Half-Life 2 - Lost Coast Guide
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Half-Life 2: Lost Coast Guide by Grawl
grawler (@t) gmail (d0t) com
10/31/05 - Version 0.1
It seems thousands of players enjoy my guide, seeing the countless mails I
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Table of Contents [HL.00.00]
* Table of Contents.................................................[HL.00.00]
* History & Next Version............................................[HL.01.01]
History & Next Version [HL.01.01]
Version 0.1 (10/31/05) - Everything is new. (22,4KB)
Valve doesn't sit still. Nothing like that at all. They developed a new
lightning technology called HDR, which is truly amazing. This level they
released on Steam is not really much of a game to play, but more of a tech
demo. Nevertheless, it's still great stuff, and the level design is simply
brilliant. I just wished that they made Half-Life 2 like this.
Can anyone play this? No. You need Half-Life 2 (any version will do, as long
as it's legal)... and that's pretty much it. However, if you want to play
this game with the new HDR function, your card needs to be able to handle
HDR (I'm not sure which one do or don't). You can still play the level fine
without it though.
Furthermore, I'm not going in-depth on weapons, enemies etc. For that, I
suggest you to read my Half-Life 2 guide, which can be found as an exclusive
guide on IGN.
If you want to have the most fun out of this, and don't want to be spoiled,
turn off the commentary and play on hard. You'll have a blast. Then play
again on easy, with commentary on, so you can enjoy the game and look around
at your own speed. Also play around with the gravity gun, it's still fun ;)
So once you ready, get the files of Steam and load the thing up (you may need
to set up HRD manually though - I had to). Get ready to have some fun for the
next half an hour or so.
Right in front of you are several audio commentary balloons (if you enabled
them, that is). Press the use button on them to hear them.
#1: "[Gabe Newell] Welcome to the Lost Coast. In this tour, we're going to be
talking about a new graphics technology we've been developing, called High
Dynamic Range Lighting, or HDR. We'll also be giving the construction of the
Lost Coast. First, a quick explanation of the commentary system. To listen to
a commentary node, put your crosshair over the floating commentary symbol and
press the +USE key. To stop the commentary, put your crosshair over the
rotating node and press your +USE key again. Some commentary nodes may take
control of the game for the purpose of showing something to you. In these
cases, simply pressing your +USE key will stop the commentary."
#2: "[Viktor Antonov] When the art team started to think about a location that
would demonstrate the power of HDR, a beach was one of the first choices we
made. The visual relationship between the sky, the water, and the rocks is
something we could not achieve without HDR. In order for high dynamic range to
correctly simulate the light's interaction with the surfaces around you, like
these wet rocks, we needed more precise information about the surfaces than
we've had in the past. So now, going forward, we're modelling textures in 3D
packages to ensure that the physical information encoded in the texture
allows HDR to correctly bounce light off the surface. We also design the
colors and values of each surface to ensure they will be correct across all
#3: "[Gary McTaggart] With conventional rendering, seen here on the left, if
something on the screen is 20% reflective, like the wet stand, then the
maximum reflected brightness could only be 20% of the maximum brightness of
your monitor. HDR's more accurate simulation of light ensures that the sun's
reflection on this wet sand appears as it would in the real world, which could
potentially use 100% of the maximum monitor brightness. HDR uses bloom to
simulate light that is beyond 100% of a monitor's maximum brightness."
If you have HDR on, just take a look around. Notice how the sand reflects the
sun in a beautiful way. If you're lucky enough to run with high textures, the
rocks will look great too. I wasn't that lucky. Before walking to the
fisherman, notice there is also an area behind the rocks to the left of your
starting point. You'll find a wrecked ship here, and another text balloon.
#4: "[Robin Walker] The remains of the ship in front of you where once part of
a puzzle we cut out of the Lost Coast. The original design of the puzzle was
based on the idea of the player and the fisherman co-operating together to
solve something. This was a type of puzzle we'd always wanted to attempt in
HL2. Unfortunately, as development on Lost Coast neared the end, and this
puzzle still wasn't finished, we decided to cut it. It's always painful to
remove work, so we've tried to evolve a process for making those kinds of
decisions. For example, with this puzzle we asked ourselves 'Is this puzzle
actually fun?','If not, how much work does it need to be fun?','Does this
puzzle fit within the purpose of Lost Coast?','Would our customers appreciate
this puzzle being finished more than they would appreciate, say, soldiers
rappelling off the cliffside?'. In the end, it made the most sense to put this
problem on the shelf with other interesting ideas, and come back to it later."
