Download Alien Swarm SP

Alien Swarm SP is available for download via the link below:


And here's more new levels to play through than you'll ever need!

Swarm Armory Map Database

Here's the contents of the Readme.txt

Alien Swarm SP by Aazell

Installation Instructions:

1: You must have an up to date version of Alien Swarm installed on Steam in order to play Alien Swarm SP

Extract the contents of AlienSwarmSP.rar to the following folder in your Steam directory.


Now restart Steam and you should see Alien Swarm SP available in your games library.

Launching a map in Alien Swarm SP:
From the main menu of Alien Swarm SP select Play AS:SP option and you should see the mission selection screen. All addon campaigns (if you have installed any and activated them) should be available within this screen also.

I have encountered no bugs (heh heh) as yet but if you do please send an e-mail to giving as much information as you can and I will attempt to investigate the problem.

Hope you have fun with it...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

AS:SP Map Review Criteria

I will be reviewing a bunch of the most popular maps and campaigns created by the community on this site. My reviewing critera may upset a few mappers out there but I believe they are valid. In my opinion a good map is not the best looking or the most complex. A good map is a map that the player has fun playing. Fun can be destroyed in so many ways.... heres my main list of sins that I'll be looking out for.

1. Lack of direction to the player
The Lara Croft Sin
The player is forced to wander around the map desperately trying the most stupid actions in order to progress through the game simply because the mapper didnt make it clear what the player was supposed to be doing.

2. The Pinball Wizard
The player is continually backing up into props and junk in the main play area because the map is too dark and too cluttered. For gods sake people, keep the play area clear of obstructions!

3. No Rest For The Wicked
No break areas are provided. Swarm continue to harass the player regardless of where-ever they are in the map. Think of them like the safe rooms in Left 4 Dead. Theyre essential to good game play and allow the team to regroup.

4. It's All Too Much!
The mapper is a hardcore player of AS and designs his maps to his own difficulty level. Maps should be challenging but not onslaught crazy! Getting this balance right is essential for fun to bloom!

5: Go Back Young Man!
A dead end forces the player to backtrack through the same area of the map. Bad news and boring for players. You might get away with it if the play is changed dramatically but it very rarely works. Always provide a different exit.

6: Looks...
Yes its only number six on the list.. deal with it!
I want to feel lost in the environment. Doesnt matter if its an ugly environment. If its good enough that it doesnt distract from gameplay then its good enough for me.

7. Sound
Sound adds another dimension to the world. If you couldnt be arsed to add ambient sounds your going to lose points.

8: Tell me a Story!
In order to be drawn into a map Im going to need a decent story. Additional points if the story is progressed during the map itself through datapads, voiceovers, screentext etc...

Busy life at the moment so will take me a little while to get reviews out the door. In the mean time if any readers want to comment on AS:SP playing experiences with certain custom maps, send me your thoughts and I'll post them up here!

Monday, 14 March 2011

My thoughts on custom maps...

I've spent the last few days playing every custom map I can get my hands on. The initial reason for this was to recommend and not recommend maps that work with AS:SP.

I began to write a post detailing my findings on each map. My writings began to look like a serious review of each map. Then I stopped...

I have no wish to piss off the rest of the AS mapping community by arrogantly passing judgement on individual maps. It's not as if I've done better or produced any maps that were noteworthy.

There are a few points however that I'd like to get off my chest.

What's The Story, Morning Glory?

With the exception of the objectives and the overview briefing screen I've yet to find a single custom map that attempts to provide any kind of story to engage the players. A good story may seem to be unnecessary when players are going to be simply joining a map and blasting their way through it but I disagree with this. A story is what drives the players along. Give purpose to their actions. With a good story I feel you can take a standard bunch of online players and transport them to a different place and time and really engage with the game.

There have to be consequences to the players actions (other than being made to look a fool by dieing in the first 2 mins) or the whole game is pointless.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The second thing that I noticed about the majority of the maps is that they lack any kind of clear and sutble direction on where the hell you should be going. It's a number one rule among game designers. The worst sin you can commit is to leave the player confused as to what they should be doing. The game should never be, trying to work out what to do. It should be about the skill it takes to achieve your goal.

