Disco Dance of Death
To create a vibrant, energetic environment by repurposing the dark, post-apocalyptic, and worn down materials and assets available in the Half Life 2 Engine (Hammer).
Disco Dance of Death is a level featuring DD's Night Club - a zombie-infested night club in the Half Life 2 universe. The player must travel through this night club to sneak around guards waiting at an intersection only a block away.
This project was completed in approximately 50 hours over the course of 4 weeks.
Level Design Document:
Initial Level Sketches and Walkthrough
The Road - Player Spawn Area
The player first spawns on the road outside of the nightclub with just an SMG. This area is primarily to show the overall theme of the world outside of the nightclub - a dark, dreary, dreadful environment full of intimidating police that are carrying much scarier guns. It seems like the police may have set up some sort of police barricade with far too many police to take on at once.
1. The player quite simply walks from their start straight to the door while the police are looking the other way.
D.D.’s Nightclub - 2nd Area
The first floor of the club is a large area with a bar, several tables and booths to eat at, a dance floor, and a stage. There are several doors throughout that connect to other rooms as well. The interior is filled with lights of many different colors flashing and moving. The club is well populated, but instead of humans, it is absolutely packed with zombies.
2. Player walks through the entrance (transition) room and into the club. Hordes of zombies are immediately visible to the player. Some zombies are facing towards the player right at the beginning and will go to attack the player.
3. Player fights through hordes of zombies to get to the stairs. Before getting to the stairs, the player can venture to other rooms. In the Kitchen, there will be a Crowbar leaning against the wall for the player can pick up. In the Back Room, there is a Shotgun sitting on a table for the player to pick up. Furthermore, behind the bar, there will be a pistol.
The second floor of the club is a balcony that overlooks the first floor. It is marked as a VIP space, but although the zombies may try, they’re not going to keep you from going up there. There are more eating areas along with a mini-bar. The curved, jutted out part of the balcony is primarily used for guests to stand and hang out there while looking out to the dance floor and the stage.
4. Player fights through more zombies on the 2nd floor balcony to get to the back door. On the way to the door, the player will see several corpses of police on the ground as well, along with some blood stains that lead through under the door. When the player gets to the door, unfortunately the door is locked. If the player tries to open the door, they will be prompted that they need a key card. From here, there are then two different routes the player can take.
5a. The player can either walk to the minibar to get an ID card from the prior bartender up there. The player can pick up the ID card before going to the door as well.
5b. The player can walk downstairs to get the ID card from the bartender that used to be at the 1st floor bar. The player can pick up the ID card before going to the door as well.
6. The player then walks from where they got the ID card to the door, clicks the interact button (E by default), the door makes a sound to tell the player it worked, then the door opens.
Disco Labs - 3rd Area
7. Once the player walks through the door, they will be in hallway. This hallway will mostly be used as a small break area and a transition area from the club to the next area. There is, however, a storage closet on the left that has some medical supplies in it including a Large Health Pack that the player can use to heal back up. Off close looking, there will also be some ammo for the SMG that is sort of hidden behind some junk, but still visible to the player.
8. When the player goes through, there will be a trigger that will have the “doctors” inside look towards the player. The far door across the hallway will lock, forcing the player to fight.
9. The scientists run away in fear of the player while the Combine Soldiers turn around and fight the player. The Combine Soldiers will be placed so that they are between you and the Zombie Storage. Due to the lowerer accuracy of the SMG, it is fairly possible that the player shoots the glass to the Zombie Storage and lets the horde of zombies free. These zombies are both aggressive towards the other NPCs and towards the player.
10. The player proceeds back through the double doors at the end of the hallway to the next area.
In-Game Walkthrough and Design Choices Description
The outside of many buildings within cities tend to be fairly monotone in a way. That is, there isn't as much of an exciting factor when just going from brick building to brick building in Half Life 2. I wanted to combine the fairly unassuming wall texture with a very inviting and enticing entrance to juxtapose the night club from the rest of the environment and accent it.
When the player first walks into the area, I really wanted to set up a grand entrance and create that "wow factor." But, I needed to ensure that the player was safe to appreciate the view, seeing as they are in a zombie-infested night club where zombies will sprint at you on sight.
And so, I created this small transition area with glass facing each direction. I also made it so the zombies would run at you as soon as you walk through that door to build in the scary element to this grand entrance.
I also wanted the player to be able to see their paths they could walk to and plan a route beforehand. As such, the player is able to see all the available areas to go to from this spot. That way, when they leave this safe area, they can really make a break for it.
Lastly, I colored different areas differently with lighting in order to accent them a bit better. I wanted the different areas in the level to truly be distinct from one-another, and one way apparent through the screenshots on the right is through the different lighting.
The golden path for the player right out of the gate is the stairs. There is a pack of zombies on the dance floor, a pack of zombies in the bar/food area, and a pack of zombies right outside the safe area of the player. Because of this, there is a small route between the packs the player can take to dodge through the zombies (or just use the alternate fire on the provided gun to explode a pack of zombies).
Once the player makes their way upstairs, there is only one door that leads anywhere else. There was a pack of zombies up there before, however I disposed of them for better screenshots without zombies constantly jumping at my face. There's also still the pack of zombies behind the player that follows them up the stairs, creating a further sense of urgency.
What's this? The doors locked? You need a key card?
Well, of course. They don't let just anybody go into any room. When the player interacts with the door, a prompt comes up telling them they it "Requires Bar Tender's Key Card."
There are two locations to find the key card - the bar upstairs and the bar downstairs.
Both bars have a pack of zombies of zombies in front of it. The upstairs bar is closer, however has the larger pack of zombies and is a tighter space to maneuver. The downstairs bar is further, however the there are less zombies in front of it and it is a fairly open space aside from the stairs back up.
With this level, I wanted to keep the focus on traversing the environment. As such, moving around and backtracking to find objects while dodging around zombies keeps the focus on the movement. There are also guns laying around the area, further rewarding exploration and allowing for people to just mow down zombies if they so choose (And from testing, most people did choose to do so).
Once the player retrieves the Key Card, they go back to the locked door. The capabilities of the Half Life 2 Engine make it so you have to either throw the key at the door or walk the key into the door. But once you do, the lock unlocks and the door opens!
I wanted to add a bit more of a narrative and purpose to this environment. And so, I have that in the back of the club, scientists are being forced to do experiments on these zombies, giving a bit of reason as to why there are so many zombies in this area.
Is the night club a storage facility then? Is it a front? Why were you able to just walk in then?
Because you're Gordon Freeman.
I'm definitely proud of what I created in the engine. I do feel that I succeeded in making a more vibrant and energetic environment by repurposing assets, materials, and other objects in the engine. Visually, it was a success.
However, in a gameplay sense, it was simple and not the most balanced. I wanted the gameplay to be focuses around a horde of zombies, in which the player either runs away from them constantly or tries to mow them down. However what ended up happening was that the only real choice that ended with success was to run away from the zombies and get to the next zone as fast as possible.
The level also proved to be very difficult if the player didn't know where the key cards were and had to search for them. The level only got particularly easy when the player failed a couple times trying to find the key, found it, then went to go get the key before ever going to the locked door.
Lastly, the level was incredibly simple. There were very few scripted events. I think scripted events would have better helped to tell the bit of narrative I have present while also guiding the player better.
And so, in conclusion, the visuals were a huge success, however I do feel the gameplay was a bit too simple and unbalanced and could have used some improvement.