Tom Chiu - Technical Designer/Level Designer / 901.857.6610
Tom Chiu - Black Death


Tom Chiu - Black Death Tom Chiu - Black Death Tom Chiu - Black Death Tom Chiu - Black Death
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Overview: Black Death is a single-player Half-Life 2: Episode Two level that deviates from the original gameplay. In the post-apocalyptic future, Gordon Freeman must escape from a zombie-infested medieval tourist town outside of City 17 with no allies and only two tools at his disposal--his trusty crowbar and a confusion crossbow. The new crossbow confuses enemies into attacking the victims rather than killing them. Outmanned, he must adapt to his new environment and find the balance between crowbar and crossbow.

Design Goals:

  • Create gameplay that differs from those of Half-Life 2
  • Encourage exploration through visual and gameplay rewards
  • Immerse the player in a medieval atmosphere

Mission Type: Single-player stand-alone

Play Time: ~10 minutes


  • Concept and documentation
  • Building the blockmesh
  • Gameplay scripting
  • Detailing
  • Cinematics
  • Lighting & FX

Development Time: 4 weeks (30 hrs/week)





Storage Hallway: Just prior to this screenshot, the player was given a crate and asked to break it open without any tools. This scripted sequence makes the zombie break a couple of crates when the player is looking at this direction. It provides a clear hint to the player without actually telling him what to do and thus maintains immersion.


Garage: This area offers the player a chance to maul the zombies with his newfound crowbar after the scare of taking on a zombie without any weapons. The small garage works as a gate and a cool-down transition to the next, exploration-oriented section of the level.


Wine Cellar: When the player enters the wine cellar, he encounters a group of zombies surrounding a Combine soldier. The level introduces a new crossbow mechanic here, and this sequence gives the player plenty of time to pick up the crossbow and test out the new mechanic. It also makes the space feel more alive and foreshadows future Combine encounters.


Columned Corridor: Showcased here, the crossbow no longer kills but emits a confusion gas around the victim. The yellow gas confuses nearby enemies into attacking the victim. This unique mechanic caters to both stealth and brawl tactics, as the player can choose between sneaking by and whacking the distracted zombies.


Windows: The windows attract the player with plenty of interesting visuals like the crows and the skyline. Players usually peer out of the windows to see this exact view after the previous encounter. It shows the player the path from which he came and the progress he has made so far in the level, and the change in verticality gives the player another perspective on the vineyard.


Town Square: The player encounters a large on-going battle here between the Combine and the zombies. The noise and gunfire completely changes the atmosphere, increasing the pace and the intensity of the level. The player now has to take what he has learned about the new mechanic and make the most out of it. The horde of enemies make running the gauntlet near impossible. Rather, the player must utilize his experience and ingenuity to isolate the threats.


Restaurant Deck: The deck offers obvious height advantages, so pickups visible from the ground entice the player to climb up here. Once the player confuses the Combine with crossbow shots, he can easily climb the ladder up and attack them in close-quarters. The spires of the castle draws the player towards the exit through the remaining parts of the level.


The Gate: The player is trapped inside the town square and must figure out a way to leave. When the player turns the crank, it lifts the weighted gate, and light from the other side seeps in. However, as soon as the player lets go, the weighted gate begins falling. The release is timed so that the player feels the adrenaline of barely sliding under the closing gate.


The Woods: The level rewards the player with a serene and visually-pleasing outdoor scene for completing the final puzzle. The openness and tranquility of this area contrasts with the previous environment. It provides a pleasant conclusion that leaves room for expanding the gameplay into another level.


Full Playthrough