Role: Level Designer | Team Size: Solo Project | Engine: Hammer | Sept 2021 - Dec 2021
Hilltop Storage is a King of the Hill style map I created for Team Fortress 2. This map takes place in the forest at a lumber storage facility. This map was created for my Advanced Seminar in World Building class, and this was the second map I have created using Hammer Editor. I was responsible for every step of the level design process for this level. Below you will be able to find a deep dive into my design decision for this project.
Hilltop Storage Reel
One of the biggest things I tried to keep in my mind while designing this map was that I was only going to have 1 semester to try and produce a solid playable level. Because of this, I decided to go for the King of the Hill game mode to be my focus. This game mode was typically offered in a symmetric style which would allow me to focus the design of half the map instead of an entire play space. This was key in allowing me to have both a well tested level as well as a fully propped out level over such a short time period.
(Left) This was my first drawing of the left half of the level. The bright white areas are where I was envisioning doors or where I was cutting away walls.
(Right) This was my second version of the level in which I moved the doorways in the lower parts of the spawn areas and increased the size of the building in the bottom center. These changes were to reduce clumping right out of spawn and to reduce sight lines from the capture point to a team's spawn respectively.
Once I had this basis for what the map would look like I dove into hammer editor and started to put together the map based off of the drawings above. To the right, this is my first rendition of one completed side of the map. I was happy to see that overall the scale of the map was pretty easily replicated from the drawings to the editor. However, once I was able to see the spaces in engine, I realized that the central building just before the main point was very cramped. Below are some pictures from the ground level surrounding the building.
I didn't want to just remove the building and leave this space open though, so I began to think about what I could include in this space that would make sense theme wise while still providing some type of cover between this courtyard area and the main point. I started to look through the different props within Team Fortress 2 to try and get some inspiration. I ended up looking at the various train car props and thought about how this storage facility may be bringing product in or out of the area. In my next iteration of the level I put a railway in place of where the building was and tested how that looked in the level.
I really liked this change as it helped open up the lower level slightly, but it also opened up the upper cliffside which after I made the change I learned to really like! This also allowed players on the raised walkway and snipe into the main point instead of having a somewhat useless height advantage behind a building. It was at this point that I began playing with the idea of removing the building on top of the cliffside completely and having the entire right side of the map be this raised cliff area.
Fixing Spawn Camping
Once I opened up this top area completely, I knew this was the direction I wanted to take the map. I noted immediately though that having the entire space open except for the back walls made it extremely easy for players to see spawn from this high ground and spawn camp (See photo to the right). In order to help combat this, I raised up portions of the wall closest to spawn to help take away some of the sight lines players would have towards spawn (Bottom Left). This still left part of the cliffside with an open sight of spawn. Once I began to populate the top of the cliff I utilized a tree to help block the sight of spawn from players (Bottom Right). In that same update, I also added metal sheeting to the walkway to 1) provide cover for any snipers on there and 2) limit the number of sightlines snipers would have on the capture point.
I felt like the cliffside here was almost perfected, but there were two final problems I had. The first was that the tree I used to block players line of sight didn't quite do the job. Players were still able to look through the tree and see the spawn door if they walked up to the tree. The second issue was that the edge of the cliff closest to the capture point still had very open lines of sight onto the point. Luckily, fixing the second issue also helped me fix the first. While trying to figure out ways to help block sight lines, I found a fence prop that had chicken wire across a good section of it. Players wouldn't be able to shoot through this, but it allowed them to still look into the main point. I quickly realized this prop would work well for the sightlines towards spawn. This would allow players to look down on who is coming up this side of the map while still providing protection for those who are coming up from spawn. Below you can see the final version of the map, and you can see how the fences helped with protecting players from spawn camping.