Screenshot Update – de_boardroom map for CS:GO



New shots uploaded tonight. I’ve been able to peck out an hour here or there on this map over the last month, and I’m at the point where I require feedback. I’ll be uploading soon, very soon, for some initial testing. I won’t be doing any more work on the map itself before uploading, but I do need to create a basic radar image for the hud.

New bombsite for boardroom

Playing around this weekend with having two bombsites in this map instead of just one. So much verticality, I like the idea of giving the T’s a bombsite within a few seconds of the spawn. It is likely to spread players out more yet the silo-like vertical paths should let shifts/feints happen quickly in response to one team or another. Definitely not a conventional CS map.


new bombsite

Bombsite B

Work in Progress 2: CS:Go Map de_boardroom

I have worked in a new look for the main atrium.

Major changes include the new wood look, and adding a small bit of cover around the boardroom table. I don’t want to add too much and I will also be adding furniture and potentially a few small walls down in the atrium, so this may change again. Also I made the sculpture have a bright texture for now, because it was vanishing and muddying up the player’s view. Ultimately I’ll have a real model in it’s place, probably something with a bright shiny bronze or copper patina.



I have also reworked the elevator shaft, changing the location of the access hatch, and adding a short vent that leads down to the janitor’s closet. This will allow a choice of entering the atrium directly from the elevator, or from the janitor’s closet adjacent to it. The elevator shaft alone was a very direct route, but too easy to camp. CT’s were sitting ducks if they all decided to go that way.

de_boardroom0008The player pops out in the janitor’s closet via a drop down. It will take more playtesting to see if I need to add a way back up through this vent. My gut says yes.


The final area that needs a lot of work is this upper tier. It is currently impossible for the player or bots to reach, however I mean for it to become a difficult to reach sniper’s nest. Both teams will have quick access to the landing, but it will require jumping and careful footwork. This will possibly balance the eagle-eye view that it will give the players that reach it.


Not too much longer and the map will be at a Alpha stage and I’ll start thinking about releasing it. So far throwing bots at it has come up with a fairly even split, but I have a few major choices to make before finalizing the nav mesh.

  • To make or not to make the north windows opaque in order to spread players out further before the first conflict?
  • Cover and new flow on the roof, atrium, and a few empty rooms
  • Finalize the look and feel.

Simple Narrative Design and Role Playing in Minecraft

Creating stories and experiences for other people to enjoy is amazing fun. Lots of people have already discussed doing this within Minecraft, so I’ll simply share a few scenes and ideas from a small quest that I’m working on in my server. The target audience: two pre-teen nephews of a buddy of mine.

The core idea within Minecraft is that of total freedom within a world with seemingly few but very strict rules. I’m talking Survival mode here, where building a decent sized village actually matters, and shows a good amount of dedication.

When you watch kids play Minecraft, or even better -play along with them- you realize very quickly that:

  • a) They don’t need your help, but
  • b) They might benefit from a little focus from time to time.

Ready for adventure?


Kids play Minecraft as naturally as I remember running around my suburban neighborhood in the ’80’s. Back when kids played outside for real, we considered several square miles to be open game (even more in rural areas). Our transportation tended to be BMX style bikes, and we would use each other’s houses as waypoints and safe zones between adventures. Everyone had total mastery of the immediate areas around their house, and everyone shared this knowledge within the group.

We all knew the alleys, and which street to take when going this way, because it curves and meets up with that other street sooner. Or going in the opposite direction, we’ll take that street, because it has a great long slope that we can cruise our bikes down with no hands.

The outer boundaries of our fiefdoms came naturally. As a kid, you learned to stay away from the edges of your world, yet to slowly expand them. If you strayed too far off you feared losing the control you had. This was a very real invisible wall; kids that lived just outside of the fog of war were left out, if getting to their house meant crossing a huge road or passing a few run-down buildings. Yet as we became older and more experienced, we pushed through these walls and slowly expanded the world. The excitement of exploration is a prime motivator.

