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The subject matter of this article contains in-development information that was cut from the final version of an official and/or canonical source and appears in no other canonical source. It may also contain incomplete information since not all cut material is publicly known.
during the uprising
St. Olga consists of a small fishing village being attacked by a Headcrab Shell launcher, and a monastery located at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea, partially surrounded by scaffolding. The monastery consists of several buildings of various sizes, some complete and some in ruins, and an Eastern Orthodox / Byzantine church with stained-glass windows and frescoes, with a courtyard in the center of the compound. On the cliff side of the church there is also a terrace with railings dated 1891 (the railing texture is also used in Half-Life 2).
In Lost Coast, Gordon Freeman awakens in a shallow tide on a beach near St. Olga. A Fisherman has apparently been waiting for him, and tells that he must be there to "take on the Combine" and take out their Headcrab Shell launcher, located in the Combine-occupied monastery above and attacking the village nearby, probably hiding Resistance members.
As Freeman progresses along the cliffside to get into the monastery, he is attacked by Overwatch soldiers, and a few Headcrab Shells can be seen hitting the village and causing fires. Once inside the church, Freeman finds the Headcrab Shell launcher and sabotages it by blocking the mechanism, after which other Overwatch troops and a Hunter-Chopper attack. After defeating the Combine, Freeman returns below near the Fisherman through a mechanic lift. The Fisherman suggests to follow him to an unspecified (and apparently safe) part of St. Olga for a feast of Leeches, at which point the screens turns black and the game ends.
Behind the scenes
According to Viktor Antonov, each area of the level was designed with a specific purpose. An Eastern Orthodox architectural / Byzantine style was deliberately chosen for the monastery, as buildings of this type "are very colorful and have a large variety of materials" and are "often lit naturally, with extremes of darkness and brightness" (in opposition to Gothic churches that are the sober, monochromatic spaces that anyone has seen in almost every horror film or game), providing an ideal showcase for the HDR lighting effects. Antonov also considers churches great dramatic spaces. The team also thought that the use of a monastery would help provide a starker contrast between old human architecture and futuristic Combine technology found within it, as monasteries are generally isolated, unlit, and built ages ago.
St. Olga appears to have reused several real-world locations and pieces of art. The monastery style and setting are probably based on the complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Meteora, Greece, notably featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. The cliffside may be based on a village similar to Manarola, Italy. The church frescoes appear to be derived from photographs of mural mosaics and frescoes found in various churches such as the famous Greek Orthodox basilica Hagia Sophia located in Istanbul, Turkey, Saint Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, St. Panteleimon Monastery in Greece, as well as the Church of the Holy Virgin of the Studenica monastery, Serbia. Saint Olga of Kiev is the first Christian queen of Kiev, Russia, and the patron saint of widows.
According to Robin Walker, the cliffside leading to the monastery has a gameplay-oriented purpose and is meant to mirror a similar cliffside combat scene seen in the Half-Life chapter Surface Tension, which the team regretted to be unable to iterate further on it in Half-Life 2. It has an emphasis on vertical space, which forces the player to deal with threats from above and below. The team found that players focus their view on the direction they are traveling, so by using a cliffside, and having the player ascend it, they ensured the player looks up and is prepared for enemies. If the player's path is to move past the bottom of the cliffside, soldiers rappelling down from above would unlikely be noticed.
According to Robin Walker, the monastery's courtyard was designed as what they call an arena, which is built to hold the player for a period of time, and usually contain combat or some other challenge. They often have multiple entry-points for enemies, along with a gate of some kind to prevent the player moving on, until the challenge has been completed. In this case, the arena is free of enemies until the player solves a puzzle, and triggers an alarm. This is a method that allows the player to explore the arena, and get a sense of its space before being forced to fight in it. It adds a sense of uneasiness to the player, who is expecting to be attacked now that they have reached the goal set for them at the start of the map. The break in action there is also said to be a crucial part of the level's pacing. It allows the player to recover and explore the world a little, after being attacked on the way up the cliffside.
Crab pot model.
Fresco based on Haga Sofia's Comnenus mosaic.
Fresco based on the Virgin Orans mosaic from Saint Sophia's Cathedral.
Fresco based on Haga Sofia's Deësis mosaic, using the Christ section only.
Fresco based on the Christ Pantocrator with Archangels mosaic from Saint Sophia's Cathedral.
Fresco based on St. Panteleimon Monastery's The Deposition from the Cross fresco.
Fresco based on Studenica monastery's Crucifixion fresco.
Fresco based on Haga Sofia's Virgin Enthroned mosaic.
Fresco of the Maestà theme, not identified so far. As seen on the blue circle on the bottom left, it was originally designed to be above an arcade, like the Comnenus and Deësis frescoes, but was eventually placed on a plain wall.
Real world images
Images of the similar real world locations mentioned above.