Half Life 2: Odyssey – On Track


Project Time: 8 weeks 50%
Game: Half-Life 2

Editor: Source Hammer
Game type: First Person Shooter

• All textures are Half-Life 2 textures
• Served as Tutorial/introduction level for the Odyssey Campaign
• Custom made buildings
• Event Triggers
• The map was built to tell a story without narration

Learning the engine

The class started the project by sitting two and two. We then proceeded to ask our partner what kind of games they liked, why they liked them and why.
We then proceeded to make a theoretical top-down based on what they had said, creating anything from turret defense maps to stealth missions.
When we were done we switched papers and made a more detailed and thought through version of the top down which we then created in Hammer.

Since no one in the class had worked in Source Hammer before we had a few simple classes where we were taught the tools, basics, dimensions on walls, doors, windows etc and were given a few tips from the original Half-Life 2 campaign. We were also told that playing through the Half-Life 2 campaign would be of great help to get some inspiration and a better understanding of the atmosphere and world.

Setting the Mood

Because this was the very first level it was important that the character’s situation was quickly established. There is a saying that the first 5 seconds are the most important ones to capture someone’s interest. The very first thing the player sees is a crash. Besides you are 2 dead combine police and a combine dropship container stuck in the wall. This instantly tells you a story of how you got here. When the player walks outside the dropship which held the container can be seen crashed into a nearby building giving the player another clue of what has happened.

From here the player is left to explore to find out about where she/he might have ended up. The enemy encounters mostly consist of Manhacks flying around patrol routes, hidden or attacking the player in triggered events. As the first map, it was important that the enemies the player faced weren’t too hard and fairly easy to fight with. The Manhack is a small, flying unit with melee attacks and can be taken down with only 2 hits from the crowbar, perfect enemy as a first engagement.

Design Choices

At first, the level was supposed to lead the player over a road into a large hotel complex and then continue with an ascension and then end with a long fall to the next level. This was changed during the blockout phase because I quickly realized that I would have to add a lot more buildings and structures to block the view outwards. On top of that, it felt like it would be odd to walk upwards just to go down into the sewers in the next level. It works in the Half-Life 2 campaign but here it felt like it would be an odd transition.


Instead of the hotel I chose to lead the player into an abandoned factory with a seesaw puzzle. I figured that this would be a puzzle which would fit into the room and also introduce even the most inexperienced players to physics and problem-solving. After the player solves the seesaw puzzle they can climb up on the board, onto the ledge on the other side and then find themselves again.
After this calm segment of the level, they are instantly attacked by a Combine Police with a gun on a rooftop behind them.

Memorable enemy

As the player jumps down the construction scaffolds, go through the train switch room and reach the other side there is a surprise lurking about. When the player reaches the large collapsed building at the end a helicopter appears from behind. This was added to give the player the feeling of being discovered and hunted, forcing him/her down into the collapsed building to hide behind small concrete walls. Along with the helicopter, there were several Manhacks attacking from the side, adding additional stress and action.

The helicopter was added as a threat which would appear later during the campaign, giving the player the chance to retaliate against a foe he/she could not fight at the start. It also adds a final action filled moment before the calm of the next level which plays out in the sewers. It might feel a bit harsh to send a helicopter to hunt the player at the very first level but it was necessary to give the campaign some atmosphere and story.

Download link for this map only:


Download link for the entire HL2_Odyssey campaign: