do so. It’s awesome.

Duncan “ReNo” Blair’s “Monotone Heights” pretty much destroyed everyone else in the community voting across all categories, which is what tends to happen in contests he’s entered over the years (I was, however, fortunate enough to once fend him off in a single category of an old Snark Pit competition with my HLDM level “Odin’s Guard“). We may have to ban him from future challenges if he keeps this up.

It’s been a while since we did a challenge like this at MapCore, but it may not be long before we roll out another one. We’re discussing some possible options for the next challenge now, and will probably start gearing up for another one in 2-4 weeks. Join us!