Anti-Citizen is a Half-Life 2 level mod that fits into the canon of the Half-Life universe. The goal of this project was to create a short, high quality experience through level design and scripted events.
The mod is available on ModDB
Level Design Overview
Below is the evolution of the courtyard section of Anti-Citizen (seen in the video). This area went through many iterations, and ended up being the strongest section of the project.
A fairly early version of the courtyard standoff. The red area is under enemy control, while the green area is held by friendly AI
- Friendly units had less cover on lower ground, giving the impression that they were slowly losing ground in this stalemate. This allowed the player to feel like they were charging an enemy barricade and turning the tide of a losing battle
- An enemy APC was planned to drive along the red line to block the player path and spawn additional enemies. This was scrapped when it proved too unreliable, and simply didn’t look or feel good
In this version the player’s path was more clearly defined, and there began to be a sense of taking back the area from enemy control
- The player’s path was redirected to give them a more interesting way to charge the enemy’s position (as opposed to walking up the stairs). This path made more sense as it was in direct line of sight for players, exposed them to less gunfire, and felt like a tactical subversion of established battle lines
- The barricade was turned into a bridge between buildings. This had the dual purpose of guiding players to the next building, as well as adding an imposing enemy structure that added to the feel of this area
The final version of the courtyard. Changes were made to improve combat, pacing was improved, and players were given the chance to dismantle enemy defenses
- A small environmental puzzle was added here to give a brief change of pace. Players had to break open a boarded window, and proceed inside this building to disable the newly added shield gate on the bridge. This gave players a short break from combat, and served as a moment for the player to dismantle enemy defenses
- The straight bridge created tedious long distance firefights so a curve was added to the bridge. This changed lines of sight, forcing players to get in close for more exciting combat
- The manhole exit felt strange without some sort of scripted dialogue, so it was changed to a door that players unlocked by clearing out the final enemy stronghold and throwing a switch. This again reinforced the idea that players were liberating an area under enemy control as the door was clearly recently installed during enemy occupation
The primary focus of Anti-Citizen was to create a quality user experience through level design and scripted events. There were several practices I laid out early on that shaped the rest of the project.
- Maximum of three enemies at a time: Too many enemies quickly led to overwhelming and frustrating engagements. Keeping a few enemies streaming in as opposed to dealing with large waves proved much more enjoyable, particularly for close-quarters combat
- High Variety: Levels were built to frequently mix up the way players were moving and engaging with enemies. Small variations such as crawling through air vents, throwing switches to unlock doors, and breaking wooden barriers served to keep players engaged
- Lore Considerations: Anti-Citizen was designed to fit into the canon of the Half-Life universe, taking place during the rebel uprising in City 17. This informed decisions about level design, scripted sequences, environment, enemies used. This is why enemies are seen killing armed and unarmed civilians, and enemy fortifications are blocking key locations