The latest person to want a spot on the Black Mesa Pre-Disaster “team” has turned out to be none other than Operation Black Mesa’s excellent mapper FRAG! He and I have decided to work on Blast Pit, and on a bit of a lark I’ve suggested that we run the development process as a forum thread so that everyone can see and comment on it. This will hopefully make the project a bit more transparent, and additionally provide a step-by-step explanation of how I go through the post-disaster remodeling of a level- the steps I go through, the things I consider, and so on.
MAP A: Elevator, Rail System, and Giant Tall Room Of Difficult Description[/size]
Abandoned or Not?[/size]
The first big question regarding how we want to proceed with Blast Pit is something that most of the pre-disaster candidate maps don’t have to deal with: whether the rocket propulsion lab and its environs were in active use before the Resonance Cascade, or were in fact abandoned well beforehand.
I for one think that the labs were in active use- partially just because a lot of the fun of these pre-disaster maps for me is making a bustling, active facility full of scientists, and an “abandoned” version wouldn’t seem to be too much different from the in-game level after performing an ent_remove on NPCs, but I have also amassed a lot of “evidence” from the level and those surrounding it that I think makes a pretty convincing case for the labs’ continued use:
- A lot of areas in Blast Pit feature modern computers- complete with CD drives, mice, and everything, just like in Office Complex and most other areas of the facility. Assuming we are not just wandering into anachronism-land, that means Blast Pit was still up and running at least until 1988-89, probably much later but I don’t want to try and place the specific model of Black Mesa’s desktops or anything like that.
- The original Half-Life made the area look much more recent- The beginning segments featured these big yellow industrial-style lifts that I have a hard time believing were around in the 1960s or even the 1980s. Many of the textures used reappeared in Anomalous Materials and Lambda Core, and that spinny lift platform in the generator room (why oh why was that taken out, devs?!) really does not look like it would still be working if it was disused for any substantial length of time (and has what appears to be modern light-up-button controls). The silo structure itself might have been older, but I never thought of the lab itself as disused in that game.
- Some areas still have coffee cups, clipboards, and so on scattered around in them, as well as modern-looking instrument boxes with digital displays, shipping containers identical to those seen in the Lambda Complex, and the standard “dun-givva” forklifts.
- Almost all of the “older” features of the area also exist in parts of the facility known to be actively used: the big tape banks can be found in Sector B and a few other industrial areas of the facility, the tan messy chairs also show up in Residue Processing and I think Surface Tension, those thick monochrome binders also appear in Anomalous Materials and the modern part of dm_bounce, and the iron-ribs construction of much of the place is pretty common in Office Complex and sections of Inbound’s A map. If we consider Hazard Course to be “canon”, we know for a fact that there is a working section of the facility with all of these elements in once place. Heck, the desks used are almost universally of a more modern design than the ones from Residue Processing or parts of Surface Tension.
- The place may look like a pretty dismal place to work right now, but going through the levels I see a lot of either blown out or underpowered fluorescent lights- turning those on may give us a chance to make a lighting transformation on the scale of the Office Complex stairwells.
That said, I’ve also been a good boy and assembled what I think is the best evidence against the facility being recently used or inhabited:
- Every single one of the computers we see is turned off- usually in areas of the facility that were inhabited, we know they were inhabited because a few screens were left on when the personnel manning those sectors fled or died.
- The doors in Blast Pit are fairly unique- with one exception, every single other area we have seen uses swing doors or the square sliding design. The one other area that does use the rounded form is Apprehension- which is also (I think!) the most likely part of the BM facility to have been abandoned many years ago.
- Most of the architectural features I mentioned as having “precedent” in other inhabited areas of the base are from industrial areas- not labs, as Blast Pit supposedly is.
- There are no scattered papers on the floors or posters on the walls (that I could find, anyway). Although not all areas known to be inhabited have these decals, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head that have neither, anywhere.
- Those cage-style elevators are an architectural feature completely unique to Blast Pit, and actually look far older than the supposed 1960s date of the complex.