I've decided to condense these into their respective chapters.
Beware! This post contains minor EZ2 spoilers.
Grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Arbeit? What's that all about? Well lemme tell ye'
Back in the old days of Half-Life 2 long before we ever got our hands on it, Valve were using a placeholder name for the scientific body responsible for the Borealis. That corporation was called 'Arbeit Labratories'.
I needed Arbeit to use as a base both physically and fundamentally for EZ2. The mod is set somewhere in the Arctic. That could be anywhere - but I didn't just want us to be walking around in the snow all the time. That would get old fast. I needed some kind of facility for us to explore.
As you may have figured out by now, Entropy : Zero is all about drawing contrasts between Half-Life. So really, I needed something that could potentially contrast Black Mesa. A mini-Black Mesa in the Arctic would suffice, and thus Arbeit was born.
Why am I going into this much detail? Because narrative is important as it serves as the foundation for which we can build upon.
So what is Arbeit Communications? How do I define it?
Arbeit is an old German comms base up in 'the mountains'. It's wayyyy up inside the Arctic Morty, far from built up civilisation. It was used as a communications forwarding base during the cold war (probably) and therefore has the appropriate facilities and security.
Sometime before the events of Half-Life 2, Aperture Science - jealous of Black Mesa's purchase of a European missile silo - acquired the Arbeit facility and used the space to do 'things' in covert isolation. There is another more underlined reason for Aperture's decision to acquire Arbeit - and the reasoning behind the Combine's involvement, but that's super spoilery and won't be included here.
With these foundations in place I was able to dive in and get to work on Arbeit.
This first map had to achieve a few things. First it had to cement the fact that the rebels had beaten us to it. Secondly it had to immediately convey our location to the player. This area you see in the image above became a vista showing off the first half of the Arbeit facility. We're also shot down and attacked by rebels as we approach the base, which ties everything in together.
This was a defining area for us as developers. This was the first area we tested with our new Rebel AI. Initially I was just using the stock AI and it was pretty boring. We had to do some trickery with Scripted Sequences to get things to flow properly - but it was too much hassle and it could be janky at times. This was when I realised that Rebels needed a BIG change if we were going to keep gameplay interesting in EZ2.
After the changes, we were blown away - literally. The Rebels kicked our asses. Machine gunners use suppressing fire, rebel Brutes rush into melee range and blast you with their shotguns. Everyone uses cover more effectively and generally tries to keep constant pressure on the player. It's nothing like base Half-Life 2 combat. It takes your focus because you're constantly moving to avoid fire.
It's a great introduction to the Rebels of Arbeit - which pack an additional punch along with some other surprises you may have noticed in our live streams.
It took me about two and a half months to put this map together.
One of the biggest requests I had after making EZ1, was to introduce some kind of squad gameplay. I spoke about that a bit in the first Dev Spot. Players really wanted to command a squad of soldiers. This is immediately brought back into Chapter 2 and players can take squads of soldiers through Arbeit.
With this in mind, I really wanted to create some kind of office spaces for us to destroy. I took a lot of inspiration for these maps from a map called Ziba Tower, from Battlefield 3. These maps in particular have a lot of destructible properties, because it's fun and it also underlines the violent advancement of the Combine.
When building the second map of Chapter 2, I ran into a problem. Arbiet looked really boring.
The drab grey and whites did nothing for the scenes. I started to doubt my direction. But before I did the usual Breadman thing and threw it all in the trash, I decided I would try to experiment with the colour pallet first.
And boy did it make a difference.
Here's another comparison:
With the colours sorted I dived in and got to work with the building. Initially, we get a look at Arbeit's administrative facilities. As I said above I wanted to create some generic office spaces and use them as direction to drive towards something else.
Rebels are used as a kind of buffer, as they advance towards us through corridors. From there the AI takes over and they can run to take cover in one of the offices or closets. Bullets fly and glass explodes. It's a chaotic combat experience and we've laced it with some incredible music from Spencer. All of it ties in to create a memorable experience that always feels like it's over way too soon.
We might still add some extra corridors and avenues to this map because the combat is SO MUCH FUN! If we ever do a demo, this will be the map you'll play because it embodies a lot of what we're trying to do with EZ2's combat.
Originally the third map of Chapter 2 was going to take us under Arbeit and into the more familiar Aperture-like facility you may have seen us showing off. After putting the map together though, it became obvious to us that there was so much potential in that map alone, that we had to run with the theme for an entire chapter.
So the old c2_3 became c3_1, and c2_3 got put on the burner for a while. A few months ago our Programmer 1upD picked up c2_3 to take the load off of me, which allowed me to go ahead and work on Chapters 3 and 4.
1up has been doing some amazing work with c2_3. The map brings us into a more industrialised shipping area in Arbeit, which fits really well considering the first half of the facility sits on a frozen shoreline.
This area also serves another purpose; it allows us to introduce Bad Cop to Long-Jump Rebels. These Rebels can jump around all over the place and will do so, making your life a living hell. It's been a lot of fun seeing these new Rebel variants come to life. They're fun to fight - very intense.
The map is sprawling and is filled some optional content which I'm not gonna spoil here. In fact, I'm not going to say too much else about this map because it's still a work in progress. I'm sure once we've wrapped it up 1upD would be happy to fill us in on all the development details!
It fits really well into the EZ2 scene and I can't wait to see what else 1upD can do for us.
There is another map planned for Chapter 2, but that's gonna be too spoilery for me to mention here.
That's a wrap for now on Chapter 2. We can't wait for players to get their hands on it!
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