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Bringing your maps to life

A Tutorial for Counter-Strike 1.6

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An example on how you can make your maps more interesting to look at

Hello everyone! I am quite new to mapping with Valve Hammer Editor; only been doing it for the past two weeks. I do have some ideas though of how mappers can make their maps more lively and realistic. I hope you see where I'm coming from and hope you use some of my views in the future! Bringing your map to life ========================= So as the title suggests, the topic of this tutorial is on making your map look more polished and interesting to roam around. In this tutorial I'll be taking a basic room I made in VHE and adding details to it, hopefully turning it into a nice little scene. Here's an image of the base room I'm starting with. As you can see, the room uses the de_dust textures. It's fairly boring at the moment as it's really only a bunch of flat walls. However what I'm going to do is apply some techniques to bring it to life. The first is about giving the impression that the map is actually part of a larger world and isn't just a hollowed out box that the player magically teleported into. Linking the map with the outside world ====================================== To do this then, I'm going to just add a simple feature which is locked doors. By adding doors or passage ways that the player cannot move through, it will make it seem as if there is a connection to another area, hence creating the illusion that the map is part of a larger picture. So this is what I added. As you can see, I hardly changed a thing. I just added an arched door way with a locked door on either side, and a stone pathway linking the two. But all of a sudden though, this once closed off room now seems like the passing point of a road that leads somewhere else. Nearly every map I've ever played on Counter-Strike features this aspect and I think its an important one. You probably won't be aware of it, but psychologically, the map will feel more linked-in. Round off those corners! ======================== The next change is smoothing off those ugly right-angles. Even if your map is entirely featured in some man-made building, you still want to ease off those 90 degree corners at places. I'm not saying turn your map into a ball but be inventive and think about where you could turn that 90 degree corner into a 45 degree one, or even a curve. In my opinion it actually makes the map look more realistic. Having it all ordered and in perfect right-angles some how makes it surreal. So this is what I've done to the room: Again not too much has changed in the room. What I did is, I created some polygons around the edges and corners of the room and applied them with the sand texture to make it look as if the sand is building up at those places. I also added some new corners which are now at 45 degrees rather than 90. Already the room is loosing all of its right-angles. So now we move on to: Decorating your map =================== In this step, we'll be adding some models and objects to make the map look more decorated. Doing this will not only make it look nicer but also give it more personality. For this, I extended my texture range past the basic dust textures and created some rugs. I also built a tower at one corner. Think of your own decorations for your map and get 'em in there. Especially useful for maps like dust which are rather bland without colourful decorations. Giving each part of your map some context ========================================= When you look at the professional maps done for Counter-Strike like Dust and Office, you can see that the maps are divided into recognizable sections.
Take cs_office for example, it's divided into several sections: Garage (CT Spawn), Outside, Main Hall, Side Hall, T Spawn and Projector Room. All those sections are different in their own way. The Garage is full of concrete walls and floors and has many crates lying around. Outside is layered with snow and Side Hall is two long corridors that allow for sniper combat. The point being, they all have a certain context that defines them as what they are. So what I'm going to do to this little room is define it with a context as part of a larger map. I'm going to turn it into a Market place. Just by looking at it (hopefully) you can work out that it's probably some kind of marketplace. I added some canvas shelters, crates full of fruits, barrels and rugs lying on the ground ready for selling. Now when your players walk through this area, they'll know exactly that this is the marketplace area and can tell their team mates easily where they are. If I hadn't added all the marketplace details it would have been hard to describe where they are. Decals and lighting =================== I've decided I would add another Chapter, inspired by SteelKat and Devieus, in which I will talk about decals and lighting in your maps. **Decals** For those new mappers out there, decals are textures that can be placed on-top of other textures to give them a certain look. A bunch of decals is available in Half-Life's _decals.wad_. To add decals, simply browse for a decal type texture (short cut - fill in "{" in the filter search), then just press the decals mode button (Shift+D). You can now click on walls and floors at the decal will be painted on top. Just as a side note, sometimes if you're too close to a wall/floor the decal will actually be created behind/below it. Watch out for that because if a decal ends up outside your map region it can cause a leak error. But anyways, decals.wad has a nice selection of grime and rust for you to use on your map. It's good not to just go crazy and smack decals all over the place, but if you place a handful in the right places it'll give a good worn look. And here's an image of the room with some decals added (in-game). It might be hard to notice, but I added some rust to the wall on the right of the screen and some cracks. There are also some small shrubs at the foot of the red canvas shelter. **Lighting** In the way of lighting, Hammer Editor really handles all that for you. You just have to choose where the lights go and how bright they'll be. I do have some notes on the effects of good light placement though. In maps where there is much an indoor environment, its important to make sure that lights are close enough together. In a horror game it doesn't matter, but for a shooter, vision is key. The other factor that lighting will affect, is player navigation. Let me explain: Let's say you've made a map based in a sewer system. You want to give it a dark atmosphere, so you place lights fairly far away from each other. At some point in the map, there's a hole with a ladder that goes down into, say Bomb Site A. This is a key route to take for players as it leads them to an important area in the map. However, your players never take this route. In fact, they've never seen it. And it's because a light was placed behind the hole, leaving it as a silhouette. The only way a player would realise there was a hole is if he was standing right at the edge of it. If the light is moved in front of the hole, it will shine on the back face of the hole and the ladder, in turn making it obvious to the players. This is why good light placement is key. In terms of natural sky lighting done with VHE, it's good to adjust the angle of your sun according to the time of day. These two pictures are exactly the same map, but just with 2 different sun angles and colours. But just this feature makes it seem like the former is set at 6pm while the latter is set at noon. This concludes my tutorial on bringing your map to life. I hope you picked up on my ideas of mapping and use these tips in your future map making!
Here's a comparison of the first image (in VHE) and the last (in-game) to show you what a difference it can make to follow these guidelines: Thanks everyone, and happy mapping! -Glock18