By simply lighting up important areas or using some other method to draw the players attention to it, you can save an awful lot of headaches.

This shouldn't be hitting them over the head with a sledge hammer either. There should be no big arrows or on screen text saying GO TO HERE! Never the less, through smart use of textures and lighting you can make it very obvious as to where the player is trying to get to and how to get there.

Alone In The Dark

One last observation I made about many maps was that they were seriously underlit. It's one thing to try and create a creepy or threatening atmosphere, it's another to leave the player in almost total darkness surrounded by annoying map items so that they have to bump their way through a map like some overcomplicated pin ball wizard.

Regardless of the setting or the mood or whether the players have flashlights or not there really is no excuse for not lighting up every corner of your map at all times.
It doesn't have to be fullbright but it does have to be well defined to prevent the players falling over themselves...

Nut Up Or Shut Up

Ok so now I've spouted on about the problems with the current crop of custom maps I should probably put my money where my mouth is.
With this in mind I'm building a simple series of maps for people to playtest (either MP or SP) that will hopefully manage to not break each of the rules above.

My maps will have an engaging story, the players path will be clear at all times without feeling linear and all areas of the map will be appropriately well lit.

Gulp... what have I let myself in for???!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Over 150 downloads... woot!

I'm really quite happy with the response to the mod so far...

I've actually released very little to the open web in my time as mapper. I tend to get a certain way through a map then lose the passion for it. I've realised since it is because I don't prepare properly.. the trick to finishing a map is to know the whole layout before you even open Hamme for the first time.

Well I supposed it's a double edged sword in some respects. My user base must be cared for now, I'm sure they're a greedy bunch. Let's hope we keep the content flow at a decent enough pace to keep peeps happy.

To be honest I've only been contacted by two of the 150 people that have downloaded this.

No news is good news???

I would actually like to hear from anyone who's used the mod and try and put together a wish list for the next version.

Support: Custom Maps

I had some feedback today that reminded me I hadn't actually pointed out to users that they would need to install any custom maps they wanted to play into the AlienSwarmSp directory.

AS:SP is smart, but it's not smart enough to go looking in the offical game directory Addons folder for any custom maps you might have downloaded.

So in order to play custom maps you're going to have to create a folder called "Addons" in the AlienSwarmSP folder, then move your custom map .vpk's in there in order for them to show up in the mission selection screen.

I will be updating the current version of AS:SP tonight so that the standard package comes with the "Addons" folder included and instructions in the Readme.txt file.

Until then use this post as direction...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Getting back to the beginning...

I've finally gotten all the functionality I wanted in place for me to build my map.

See all this began with a simple idea. Treat Alien Swarm as a top down Half-Life.
A single marine based map focussing on exploration and puzzle based gaming.

There were several things in the way of that.

1: The player selection screen and the ability for players to seleft their own weapons.
2: The offscreen player arrows which meant I couldnt place bots elsewhere in my map or the player would know they were there.
3: No ability to create cutscenes therefore difficult to tell a story
4: No other Human NPC's

Not sure if I can do much about 4. I will continue to check out the code but I think I've reached a point where I can crack on with mapping and be happy that the player experience will be what I wanted originally.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Cutscenes are mine at last!

What would a single player game be without a decent cutscene or two?
A bit rubbish if you ask me. Up till now it's been thought that Alien Swarm didn't come with any entities that allowed you to project an image to the full screen. I.e. present a camera driven scene to the players full screen.
The only thing that was provided was a small pop out camera screen at the side..
Well after a lot of tinkering I discovered that the image that was shown on that pop out video is actually a texture. That texture can be applied to any surface in a map by turning the brush you want it to appear on into a func_monitor, covering all sides in nodraw texture then applying the texture vgui/swarm/Computer/ComputerCamera.vtf to the side of the brush where you want the image to appear.

Nice... What's even nicer is if you use that image as an env_screenoverlay you can fill the players whole screen with the camera feed...

Here's a BSP map file for those who want to see the results... just drop it into your alien swarm maps folder.

Here's a .vmf map file for those that want to see how it's done.

Ahh I can now go to bed with a sense of achievement!


I have managed to create a new .VMT file that removes the security camera style overlay. It can be downloaded Here!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Beta 0.2 Almost Ready

We're in a fast development cycle over here at AS:SP. Beta 0.2 is compiling as I type this.

