The Blast Pit Restoration Project

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.


Now, even if we conclude that the main body of Blast Pit was in active use, Map A is sort of a special case. I’ll get into the way it’s structured deeper into this analysis, but the map is split into two sections that really don’t seem to be related to each other:

There’s a very basementy area coming off of We’ve Got Hostiles, which includes a series of upper-level maintenance(?) rooms and a cargo bay;

then a very long elevator shaft; then a rail station containing a grungy little security office and set up very differently from either Inbound or On A Rail;

then a tram track with no apparent other stops that fades off in the distance.

The area is built in a style extremely different not just from the rest of Blast Pit but from any other part of Black Mesa: wood planks instead of bulletin boards, very wet-looking concrete all around, very obvious rusted steel bordering as opposed to the reinforcement-style trusses we see elsewhere, and a back office with rounded windows and a monitor design that is completely unattested anywhere else except for one appearance in dm_gasworks. I really, really think this part of the facility has been abandoned for some time. Other than a zombie at the very start there are absolutely zero signs of humans being down here when the Cascade happened, the weapons in the security office are limited to revolvers, and there’s not a single computer of any description in the entire section.

Then the player goes through a pipe. There doesn’t seem to be any “official” way to get between the tram track and the rooms beyond; if we do decide to include this area in pd_c1a4a (and it’s like half the map!), we’ll probably have to add a stop after the collapsed goo section. As it stands, there’s absolutely nothing really suggesting that this area is at all related to Blast Pit other than that there’s a part of Blast Pit sharing a wall and a pipe(?) with it.

As for that “part of Blast Pit”, it’s basically just a room with a lot of pumps,

a short corridor with a crane track in it,

and a giant room with a floor made of green goo that really kind of baffles me and maybe has something to do with freight?

All of it looks substantially newer than the first half of the map, and much more in line with what I’ve come to consider the “typical” Blast Pit style: those rounded hatch doors in place of tan swing doors, smoother concrete that actually looks dry, and more modern weapons/equipment. It has these bare rock walls that aren’t really common on the “upper” Blast Pit levels, but those show up again in the very last level of the chapter alongside actual scientist bodies, and more to the point a lot of this section (the rock walls, the oceans of green slime, the frequent use of vents) remind me a lot of Residue Processing, which we know was used. So if any parts of Blast Pit were in active use at the time of the Resonance Cascade, this section probably was as well.

That becomes our first major design decision, or more accurately two major design decisions, with one informing the other:

First, IS BLAST PIT ABANDONED, and more to the point are the first and second HALVES of the A map abandoned? I’m guessing that the first is, and the second is not, but I will have to see what FRAG thinks.

This affects the question of what we do with these two sections- namely, if the first half is abandoned can we still even really consider “restoring” it? Or can we really consider just cutting out half of a canon map?

And if we do decide to keep the first half, HOW DO WE CONNECT IT?
This second sort of question frequently appears in these pre-disaster chapters, and requires considering not just the map currently under reconstruction but also other maps in the chapter. I lucked out with Office Complex, which is fairly linear in how one level connects to another: there’s a stairwell up, a stairwell down, and two elevator shafts per floor. But in a chapter like Lambda Core, a lot of maps look like they could connect to each other in novel ways, and thinking about how personnel and cargo move through the chapter can have profound effects on the form areas added will take.

In this case, if we do decide to include the first half of Map A, we have to ask ourselves if it connects to the second half and the rest of Blast Pit at all. If it doesn’t, we may as well split Map A in two. (Actually, we may want to do that anyway, since we could put a transition where Half 1 and Half 2 connect and divide the entity load of this rather massive map more equitably.) And if it doesn’t… I don’t think that will affect the flow of cargo and personnel too much. Looking at the other maps, we see that big closed door also labeled “SILO D” at the start- this seems to be the “official” entrance to Blast Pit (or one of them), not the little maintenance hallway off to the side. And in Map B of Blast Pit, we see a security checkpoint- probably where personnel “officially” came into the propulsion labs, with other entrances for cargo on the same level. So the first half of Map A does not, I think, actually serve as a main entrance/exit to the sector, but rather as a “branch” off of the main access route.