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  • Seb_Mercenary avatar
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    > **Posted by slip4stream** > > Thank you for your great tutorial, but I've a problem. > > All my Hammer and compiler configured correctly, but "light", "light_environment" and "light_spot" don't work and I don't know why, RAD files and compiler configured correctly :( Be sure that your LOG file says RAD runs, and if there is an error, the LOG should tell you about it. Also, what compiler do you use?
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    Thank you for your great tutorial, but I've a problem. All my Hammer and compiler configured correctly, but "light", "light_environment" and "light_spot" don't work and I don't know why, RAD files and compiler configured correctly :(
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    Hey guys, check out the last chapter of my tutorial which I just added in. It's called "Decals and Lighting" ;)
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    > **Posted by Glock18** > > **Posted by _Marx666** > > > I think this is really nice! You should add every idea people give you and you find, so this can be a bigger tutorial and really useful for everyone. Keep it up! > > Hmm that's a good idea. I was thinking I'd take up on what SteelKat said and add some decals as a final stage. I'd have to take screenshots in-game though, and it's weird because I can't seem to test my map. It gives a weird error that says: "Can't find file". If that problems appears when compiling on VHE try using Batch Compiler it's pretty nice and you can add .wads to the .bsp file! And yep that's good hope you update this as much as you can.
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    > **Posted by _Marx666** > I think this is really nice! You should add every idea people give you and you find, so this can be a bigger tutorial and really useful for everyone. Keep it up! Hmm that's a good idea. I was thinking I'd take up on what SteelKat said and add some decals as a final stage. I'd have to take screenshots in-game though, and it's weird because I can't seem to test my map. It gives a weird error that says: "Can't find file".
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    I think this is really nice! You should add every idea people give you and you find, so this can be a bigger tutorial and really useful for everyone. Keep it up!
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    > **Posted by SteelKat** > I was just thinking that bringing things to life would include many things like adding decals and not just adding simple props which just seem like minor things when actually in the map itself. If you add decals to the map then it'd look a bit more alive I'd say, so that's my suggestion to improve this tutorial. > > But to expect more that'd just be brutal to expect from a new mapper especially since it's not really possible to accomplish either I'm referring to some of the enviroment artists in the mapping scene which do life-like realistic work to maps. I mean environment artists from Valve type of jobs, that'd be too much work but that's what I had in mind at first before I noticed that you were new to mapping, so I apologize for expecting too much. However this is a pretty good start to say the least. :P Well thanks bro! I admit this is a basic example, but it is to help the beginners out there. I've noticed some maps that are really square and don't really establish context very well. Obviously for professionals this is obsolete. I recon with CS 1.6 you can't really have realistic graphics no matter how hard you try. If you put too many objects in it'll just cause the game to run slow.
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    > **Posted by Glock18** > What do you think it's missing mate? Just curious so maybe I could fix it up! I was just thinking that bringing things to life would include many things like adding decals and not just adding simple props which just seem like minor things when actually in the map itself. If you add decals to the map then it'd look a bit more alive I'd say, so that's my suggestion to improve this tutorial. But to expect more that'd just be brutal to expect from a new mapper especially since it's not really possible to accomplish either I'm referring to some of the enviroment artists in the mapping scene which do life-like realistic work to maps. I mean environment artists from Valve type of jobs, that'd be too much work but that's what I had in mind at first before I noticed that you were new to mapping, so I apologize for expecting too much. However this is a pretty good start to say the least. :P
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    > **Posted by Devieus** > > Light is usually a good point. Well I was kinda focusing on just the texture and prefab work. Generally I don't see many maps that don't have good lighting.
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    > **Posted by Glock18** > What do you think it's missing mate? Just curious so maybe I could fix it up! Light is usually a good point.
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