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RaiseTheBarVille, our joint Half-Life Mapping Challenge

Your objective

We'd like you to re-imagine a scene of your choosing from any of the Half-Life games. To be clear, we're not looking for remakes of scenes — we want you to completely reinterpret a scene, approaching it from a fresh perspective. You can, however, use assets from Black Mesa.

Here are some examples of ideas you could develop:

  • The Tram ride at the beginning of Half-Life. What if somebody else pushed the cart? Gordon was late, so they got somebody else and the resonance cascade happens when Gordon is still on the tram. It crashed to the ground but leads him to a previously unseen section of Black Mesa.
  • Black Mesa. What if Half-Life's infamous research facility were hidden underneath a city or town rather than out in the desert?
  • Surface Tension. This particular event occurs on the side of a Citadel. Yes, it doesn't fit the story, but that's not important. This is about high cliffs and long falls.
  • Opposing Force. What if Black Mesa were devastated by this game's nuclear bomb quite early on during the story, leaving Adrian Shepherd to navigate a version of the research facility resembling a post-apocalyptic nightmare?
  • Point Insertion. Instead of arriving at a city train station, Gordon finds himself in a deserted and derelict village station, perhaps near enough to Ravenholm, to feel the threat. Being seen by Civil Protection may be the least of his worries.
  • City 17. What if the Combine had chosen the United States, France, or London to be their primary city?

The only limitation is your imagination, which we want to see run wild — create the most wonderful interpretation of Half-Life's universe that you can conceive. Whether your project is big or small, you should strive to create something that will delight Half-Life fans.

How to share your progress

Because this is a joint challenge, there are two places for this:

Both will be compiled together for judging and articles after the challenge ends, so you don't need to post in both places (although it's not a problem if you do).




Prizes are being donated by both MapCore and RunThinkShootLive, in addition to your work being immortalised in our archives for others to enjoy.

For the winner

A lightly used hardback copy of Valve's rare Half-Life 2 development book, Raising the Bar, kindly donated by Don aka Unq. This book is a must-read for any fan of the game, and particularly those interested in its development process. In addition to being a collectable in its own right, this particular edition is signed by Valve staff, arranged by a friend of Phillip's who works there.

For the almost-winner

Don't feel bad, you nearly made it. Have a plush companion cube plus a MapCore mug or t-shirt, and know that we love you.

...and for everyone else

All entries, except the winner and almost-winner, will be entered into a random draw to win Sniper Elite 3.

Challenge dates

Begins: Thursday, 19th March, 2015 at 11am GMT

Ends: Tuesday, 28th April, 2015 at 11am GMT


You can't have a challenge without rules, right? Here are the requirements:

  • Maximum one map per mapper per entry.
  • The map must have at least one enemy and one weapon; i.e. playable.
  • The map must be original and not have been released publicly before.
  • The map must run in a system with only Half-Life 2: Episode 2 installed
  • By entering the competition you grant RunThinkShootLive.Com and MapCore.org the right to release the map as part of the RaiseTheBarVille Mod.
  • Maps must not appear for download before the release and for one month after the release of the mod.
  • No assets from retail games other than Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 or Half-Life 2: Episode 2 are allowed.
  • Other assets are allowed with written permission from their original authors, which must be included in the entry.
  • The organizers' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into about it.
  • The map must have a proper name.
  • The map must have a proper filename: MapName_rtbv.bsp
  • Each entry should be accompanied by a correctly formatted (vtf) background and chapter image. The name is not important, as it will have to be changed.
  • All entries must be sent to: runthinkshootlive@gmail.com no later than the deadline.
Frequently Asked Questions

There have been a few questions asked about this challenge, so hopefully this will help you. However, if your question is not here and you have doubts, please don’t hesitate to ask, no matter how small your query.

Can I use assets from Black Mesa Source?

Yes, by all means, but you must pack them into your BSP. Yes, we know that may mean redundancy, but the map MUST run in a system that ONLY has Episode Two installed. We don’t want to force players to download BM.

Can an entry be a joint entry?

Yes, but there I still only one prize. You’ll have to fight to the death to decide who gets it.

Which games can I re-imagine?

Half-Life, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, Half-Life 2, Lost Coast, Episode One, or Episode Two.

Can I use assets from Lost Coast?

Yes, pack them into your BSP.

What about recreating a scene that was say… cut from one of the main games? Technically a re-imagining of a re-imagining.

No, but you could use the cut area as inspiration for something that was released in one of the games. What we don’t want people to do is remake a cut section from a game.

Can simply change a location?

Well, yes, but again, there should be some element of “What if…?” in the map. Simply changing a town for a city is only part of what we are looking for. You map should really be the result f some change, however minor, in the story.

How do you define a scene?

In the context of this challenge a “Scene” is a part of the game that has some effect on the following game. So, changing one location for another is not really enough. What we are looking for is something that takes the game in a different direction.

Can we submit mini-mods instead of a map?

Sorry, no. Your entry must be a self contained map.

Can I submit something artsy?

Sure, but it must have at least one enemy, one weapon and a player spawn.

Can we decompile or remake specific locations from Valve maps?

We think it’s best if we disallow this. Mainly to avoid any potential problems. Please start your map from something new. However, we will allow a very small section if this is just used to “fit into the story”. For example, in Episode One, at the beginning when Alyx and Gordon are thrown into the Citadel. If you map started at the bottom but then things went very differnt from the game, that would be okay.

How should I start my map?

We suggest a little text at the beginning to set the scene. Something like…”What if Gordon were late and somebody else push the cart? Let’s find out“. It’s not compulsory but it might help.

What’s the limit of changes we can make?

Wow, that’s a tough question. Your changes MUST NOT affect maps that may be after yours in the final mod.

My question is not here, what should I do?

Ask in the RTSL post or MapCore thread. Somebody will respond quickly.

Closing words

We really hope that you have fun with this. MapCore has a very long history of facilitating development of levels for Half-Life and its mods, in fact we were founded around that very concept. As such, we're hopeful that the community still has that passion for one of gaming's finest classics, and is keen to apply modern-day skills and technologies to bringing Half-Life's universe to life — because Valve sure isn't doing it any time soon!

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

Hey Armageddon,


Yes, using Black Mesa assets is fine because there's permission (from them) to do so. The same applies to any assets where permission is granted, which you should note if you use them. In short, custom assets are fine where permission exists.


Submitting them as mods unfortunately won't work, as the final collection of entries will be turned into a mod of its own which can be released for others to enjoy. Sorry! :sad:

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Since you might be flexible on closing date I will ask: would it be allowed to decompile or remake specific locations from Valve maps?

I understand that you don't want remakes, but what if instead of explaining what went different in our course of events, we show it? Of course the reuse of a location would be limited and rest of content would be custom. I.e.: Alyx and Gordon don't go in the Citadel at the beginning of Ep1, so reuse of the rubble area where player spawns, then you create a different way from there.

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