In late 2001, after a summer spree of cranking out HLDM level after HLDM level, I was getting restless and looking for some other projects to work on. A Counter-Strike map was tempting, as was the call of the more advanced Quake III community, until I spotted a new level + texture back by Kevin “Relic25” Roberts. He was building the Alien-inspired level for a new Half-Life mod – something called “Natural Selection.”
If you’re familiar with my past work, the rest is history. I went on to make ns_eclipse for NS v1.0, and ns_veil for NS v2.0. They became the most popular NS levels over time, often ranking #1 and #2 in active player count, and helped establish my career as a professional game developer. Lessons I learned in developing these levels still pay off today. Some people’s eyes still perk up when I mention them, and over a decade later community members have seen to it that these levels will live on in Natural Selection 2, as seen in Shawn Snelling’s re-make of Veil.
It’s taken a couple years, a couple layouts, and one hell of a Python script, but… Cubes. They’re done.
Partner-in-cubing Matthew Breit has his in-depth writeup here, with an even longer look at the CubeSpew™ script that created the cubes still to come. I’ve provided my own write-up and screens here.
Man, cubes. Next up will be the release of Starhawk, followed by my personal time going towards koth_roundhouse for TF2 and resurrecting an older, larger version of lun3dm5 as kfs3dm2.
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.