We've been real quiet. Sorry about that - a lot of different things have been happening behind the scenes.

The big news this week is that EZ2 is now running on Mapbase! Woohoo! This opens a lot of new doors for us, development-wise. Now that the merge is complete, we can plough on ahead.

Chapter 4 is getting an extra map. This one is really exciting! But I can't say too much yet. We're at infant stages right now with the map, so I've only got Devshots.

Trees are IN.
Ooohhhh a cabin!
Chilly!

Literally anything could change at this point, so don't take these as final. I just wanted to show you guys something!

Oh and here's a bonus shot from 1upD's ez2_c2_3:

Shadows. Contrasting colours. Phong. THIS SHOT HAS IT ALL!

The other bits we've been doing with EZ2 are varied.

We've been looking at finalising the mod story and narrative. We're pumping out new sounds and scripts like no tomorrow. We've overhauled our Bad Cop response context system, which really makes the protagonist truly dynamically responsive. Wilson got some new lines and some new animations. Then there's soldiers with Manhacks, changes to Chapter 2 to make it a bit longer, 'silent' squad members such as Rollermines and Manhacks, particle updates, special material updates that can do weird and amazing things, projected texture improvements, a 'Lone Wolf' soldier's story, hallucination monsters, more Robo (ATL) and did I mention: Vortigaunt Zombies?

I am beyond excited about what we are cooking up. We're a small team; but the amount of work that is being done is insane.

I know what you're thinking. Where is the EZ1 re-light?

We've run into a small issue. Everything looks great - but there's one problem.

Dlights. Dlights (or Dynamic Lights) are a problematic caveat to the Source Engine. They are dreadfully optimised. They're locked away behind licensing, so we can't touch them.

Currently in EZ1 whenever you fire a weapon or when someone else fires a weapon, the game creates a DLight to create the illusion / illumination of a muzzle flash. In the wonderfully re-lit maps, Dlights are killing our performance.

We may have a solution, and that would be to replace our Dlights with projected textures. But that's going to require some more work on the coding side.

Bare with us! We will figure something out.

Also, EZ1 will be moving to Mapbase at some point in the future. Once that has happened we will be releasing our Deployment update. This will allow players to create and easily share maps (hopefully) using the Steam workshop. You'll be able to create and upload your own deployments and share them with the community. That's the plan! We have a few initial deployments planned to get people in the creative mood. You'll get to see this thing:

Bad Cop's initiation.

You might remember that from a while ago. Well I'm going to finish building that using Mapbase. Should be a nice addition to EZ1.

Also I should mention, there's going to be some newer bits coming across from EZ2 that you'll get to play with, and ALL of this is planned to come to EZ2. Workshop, deployments - the lot. Going forward we want to provide players with a foundation they can use to continue experiencing Half-Life through the eyes of the Combine.

Thanks guys. We're gonna want to do a livestream at some point over the next month or so to show off some new stuff. As soon as we're ready for that, we will let you know!

I've decided to condense these into their respective chapters.

Beware! This post contains minor EZ2 spoilers.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Welcome to Arbeit!

Arbeit? What's that all about? Well lemme tell ye'

Back in the old days of Half-Life 2 long before we ever got our hands on it, Valve were using a placeholder name for the scientific body responsible for the Borealis. That corporation was called 'Arbeit Labratories'.

Over time Arbeit has become Aperture Science. Instead of pulling a random name out of my ass, I decided to bring the Arbeit name back to life and actually try to tie it in to Aperture Science through the EZ2 canon.

You may notice some similarities between the logos.

I needed Arbeit to use as a base both physically and fundamentally for EZ2. The mod is set somewhere in the Arctic. That could be anywhere - but I didn't just want us to be walking around in the snow all the time. That would get old fast. I needed some kind of facility for us to explore.

As you may have figured out by now, Entropy : Zero is all about drawing contrasts between Half-Life. So really, I needed something that could potentially contrast Black Mesa. A mini-Black Mesa in the Arctic would suffice, and thus Arbeit was born.

Arbeit means 'job' or 'work' in German.

Why am I going into this much detail? Because narrative is important as it serves as the foundation for which we can build upon.

So what is Arbeit Communications? How do I define it?

Sunrise!

Arbeit is an old German comms base up in 'the mountains'. It's wayyyy up inside the Arctic Morty, far from built up civilisation. It was used as a communications forwarding base during the cold war (probably) and therefore has the appropriate facilities and security.

