Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Old News: Blackout Mod

I've decided to dig up some old material and post it here on my blog. First up is Blackout Mod, a Sci-Fi Racing Mod of Half Life 2.

Here's the background story, back in the days of Game Design(GD), Graeme, the executive producer/teacher of Game Production Workshop (GPW) and also teacher of GD said we could make a Gravity Gun football game or sci-fi racing game in line with F-Zero. We naturally choose the racing game.

A couple of semesters later, some classmates left and we were down to 4 (Andrew, Logan, Trent and myself), so we were merged with the 3 guys from the class below us (Gord, Chris and Luke). Together with Graeme, Brett (our tech lead) and Shawn (producer) we all started to rough out ideas about the game. Ideas were flying all over the place. Were they going to be cars or flying whales?! How would the cars be different? Would the racers be human? What kind of tracks would there be?


A couple of weeks later we had a solid concept down:

In the distant future a new moon has been discovered in the shadow of Heliph-57F. The discovery was not only made by humans, but an insectoid alien race called the Xenamorphs have also laid claim to the moon. The two races have battled for centuries and their weapons have grown to such tremendous power that they could destroy an entire planet. Both Human and Xeanamporphs decided to settle who gets control of the newly discouvered moon through a race series. Each side would get 3 racers. The human vehicles made from metals and the alien vessels created from flesh.

Sounds pretty nifty eh? I was tempted to do a bit of a graphic novel opener to it, but no time with all the work.

With the idea of Aliens VS Humans we began to work on car and level design. Logan seem to come up with most of the alien designs where Luke designed the human cars. Meanwhile level concepts were everywhere, but often had a ying-yang feel to it, they included:

-The Wasteland: the decayed ruins of an 21st century town where humans and aliens first fought.
-The Factory: a big metal works factory.
-The Alien Forest: A swampy overgrowth forest with huge trees.
-The Alien Hive: HQ of the Aliens.
-The City: a huge city with a gritty underworld.
-The Temple: An alien temple.

The game was off to a good start, we got our jobs:

Trent modeled the cars

Logan, Luke and Andrew begun creating levels
Gord, Chris and I begun working on models and textures.

However, it became apparent that my style/skills did not meet up to Gord and Chris's skill level and I was placed on PR and Game Testing. My job was to spread the world about the game, which still didn't have a name at this point, nor did the team, and play test the levels and give suggestions and edit the car scripts. It was a tough job to edit the scripts because we didn't have a programmer and our technical lead did the best job he could. Still, we tried our hardest.


Finally by this time we had a name for the game, BlackOut Mod. A quick search at Google, Internet Movie Database and GameFaqs revealed that Blackout was not taken, but there was a mod called Blackout, so we added the mod. We also sided with the team name of Wretched Sloth. It's a a in team joke.


By the end of the second semester, it was Andrew's fire temple level that was the closest to being completed. It was quite a feat, the level took a good 1:12 per lap. But there were some issues with the level. It was sooooooooo big that it took days to render. In the end we released a unlit version of the map. The first version of the mod was released with a sweet trailer created by myself with some footage Chris, Gord, Luke and I created. By this time things had begun to change.



(Black Out Mod version 1.0 is released and makes front page at Moddb.com)

After the semester break we learnt that Luke had left the school,Andrew was working on a smaller version of the temple, Logan's level was no where close to being completed, Brett was working on a Power Plant level and Gord, Chris and I were left hanging. Brett suggested that each create a level. Gord and Chris worked on a level together while I begun work on my own level.

I had been wanting to do a level for a while and quickly drew up my concept and presented it to Brett and the rest of the team. My track was a pretty simple figure 8 track on a Space Station. With just GPW and Film Screenings happening while I waited for more people to reach 300 level, I had plenty of time to work on my level. My days were practically arrive at school between 3-7, play a bit of Half Life 2: Deathmatch (had to run the program first to get the updates and such, in retrospect I may have played a tiny bit too much HL2:DM) then work on the level. Because of the open lab time Gord and Chris were there to ask questions and Brett was usually on MSN to ask questions to as well. After a bit of a rocky start with a flawed building plan, I finally got going and my level begun to take shape. While working on my level I still play tested Gord + Chris's level,which was turning into a tropical island level (they have a thing for Pirates and look forward to Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19th, more then X-mas) and Brett's Power Plant.


(Wretched Sloth team, South Park versions, actual photo was lost somewhere...)

Meanwhile Logan scraped his idea of the city and begun work on the Hive. Trent focused on his 3D Animation classes and Andrew worked on his new level, tried to fix his old level and work on his modelling for 3D Animation.

June 23rd, the end of the semester was our deadline for another release. My Space Station, Brett's Power Plant and Gord and Chris's Tropical Island were all ready for the release and the 4 of us spent hours getting the final touches in and making trailers and scrowging to find sound for our game. Sadly we had to go with normal Half Life 2 noises, but got some tunes from DJ Mikesch, who was a student at the Centre For Arts and Technology and let us use some of his music.

Here's my trailer for my Space Station level:






After a much deserved break (and my first time camping in 3 years!) I was eger to get back at work at creating another level. With Trent, Loan, Andrew, Gord and Chris gone, it was up to Brett and I to continue the game. There were also talks of passing the game down to the next team. I always enjoyed the idea of the Wasteland and with Luke gone, I decided to create the level. You began in the ruins of the city and went flying down the destroyed section of the town and raced back into the town and could go underground into the subway system and could drive pass the reclaimed part of town.

But something odd happened. Valve, the team behind Half Life 2 sent an update out and it didn't sit well with our game. Before we released our second version our speedometer was fine, but after an update it went wonky, still workable, but wonky. The update that was sent out in August changed the game script and were once our cars could give over displacement surfaces, we now fell through. My level was abounded because it was half displacement.

With displacements no longer an option, I decided on a different idea I had based on the Centre For Arts and Technology campus. The school is located on the bottom floors of a skyscraper with an underground parking lot and 2 other skyscrapers next to it. So here was my track layout:


(image from Google Earth)


Anyway, you'd begin on the top level on the right side and head in a counter clockwise direction, going through the parking lot, heading out into the street and oncoming traffic, then into the underground parking lot, then through the basement of another skyscraper then into another underground parking lot, then out onto the highway, then you'd head up to the above ground parking lot and complete the lap. Really simple, you can actually walk this route as well.

By this time Brett had also lost interest in the mod and with no help from Valve about our displacement issues, my interest changed back to animation.

So there you go, the story of Blackout Mod October 2005 - October 2006. The Centre For Arts and Technology's best GPW project so far. (I said so far because there's some pretty interesting mods/games coming from all 3 schools. Blackout Mod was a fun experience and I learnt a lot of things and became a stronger worker and team player because of it. With the skills I have with the Half Life 2 editor Hammer, I was able to teach a Level Editing class for High School students this year at the Centre For Art and Technology's Boot Camp (see previous posts)

For more information visit:

http://www.blackoutmod.com/
http://topsites.moddb.com/site/3740/ - our ModDb page


(Blackout Mod listed number one on Moddb.com's listings. It will forever be the number one spot in our hearts)

2 comments:

CATK_Hibberd said...

Ha... interesting that you would feel the need to censor out part of that last image...

S_Chmilar said...

Ok, I admit it... I was looking at nudy pictures...