Bringing a 20 year old map back to life

Posted 7 months ago2023-08-17 03:56:43 UTC
This journal describes my journey in trying to bring an old map back to life.

For whatever reason, it seems like my time in the Counter-Strike/TFC mapping community was formative to me, and it’s a memory I keep coming back to. Something about the feeling of creative empowerment – the ability to create my own worlds – was intoxicating for me as an adolescent. I think I started mapping in 1999, when I was 14. I stuck with it as an active community participant until maybe 2002, but when you’re that age a few years can feel like a long time.

The mapping community was quite large in those days, with CS and TFC being two of the most widely played online games at the time. I went by the name of questionable.ethics, and mostly hung out on the mapping forum; I was even a moderator for a time (the easter egg in this map shouts some of my mapping forum buddies from the era). I am new to TWHL, and actually I think it opened after I had already started to move on from mapping and texturing. I love seeing people still working with these tools and making such great content. Truly some of the work here blows my mind.

Despite this being apparently such a big part of my life, I finished and released surprisingly few maps. I was actually making a lot more textures in those days.

The map is called tf_autocrat and would have been made some time between 2001-2002, in the twilight years of TFC as a widely played game. In making this map, I was fascinated by the way that stock TFC maps seemed to be set nowhere in particular. They were vaguely military or industrial, but primarily they were just non-specific battle arenas. Architectural embellishments were rare in the stock maps. The really nice user-created maps, on the other hand, were often set in urban or middle-eastern environments, the latter because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the news constantly.

In tf_autocrat, I wanted to maintain the vaguely industrial look of the stock TFC maps, but with a much higher level of detail. The overall terrain is still non-sensical and doesn’t correspond to any real-world locations. I never got the TFC entities working. Worse still, I had lost the most recent compiled version of the map and just had all the source material.

Back in 2020, around 20 years after I had started the map, I took advantage of the COVID-19 lockdowns to bring it back. I haven’t used a PC in years, but I was able to get all the tools working on my work computer. Using Worldcraft (or Hammer, as it’s called now) is a skill that never goes away. I added a new underwater pipe route through the tunnels, re-created the lights.rad and other missing files, and recompiled the map. It’s amazing how much faster this process is than it was in 2001.

Anyhow, here it is. It’s just a ghostly, empty map from a long time ago that I had the chance to explore again. There’s something very unique to the feeling of walking through a virtual space you haven’t set foot in for decades. I’m sure others here can relate. I hope you take the time to explore, and I hope you enjoy it. The custom textures in the map are all my own creations, so please feel free to use anything from the .wad you like.

I have uploaded this to the TWHL vault, the link is here.

The vault entry is filled with screenshots, but I'll repost a few here:
View of the overworldView of the overworld
The blue baseThe blue base
The underground cavernsThe underground caverns


Commented 7 months ago2023-08-17 07:20:37 UTC Comment #105481
Welcome to TWHL! Always great to see more TFC content and returning veterans 😄 I already took a quick look at the map and it looks great!
(By the way, the Vault has a listing for Team Fortress Classic for the Game category, since I noticed you used HL) ;)
Edit: Just read the description in the vault entry 😅 There are still some people left still playing TFC (myself included!) so please don't feel discouraged from finishing it

Out of curiosity, since you said you released a few maps, which ones? I've played a lot of TFC through the years, perhaps I've already tried some of them?
Commented 7 months ago2023-08-18 04:04:24 UTC Comment #105485
Gosh it's a little hard to remember what maps I made that actually saw release. I feel like back in those days a 'release' consisted of a forum post and a link to the map on a file sharing website (I think fileplanet was one?). It was difficult to get people to play new maps. Servers weren't interested in running them because downloads from the game server were excruciatingly slow, especially on 56k with maps having a lot of custom assets, so most people would drop out once a new map started loading. This is before in-game systems for voting on the next map or anything like that.

Anyhow, I think the most popular map I released in terms of hours played was actually a re-texture and re-model of cs_militia. The author of that map released the .rmf file at some point, so a lot of people made their own versions of it. I made new textures for it, re-did all the rocks, and added some other niceties here and there. It was called cs_militia_qe and I think it made it onto some servers for a while.
I also did a de_dust retexture, as was the style at the time. The .wad for de_dust was unbelievably popular in those days. This is because they were some of the best textures available, and aesthetically quite apart from the industrial/lab stuff that most people had access to. As I mentioned, this is also probably because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were very central in the public consciousness. A lot of movies, games, and popular media spoke to this as well, and our maps inevitably reflect the spirit of their times. Anyhow, a good way to get your name out there as a texture artist was to make alternate versions of the de_dust.wad, because mappers who've already made their map using that wad can plug in yours instead, and instantly have a more distinctive product.
de_dust re-texturede_dust re-texture
Another map I remember getting some play was a super rough experiment I made when drivable vehicles were first introduced into Counter-Strike (I think maybe Beta 7?) I made a giant track that was pretty close to the limits of the engine, and a drivable two-storey 'building'. One team had control of the drivable building, the other team only had a little cart to chase them. The object was to invade the building as it was driving. The physics were really bizarre but I remember it somewhat working and being a lot of fun. I think the map was called raceomatic, or something like that. It is out there somewhere but I've lost track of a playable version.
I forgot what this one was calledI forgot what this one was called
Finally, I think I released a dustbowl-style map called snowbowl for TFC. I don't have the source material any more and I can't seem to find it online, so very little information remains.
Just going through my files and trying to dredge up memories, it seems like I spent more of my time trying to make maps and textures for Counter-Strike. But I spent more of my gaming time playing TFC. This is probably why there are more CS maps here.
Commented 7 months ago2023-08-18 06:16:41 UTC Comment #105487
I actually played that func_vehicle invade-the-building one! It had some unique gameplay combined with the jankiness of the goldsrc physics which made it a very fun map 😄
Commented 7 months ago2023-08-21 15:10:14 UTC Comment #105495
Necromancy! That's what it is!
Commented 7 months ago2023-09-06 18:33:36 UTC Comment #105531
That's one of the coolest things I've read this week, must have felt surreal walking around a map you've made that long ago, glad you were able to recover the files and compile it again. Thanks for sharing this story and the map.

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