Get back to the previous area, and have a look at the text balloon in front of
#5: "[Randy Lundeen] The process of building characters in Half-Life 2 taught
us many things. By the end, we believed we'd figured out a more effective
process for designing and constructing characters. This fisherman is the
first character we've guilt using that process. Design-wise, the fisherman was
focused on showcasing HDR, and the way light falls on human skin. The
highlights on his forehead and nose are good examples of specularity on human
skin. You can see how the wrinkles on his cheeks, and around his eyes, are an
example of how we can use normal maps to add depth. Production-wise, the
fisherman was built using a similar process to the rocks you saw on the beach.
We model the 3D character at a very high detail, then extract much of the
physical information and store it in the textures."
The fisherman will ask if you're the real Gordon Friedman (or something), and
then open the gate for you. We're almost ready for some action. Let's first
check the next balloon.
#6: "[Gary McTaggart] Water presents us with a lot of rendering challenges.
In fact, we have to render the scene 3 times. Once for the refraction of
what's under the water, once for the reflection of everything above the water,
and once from the player's view. You can see the reflection $ refraction
scenes in the two small windows onscreen. In the refraction, we calculate,
per-pixel, how much water you're looking through to do a volumetric underwater
fog, to simulate particulate matter. For our full HDR solution, we had to go
through the entire engine and modify every bit of code that calculated light
and color. For example, these water reflection & refraction renderings had to
be improved to support the full range of contrast values."
So, enough listening/reading, eh? Walk up the path, and you can start fragging
the Combines. They're coming from everywhere, so watch out for that. The path
isn't too big either, so don't fall of the cliff when going sideward. After
some shooting, you'll notice you can't go any further. Turn around, and jump
on the cliff. There is another text balloon here.
#7: "[Robin Walker] The area you're currently entering is called the cliffside
arena. We were particularly happy with the vertical cliffside in Half-Life 1,
and regretted that we didn't iterate further on that concept in Half-Life 2.
Vertical space allows us to force the player to deal with threats from above
and below. We find that player focus their view on the direction they're
travelling, so by using a cliffside, and having the player ascend it, we
ensure the player will look up and be prepared for enemies. If the player's
path was to move past the bottom of the cliffside, it would be unlikely he
would notice the soldiers rappelling down from above. Dying from unknown
threats never feels fair, and certainly isn't fun."
Sure Robin, that's why a bit later on, you get attacked by soldier on roofs.
Makes perfect sense. Anyway, continue up the cliff, and kill the Combines.
After a short while you'll reach a small hall with another text balloon.
#8: "[Chris Green] One of the features of our HDR solution is dynamic
tonemapping. The easiest way to think about dynamic tonemapping is that it is
a method of simulating the way the human eye reacts to light. In the real
world, you've probably walked into a dark room and noticed your eye adjusting
to the darkness, letting you see better after some time. Or you've walked into
a bright day, and been blinded by the sun, only to have your eye adjust and
allow you to see normally. Your iris is adjusting itself in response to the
amount of light hitting your eye. Dynamic tonemapping simulates this, by
automatically adjusting the exposure of the scene to mimic the behavior of
your iris. You can see this as the view moves from the dark tunnel to the
bright sun, and back again. Here you can see the way we calculate the amount
of light hitting the player's eyes. We take a snapshot of the scene, and
extract the brightness levels to get the average level of light. Additionally,
we consider light at the center of the screen more important than that at the
edges, to better simulate the geometry of the eye."
Once you move a bit more forward, you enter up in a courtyard. The doors
behind you close. Relax for the moment, though. Follow the path up into the
church, reading and listening to the balloons.
#9: "[Robin Walker] The courtyard in front of you is a space we call an Arena.
Arenas are built to hold the player for a period of time, and usually contain
combat or some other challenge. They often have multiple entry-points for
enemies, along with a gate of some kind to prevent the player moving on, until
the challenge has been completed. In this case, the arena is free of enemies
until the player solves a puzzle, and triggers an alarm. This is a method that
allows the player to explore the arena, and get a sense of its space before
being forced to fight in it. It adds a sense of uneasiness to the player,
who's expecting to be attacked now that they've reached the goal set for them
at the start of the map. The break in action here is also a crucial part of
the level's aching. It allows the player to recover and explore the world a
little, after being attacked on the way up the cliffside."
