Best way to start a map?

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Snowshoe, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. Snowshoe

    Snowshoe L2: Junior Member

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    (No, this isn't about how to create a layout)

    A question that's been on my mind for a very long time is, what are the best foundations and/or steps to creating a map you intend to fully detail and complete down the line? It's simple to create a dev texture map for playtesting purposes, but what is the best practice for creating a map you actually want to finish? It's been keeping me from mapping for awhile, besides waiting for Sledge and a map workshop to be released for TF2.

    Some other questions that fit into this as well:

    What do you start on first when constructing the layout you have planned?
    What are the best ways to create buildings to be detailed later?
    What are the best ways to set up displacements (used for large or entire areas) in your map?
    How does one handle the boundaries of a map and extending them for detailing?

    Basically, I need a run-down on how (preferably experienced) mappers make things start to finish, and how the level is generally constructed so it is as painless as possible to work on later, without having to completely tear apart everything.
     
  2. shadowslasher11

    aa shadowslasher11

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    Well, from my standpoint, adopt a map in the orphaned maps section, learn/practice from the maps there, and see where it leads. I've been working on Heatwave for a little bit now, and I've learned a lot from it, so much that I've begun working on my own made from scratch 5CP map.

    Orphaned maps really help teach you, I'm about to begin the full detailing stage, and it's coming along well. So ya, I'd start there if you really need a lot of practice with stuff.
     
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  3. Crash

    aa Crash func_nerd

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    Start with your dev textured map and then start thinking outside of the box with it.

    Use your dev textured blocks as a base to your detailing, or even as the confines of it. Break down your skybox boundaries and build some nice details outside of your map, then seal it back up past that.
     
  4. Sergis

    aa Sergis L666: ])oo]v[

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    i make a huge skybox box and shiftdrag from there

    saves me the trouble of dealing with leaks early on

    and as long as i fill in the box properly the "dont make your map in a box" does not apply

    though even unfilledin boxes can work as shown by harvest and sawmill
     
  5. Faux Rhinoceros

    aa Faux Rhinoceros Also known as Dr. Element

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    *cough* Cordon tool with skybox as cordon texture *cough*


    I feel like you need an incentive to finish a map. It could be that you've managed to make a reallly enjoyable layout, or maybe that there's a contest going on.
     
  6. henke37

    aa henke37

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    Start with the key feature. Then build from there.
     
  7. wareya

    wareya L7: Fancy Member

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    it depends on you and what kind of map you're making.

    some kinds of maps just plain don't work unless you come up with a functioning layout beforehand. others are so simple that it's faster to dive in to making fun geometry and change shit as you go along.

    for people who are really into architecture, drawing out whatever they want to do before putting it in hammer is a great idea, but if you're not then making a "block-out" is better.

    something that's very common is for people to make all their critical areas first, then figure out where to put them and how to attach them afterward. this can cause problems if you're not experienced with making connectors, though.
     
  8. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Whatever I have in my head first. It differs. A central point, an end/start, sometimes an overarching shape.
    Always work big to small, start with a large grid and work down as you need it. I basically never drop below 16 for early alphas, so all my walls are 16u thick. If I want them thinner, I'll do that while detailing. That's generally when I mitre all the corners.
    Use large brushes, as square and blocky as you can, it'll keep your grid size regular. Sometimes I make sure everything works in quads while blocking out early alphas, sometimes I just say fuck it and worry about making it neat later.
    Plan ahead - I used to just use 16 unit thick brushes for cliffs and "TBC" boundaries. but now I stick religiously to 64 or 128 if I can so that I have enough space to make it into a cliff or something else and still have room for some gameplay space behind it. Too many times i've used a 16 unit wall as a cliff and found there's no space when I detail the map.
     
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  9. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

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    1. Create a huge brush. 6000x6000 units at least.
    2. Use carve tool and cut out everything that doesn't look like a map.
    3. ???
    4. Wait patiently for Valve to buy map.

    But seriously, I always start with one of the spawns (usually BLU). I'll even detail it somewhat to keep me inspired to keep working on the map. Generally the spawn isn't going to change much except for the location and number of exits, so you can afford to detail the spawn if it helps keep you going.

    After that, layout is just placing blocks. 128x128, 256x256, whatever, just to get it roughly scaled out. Place a few props for scale reference here and there.

    Put in the skybox and maybe some displacements if they're important for the map.

    Compile, check how long it takes various classes to get from notable point to point. Go back to the layout stage and tweak. Compile, test timing again. All before the first playtest.

    After that, it depends on the map too much to say what comes next. But it's usually easier once you get that much progress in.

    Basic layout is always the longest part of the EARLY process. After that, changes are easier.

    Detailing and texturing is hands down THE longest part of the process for me overall though, and it's easier to detail when you break the map into smaller sections.
     
  10. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Ssshhh!!! Don't tell the noob how the pr0s work!
     
  11. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

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    Mappers Hate Him! EArkham Reveals Secret to Hammer!

    [Edit] Aw, new page for a lame joke, sorry. lol
     
  12. Nerdbot

    Nerdbot L7: Fancy Member

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    I always draw layouts but they're always very rough and unstructured, they're just a way to help me visualize. Typically, when I first begin building a map, I start at a respawn room, which is normally an area that will remain completely static throughout development, and it gives me something to go back to and detail when I'm a little bored of laying out blocks since it's something that won't really change as development goes on. On my current PLR map for the contest, though, I started at the area where the carts are and the respawn rooms were the last thing I ended up doing, so you know, it changes, it just depends on how you visualize things.

    The hardest part of mapping to me is putting down something in that giant black void you're greeted with whenever you open a new file in Hammer. Once I have a decent foothold I can just chug through the rest, but it can take me hours before I can put enough down in that big blank void that I can start visualizing how the rest of the map will spread out.

    A good practice is to use doorframes and prop-static'd player models and place them throughout your map early on for a sense of scale. It can also help to copy geometry from official maps to use as size references for certain areas and delete it later. A reference point I almost always use in mapping is the 2fort battlements; the height of them is a perfect dropoff point reference because if you walk off the edge you take no damage, but if you jump off you DO take damage. In my current PLR map, I copied the ground from Nightfall stage 2 where the carts cross over as a reference point for the opening area in my map as well. It's obviously not good form to completely copypaste stuff from official maps into yours, but using existing geometry from official maps or your own to get a sense of size can be very helpful.

    I tend to start detailing stuff even long before I really should do so, it just helps me focus on a map more. As long as you don't get too attached to anything pretty you've made, it's ultimately fine to do that if it helps.