Next time, we’ll look at the canonical rooms and try to figure out what they could have been used for, then how to restore them. Unlocking doors will still be a distant dream.

I think the first half of Blast Pit, the one that definitely look abandoned, is part of the decommissioned rail the scientist in WGH talks about. With the vehicle access on the side of the tracks, it looks like it could have been part of the original launch site, before the research center was built, and probably some sort of underground route around the site. What I wonder is why would an abandoned part of the facility be still powered, with an entrance remaining unsealed. Perhaps it can be used as an alternative emergency access to the high storage facility and the surface? That would explain the weapons in the security booth at the beginning of the tracks and why the trains are still active. I can attribute the fallen bridge ahead to the resonance cascade shaking the place, which was already in bad shape. The toxic goo could have leaked from the damage pipes nearby.

As for the second half, the same scientist in WGH calls it the Rocket Test Labs, and the (not old-looking) generator and fuel pumps show even more the silo was still used. The large room with the elevator could be where materials were shipped through another access, and the pool of toxic goo could be the result of another leak from some of the pipes nearby after the cascade resonance.

That said, it’s really just my two cents on how Crowbar Collective mapped this chapter. Perhaps asking whoever made those maps would help you understand better how they are supposed to be interpreted.

Thanks for having me on board Admiral Sakai, I hope I can live up to that introduction!

Okay so I guess I’ll start with my contribution to the analysis so far and then put forward some ideas that I’ve had while inspecting the in-game chapter & it’s vmf files.
Yes, we have an issue where two parts of A are so harsh in contrast, it’s quite hard to not only keep the first half in-line with the goals set by this project but also hard to justify why half of map A should even get touched, but I may have a solution so bear with me and tell me if I’m an idiot or to roll with it.

Okay so the first half is indeed quite run down and doesn’t serve much use to the adjoining sector, as has been said already you could attribute what has happened at the near end of the rail line to the cascade, if we go with that theory then there is a way it can be just “touched up” and still be a part of this map, here is a quick view of what I’ve done in hammer.

So we have three canals running along the bottom that have been exposed, possible water being drained off from the adjoining test labs.
I’ve re-built what would have been the old walkway on both sides, so pedestrian crossing and a vehicular crossing.

Now the issue with re-building the area like this is now we can gain access to the end of the tram line, which leads to nothing and that’s a problem, would another station be beyond there? Maybe a vast drop like seen in other parts of the facility, who knows but it’s up for debate as it would be a completely new segment to the map.
The room that the player gains access to via the broken pipe has a door in it, facing the direction of our tram section, but as the player was never meant to get access further then the pipe we have nothing on the other side to assume the door connects to the rail line, here is the door I’m talking about.

If the two areas were to connect, this might be the best option but again it all depends if we work towards what I’ve stated above and build in the connector, tell me what you think but this might just be the only believable option we have to keep it in line with Black Mesa

One thing that almost slapped me in the face and now poses a major red flag is in the area following with the toxic floor and elevator.

How on earth did these containers fit in here? I can’t find any passage into this room that would allow for these containers to exist and I’ve tried sizing up any doors that are in the room along with the passage the player enters this room from, it’s hard to establish this room as a freight room or toxic storage if these containers have no viable entry/exit.
Maybe it was meant to be hidden by the toxic waste and just implied that there is a way via the floor? Like an elevator in the same vain as the delivery system in the Anti-Mass Spectrometer chamber? Either way, it will also need addressing with this area.

Map A seems to be the big challenge in itself, two completely different areas co-exist and can be made to live in harmony but it will need to be carefully planned out to keep it in-line with canon.

All right. Since the map is bifurcated in this manner, I think it’s a good idea to keep discussing Half 1 and Half 2 for the time being, possibly right up to release.

I’m also kind of surprised to see a lot of people sharing my theory that the overwhelming majority of Blast Pit was still in use right up until the Resonance Cascade. I’d still like to see what the BM devs have to say on the topic, as well as get input from other random players, but for the time being I am comfortable proceeding under that assumption.

