My model for this area makes it one of the deepest in Black Mesa, with the QE labs being the top floor of a biological research sector that includes the Alien Quarantine Labs from Decay, the Biodome, and the Hydrofauna Studies Labs (in that order).
One of the things I am very much enjoying about the ‘documents’ system is that it allows me to fill in all sorts of information about the BMRF to explain extremely odd elements from the games- for instance, the question of why there’s all of these random lasers on the top floor of the advanced biological research labs. I sort of managed to come up with an explanation for this when I put the organic Xen crystals in the back generating the lasers, but I’m also familiar with a number of relatively high-energy scanning and analysis techniques commonly used in biology so I figured that the lasers (big one, secondaries, or one or more secondaries feeding into the big one) are actually used to perform and also develop tests of that nature.
With this in mind I am making steady progress on both filling out that tram station and updating the rest of QEPD to what I’d consider modern standards, and while working on that I wanted to hand the community something else I was struggling with that you all can hopefully chew on a little for me. I am, in fact, still having some trouble figuring out how to fill out Map E, specifically how to handle the height of different sections:
The area we see in Black Mesa has A04 (the bullsquid autopsy room) and A07 (the snark cannon room) at what I am somewhat arbitrarily terming “Ground Level”. A05 and A06 (the xeno flora and exoskeletal osteopathics labs) are also pretty unambiguously up there, and I have had no problem filling them in. Then there are two paths leading down to the north and east, both to roughly the same height which I am just calling “the lower level”. The east one goes to A08 (the room with the Alien Grunt in the big tank) and the whole maintenance and storage section is at this level, The north vanishes beyond the known areas of the map.
If you look at the map near the maintenance areas there appears to be a set of stairs on either side of the door to A11, one going up and one going down. I don’t like this sort of feature in maps because very rarely in real buildings do we see the floor level rise just to immediately go back down unless there’s a bridge or something, so I’ve just removed it and actually already have a pretty decent design for the generators and maintenance areas that does not involve it. Even the canonical parts of QE do not strictly follow the layout described in the map (for instance, the stairs in the cremation room or the ones from Cryonics to the Aquatics foyer are not depicted, and many rooms have somewhat different dimensions) so I’m not really bothered by this.
The west area (i.e. the part with Rooms A17 through A19, the biochem labs) is a bit more problematic. While it’s after the northern stairs leading down to the lower level, it also connects to the decontamination control room / security office, which is above ground level. I think the developers originally had the idea that the oddly-shaped little room behind it and opposite A19 would contain some kind of staircase to cover this distance, but I just could not come up with a concept for this that looked at all good so I am currently looking at other ways to see about handling it. One thing I am thinking of is making that long section of otherwise completely empty hallway between A17 and A15b into a ramp leading upward. It’s not nearly as bad of an example of “staircase down immediately followed by staircase up” because there’s still the other two hallways going off from the north staircase that stay at the lower level and also A15b is between the two. Overall, it generally fits pretty well with the “east end of the complex is at a lower level than the west” general idea of the map, and even if it doesn’t completely cover the distance between the lower level and the security office up top, but it’ll at least make the stairway room more manageable (maybe something looking similar to the stairs in the bullsquid room?) or provide a plausible change in elevation which I can magnify by using hidden teleports and 3D skyboxes in the windows to cheat (something I’m in fact getting pretty good at).
The big issue is the A12 through A16 section in the middle (the Bio Electric test labs). I’d like for this area to have some verticality to it as that’s a common feature of the ground-floor QE labs but I have not really been able to explore in any of my own additions. I was thinking that the small closed-in areas (observation rooms) would be a level above the main laboratory floor, but I have very little idea what to do about the big control room A16, which I originally wanted to have contain at least three freestanding “towers” made from wall consoles, some brushwork, and the big tube props from Anomalous Materials in a nod to the large destructible freestanding consoles from the room in Half-Life 1 with the two grunts which eventually went in a very different direction and became Cryogenics:this room in particular simply because I don’t have any other good place to put them- there are no other labs on the first floor where they would seem to fit on the first floor (I already have a good solid design for audiospacial, and what would they be doing in biochem??) and the second floor pretty much exclusively has low ceilings where they would not fit. I was originally thinking of a design like this…
but it was extremely cramped with all the pillars in that little corner and also the stairway in the corridor was pushing really close to the “stairs up and then immediately down” problem. I could move both stairs inside to deal with that problem and give the pillars a bit more room as well…
but then the balcony itself is kind of pointless and the pillars are still cramped.