0.2 is a functionality update really. I've changed the main menu buttons, loading screen and background video so when you're playing AS:SP you know you're playing it and not regular Alien Swarm.
plaYer2K has worked his magic and taken my altered code and bundled it in with his better HUD mod.

Loading Screen

Main Menu

If you want to mod Alien Swarm you can't do better than start with the Hud mod. It's added so many more configurable elements therefore avoiding the need for coding.
I'll wait for him to announce what he's added but it really opens up the opportunities for changing the look and feel of the game menus etc..

We seem to have developed a rather odd partnership. I change code in my mod.. tell him what I've changed.. he then decides which elements he'd like to mod further and make it changable through a config file which then gets passed on to you guys through the Better Hud Mod. Everybody wins! :)

Anyway... hoping Beta 0.2 will be out later today... stay tuned!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Modding game code isnt that hard. Give it a try!

Before 2 weeks ago I had never attempted modding, especially changing the game code and recompiling.

It's a bit of a hurdle that some folks aren't willing to jump but trust me... it's really not that difficult.

If you cock it up at any point you just delete the mod folder and start again.

I've noticed quite a bit of coder snobbery in the HL2 modding community that can also make it difficult to get into coding. There's a general attitude of "I had to learn it so you should go through the same pain". I disagree with this. Once you've worked something out, write up a quick tutorial on it and post it to the web so that others can be saved the pain. If they're not willing to learn then fair enough... give em a little attitude.

I do understand the frustration of coders though. Young bright eyed kids hit the forums with good and bad ideas without any comprehension of how much work would be involved to achieve what they want. They often also have no desire to learn how to do the work for themselves and an expectation that coders have nothing better to do than make their dreams come true.

I'll be writing up a tutorial on beginner modding and altering code for Alien Swarm shortly.

But until then here's some assumption smashed...

Altering game code requires a knowledge of how to write c++ code!


The majority of people who create mods and edit the game code wouldn't know how to write a new application in c++. All they do is tweak the code or cut and paste already written code from another valve game into the existing game code in order to create new functionality. You simply need a basic knowledge of the general coding concepts, structure of c++ and be willing to pull the code apart and break it down into understandable chunks.

Learning how c++ works through looking at Alien Swarm code is incredibly difficult, dont try! (as per valve SDK website)


I would say that you'll learn a lot more from looking at code in a working application than following some tutorial that helps you print out "Hello World!" in the windows command console.

It takes an especially brainy person to understand and write code!


I don't believe in the concept of "brainy". Anyone can do anything given time, curiosity and a clear goal. It takes a coder with experience to write good code but isn't that the way with everything. Someone who's been doing something for a long time will be better at it. That's the way of the world and everyone has to start somewhere.

So go ahead, create a mod, install Visual Studio Express 2008. Compile it, then start messing around with the variables. See what you can create!

Things wot I have learned...

Will be writing a tutorial on all I've discovered over the past two days. I've learned so much I dont know where to begin.

VPK revelations

Finally worked out why many things I changed in my mod had no effect in the game. It's all about the VPK.
The VPK files in the Swarm directory of the official game are like a big zip file. Each file in the VPK has parts spread over all of them. In order to know where each part of each file is the game refers to the GCF file. The GCF file is like a guide as to how to read the VPK files. It tells the game where to find all the bits of the file have been stored in the various VPK files.

So when you extract a file from the VPK file and place it in your mod the engine gets confused and makes some assumptions. If it finds a file in your mod directory that normally resides in the VPK then it assumes that it doesnt have to look in the VPK at all. As a result your mod will go all funny because its not finding a shed load of the files it needs.

The way around this is to change the name of the reference file the engine has to look for and then save your modded file under that name.

So for example, if I want to mod mainmenu.res I search the code for that name appearing in a particular .cpp file, change the code to look for mainmenu_mymod.res, then compile. Then I extract mainmenu.res from the swarm VPK file, make my changes and save it to my mod directory as mainmenu_mymod.res.
Now the game has no where else to look but my mod directory.