And so:

HALF 1[/size]
I’m thinking more and more that we’re kind of obligated to restore at least the rail portion of this part- partially because it’s volumetrically the lion’s share of the map and where most of the “action” is, but also because if we don’t learn how to handle areas like this and make them look livable, heaven help us when we get to a chapter like On A Rail or Power Up. With that in mind, I think we should go with Pauolo’s suggestion of thinking of this area as part of an industrial rail system that provides access to other areas of the facility, possibly a dedicated one that carries radioactive or other hazardous materials and is therefore segregated from the rest of the network.

I think you’re on the right track (hehe) with draining the slime pit and restoring the bridge so that we can build a disembarking station of some kind past it. I do have two minor gripes with the way you have currently set the area up, but I think they could both be fixed pretty easily:

  • The first is that I just don’t feel like the all-mesh bridge would be safe to drive vehicles over, and could do with being alternated with something more sturdy as flooring (as well as having some more guy wires or other supports holding it to the wall).
  • The second is that I am not a big fan of the wide spaces between the drainage canals, which I just think make the area look too empty. I suppose we could put crates or equipment down there (anything that could plausibly have floated away / been buried when the bridge collapsed), but that begs the question of how it got there and how personnel got to it when there don’t seem to be many options for either in the extant level geometry, so it would probably be best to just bring back some liquid and raise the level comfortably above those sections.
    In terms of a rail stop on the far side of the lake, I’m thinking about ways to stop the player from continuing on into more of the tunnel system that we won’t have the time, effort, or memory space to map. I feel strangely compelled to suspend the disembarking platform over a giant pit like the ones in Inbound so that the player can’t walk onward and the tram stops of its own accord, but we’ll probably just have all the tracks, paths, and other forms of egress terminate in a concrete wall with various security doors (like the one on the other end of the track).

A bigger problem is that other end, where the rail line appears to just stop without actually going anywhere or offering a convenient location to disembark cargo (the elevator cage is way too small). This leaves us with a rail system that goes from nothing (or at least a hypothetical far terminal) to nothing.

Now, taking a closer look at this area it looks like there is a significant “lip” around the dropoff between the road and the tram track right next to it… so I’m thinking that the reason for this terminal is so that trucks can load heavy equipment off of themselves on the road and onto the rail, where supplies would then be taken to whatever the eventual end of this track is. I’m still thinking it’s not the rocket propulsion labs, those have the big doors in the HSSF to get bulk supplies- I would have suggested Residue Processing, but according to .RK’s facility maps that is on the complete opposite end of the base (indeed, the far terminus might be a facility entrance). The fact that the road is one lane, forcing trucks to either back out of the hatch when they were done loading or continue on to the terminus anyway, as well as the fact that the door is just too damn small for a cargo truck to fit through, are probably just things we will have to look away from and whistle about.

Since this track is so long, we should probably make the cart that traverses it move as fast backward as it does forward. That might take some ent-logic shenanigans, but I’m pretty positive it can, in fact, be done. We may instead want to have trams on either end of the track, using a little bit of offscreen teleportation to make sure there is always a train waiting for Freeman wherever he goes.

[EDIT:] Having just read Danielsangeo’s post, I’m suddenly taken with the idea of putting something more complicated in place of that big hole in the wall in the tunnel, like a control room or an administrative area overlooking the gap. Not sure about connecting it to the rest of the map, but even if it’s inaccessible it would help break up the bare concrete of the area somewhat.


The upshot of all of this is that we’ve come up with a reconstruction plan for the area that doesn’t involve the rest of Half 1 at all. This is a good thing because 90% of the weirdness in Half 1 is concentrated in those other rooms.

Showing that it’s possible to due aesthetic analysis basically fractally, the lift and security room sections of Half 1 are substantially different-looking from the rail section. The area immediately off of the High Security Storage Facility looks basically like a basement, so I am assuming that is what it is- that would explain the Dumpster up there and the general trashiness, although not the giant wooden barricade. I suppose scientists might have put that up after the Resonance Cascade as a protective measure, but if so they did some pretty impressive carpentry with the orange safety pop-ups and everything… If the barricade does stay up, we could probably create a way around it by expanding beyond that second, locked “SILO D” door (I really think there is a freight elevator back there…) and connecting that to the “Maintenance Personnel Only” door on the catwalk above the Dumpster room.

