Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Abandon Ship

Believe it or not, I have mapping related news again. Holy smokes!

D.E.L.B. asked me to help him with his game mode project inspired by The Birds again. This time, he wanted me to place props in a finished, but otherwise barren map.

The idea is pretty unique too: a small military ship, like a Coast Guard cutter stranded at sea and surrounded on all sides by dirty, filthy birds that the player must defend themselves against. His only real stipulation was that the props I use be period-appropriate for the 1960's. So the decision was made to fill it's interior with as many metal pipes as it could accommodate. This actually ended up being a little more difficult than I thought it would be. Since the hallways inside the ship were shorter than Half-Life 2's standard hallways there were plenty of places where pipes stuck through the floor and risked appearing a level above or below.

I ended up arranging pipes like a carefully constructed origami sculpture, placing them according to wall thickness so nothing poked through the hull at inconvenient angles.

Of course, the map would never truly be done unless disaster struck at some point.

Disaster finally came when I noticed a small yellow button on the top deck. Remember, I didn't construct this map, I was only decorating it. So it's inner workings were a mystery to me. Well, I pressed the button...and nothing happened. I chalked it up to being an unfinished feature and went back to wandering around the boat. But as time went by I started to notice suspicious metal 'pinging' sounds coming from below deck. The lockers I had placed earlier were flying around the hallways, colliding with something I wasn't aware of. More of these little oddities started to appear.

I don't remember this being under water...

Did I really place these props crookedly like this?...

Suddenly it dawned on me: the button makes the whole boat sink. Before I knew it, the entire thing went diagonal and dove under the water...conspicuously not taking all the props with it. As it fell to the unseen bottom all the pipes and valves I had been placing remained stationary, eerily floating above the water like the ship's left-behind skeleton. These pictures you've been seeing were screenshots I took when I first learned about all this. It was so shocking I knew I just had to save it for my scrapbook.

I told D.E.L.B. what had happened. His response could basically be summed up as "Oops". Apparently the boat's self destruct device had been in development for a long time, it's just that no one bothered to tell me. Because, as always, no one ever tells me anything.

Everything ended up being alright though. All the models I used were easily converted from static props to dynamics with no errors arising. After that, it was easy to parent them to the boat entity. With that done, the pipes could be expected to go down with the ship without phasing through the walls or floors like some kind of demented ghost.

There was a persistent problem I couldn't fix though. Because the boat was a giant func_brush with it's own simulated physics, it was very difficult to place physics props without them bouncing all over the interior. Maybe it's just a quirk of the physics engine, or because so many physics calculations were being done at once; but for whatever reason, every physics prop I placed would slide around like the floors were made of ice or clip through each other and make a big mess. It was a disaster and I ended up getting rid of most of them. I have no idea if the problem could be fixed or not, I assume not. But hey, it's not my department, I'm just the interior decorator.

All in all, I actually really liked working on this map. The brush work was very well done and much like the mod itself, it's an unusual idea for a Source engine project. Apparently, the story this time around is that the player is the last sailor left alive after the ship ran aground (explaining the big gaping hole decal I was asked to place). Stressful enough on it's own, but now imagine filthy birds pecking at you.

And finally here's a giant oil drum from an unrelated project.

Yes, there's actually a keyvalue for prop gigantism. And yes, I never bothered to toy around with it until now. My failure to include giant cacti in maps until now will probably be remembered as the greatest failure of my life.

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