#10: "[Chris Green] The Source engine supports a wide variety of shaders. The
refraction shader on the window here requires us to copy the scene to a
texture, refract it, and then apply it to the window surface. To fully
support HDR, every shader in the engine needed to be updated, so this
refraction shader was improved to support the full range of contrasts."
Use the door of the church to enter it. If you don't feel like it yet, you can
also wander around and exploring stuff. You'll find some supplies, weapons
and ammo around. Inside the church are more text balloons.
#11: "[Viktor Antonov] We wanted the transition from a bright, wide-open space
into a tighter, closed one to showcase HDR's dynamic tonemapping. We also like
to focus on contrasting elements in our settings, like ancient human
architecture and futuristic combine technology. A monastery fit these
requirements perfectly. Monastery's are generally isolated, unlit, and built
ages ago. They provide a great backdrop for the contrasting combine
technology. When we build fictional settings, we try to ground them by basing
them off a real-world location. We use this location as a design constraint
that forces a logical consistency behind the art choices."
#12: "[Viktor Antonov] Churches are great dramatic spaces. They're often lit
naturally with extremes of darkness and brightness, which makes them a great
showcase for HDR. Gothic churches are the sober, monochromatic spaces that
you've been in almost every horror movie or game. Byzantine churches, on the
other hand, are very colourful and have a large variety of materials. We
wanted that color & material variety to show off our HDR reflections."
#13: "[Robin Walker] Our games are filled with things we call "gates", which
are essentially just challenges that the player must overcome to drive the
experience forward. We used a puzzle here, since the player has been through
combat and exploration recently. When we design challenges, we try to
ensure that the player's goal and the action required by the player are both
fun. It's not hard to create interesting goals for the player, like stopping
this machine from shelling the nearby village. But the action required by the
player to solve the challenge needs to be fun as well. So instead of something
menial, such as hitting an off switch, the player gets to use physics to jam
the gun's mechanism and cause it to break."
So, let's listen to mister Walker. Grab your gravity gun, and shoot the plates
of the machine. When the machine is going up (to shoot a shell), put something
between it, doesn't matter what. Once you did this, the alarm will go off.
First a few Black Headcrabs will pop in. After that Combines will rush in, and
a chopper will go around. I suggest to just wait till most Combines came in.
That way you can easily pop them. Head outside after that, kill the remaining
Combines, and hide. After a short while, the gate will be crushed open. Move
on, for a chopper fight. If you want an easy fight, you can just enable the
balloon, and the chopper will stop moving. Don't be so lame though ;) Shoot
the chopper down with the rocket launcher, and enable the final commentary.
#14: "[Gabe Newell] This marks the end of the Lost Coast tour. This has been
an experiment on our part to see if our community would find it interesting to
learn more about our development process. As always, we're interested in your
feedback. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If people like this,
we'll keep producing the kind of content for all of our games going forward.
Thanks for listening!"
So, that's it? Not quite. The chopper will crash into the platform, and some
Combines will start shooting from above (see? told you!). Frag them down. Now
all you need to do, is go down. However, the way back is blocked. Use your
gravity gun to shoot down the wooden planks that are loose. This will reveal
a path below. Go there, and crawl your way to the cabin. Enter it, and head to
the fisherman. He'll thank you and that ends the level.
Q: Why did you even do this guide?
A: Good question... *whistles*
Q: When i re-load my game, all the Combines resurrected... as dolls...
A: Yea, it's a bug. As long as they don't shoot, it's fine with me ;p
Q: Are there any ways to reach the parts of the level you can't reach?
A: Yes, with the use of cheats. In the options menu, find the option to use
the development console (~). Press ~ in-game, use the command sv_cheats 1
and then noclip 1. You can now fly there.
I hope you enjoyed my guide, since I put a lot of work in it. If you encounter
problems, feel free to mail me. Also suggestions, feedback, comment etc. are
accepted, the mail addy is on top of this file.
Thanks-list: Stephen Ng
And especially you, for reading this.
For other guides, you can check this link:
Copyright (c) 2005 by Grawl. All rights reserved.