So, some kind of fit took me and I decided to create a 3-D model of the island of Arcaln. It’s far from done, but here’s a peek.

Longtime alert readers will recognize this Verdurian home.  I’m going to have to fire up XSI Softimage to create some Verdurian furniture.  I wish HL2 came with more plants… filling out the garden may be tedious.  (The cheap way to make a plant is to put images on some intersecting, transparent flat surfaces; but this is only reasonably convincing at ground level.)

House for sale, some rain damage

House for sale, some rain damage

(No, Verdurians don’t have trucks.  It’s there to help me with scale.)

Here’s an overview of about half the island.  The walls in the distance are placeholders for the fortress of Arcaln itself.  You can see that there’s a lot of work to go.


You can see that I’m using a blown-up city plan as a guide to building placement.  I’m using Hammer, which has the neat idea of a 3-d skybox.  Essentially you have the center of the map at full scale, and then embed it into a larger model that’s done at 1/16 scale.  The game engine combines the two areas.  The effect is that you can have a huge vista going off into the distance, though you only can explore a small part of it.  This technique is used in all the Valve games.

A Valve map, by the way, is about 2500 feet square, or a quarter square mile total.  With the skybox it gives the impression of an area up to 8 miles on a side.  (This is actually considerably smaller than Bethesda maps.  But Valve’s Hammer editor is far easier to make buildings in.)

This project has made me think hard about the scale of my city map.  The one filled-in block is about 1/4 the area of a Chicago city block– that is, it’s about 1/16 mile square.  Yet it looks much bigger.  It was worse a couple days ago; I finally realized that I was creating the buildings way too small– they were about 20 feet wide.  The last few days I made them twice as big or more.

So far the finished parts of the city look a bit artificial– too clean and uncluttered.  I may leave it that way– it’s going to be enough work as it is.  To make it look more real, I’ll have to put a lot of time into minor details, terrain, and clutter.  And then maybe add a bunch of zombies and headcrabs so it’s a playable HL2 map…