I don’t have fun whenever I play through Ravenholm. I just admire all that Valve put into it for it to trying for it to not be worse. Ravenholm is an objectively good chapter, even if you don’t find it fun.
I’m not going to act like I know all about game design, because I don’t. This guide is just what I think is good design from developer commentary and stuff. I’m not a game designer.
Branding image by Shreb.
Information by Shreb.
Screenshots by Shreb.
Quality Assurance by Capt. Joel T. Kirk.
Guiding the Player
The entire chapter of We Don’t Go To Ravenholm is very dark. This allows the developers to easily guide the player by using lights. Light sources are an effective way to tell a player where to go, since our brains have evolved to tell ourselves to stay in the light. Therefore, players will naturally walk toward light sources, and since Valve knows how to guide a player through a game, they will put light sources where the player needs to go to progress closer to the mines of Ravenholm. This is used from the start of Ravenholm to the end.
You can see that there is a light source where the player needs to go:
Gravity Gun Practice
In the chapter before Ravenholm, Black Mesa East, Alyx awards you the Gravity Gun and gives you some practice in a safe environment with Dog, Alyx’s companion. After this there is a combine attack on Black Mesa East that forces Gordon into Ravenholm. Ravenholm’s main population are slow moving zombies, which are perfect practice for the Gravity Gun before Gordon gets dropped into a battle with Combine Soldiers. In Ravenholm, ammunition is scarce but props are plentiful, therefore encouraging the player to use the gravity gun instead of a weapon that consumes ammunition when fired.
Also, here’s an environmental tutorial for you. At the beginning of Ravenholm, there is an old workshop with a zombie’s torso held up by a sawblade with it’s legs under it, showing that sawblades are effective at killing zombies.
Literally around the corner from that, there is a pair of sawblades blocking the players path. Since you can’t pick sawblades up without the Gravity Gun, the player picks up a sawblade, and as soon as that happens a zombie walks out of the door. Since it is the only thing that the player is holding, the player shoots the sawblade at the zombie. When the player sees the sawblade just glide through the zombie, chopping it in half, the player learns that sawblades are an effective weapon against zombies.
Ravenholm has not much, but a tiny bit of lore in it. Firstly, it shows the extent that the combine will go to to destroy the resistance, with them putting a bunch of Headcrabs of all sorts into a village, to ensure that everyone gets killed, even the innocents. Secondly, it shows that people that have been taken over by Headcrabs are still conscious, and in pain. We get shown this by the only character in Ravenholm, Father Grigori, who has dedicated their life to “purifying” the zombies of Ravenholm… with bullets.
So basically, Ravenholm is a good chapter that has the simplest good design choices so that even I could see them and go “huh, that’s cool,” before carrying on with the rest of the game. A lot of this stuff was what I learned from playing the developer commentary. I highly recommend you play it, as it’s really interesting, at least for me.
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