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Author: Aazell

The story so far...
Looking for a mapping challenge I decided on creating a map centered around a US style projects tower block.

I tend to expand ideas as I go. My original idea was that the team would need to climb the tower block in order to reach a makeshift bridge across to another building which was outside the quarantine zone.

This seemed like a fairly fun idea and had the potential for lots of rooftop drama. Then it occured to me that we've all seen rooftop drama with No Mercy and that actually I'd just be re-building a crappier version. Time for a rethink!

What if we play on the towerblock theme a little? What if we begin the campaign with a botched helecopter pickup on the roof and the team then need to make their way down the towerblock. What if the reason the rescue was botched was due to some kind of terrifying event. What if there was an earthquake?

Now we've got a team of people on the roof of a very unstable building full of infected and they've got to get off the damn thing before it collapses.

That's drama I'd pay to see!

Not only that but we have the added beauty of being able to experience the same environment twice only under two fairly different scenarios! (Once on the way up, and again on the way down). Descending a collapsing building offers lots of opportunities for scary jumps, collapsing walls, floors and ceilings and also lots more places where infected can spawn and appear from.

So where to begin?

I designed the basic floor layout for my tower and created a modular shell of a floor complete with stairs and lift shaft. Once I had this I could just copy and paste in a new floor when i was ready to build.

I like modular mapping. By creating prefab sections of maps I can just copy and paste then position each new element and build up as I go. Don't like the way something looks? It's easy to delete just those small sections and build them again.
The downside is that you're brushcount will be higher. I doubt I'll be reaching the limit anytime soon though.

So once the basic structure of the first few floors were in place it was simply a matter of adding walls to create the rooms and areas on each floor.

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

Here's a shot of the current layout of the first few floors. You can see how each floor has the same basic shape in the upper part of the map!

The lower part of the map is an underground garage structure with a few side rooms. I may expand this out to a detour through the bottom of the lift shaft to activate the power for the building.

Inside or Out?
One key question is should the players be able to go outside and look up at the building. This obviously presents a challenge as I will have to create a complete outside face for the structure and also an outlying area with a huge box covered in skybox texture reaching to the top of the building. Not very engine friendly I'm afraid.

If I do want to do this I will have to split the tower in half as two maps. this is due to the skybox needing to change at higher levels. Here's the outside view from a higher balchony:

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

By using downward facing fog I'm able to mask the ground therefore saving me from having to map it

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

I may take the easy way out and have the players arrive in the building through the basement, then for the second map use my existing skybox. This is mainly a time saving exercise. By the time I'd finished the entire ground floor exterior people will have stopped playing Left 4 Dead 1 completely!

Natural Lighting

One of the concepts I'm trying to stick to is to only have lighting from the environment objects within the map.
These car headlights in the garage are a good example:

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

The players will activate the power for the building at some point within the basement though this will be sketchy at best throughout due to damaged electrics.

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

A partially lit reception area

Some of the lights will flicker. Some areas will be lit purely through sparking electrics with strobe effects (better stick a warning on the box).

Connecting floors
As you can see in the noclip screenshot above, the stairwell to the building is on the right hand side. This is realistic but it doesn't exactly create a complex playing area. Ideally I want the players to have to fight and move through each level then move up through each floor.
In order to do this we need to block the stairs off and create new and interesting ways for players to reach the floor above.

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

A broken floor with ladder reaching up to the floor above

The Way Down
The main characteristic of the return journey back down the building will be speed. I want the players to feel pressured to pile through the infected at lightning speed. This pressure will be increased by the feeling that the building is coming apart around them.
As a test map I re-built the lift shaft and added an action sequence where the players move across the roof of the lifts. As they jump onto the first lift it creaks loudly and drops a few feet. As the last player jumps from the lift it drops down the shaft and crashes to the bottom with a huge explosion.

From Aazell's Left 4 Dead Mapping Blog

Bill, Louis and Zoe jump for it as the lift finally gives out!

Wrapping up

I'm currently working on my basement panic event trying to make it as big and brutal as possible. I'll update soon on some more elements including the rather comical helicopter action rooftop scene and how the hell I can fit some tank battles into such a small space.

Till then....stay frosty!


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