The crane room after that might just be the area’s biggest puzzle, and gets my personal vote for the single most-likely-long-abandoned room in all of Black Mesa. It has a number of architectural features either completely unattested or very rare in the rest of the complex, the most glaring of which is this metal control shack with rounded, space-agey windows. There are other rounded windows in other areas of the Facility, but those are always quite thick and have some measure of bordering around them to make them look like they are high-pressure or otherwise reinforced. These just look old:

Therefore, I am thinking the crane room and the security office below it are not operational or part of the regular workflow of the Facility. We can still make them player-accessible, give them reworked lighting to match the rest of the Complex, and clean up obvious things like Lonely Mr. Zombie in the back room, and maybe even add a few “maintenance workers” starting on a more comprehensive restoration of the place, but beyond that I don’t really know what we could do without dramatically altering the area in uncanonical ways.


Well, for the section with the green goop and destroyed section of track, here’s my idea:

A scientist said that the rail line was “decommissioned”. Perhaps the rail was destroyed by something unrelated to the resonance cascade and, therefore, was decommissioned until it can be repaired…but budget cutbacks halted the reconstruction. Still, I’m not sure how to get to the next section of the map without going through the pipe and there’s no door in the room leading to the next part of the map.

Here’s what I’m thinking. In the canon version of the map, there’s a huge hole in the wall from some earlier destruction. What if there was a catwalk leading up to a door along the wall that was destroyed, leading to several offices (where the player can learn about the budget cutbacks or something) and new section of stuff (maintenance areas?) along the top of that room, leading eventually to this door and continuing the map from there?

The idea could be that the earth above caved in and destroyed those offices during the resonance cascade, blowing out that section of wall. Just an idea.

Looking at the geometry of the place, we actually have quite a lot to work with in terms of building a disembarking area for the Half 1 rail system. In-game the darkness/fog effects cut off visibility very effectively and would allow us to build new features pretty close to the mouth of the tunnel, but even if we do that we have a lot of room to work with.

I like the idea of connecting the little door in the pump room to the 1/2 transition room- I never really thought of the pump room as that important, so it doesn’t need a major personnel access. It looks like you could also connect a lot of the doors on the far side of the slime-and-containers room to the same place:

What’s more puzzling to me is the other side, which contains the rooms on the other side of these doors (which must be kept closed)[/size]

as well as the door on the little balcony

and more importantly

the [i]only/i personnel access to the freight corridor that looks to be the Giant Container Room’s main entrance. I guess we could just connect all of those to each other, though, since there isn’t really anything there now. Probably skip out on the balcony since it’s tiny, unimportant, and a very long way up. That’s probably where this complex connects to the rest of Blast Pit, too, so we may want to hold off on building it until we get a better handle on how the rest of the chapter connects.

In terms of the pump room itself, most of it looks pretty straightforward. I’m thinking it really is just a room to put pumps, presumably to move various important fluids in and out of the Proplab proper, so maybe have a maintenance guy or scientist down here with a clipboard checking over everything. There is one odd area in the back, through:

I went ahead and drained this area of its goo covering. I think that’s a good thing to do over the whole map in general because massive radioactive material spills really don’t scream “working facility” to me, but also because with its bizarre self-illuminating antics removed we will be free to experiment with lighting that conveys a message other than just GREEN!!![/size][/size]. Looking at what’s underneath (specifically the texture resolution) I don’t think the devs actually ever intended this area to be viewed, so I’m considering the Project free to put whatever we want underneath. I’m a bit baffled by this little pit, though… originally I was going to put a big freight elevator there, but not only is there a ladder sticking out into it (meaning the elevator would not be flush with the lip) but there’s a power box seated on that level, meaning that there has to be some sort of permanent surface there at least on those two sides.

Fortunately, the big container room is a lot easier to work with, and in fact I have some idea of its purpose. I am in total agreement with the idea of a big freight lift hidden under the murk, and in fact I think we could even have one on either side to move containers in and out of this place- or just one, and some sort of big staging/handling area. I was thinking of making the lift(s) the big diagonal Lambda/Consequences kind, but that’d probably be more trouble than it’s worth. It’d also be cool to redo the floor with some nice WGH-style concrete tiles and hazard marking, though… maybe use the bigger (stalkyard/undertow) tiles, so that it doesn’t look like the tiles in my bathroom.

