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Using Tools Textures: Part 5 - A Tutorial for Counter-Strike: Source.

Proper Skybox Creation

Why You Should Use This

Every mapper has done this incorrectly - myself included - where we create the skybox in our maps by simply making a block and hollowing it out to surround the entire level, or make the brushes individually to create the classic box shape around our maps.
Either way this "Box Method" is not the way you should form your skybox, far from it actually as the only maps that could get away with doing this are small little FY maps where one can see the entire map at once. Aside from those we should all be creating the skybox properly. Now to show you why this is bad I'm going to take the layout seen on the right and use both methods to it. Its a simple layout, a few paths with 3 large areas and walls separating them all. Not the fanciest of maps but serves to illustrate my point nonetheless. Also the ground through the entire level are displacements sewn together as thats quite common. With the "Box Method" this would then appear like the image below. Roof Brush(s) Hidden for tutorial Purposes The displacements are fading in and out for a reason, thats because I wanted to get your attention that they are not really there in a complete sense. Displacements do not block visibility and as such VVIS will not calculate visleafs that stop at the displacements surface, they will just go right through it. So if you had a wall made of displacements, your computer will still render all the models, players and geometry behind them. Only the world geometry - in this case the walls - will block vvis and create the visleafs that control rendered items in vvis. Now lets take a look at the proper method for creating a skybox with this layout example: Roof Brush(s) Hidden for tutorial Purposes See how the skybox conforms with the outline of the level along with nodraw being used in all areas underneath the walls instead of more toolsskybox brushes? This will reduce the amount of calculations needed (DRASTICALLY lowering your compile times) because the skybox doesn't contain all that empty space from the previous one. Why the nodraw is there? well thats because we don't need to create light beneath the level, or in this case the displacements as that will create visual errors along the edges of them as light can pass through the back of a displacement. Also, light from the sky should be coming from above and not below don't you think :P That compile difference I was speaking of, even with a simple layout as this you can see how much of a change its made: Portal Clusters: 73 »» 16 Numportals: 201 »» 19 Total Clusters Visible: 3981 »» 134 Average Clusters Visible: 54 »» 8 Average Clusters Audible: 73 »» 13 VisDataSize: 2048 »» 196 For a map with very little in it this is a huge difference! How can you not want to create a skybox in this way?

When Not To Build Sections


Roof Brush(s) Hidden for tutorial Purposes
Conforming to the paths of your level shouldn't be done all the time but only where appropriate. There are a few cases where you leave it open to view past it into the next area, and I've included that within my layout example as well. I've placed a tall brush into the middle area as you can see on the right, however if the skybox is left as it is then that tower will appear/disappear when people walk around due to the construction of the skybox. Therefore trimming it down in spots is required to have the visleaf containing the tower visible from the angles one should be able to see it from. So removing the walls separating the paths from the middle area and filling it with nodraw texture between - don't use toolsskybox as we don't need to emit light upwards - and then modifying some of the others so that there is no cut off from the other two larger areas we end up with something like below: Roof Brush(s) Hidden for tutorial Purposes This is only ONE option you can do in this situation, the other is to try and limit as much of the area the tower is in from being rendered as possible by simply raising the height of the walls in some areas so that it blocks the view normally from close distances to the wall, but allowing the tower behind it to be seen from a distance. Like so: Roof Brush(s) Hidden for tutorial Purposes Basically, the re-structured skybox along with some smart level design can create some extremely high performance levels with lots of detail still in them. A good thing to do is when your first building your level don't make a giant skybox for the map via a box, but use the cordon tools until you've reached a level where you want to start your skybox set-up so that you can get onto the optimization part of your map.

Other Benefits

The benefits other than the already stated VVIS optimization and better breakup of your level into rendered areas range from:
  • Easier Areaportals Use
  • Soundscape Triggers easier to organize
  • Detail Props on displacements can be rendered in larger numbers
  • Larger amounts of Func_detail use allowed due to decreased render distances/volume
This tutorial will be added to when its required/requested.
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  • Logan Dougall avatar
    Logan Dougall username pic Joined 17y ago
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    I like to miter my corners lately (Revit Influence I think), just looks cleaner imo. But you can butt them against one another just as easily, overlapping should be avoided just like everything else.
    Structural Designer / Dad :)
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    12y
    I honestly can't rate below 10 in any category. One question though. When you are at a 90 degree corner, how should the skybox meet? Should they overlap or does it not matter which side extends to the length of the wall, while the other just touches the first skybox?
    Judge not whom you know not.
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    Pros: Great tutorial, as mentioned this should be an example of how a good tutorial is made. Informative writing broken up with visual aids, very good. Cons: None. Improvements: More articles! Notes: Taught me more than I expected for a skybox tutorial.
    Hajimemashite!
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    Posted by Shepard62700FR Allow me to correct a thing : 1) When creating your sky brushes, create them with the texture tools/toolsnodraw 2) Apply the tools/toolsskybox ONLY on faces that players sees. Anyway, nice tutorial.
    Vbsp cleans that up for you as part of its optimization steps, its an unnecessary step.
    Structural Designer / Dad :)
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    Allow me to correct a thing : 1) When creating your sky brushes, create them with the texture tools/toolsnodraw 2) Apply the tools/toolsskybox ONLY on faces that players sees. Anyway, nice tutorial.
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    Posted by tsaweeos Awesome! Thank you very much sir.
    Fixed.
    Structural Designer / Dad :)
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    Awesome! Thank you very much sir.
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    Posted by tsaweeos Your pictures are not working. :(
    FPSB's dropbox server where I hosted the images was removed recently, I'm currently re-uploading them to another source and have yet to re-link them. I'll send you a message when thats done, theres just quite a few of my tutorials with this issue atm.
    Structural Designer / Dad :)
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    Your pictures are not working. :(
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    Pros: Very comprehensive, easy to understand, very useful, and extremely informative. I like how you showed the compile log to tell us just HOW much the variables were lowered, instead of just saying "It'll lower the variables greatly." Also liked your use of animated pictures. Cons: I cannot see any cons in this tutorial, but it might be confusing at times to some readers. Improvements: Again, none that I can think of at the moment. Honestly, I think this is great as it is. Notes: This is a very well thought-out tutorial, also very useful and detailed. This should be an example for most tutorials to follow.
    put out Shorty's fire with the avatar
    Mantra
    put out Shorty's fire with the
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