Sometime before the events of Half-Life 2, Aperture Science - jealous of Black Mesa's purchase of a European missile silo - acquired the Arbeit facility and used the space to do 'things' in covert isolation. There is another more underlined reason for Aperture's decision to acquire Arbeit - and the reasoning behind the Combine's involvement, but that's super spoilery and won't be included here.

With these foundations in place I was able to dive in and get to work on Arbeit.

EZ2_C2_1

Early days.

This first map had to achieve a few things. First it had to cement the fact that the rebels had beaten us to it. Secondly it had to immediately convey our location to the player. This area you see in the image above became a vista showing off the first half of the Arbeit facility. We're also shot down and attacked by rebels as we approach the base, which ties everything in together.

Hammershots ARE sexy.

This was a defining area for us as developers. This was the first area we tested with our new Rebel AI. Initially I was just using the stock AI and it was pretty boring. We had to do some trickery with Scripted Sequences to get things to flow properly - but it was too much hassle and it could be janky at times. This was when I realised that Rebels needed a BIG change if we were going to keep gameplay interesting in EZ2.

After the changes, we were blown away - literally. The Rebels kicked our asses. Machine gunners use suppressing fire, rebel Brutes rush into melee range and blast you with their shotguns. Everyone uses cover more effectively and generally tries to keep constant pressure on the player. It's nothing like base Half-Life 2 combat. It takes your focus because you're constantly moving to avoid fire.

Bad Cop is always angry.

It's a great introduction to the Rebels of Arbeit - which pack an additional punch along with some other surprises you may have noticed in our live streams.

It took me about two and a half months to put this map together.

EZ2_C2_2

One of the biggest requests I had after making EZ1, was to introduce some kind of squad gameplay. I spoke about that a bit in the first Dev Spot. Players really wanted to command a squad of soldiers. This is immediately brought back into Chapter 2 and players can take squads of soldiers through Arbeit.

Me and the boys.

With this in mind, I really wanted to create some kind of office spaces for us to destroy. I took a lot of inspiration for these maps from a map called Ziba Tower, from Battlefield 3. These maps in particular have a lot of destructible properties, because it's fun and it also underlines the violent advancement of the Combine.

When building the second map of Chapter 2, I ran into a problem. Arbiet looked really boring.

SURE IS COUNTER-STRIKE IN HERE

The drab grey and whites did nothing for the scenes. I started to doubt my direction. But before I did the usual Breadman thing and threw it all in the trash, I decided I would try to experiment with the colour pallet first.

And boy did it make a difference.

Night and day!

Here's another comparison:

With the colours sorted I dived in and got to work with the building. Initially, we get a look at Arbeit's administrative facilities. As I said above I wanted to create some generic office spaces and use them as direction to drive towards something else.

Floorplan.

Rebels are used as a kind of buffer, as they advance towards us through corridors. From there the AI takes over and they can run to take cover in one of the offices or closets. Bullets fly and glass explodes. It's a chaotic combat experience and we've laced it with some incredible music from Spencer. All of it ties in to create a memorable experience that always feels like it's over way too soon.

We might still add some extra corridors and avenues to this map because the combat is SO MUCH FUN! If we ever do a demo, this will be the map you'll play because it embodies a lot of what we're trying to do with EZ2's combat.

EZ2_C2_3

Originally the third map of Chapter 2 was going to take us under Arbeit and into the more familiar Aperture-like facility you may have seen us showing off. After putting the map together though, it became obvious to us that there was so much potential in that map alone, that we had to run with the theme for an entire chapter.

So the old c2_3 became c3_1, and c2_3 got put on the burner for a while. A few months ago our Programmer 1upD picked up c2_3 to take the load off of me, which allowed me to go ahead and work on Chapters 3 and 4.

1up has been doing some amazing work with c2_3. The map brings us into a more industrialised shipping area in Arbeit, which fits really well considering the first half of the facility sits on a frozen shoreline.

Nice open spaces give us a break from confined corridors.

This area also serves another purpose; it allows us to introduce Bad Cop to Long-Jump Rebels. These Rebels can jump around all over the place and will do so, making your life a living hell. It's been a lot of fun seeing these new Rebel variants come to life. They're fun to fight - very intense.

Lone Wolf.

The map is sprawling and is filled some optional content which I'm not gonna spoil here. In fact, I'm not going to say too much else about this map because it's still a work in progress. I'm sure once we've wrapped it up 1upD would be happy to fill us in on all the development details!

It fits really well into the EZ2 scene and I can't wait to see what else 1upD can do for us.

There is another map planned for Chapter 2, but that's gonna be too spoilery for me to mention here.

That's a wrap for now on Chapter 2. We can't wait for players to get their hands on it!

If you want to support me, please consider buying me a coffee!