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Question: Is there a right or wrong way to build a map?

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    Question: Is there a right or wrong way to build a map?

    Note: I am still learning. Please go easy.;

    I just started using UDK about a month ago and built a map (thanks to tutorials and mastering unreal books) and I was wondering if I did it correctly. The reason I'm asking is because I looked at some of the Gears of War maps done by Epic and the ground work vary. Some maps were built on terrain with a flat surface and others were built using bsp brushes. Some were a solid mass and were carved out using subractive brushes and others appear all additive. What is the right way (if there is one) and what is the rule of thumb on deciding how they are built?

    Hopefully, I make some sense to you guys.

    subtractive = no.

    building whole map in maya = no.

    making assets then adding them = yes.

    using the brush in moderation = yes.


      Originally posted by CreativeCoding View Post
      subtractive = no. (Huh?)

      building whole map in maya = no. (already knew that)

      making assets then adding them = yes. (Already knew that)

      using the brush in moderation = yes.(Already knew that)
      That didn't really answer my question, maybe I didn't describe this well enough.


        Nevermind. Thanks for helping.


          There are no rules when making a level, there are however easy ways and hard ways. This is my "easy way"...

          It's like building anything, you start with a plan, make the foundations, build the buildings, decorate the buildings and finally build the lighting. Start big and work down, which is perfect sense.

          First off, some advice: I always work to the grid, a higher grid as possible when making the plan, WORKING TO THE GRID WILL MAKE YOUR LEVEL MAKING SO MUCH EASIER, materials will fit surfaces better, meshes will scale easier. Start on a 1024 or 512 grid, and work down.

          When you choose file>new, always choose additive. There is no such thing as a subtractive map anymore, it's faked by a large additive cube the size of the world space (huge) being added, and will generally just increase build times.

          Also go into the World properties and turn off "Use Global Illumination". You won't be needing lightmass yet.

          Add a skylight, set to 0.33 brightness, and a directional light. This is your basic work lighting, and is ideal as a general working light setup. Build times are kept to a minimum.

          The Plan.

          The most important questions to consider at this stage are "how detailed do I want my level to be?" and "if I want a highly detailed level, will the level occlude well?". Occlusion is your primary way of optimising, the engine only renders what the player can see (most of the time). Therefore The core design of the level is the most important factor if you want your level to run fast and also look nice. You will need to consider all positions the player can be in, obviously in tight enclosed spaces the detail levels can be quite high, and in large open spaces the detail level will need to be lower.

          I prefer to use the editor to make the plan, it has grids to work to, and essentially is better than working on paper, as your plan is already in the editor. Use BSP and/or Terrain to outline your paths, boundaries and buildings. Get the scaling of everything right from the start, trying to scale your level once it's built is a slow and painful task.


          If you've used the editor for your plan, most of your foundation work is already done, use BSP blocks to mark where buildings start and finish, and you can paint the terrain heightmap to get your Z-axis variations. Normally I place a snapped to grid BSP block under the terrain in flat areas, height adjust my terrain so the BSP block barely pokes through. Use the flatten tool on the terrain to flatten out the area, then delete the now underneath BSP block. This way even my terrain Z-axis is snapped to grid. Smooth out the transitions on the terrain Z-axis.

          A great thing about BSP and terrain for your core design is that they're both very easy to adjust during preliminary stages.

          Add some player starts, stick a weapons locker in with all weapons, add all vehicles if needed, and playtest it. This is your early alpha. Host it online, get friends to join, or send them the map as it is now. Test it for gameplay flow. Make notes, either mental (if you have a good memory) or on paper of areas which need changing.

          Open the editor up, make the changes, and retest. If everything regarding the scale and flow is to your satisfaction, then it's time to start building.

          Building Basics.

          The easiest way to build buildings is again with BSP, use additive brushes for the exteriors, subtractive for interiors, this way you use two brushes to make a room, as opposed to 6 brushes using only additive. Add doorways, windows, walkways all with BSP. You will be deleting a lot of this BSP later, as this is purely for design and testing purposes.

          Also start blocking off areas where you don't want the player to go, around the edge of the map for example. Playtest. Make notes. Make changes and again playtest some more. Set your KillZ and StallZ accordingly.

          Once you are absolutely happy with the basic core design, you can start decorating.

          Decorating (and collisions).

          This is where the real fun starts, learn to use the drawscale modifiers on meshes to your advantage, every poly saved is another poly you can add, and therefore detail your map better. If one mesh can be used instead of two, then use one and stretch it, using your judgement on whether it looks overstretched or not. Start placing your wall, doorway and window meshes, deleting the unnecessary BSP as you go.

          Playtest the area you're working on, add blocking volumes on or around any "sticky meshes", to help the player navigate the map easier. Check the collisions as you build, run into corners, jump at walls, shoot at everything with every weapon to make sure all the collisions are set correctly.

          Pathing and Pickups.

          Place your pickups first, health, shield etc. Place pathnodes on all key intersections.


          We do this almost last, as it increases build times significantly, and will slow down the whole level making process in general.

          In the world properties>lightmass turn on "Use Global Illumination". Delete the skylight and directional light we added as our basic work light. Add a Dominant Directional Light if your map is outdoors, from the direction of your sun or other dominant light source. Any meshes which emit a light, go into properties and set "Use Emissive For Static Lighting". Add your LightmassImportanceVolume(s). Rebuild your level using lightmass. Add extra lights where needed.

          Your map is now at Beta stage, test it as much as possible, fill any gaps you find, block off any areas which aren't intended for general gameplay. Make your gameplay tweaks.


          Beyond occlusion, there are many ways to increase performance of your level. You need to understand where the performance gains are to be had, and to be honest there's already a thread here on Epic forums devoted to this subject by evilmrfrank, found here (it should be stickied!) Check out also willhaven's reply.


          Go back into your map, add all the finer details, scenery, light rays, lens flares, sounds, foliage etc, and generally make the level ready for Final, checking your framerates all the time.

          I hope this helps somewhat on your quest for level creation knowledge, and I'm sorry if I bored you with this longwinded but hopefully helpful reply.

          : )