With that memory in mind, and playing Minecraft for several years with kids of all ages, it finally came about that I would elect myself an adhoc Dungeon Master on the server that I play on. I am not leading groups of players to dungeons, players know how to do that by themselves. Instead, I am simply adding a small amount of structure to the world, to play along side Minecraft’s immense procedural content.

My goal with this is to have players find an unexpected item which triggers a series of events and tasks, leading up to the discovery of a massive underground complex ready to be explored. It’s basically Minecraft with a little history added. (In working on this and writing it, I have become extremely jealous of anyone working on the new EQ game!)


I decided to pick several spots on our map that would make sense for a very simple scavenger hunt. In order to ensure that at least one of the kids would even find my quest, I am creating several starting points, each with their own path to the end of the line. Since I don’t exactly have time to mess around with all of this stuff, I am keeping it very simple.

For the uninitiated: The terrain below was randomly created. Each point of interest on the map was either created randomly by the game, built by everyone on the server, or built by me in secret.


Players will travel between 300-1500 meters per leg of the quest, a good number to keep things moving while still feeling epic.

The players will hopefully find the first clue at the Witch House to the East of our base. This is a fairly new private server, so my plans will not be foiled unless I can’t implement the entire quest before someone stomps into the stuff that I’ve already prepared. In anticipation of that, I have been working backwards. I started in the remote areas I know no one has been to yet, and have worked my way back towards the planned quest starting points.

The quest is temporarily called “The Mystery of the Missing Explorers”. I have located an Abandoned Mineshaft on a different continent that will act as the “Mysterious Abandoned Dig-site”. This is a key strength of Minecraft and good procedural content in general: I am able to skim the game world for what I’m looking for, and re-purpose it to my needs within the story. And since most of the work was done by the creators of Minecraft, I’m just doing an easy piggy-back which will hopefully give a few kids the willies.



Story Devices in Minecraft

We are running a vanilla server with no mods. For now I’m limited to using these items to tell a story:

  • Environmental Details such as buildings and props to build out new story context (It’s minecraft, duh).
  • Explanatory Signs to mark important features, describe areas, and label points of interest.
  • Book and Quill to create individual pages such as journals, instructions, letters, etc.

The limitations are pretty huge when compared to an RPG. I could devise a redstone machine that would allow me to do some collection quests, but I’ll save that for v2. This would also be perfect for booby traps.

The strengths of these devices is that I can quickly build out some detailed, themed areas and fill them with passive story telling. This works great in Left4Dead, and the against the literal vacuum of structure within Minecraft, I believe even a few mysterious notes with simple hints will spur the players along.



If the players find an alternate book hidden in our mega underground mining complex, it will lead them here, via a long ride by horseback from our main area.


This Villager will meet an untimely end…this is to be the “Abandoned Village” and I will be slaughtering these AI in the name of the Muses. The other Village will remain populated. Wish I could script these guys!



I created this house and dock (“Boat House”) to provide a grounded place to travel to before being directed to get across the ocean. In Minecraft it’s very easy to build boats, but the Boat House is just a detail that gives the story more depth.



The player approaches an unknown land with a tiny cabin. What could it be? Who lived there? What happened to them?




One of the books I have written and placed around the world to add story details. These are created in-game.



The most remote part of the quest – the location of the cabin in the woods with an abandoned stairway dug straight down into the ground.


The final bit of light players will have before spelunking below. I tunneled far far below this point, placing chests with story books as I went. At the bottom of this is a procedural (game-created) Mineshaft. I then re-traced my steps and removed all of the torches and any sign of my presence along the way. “Leave no Trace”…

Seriously, it freaked me out. It is sooo un-Minecraft to let the zombies reclaim the land, unless perhaps in pvp.

As I was deep in the ground writing the final book page that describes the Explorer’s moment of doom, I heard a quiet and soft padding approach slowly from behind. At the last second I realized I had become a character in my own novel. It was a creeper.

Will report back with the results of this little adventure.

Work in Progress 1: CS:Go Map de_boardroom

Here are some work in progress images on de_boardroom.