Either way, I think this area actually handles that green slime- barrels of it are collected from individual labs that produce it (how? I have no idea. I don’t even have the faintest idea what that stuff is), the barrels come down the elevator and through the two bay doors on the side, and are loaded onto containers here so that it can be processed/destroyed in bulk and shipped down the freight lifts to I guess trucks or something. Heck, maybe the proplabs actually have some use for it, and instead of packing it in containers to be sent away this facility unpacks the barrels from the containers for distribution?

Speculation aside, it doesn’t look like there’s really any way to get from the lower floor of this place to the raised ring walkway, but there’s several gaps in the railing and I could very easily see broken-off ladders or even a small elevator platform being concealed below that murk.

The place where the slanty pipe goes into the ground looks pretty rough to me, but we could easily build a hole for it.

There’s also containers behind a shoulder-high giant pipe, but best not to think about how they go there or when the safety officer expects them to be moved.

I failed to see too those containers in the elevator room… Indeed, that place needs at least a freight platform of some sort to justify their presence there. However, there is no crane to move them around, and I doubt that forklift would be able to lift one. The only place for a crane would be on the chamber’s ceiling, but that’s ridiculously high for such operation and none can be seen in the game. Another possibility would be those big automated loaders from the first chapter, being able to enter the room and move the containers around and perhaps to handle hazardous materials as well. That’s still a weird idea though…

Reacting on danielsangeo’s ideas, the unseen end of the tunnel could have collapsed, justifying its decommissioning. I also like the idea of Black Mesa workers (the custom model used in OaR Uncut) being down there for a possible re-opening of the tracks, perhaps to connect the high security storage facility to the rest of the transport system. The presence of workers in the tunnel would also explain why the tracks are active and why there are crates on the freight trains down there.

Yeah, some careful planning is needed for that room to justify it’s potential use, going with the raised platform from the floor seems like our best approach at the moment.

The idea of current restoration on the tunnel by workers would be a fantastic idea to implement, there’s still the issue of connecting the rail system to the test labs but there could be a door nearby to where the workers are which lead to the next segment.

Yeah that touch up with the walkways was just to understand what sort of layout we might have without the debris everywhere.
The two bridges would have much more support to cross something of that size and bulky metal due to its construction age.

In regards to what year parts where constructed, normally companies would repurpose and incorporate old facility space instead of spending mega bucks to construct something new (the company I work for just did this with a power plant for example), there is clearly a difference in age between the first & second half, so some segments will need to stick with specific architecture guidelines but the two can co-exist as is.

I’ll get some more things drafted up and post back soon :slight_smile:

Yeah, I don’t know if I explained my idea well enough. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Already in the canon map, there is a broken catwalk along the left side wall. I suggest continuing the catwalk with steps up to a door leading to some offices or something, then go up a staircase to a maintenance hallway that goes OVER the rail tunnel (like this), then come out here to continue through the map.

Forgive my crude drawings over the screenshots. I am no 2D artist.

The catwalk could be similar to what you see in the second image.

The big problem with that at the moment is that the catwalk you are thinking of is currently being used for vehicles. However, it might be possible to stretch a catwalk all the way from the personnel walk on the other side across the ceiling of the space.

I had not thought of those giant gripper bots… but man oh man do I want an area of the facility where we can see them in action. It looks like that raised balcony section is about the right height to access their control surfaces, too… the roboticist I am for my day job is screaming in terror at the prospect of allowing big, stompy, autonomous machines on a floor with human workers, but when has Black Mesa ever cared about safety?

The sheer wastefulness of having that whole entire silo and not re-purposing it is another good argument for active use… the space-windows section at least has an excuse in that it might actually be radioactively contaminated (as per the signs), but in that case it’d be awesome to have scientists in HEV suits (can we make those? There’s a multiplayer model for them and everything…) cleaning up the area.

Starting to get into feature creep territory here, but we’ll see what we can make that works.

i had imagined that the line connected with on a rail after a bit would be a interesting thing to discuss with a OAR mappers posssibly

Took a moment away from cleaning up Questionable Ethics to fool around with the fuel pump area, and was very impressed by how it cleaned up even with temporary lighting: