My Half-Life 2 Mod, Week 2: Custom Textures, Glass Window, Tree (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)
A week after I began a serious attempt to create a Half-Life 2 mod, I’ve made some good progress.
Early last week, I did manage to add the hinged door that was the next thing on my agenda. I’d been going crazy because I had turned off “helpers,” which means that I couldn’t see the blue sphere that all the tutorials mentioned was supposed to mark the site of the hinge.
Half-Life 2 is set in a grungy urban dystopia, so the image files that depict stock materials (wood panels, plaster ceilings, brick walls) all look pitted and rough. While I don’t want to spend forever fiddling with images, I began to realize last week that the image files really aren’t just window dressing. The availability of appropriate images really does affect what items I choose to work on.
I found a few texture packs that expand the number of materials available to Hammer (the 3D world tool I’m using), but I was having trouble following a tutorial to load just one custom texture. The comments at the end of the tutorial indicate that I’m not the only one suffering from similar problems. After several hours and several tries, I finally figured out where the custom textures should go, and how to find them within the 3D editor when I wanted to use them. (Those textures came in an “rar” archive. While I already had a tool that was supposed to deal with “rar” files, when I decompressed the file the target folder was always empty. So I had to upgrade to the 30-day trial version of Power Archiver. When that runs out, I’ll have to take a look at open-source archiving tools.
With that under my belt, I downloaded a pack of hundreds of new textures, including the tile floor, panel walls, and wood beam that you can see in the image. In this model, I added a ceiling, though now the lights are just emanating from nowhere. I’ll have to create some light fixtures.
The tree visible outside the window comes with Half-Life 2, and I guessed correctly that it was possible to change its “skin” to add a few leaves. Not many. I’ll have to keep looking if I want to use some healthy trees.
I took the gun away from the NPC Alyx, so now she’s a little less aggressive. I’m not sure how to adjust her behavior, but at least she fits in slightly better in the realistic office setting I’m trying to create.
The wood panel walls are actually too fancy for the generic office settings, but I do want to create a courtroom at some point, so I don’t mind experimenting with this design scheme.
The next big “proof of concept” for me is to import models of ready-made furniture. The desk visible in the photo comes with the game. I’ve seen textures that I can apply to simple cubes in order to get bookcases, file cabinets, bulletin boards, and the like. While I love adventure games, with secret panels containing keys that unlock more secret panels, the mod I’m working will need few functioning props (other than doors). Still, I’ve seen ready-made models of computer desks, TV sets, kitchen appliances, and even a collection of SWAT vehicles (that might be very useful for the police station that I hope will be in the mod).