Deathmatch Deconstructed: Stalkyard
(February 25, 2018)
Half-Life's Stalkyard succeeds on two fronts: its simple and connected layout and its secrets. At its core, Stalkyard is two connected encampments overlooking two sparse plaza areas, both connected to a storage area filled with weapons and corners to hide in. A smaller room between the encampments is accessible through a center hallway. Its small size makes it ideal for 1v1 matches or other small groups, though with packed servers, it can get a little hectic.
Layout and flow
Regardless of a deathmatch map's size or complexity, it should usually possible to take multiple paths to get to the same place. Stalkyard fulfills this by connecting both encampments to one another and connecting both encampments to the storage area through two different routes, the far corner routes and the more claustrophobic center routes. A player trying to escape an encounter gone wrong needs as many routes to shake the attacker as possible. At the same time, a player looking to score easy kills can lure a less-experienced one into the center and get off an explosive, likely an MP5 grenade, though tripmines work here as well.
In general, experienced players will take the routes that will allow them to gain the most speed through Tau-jumping or bunnyhopping. Stalkyard's outer route, which connect the plazas to the storage area, are most often used for proper travel, while the center routes are more commonly used as hiding spots or breather areas. Though a lift leads up into the center hallway, it's a good place to catch a beating, as the lift requires a button press and a short amount of time to activate. (A crafty player can use the ride up to charge their HEV suit through the encampment wall, funnily enough.)
Much of the action in a match on Stalkyard takes place in the storage area. This densely cluttered space, with boxes packed to the ceiling, provides cover for novice players and allows professional players to gather up a large arsenal of weaponry in a short period of time.
A small room in between both encampments is a less-traveled side area. Though the rewards in this room are lesser than out in the open (a shotgun, two batteries, and some ammo), it's also much less trafficked and can be a good spot to take a breather before re-entering the game. This room features a small duct in the floor and one in the corner. Both lead back into the general flow of the map, in keeping with the idea that a player should be able to escape threats down multiple routes.
Weapons and items
Stalkyard goes relatively heavy on the explosives. Rocket launchers are available in two separate places, the ammo for it plentiful, satchels and tripmines are common, and the fan favorite Tau Cannon is displayed prominently on a perch point in the storage area. These are balanced out by their height and the effort it takes to get to them; a player going for the Tau becomes an easy target while they ascend. The only weapon missing is the Gluon Gun, which was likely for balance reasons.
Explosives and depleted uranium-235 are still fairly plentiful outside of the storage area, though the less flashy shotguns, MP5s, and crossbows are mixed in as well.
Secrets and notable traits
One notable feature of Stalkyard are the mounted guns in each encampment. A key factor of deathmatch maps is risk-taking; while the mounted gun can put out a decent amount of firepower, has unlimited ammo, and can kill in relatively few hits, it also leaves the player using it a sitting duck, ready to be flushed out with a spare grenade. For this reason, their use is uncommon, but it's still a notable instance of interactivity in the map environment.
The large storage area also hides Stalkyard's secret: a single long-jump module in the center of a stack of boxes in the bottom-right corner. A secret door in the bottom allows the newly-equipped player re-entry into the playfield, though crafty players can Tau-jump out of the hole as well, saving time.
More of a visual easter egg than anything useful, a broken HEV charger hangs ajar in the center room. This is the design the HEV chargers used in the Half-Life alpha, in the same way a visually-upgraded faceplate of a Half-Life HEV charger can be found at Black Mesa East in Half-Life 2.