I have been tinkering with my first attempt at a CTF map for a couple months now. Thanks to encouragement from forum members here, I’ve decided to start this thread. I’ve already done a lot of work on the map geometry.
But the for the purposes of this thread I’m going to rebuild it from scratch, in order to share my process of making a map from the very start. While I’d like this thread to produce some tutorial-like elements, this won’t be a strict tutorial because:
- I’m a map n00b, in no position to instruct anyone in the ways of UnrealEd.
- There is already a massive amount of knowledge available about mapmaking – most of it on this very forum.
I am hoping this thread will provide enough info to encourage others aspiring mapmakers. I will try to talk about both the technical (nuts & bolts editor stuff) and the philosophical (design choices, project methodology, etc). I will try to add lots of screenshots to keep it the thread from getting stale.
As I start to make progress, I'd like experienced mapmakers to add their input and insight along the way. With luck, this crowd-sourcing will produce things like:
- Interesting design discussions
- Pro-tips (e.g., brush techniques)
- Dos and don’ts
However, there is a chance – through no fault of the community – that the final product will be a complete disaster… or possibly unachievable altogether. I have no illusions that this first map attempt of mine is overly-ambitious. I’m the kind of idiot who tries to run before he can walk. To extend this metaphor further, I’m sure I will stumble along the way.
Today they are entire development teams dedicated to working on a single FPS level, so talking about organization for a building a map with an 18-year-old engine may seem like overkill.
But as a former project manager, I think discussing organization and methodology will help provide a blueprint / roadmap for other would-be mappers. This is my initial approach to creating the map:
- Movers, special brushes, meshes, etc.
- Triggers, pickup placement, etc
- Bot pathing
- Audio and music
To create a CTF map that feels like an environment which had a specific purpose (before being re-purposed by the Liandri Corporation). That is, I want to create a space that feels convincing and immersive, and not just two arbitrary bases for the sake of CTF.
If I have to make choices between gameplay and immersive environment, I am going to choose environment. For this project, anyway.
A structure (maybe a communications array, or power plant, etc.) perched high on a tower above a desolate landscape. On either side of the structure is a docking bay where ships (the red and blue bases) are moored to deliver equipment. Here’s a screenshot of the docking bay with temp textures. The white background texture would be open/skybox (revealing the ground far below):
While there are only a few rooms where falling off the arena is possible, I want the player to always feel the threat/presence of altitude. Hence the map name CTF-Acrophobia.
Before I get into building the first room for this…
IMPROVISING AND ISSUES DISCOVERED
I started by building rooms as I went, and quickly realized that improvising wasn’t going to work. It needed better planning, so I started sketching.
I tried to wrap paths around each other in interesting ways. On testing, I realized this idea quickly broke down with the use of the translocator. So I reconfigured the geometry of the paths so that they were viewable but inaccessible to each other, specifically in the central chamber. There are certainly places to translocate, but in a more restricted way than many maps.
Also, by making the routes viewable, it maybe makes it easier for the player to grasp the layout better (I was awestruck by the scope of CTF maps like Hyperfrag and Eternal Gateways, but I was also perpetually getting lost in them. Beautiful maps, but maybe a too little busy for my tastes).
Sketch your map first. Try lots of sketches and variations, until it feels workable. It’s quicker to work out geometry this way than in the editor. It’s also important to creating a starting point – looking at an empty grid can be intimidating and discouraging. So having something to guide your first pieces of geometry is helpful. Even if you end up changing it later, at least you’ve got the ball rolling.
It's okay to go back to sketching after you've started geometry. I had to do this several times... drawing on paper, then making geometry, then back to drawing... until things started to fit together more nicely.
MORE PROBLEMS, NEW (MODULAR) APPROACH
With more sketches and more ideas in hand, I started iterating the map once again, and discovered I was making too many random one-off pieces of geometry. My solution to this was to make and export brushes for re-use. At this point I have enough brushes made that I can actually remake the map (such as it is) from scratch in a day or two.
Create a ‘warehouse’ map for prototyping brushes. You can even have two instances of UnrealEd open – one for creating and exporting pieces of geometry, and the other your actual map where you can import the brushes to see how they fit. If you're lucky enough to own dual computer monitors, they'll come in really handy here.
The Import/Export brush feature is your friend. Save the all the brush shapes you build. If you end up using lots of brushes (.t3d) and shapes (.2ds) name the files in a way that keeps them organized, and store them in folders that will keep them organized.
In the next post, I will attempt cover building geometry for the first room (the base).