I could expand it back out to take up more of the room, but then we’re back at having no place to put the pillars and also what would I even do with that little ‘corridor’ that makes up the entirety of (what’s left of) the ground floor of the room?
Unless this is a catwalk with something under it, where the pillars can come up through it… yeah, I actually really like that idea.
Very much not happy with this area up here, however. I think the arangement of the benches and even the vending machines are fine, but I just do not like the screens, bulletin board, and plants on the walls. It all looks out of place in the dirtier, more industrial tram platform. What else would I put there, though? It looks really weird if it’s just empty…
(The red section is just a temporary brush where there will be another pair of sliding doors that lead to a short corridor and the second Biodome entrance.)
Few things in my mind, hope something helps:
- I would add some steel/concrete pillars to support that steel beams on celling, it looks quite unrealistic and it will also add some detail and depth.
- For that elevator, I would divide that upper area (optically with some different pavement/road or small fence) to have kinda separated space for loading and pallets manipulating. Also some small sized garage door for forklift or pallet jack for moving the load out of that area.
- Increasing depth by protruding screens by putting them on stand. Also adding some glass cabinets/display case for those posters or even adding train schedules into it. Those cabinets could be in the middle, attached to wall or even built inside wall and sealed with sliding window.
- Adding few lockers
- Not sure about space behind walls, but you could add pair of doors for toilets.
Yeah the pillars are what turned out to really make this area. If I wanted to I could add some more detail- signs, posters, electrical boxes, etc.- but not every area of a map has to be jammed full of stuff and indeed a lot of the stations in Inbound are pretty bare. Also might end up replacing the billboard with bathrooms as you suggested but I don’t think it looks too out of place here.
For pillars, I have meant mainly the opposite side of beams. Not sure about exact position from screenshot, but it (blue lines) could go all the way up, or from the upper platform. You could use some H section steel pillars or concrete.
For steel beams to look realistic, I would recommend rotating it by 90deg, to get beam flanges to up and down position, not on sides. I haven’t looked if there are any I - section beams in BM files, but I would also change it instead of H, which currently used for beams. Or if the distance is long, enough you can also use truss-beams (orange).
I like the idea of the trusses, yeah. It seems like the beams going down as the blue lines describe here would get in the way of cargo heading onto the elevator, but I could just as easily have them come down from the hangar roof. Definately worth experimenting with.
Originally, I didn’t want to make this area at all (instead the hallway that leads to it would just go directly to the decontamination room), or at least wanted to radically change it up from my original design and make it much smaller, drabber, and less elaborate. The skylights were actually the very first thing I thought of including here and I kind of designed the rest of the room to be amenable to them, but at the same time I was kind of afraid of them and was worried they would ruin the area. You see, one of the things that I see occasionally in Black Mesa maps that I don’t like is people making the facility too much like a shopping mall or hotel, with a lot of fancy architectural flourishes and creature comforts that a US government laboratory would be very unlikely to possess, and I thought the big glass skylights would have that effect. However, the combination of the big metal beams supporting the skylights, the bare concrete walls, and the cinderblock guard station taking up most of the center of the room make the spotlights much less comfortable and more like something you’d find in a military base or high-security prison, which is exactly what I wanted for the high-security biodome. So I am immensely proud of the skylights and glad I included them.
As part of that very gritty, ultra-secure institutional aesthetic I was thinking of including some HECU soldiers throughout QEPD in place of security guards. The only problem is that while I can fairly easily make them be friendly towards the player and scientists, they have no pre-disaster dialogue and very few ‘working’ or ‘casual’ animations so there isn’t much they can actually do.