Here’s some feedback based solely on the screenshots you posted. If some of my comments are no longer relevant or you don’t agree with them, don’t sweat it. Just trying to help out a fellow mapper. My biggest feedback will be on the lighting as this is my particular passionate subject and I think this is an aspect of the maps that could use the most work. This is going to come across as very critical - please don’t take it the wrong way. I really like what you’ve done here and am only posting this to try and help you take the map to the next level.
Overall, your lighting conveys a really good sense of atmosphere and it has a dark charm, with good choice of colours. But, I would argue that you have slightly neglected lighting’s gameplay function. Lighting in games does not serve only to create an atmosphere and visuals for a scene (though it’s obviously crucial for that), it also serves to direct (or misdirect!) the player. None of the lighting or colour choices in these screenshots really “direct” me, so to speak. From the screenshots, it seems like you’ve totally nailed the visual aspect of the lights, but not necessarily their gameplay function.
Visually, it also seems like the lights always have the default falloff and brightnesses. Whether that’s actually true in the map or not, I can’t tell, but, judging from the screenshots, it seems you only really play with the brightness/colour values and not with the falloff values for your lights. This is a mistake - falloff is crucially important for using lights to their fullest.
From these 2 shots, for example:
In the first shot, the lamp post lighting is incredibly dull, compared to what it could be. I think it would look significantly better if you had the light being very bright near to its source, and then falling off to a dimmer light that casts a bit farther than what you have now. You can achieve this by upping the brightness substantially, and then adjusting the constant/linear/quadratic ratio from the default 0:0:1 to something like 3:2:1, or 3:2:0. Or using the 50%/0% falloff values, if you find those easier (they’re less powerful, but much easier to use).
In the second shot, the lighting doesn’t guide me to important places. The doorway (which I assume is the route to follow) only achieves this by being different to the other 2 lights, and the HEV charger/Crossbow on the wall are illuminated in the exact same way as a neighbouring, unimportant wall. This might not seem like a big deal from this particular shot - but amplify this issue across a whole map and it can make the map feel sloppy for reasons the testers might not quite be able to put their fingers on.
Try and think of each scene in terms of fill/highlight. The way you “fill” a scene with a simple light colour and then “highlight” areas depending on what you hope to achieve, through use of contrast (warm/cold, bright/dark, etc). For example, the scene in that particular shot could be better served from being lit by an overhead warm light, which fills the room with a relatively dim, warm colour (high constant, low brightness). The sconce/wall light above the charger could be casting a very cold, harsh and bright light down onto the elements below it (and you can increase the lightmap scale on the wall to make it look even better). You could then maintain the same sort of yellow fill that you use for the doorway, and maybe up the brightness a little. This would make the scene feel more cohesive and better directed.
Try playing with lightmap scales. From the shots it seems like you haven’t used them at all - they’re a powerful tool for making the lighting look way better.
This shot, for example. Any time I look at this image, my brain is screaming at me that there must be something important on that table with the blue light, because it stands out so much, lighting wise, compared to the rest of the scene. Additionally, the ladder on the right hand side of the shot is in darkness, so it’s very easy to miss. That works fine if your intention is for it to be a secret/exploration thing, but if it’s intended as a main route? That’s a big no-no!
From your shots it also feels like you’re overloading some scenes with too many different lightstyles - it becomes quite hard to visually understand some scenes at a glance. Let’s look at:
In this first shot, for example, I can count 6 (or 7?) different styles of light. None of them are really serving a gameplay or navigational function, at this point. It also doesn’t really enhance the scene. Sure, this scene looks pretty enough - but it would look even prettier and far better directed through use of just 3, or 4 (max) lightstyles instead. Again, a dominant fill for the room overall, another shade or different (but complementary) colour fill for inaccessible areas, the red danger highlight, and then a contrasting “this is important” highlight. Same sort of idea, but players will subconsciously be able to process the scene a lot better.
The second shot now. I get the feeling there’ll be some division over my opinion here, so take it or leave it as you wish. I don’t like it, personally. That back wall has an INSANE number of lights on it that serve no gameplay purpose. To me, that wall is by far and away the focal point of the scene, but yet it seems like, looking at the gameplay elements, the walkway below that wall or the underpass are supposed to be where the player should be directed. For example, the blue neon lights. They look really cool, I’ll give you that. But think about it - what do they do? They contrast with the entire rest of the scene and direct the player’s attention to (what I assume to be) is just a back wall. And what function would those lights serve in reality? Then, on the right, on the same wall, you have a different coloured series of lights along 2 different levels. I count…14 lights. Again, what are they lighting, and why? If you REALLY wanted to have that wall lit for some reason, you could probably achieve it with 2 lights per level. 7 is just overkill and visually distracting.
Then look at the lights lighting the trim on the walkway. Again - why are those there? From both a realism and a gameplay standpoint, I can’t see any reason to have lights there!
Remember - put the contrasting lights where you want to direct the player and where you want them to pay attention - leave other areas in darkness or just dimly lit. Or at least not lit in a contrasting and attention-drawing way.
Overall this is really promising - keep up the good work! You clearly know what you’re doing and, my criticisms aside, I think the screenshots look pretty great. Lighting, especially in Source, is one of the hardest things to crack, but when done expertly it really makes a huge different to the overall feel and direction of the map. Just try and bear the basic principles in mind beyond just what looks good! Good luck, let me know if you want any clarification on anything I said!