Build vs Rebuild

This is funny. I really didnt understand the difference between the Build option and the Rebuild option in Visual Studio. As a result I was hitting rebuild each time then waiting nearly an hour for my mod to recompile everything. Hit build and it will only compile the files youve changed and takes 2 mins. LOL I am a twat...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Instant Health and Ammo Pick-ups to add to your maps

OK I made these a while back.

These are instant pick-ups for your marines. Basically the old school arcade game floating, rotating icons that when you walk over them you get an instant health or ammo top up.

I'll explain how they work using the instant health.vmf

Visual Elements
The pick-up icon is basically a prop_dynamic set to "not solid" of the standard heath kit you can pick up in the game. It's orientated vertically and then parented to a func_rotating which is covered in the nodraw texture. I added a point_spotlight to it just to make it a bit glowy. I've parented the model and the point_spotlight to the func_rotating so that the model and the light rotate. Suggest you play with settings on the point_spotlight as it's a little bright.

Audio elements
I've added a asw_ambient_generic with the standard health pack application sound to the entity so this will play when health boost hits.

The health top up
The actual health top up is done through a server command. To do this we need to include a point_servercommand entity to your map. You'll only need one point_servercommand per map you build. I've included one in the .vmf file.
Also in order to issue the command that tops up the marines heath we need to have cheats enabled so be sure to include the sv_cheats 1 command in your map config file (see here for how map specific config files work in this mod).

The trigger
A standard trigger_once as we will only be using this pick up the one time.

How it all comes together
So the player walks into the trigger, the trigger has the following outputs:
-Play sound
-Send servercommand asw_gimme_health (refills the health of all marines)
-Kill prop_rotating (which in turn kills all entities parented to it, i.e. the model and the point_spotlight)

And we're done...

The insta_ammo.vtf does exactly the same thing except the model is changed for an ammo box. I changed the colour of the point_spotlight to differentiate them and the command it fires is asw_gimme_ammo.

Hope you choose to include them in your AS:SP map.


Here's the links to download the .vmf's


Main Menu continues to frustrate.

Spent another 4 hours tweaking code to try and get those damn background movies to go away. Managed to find the .cpp file that controls them. Can change the movie that shows up by default to one that does not show the Alien Swarm logo in it. This has potential as I can then float the mod title graphic over the top of it. But at the end of the day thats not what I really want. I want to see the background map so will continue plugging on until I get it.

Got very excited when I found a .res file that has a setting to make the movie file visible or not visible, that didn't work unfortunatley. Then with help from Nightgunner I managed to uncover a value setting for movie_enabled. Set it to false. Recompiled.... didnt work...

Grrrr... once I crack this Im building in a CVAR so that mappers can swich the background movies on or off as they see fit. No one else should have to go through this pain.

I have everything else in place...

My background map movie is up and running.
It's a simple concept. A single marine model stands alone on a completely black background with a single spotlight shining down on it. The camera then moves around the model, slowley up from the feet to the head, rotates aound etc...
All this with a soundtrack playing of a bugle playing The Last Post.

Should be pretty cool...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Main Menu Frustration

Had some feedback that the main menu page should be altered to show the name or the mod and the Play Online option should be removed. They are of course correct and its been on my mind for a while.

So, last night I delved into the horrid black hole that is the Alien Swarm Main Menu. And quite frankly its a pig to edit.
Half life 2's main menu was a joy to work with. After an hours work I could have a cool looking background map with new options showing and even get a logo up there... job done.
Not so with Alien Swarm. Changing the menu options should be as easy as modifying the mainmenu.res, gamemenu.res and the english translation.txt file. All do-able in a text editor.

However, every time I change any of these the menus get corrupted and the flyout menus (the menus that pop out from the side of the main options) go all funky and become unusable. Most frustrating.

The other immensly frustrating thing is that the bacground for the menu is a .bik video file. I need to get this disabled so that the regular viewport is available.

A very nice man working on the fantastic Jastain Summer mod sent me their modified mainmenu code. Have tinkered with this and managed to break my mod about 8 times.

I know I'll get there in the end. I always do but its so frustrating that something so simple as modifying a menu could be so damned hard and unintuative.

Ok a little tip for anyone planning to release a free game that you hope the modding community will keep alive...


OK rant over and it's back to work for me.