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Urban Decay is a level I put together for Half-Life 2 during a 'FIVE ROOMS' game jam, which was hosted on Steve Lee's Discord server. It's set in a deserted City 17 train station, and the goal is pretty straightforward: get out by fixing an elevator that's seen better days. You'll need to find some batteries that have gone missing to get it running again.

For this project, I was in charge of mapping out the layout, scripting the events to keep things interesting, and making sure the level was well-balanced – challenging but fair. We ran all our playtests through Steve Lee's Discord, which meant we could get real-time feedback and tweak things as we went. It was a hands-on way to make sure the level not only plays well but also feels like a part of the Half-Life universe











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I organized the entire project using Notion. I made daily notes to plan tasks for the upcoming day and took daily screenshots to document my progress. Before diving into the editor, I started with a detailed written plan of the entire level, breaking down the sequences, gameplay elements, and key moments. With this blueprint, I then moved to the hands-on development in the editor.


I made a graph to show the sequence of the level and player excitement. It helped me decide when to introduce weapons, enemies, features, areas, and puzzles. This ensured a smooth progression, introducing challenges and breaks at the right times. The graph also showed when to give rewards and new elements, keeping players engaged. I also got feedback from others to refine this chart, making sure the design is player-focused and well-crafted.
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I drew moodboard inspiration from games like Metro, focusing on life in train tunnels. By studying architecture and gameplay, I identified key areas for my level: Resistance Base, Central Area, Café/Restaurant, Maintenance Room, and Control Station. These insights influenced my initial sketches and game flow, aligning with the game jam's theme.


I used Clip Studio for a top-down design, marking areas with colors and noting item placements. This layout included puzzles, inaccessible zones, and save points, readying it for transition to Hammer++.


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After the Combine fight, Gordon wakes up in a train station now home to a small group of resistance fighters. This place, once full of people coming and going, now serves as a protective shelter from the threats outside. The group's only way out is an old elevator that's not working, and it needs two batteries to get it running again. Seeing Gordon as someone who can help, they ask him to explore the dangerous station platforms and find the batteries. Once places where people waited for their trains, these platforms now hide zombies and other dangers.


The main objective is to find two batteries to fix the elevator for an escape. They're located in different map sections, and players face challenges that mix logic and FPS skills.
From the outset, Alyx's callout establishes the malfunctioning elevator as the primary goal, emphasizing its importance and the need for batteries.
Throughout, Alyx guides players, keeping them focused on the objective. The game starts with basic tasks and ramps up the difficulty, prepping players for the critical mission of securing the batteries.



In this section, the player gets their first taste of the mission at hand and the environment they've stumbled into. It's here where they'll start piecing together the story of their surroundings, learning about the history of this forsaken City 17 train station.
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The player awakens in a forsaken train station serving as a shelter for City 17 locals. It's a protective yet confining space, underlined by a haunting melody and visibly anxious NPCs.


The Central Area is the player's main hub for placing batteries. The towering elevator serves as an obvious landmark, setting the player's objective. Alyx emphasizes its significance when leaving the community. The hub links to two key areas.


In this section, players pick up the basics of gameplay while searching for the first battery in the deserted station. It's a hands-on way to learn as they explore.
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After obtaining the HEV suit, players unlock sprint and a flashlight. They find the Gravity Gun in a dark café. They learn to manipulate objects, initially by moving boxes blocking a staircase and later by breaking a vent with a brick. The Gravity Gun aids in combat and navigation.


After mastering the Gravity Gun, players enter a maintenance room filled with Barnacles. Triggering a lever opens a door but electrifies the water below. A headcrab gets electrocuted, signaling the hazard. Players use boxes to cross safely while dodging Barnacles. Completing this earns the first battery.


In this section, players face new enemies and puzzles, a true test of their skill and wit as they strive to secure the second battery.
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After getting the first battery, a new area becomes accessible, featuring new enemies and a puzzle. Players must input a four-digit code to unlock a door. Clues are in wall graffiti and train carriage numbers with blinking patterns. Players decipher the code based on these hints.


In the Control Room, players effortlessly secure the second battery. However, lights go out and a new foe appears, lit only by a red emergency light. After overcoming the challenge, players head back to the HUB with the battery.


Once the final battery is inserted, music kicks in and a swarm of enemies appear. Alyx, from her vantage point, assists by shooting zombies. Fast zombies introduce new dynamics by climbing to target Alyx and ambush the player. The fight occurs mainly between train carriages, designed for fluid combat. After defeating all enemies, the elevator opens, signaling the end of the level.


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I thoroughly enjoyed designing this level and felt that I managed to effectively structure its beginning, middle, and end. I was able to put into practice designs I've been studying for some time. During feedback and playtesting, I made several adjustments for balancing and fixed layouts that were somewhat confusing and buggy. In this specific level, I feel I could further improve by adding more script sequences to make the level feel more alive, including cutscenes and NPC dialogues. I also believe I need to refine the layout structure. Sometimes I create large areas with too much empty space and find it challenging to populate the level with props and other elements. I need to start focusing on designing smaller but more populated levels to ensure a deeper immersion for the player.
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