I'm really surprised I remembered the password to this account. The last computer I used to log into TWHL was a family tower computer that came with a sparking brand new operating system called Windows 7. In the time I've started using the site I graduated high school, got my diploma, and gained and lost jobs.
Half-Life along with the first Unreal Tournament were not only the first first-person shooter games I ever played, but also the first ones I played that came with their own map editors. Being a preteen without a real creative outlet, I quickly went to task to learn how to make rooms and boxes.
Seeing how I wasn't out of elementary school at the time, I had no knowledge about concepts such as player flow, the importance of lighting, and basic optimization techniques. I was making square rooms and crates, but they were my
square rooms and crates, and that made me happy.
I've been a lurker on this site for over a decade. I remember scrolling through the new Half-Life map vault submissions for new deathmatch maps to play with friends. I remember listening to a version of Bohemian Rhapsody with lyrics replaced by TWHL in-jokes. I remember following along with the developer updates of The Core, and I remember the first time I had ever tried to be a part of an online community. At the time, the tutorials and resources hosted on TWHL ranked very high on the search results when you Googled Goldsource tutorials. I visited the site enough to eventually break and create an account. Maybe I'd eventually upload some maps of my own now that I was actually starting to piece things together.
I was very shy on the internet back then. I didn't make an account to use the forms or make friends, so when I penned and published my first journal entry
on this site, I was almost horrified that it was publicly posted. My anxiety was assuaged however when people were mostly supportive that I had shared that I knew how to make turrets work. I had accidentally made first landing with the community.
I continued messing with Half-Life, all the while posting on TWHL more journal updates about what I had been up to from making songs with default FL Studio plugin presets, to what MS-Paint quality game I was making with Game Maker 8. Eventually I had completed my first ever map
. It was a basic house design made by someone who had just got the hang of how to create brushes, used the carve tool for everything, and didn't have any structured plan for the map and added rooms and objects as they went.
After uploading my map and receiving comments there were trying to be as diplomatic as possible to someone who'd just uploaded their first ever map of a collection of brushes that dares to call itself a house, I took a break from the site for one reason or another and didn't return for several months. When I got back, due to what I still can only assume was a practical joke played on me, Apartment had won a Map of the Month Award. Not only that, but it won by a staggering margin against maps that were made by people who weren't 14 years old. It beat out maps that actually had talented people crafting them instead of someone who made an octagonal brush and called it a table. And the reward for winning the award was that one of the site's mods had to create a review video of it. The task begrudgingly fell on Urby
Watching today, the video is hilarious. Allegedly, Urby had an undisclosed amount of alcohol in him as the camera was pointed at him to record his thoughts. I'd have made the same video were I in their shoes; it's a shit rough-brushed layout, and it got called out as such. Why was the outside plasterboard? Why was it in space? Why were the floors more than 64 units thick? Why was the windowless house 90% dead ends? Why did people vote for it for Map of the Month? Honestly, the video makes itself.
I was 14 at the time, however, and when I watched it then I didn't find it funny at all. I legitimately remember tearing up that someone was eviscerating not only the first map I ever made, but the first piece of content I had ever stepped out of my comfort zone shared online. It took me quite a while to get over it.
When I was 12 I went to a 3-week long sleepover camp. It was the first time I had ever spent an elongated amount of time away from my parents, and I dealt rather badly with it. I didn't like the food being served, I had a loose tooth that really hurt but didn't want to fall out, and I missed my parents dearly. I remember being in the office of the head of the camp, crying that I wanted to go home. It took me a while to get over it.
The point I'm making here is that the Apartment debacle was just one of the many important life lessons I would learn growing up. I actually point to this event helping me develop healthy attitudes when it comes to receiving criticism and feedback, especially if they come from people who know what they're taking about. Urby wasn't going to go on camera and lie about how my map was good for someone who was new to map making. It won the award, and it was going to be held to the standard that all other MotM winners were. I had to learn this lesson at some point if I wanted to participate in an online community, and in retrospect I'm glad I learned it here instead of somewhere else where it could've gone much, much worse.
So what I have done since then? Since then I almost became one of the best Lethal League 1 players in the world, peaking at #8 in tournament ELO in 2015. I learned how to map in the DOOM engine and after studying racing game design theory and I got my first ever map, Coastal Temple Zone
, included in the release of the Sonic Robo Blast 2: Kart community cup, available in every vanilla installation of the game. I became the fastest speedrunner of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
for both Any% and 100% outside of Japan. But beyond that, I've been floundering from community to community, never really finding my place.
One of my personal issues when it comes to my hobbies is that I'm a serial starter. I hyper focus on a particular interest very hard for around 5 months, then move on to something else. The upside is that. The downside is that I end up disappearing for years without really a trace and end up decaying ties with friends I might have made - just ask the SRB2K discord about that. I tried returning to TWHL in 2015 or so, but it didn't stick, and I was soon off doing other things.
So what was the point of this journal? Well one thing, I guess this acts as my "Hey, hope you're doing well!" to all the nice people I met over the decade on this site, if they even read this far into this word salad that assuredly has many typos and grammar mistakes. While I haven't really done anything here in years, I'll always remember this place and am so happy it still exists (and by all accounts, is still active). I still sometimes boot up my copy of Jackhammer and start brushing out a Half-Life Deathmatch map that will never be finished. Maybe I'll finish one for old time sakes and upload it. I don't think I ever really redeemed myself.