Bringing City17 into Realization | Part 1


The hardest thing about creating a city isn’t within its overall design, but instead the constrictions we’ve had getting it right, and getting it consistent. Following in suit of Valve’s design has been hard, and sometimes straight frustrating.

City17 meet a huge goal after its initial redesign. “Can this be city17? Can all this really make sense here? Does all of this work if it’s a completely different side of the City?” Those questions took some time to answer, and now we find ourselves doing just that. Redesigning bits and pieces of what just didn’t fit the puzzle.

City17 also meet an even larger goal: “How can this be the greatest City17 mod out there, (there are hundreds at the time of writing this!) And why should players want to play this one out of all of the others? What makes us different?” Answering that was even tougher.

With this post, we wanted to give you the fans an insight into how ‘City17: Episode 1’ has come to be, and its history of development. Don’t worry; this isn’t a post-mortem! It’s our journey from a lonely developer, to a 20-man team.

The Beginning

The maps were dark. They were really dark; so dark it’s not even funny. City17 started as a mod concerning Gordon and Alyx. The original storyline: “What would of happened if Gordon and Alyx were not teleported 5 weeks into the future, and instead, had spent those five weeks going through more of the city.

That already sounds pretty bad. It wouldn’t have worked out.

The original setting. (Source engine 1.1)

The night before the citadel destruction.

At this stage of development, city17 was well 6 months into development. 5 months were spent making a single map. It was bad.

Through the complications in that levels own design; it saw its own demise; a convoluted grid full of unnecessary brush-work, and model usage. Poor fps was contributing factor into that map’s death. Sure, that map was about almost an hour long, but running like a slideshow wasn’t helping.

City17 at that point in time was originally planned to be only 3 maps, and had no honest release date. There was no plans, there were no stop signs; it just kept going.

A really, really old Episode 2 test.

2008 saw city17 change for the better. During that year we gained over 5 team members, and had redesigned the entire mod. The older levels were gone, but their goals, and ideas lived on in the rest of the mod.

City17 started to take structure, and eventually gained a storyline and much, much more. The above “Nighttime map” was the first to be played in Chapter 1. It later turned into this:

The new starting map.

The original Old Train Station. This was the final map in the alpha.

We realized the amount of goals the original first map was missing. The player never had a real goal set for them to accomplish. No task was given aside the general “move forward and find out what happens”. We needed to create a scene that contained all the goals we could of possibly had in the entire mod, without saying anything to the player.

We needed to show: “What? Why? Where? And how?“. This map was built to encompass all of the above. The player starts with his view directed straight at the train yard ahead. They saw everything. The Scenery was the “what”, the citadel was the “Why”, the train station was the “where”, and the events to follow acted as the “How”.

The player knew everything at once. They were clearly acting their goal to get into the train, and leave city17 from its own pending destruction; obviously too be caused by the looming Citadel.

The scene was perfect. It finally met the Goals and Tasks we needed to set from the get-go. Every trace of the area was designed to push those goals even further, even the sun’s facing in the scene.

We plan to go into more detail about this map in commentary, which is a feature we’d very much like to have in City17:Ep1. We can’t go spoiling everything now can we!?

To be continued...
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4 thoughts on “Bringing City17 into Realization | Part 1

  1. Wow, this is great. I love these things where a developer splurges the development of their mod.
    Fromj the very small amount of info you have told us, I assume there are several more parts coming.

  2. Goes to show what I get for not checking here for a while.

    This always offers a great view into the mod team and their growth in skill.
    Also the original indeed sounds bad.

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