I mainly started when I was a kid. I was playing Half-Life a lot more that I should have and I never got bored of it. I was wondering if it was possible to have expansions or mods to further enjoy Half-Life. This is when I found Opposing Force and Blue Shift. Around the same time, I stumbled upon ModDB and GameBanana. When I was looking for information on how to create levels, you had to use the Valve Hammer Editor. Steam was relatively new and Half-Life 2 was not officially released yet. I sticked with Half-Life for a little less than a year and upon Half-Life 2's release, I switched to the Source engine and I have stayed with the Source engine for the past 14 years or so.
===What I like in Level Design=== ====What I like the most in Level Design====
There are a lot of different things I love in level design, but the two best things I love to do more than anything else is detail architecture, props, lighting, you name it) and lighting.
====What I also like====
Apart from those, I like to design different themes in a level while still keeping the City 17 or outland vibe. Different architecture, lighting, props, textures, soundscapes, sounds, skyboxes, etc. can really show what you are trying to do or aim for.
Tip: Having a solid theme first is better than designing something you have no idea what is going to look like.
I can spend hours level designing and level design on a project for days, weeks, months or even years.
==Games I usually level design for==
I usually level design for Half-Life 2 and its episodes and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. I worked on a couple of maps for Portal 2, Alien Swarm and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but those never saw the light of day. My favorite game is Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. Buy it now if you have not.
I have a couple of maps I have released that you can find on my GameBanana's submission page.
==Tips and tricks for your own levels==
Here are some tips and tricks for your levels; you may know some of them:
Do not carve! The only time you really want to carve is in test maps. Other than that, do not think carve will make things go faster.
Have a theme and general layout in your head or on a paper. This is very important. Trying to level design something without thinking about it means failure on the long run.
Build your map step by step! When building the layout, keep it to the minimum detail. This will allow you to change more easily brushes than if you started having detailed brushes. This is why the developer textures are useful here; measuring! Keep it in mind
Lighting is important! Just do not go around and put random light and light_spot entities and say that's it, my level is lit. Knowing color theory helps. Moreover, placing light and light_spot entities properly can give your level a more realistic look than if you were to repeatedly place the same entities with the same parameters over and over. Sure it looks fine, but after a while it gets boring to always see the same color. Have variation!
Do not randomly add brushes, props or decals randomly for detail. Now this is important. Detailing will bring the level alive but if you do it incorrectly, it will look messy, unappealing. What theme have you got? If it's a bunker, sewers or canals, it's unlikely that it'll be very clean. Stains, dirt, trash, water splashes, posters, etc. will give the right looks. On the other hand, if it's an agency, it should look clean. Posters (ads), signs, etc. are suitable.
Color correction! This ought to be one important entity. From personal experience, an abandoned place should have desaturated colors. This makes the player feel like he's alone and this place isn't really used anymore. On the flip side, a museum should have vivid colors!
Work with visgroups! When you are level designing on a large scale, you want to create your own visgroups. Usually, I have general visgroups for each area and have sub-visgroups for props, lighting, decals, you name it. By having your own visgroups, you can eliminate visual nuisance when you are trying to add, remove or move a brush or a prop. This really gets useful when you are level designing large outdoor areas like forests where you are bound to have a lot of trees around.
Angle your geometry sometimes! A lot of people will tell you not to because your geometry is then off grid. Ignore those people! You can create levels with angled geometry that's on grid! Whether it's a 15, 30, 45, etc rotation, it doesn't matter. Doing this really gives your level a lot more depth and purpose!
Give your level more space! Now, I'm not saying to make a playable space larger or smaller but rather create areas that the player may not necessarily access.
Listen to music when mapping! Your sanity is important!
Make frequent pauses! I generally make pauses of 15 minutes or so after an hour of mapping.
Save yourself some time! When you want to do a quick test in your level, use the cordon tool and draw a box around your entire level and compile your map. Before compiling your map in its entirety, only check VBSP to see if there are any errors.
Use Expert compile mode! You will need it for your final compile!
Ask questions! There is nothing wrong in asking questions, even if you are an experienced mapper.
Get some custom content! Sometimes, custom content makes it easier!
Look at other people's maps! See how their maps are made.
Look at real life for inspiration! Looking at how real life structures and lighting are made/achieved can help you build your level better.