  • Level flow is basically done. There are a few questionable areas that I need to hammer on.
  • Ready to block in some better brushwork in the atrium. I’ve got a sweet reference image I’ll use.
  • Nav is in and working great, except in the elevator shaft. Bots are getting stuck so I’ll need to zhuzh the clip brushes and nav mesh there.

Don’t Fill the Gaps

Last weekend I had a few hours to kill with my daughter. She’s probably too young, but nostalgia got the better of me, so I threw Never Ending Story into the ps3. It had been years since I watched it, and I enjoyed sitting there with a surprisingly quiet and enrapt 18-month old.


Later that day, she kept saying “Horsie – Oh NO!” so hopefully I haven’t scarred her for life.

While watching, especially the ending, I was reminded of some of the Assassin’s Creed storyline. If you haven’t played it, I’ll just leave it at that. Go play a few of the AC games. Anyway-

This got me googling, and I ran into this primo piece, which you should read! The crux:

The great temptation, the fatal temptation, of adult fans of fantastic fiction is the temptation of Law. We want the contents of our imagination taxonomied and classified, ordered and indexed, subject to rules and regulations. Gaps exist to be filled. Mysteries exist to be solved. Legends are just timelines that haven’t been formalized yet. Fantastic fiction becomes a code to crack.


Building Massive Worlds

With this, I was immediately struck by my recent endeavors on creating yet another new world and the story to make up the game. Yes – it’s very hard and time consuming. With games you’ve got narrative, characters, world, and you want it to relate to the gameplay as well, right?

And I had this nagging feeling the entire time Bungie described their new world: this is all too much. Cart before the horse, creating empty slots to be filled just because you “need another slot”. It’s all very disconcerting.

We need to be writing with the gaps in mind, and not afraid to have some holes. LOST got away with it, and only failed in the viewership’s eyes because they slowly filled everyone’s gaps. Once you set up a question in the player’s mind, they will fill it with some sort of answer. If the questions are wild enough, you’ll have millions of different answers, which your players will spend hours and hours arguing over. If you fill your story gaps with game content, you are removing the meta-story content from your world. And those hours spent discussing and arguing – players long for that experience. Leave the gaps, let players use their imaginations.

New indie game project: hatchlight

Other Pastures

Please check out my new project, hatchlight. We are focusing on rapid development of ios games. When I say rapid, I’m talking 2 week dev cycles. One level higher than a game jam, and with the same goal of creativity.

The games are complete, though lacking a ton of content or really expansive gameplay. But we are structuring them for a long slow build, where each game can get new gameplay and levels as needed.


Our first game is called Rescue Love Revenge, and is already out. The game is an “Episodic Retro Indie Three-Act Spaghetti Western Platformer for iOS”. We had a freaking blast making Chapter 1, and hope that we get enough support to really flesh out the story.


Our second game has no title yet. Its code name is Indiana, and it’s an exploration and collection game. The vibe is similar to many puzzle and adventure games, though we are adding our own twist.

Building a Community

One thing we are doing with hatchlight that we did not do enough of at Controlled Chaos is talking. We actively blog and share development, and already have half a dozen web builds posted. We also plan to be active in the Dallas gamedev community, hopefully we can make it to the April GameDevDrinkUp!

We came so far..

For those interested, Controlled Chaos is still around, but had to lay everyone off. It was a great 4 and a half years for me, coming on at the very beginning as employee number 1. In my time at Controlled Chaos, I worked on so many projects and different types of projects, I can only say that I’m thankful for the experience.

We started cchaos when the app store was still in its infancy and people would look at you funny when you said that you were starting a studio “to make iPhone games”. In addition to our mobile work, we were busy:

  • prototyped a first person shooter (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post…)
  • developed a potentially ground-breaking location based Augmented Reality quest game that was heartbreaking-ly cancelled
  • created The Quest to Lava Mountain nutrition-oriented zelda / metroidvania

and so many other cool projects for clients. Plus, aside from some major ups and downs, working at and building Controlled Chaos was simply a lot of fun.

Now the task of starting over. As we say at hatchlight, “We won’t make the same mistakes. We’ll make new ones, and it will be spec-tac-u-lar.”