[Guide] Details: how VALVe do it

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by YM, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Details: How valve do it
    Part 1: Badlands

    (Tips and tricks used by the pros)
    Due to all the badlands hype and seeing as its quite a pretty map I thought I'd wizz around and see what they've done to make the thing so damn pretty.


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    This first screenshot shows off the skybox they have. Notice how as the mountains get further into the distance they become more and mroe grey? well I'd put money on the fog colour being somewhat similar to the colour of the 2d skybox texture. This holds true for any map, in any game. The fog colour you pick should be roughly the same as the colour of the skybox texture near the horizon. Think about it, when its foggy, what colour does everything get as its further away? what colour is the sky, at the horizon? If you answered both those as white then you are correct and understand the principle. pat yourself on the back.


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    This shot shows some simple ways you can block players from leaving the play area. Whilst it is clear that a demoman or soldier could jump over those fences they can't. And nobody questions it. On hydro there is a fence that is only knee high and nobody questions it. All that is needed is a visual barrier that divides the playing area (visually interesting) from the out-of-bounds area (usually quite visually bland, whilst having all the important things so that it dosn't just look odd) Whilst the out-of-bounds area is usually quite bland it has a few key details in it which stop it looking out of place, for example that dirt track, keeps going on through those gates, as does the train and track. Those lamps in the background aswell. little things like this keep continuity.


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    Some simple details here. A few tires sunk into the ground along with some foliage, rocks and I think there is an overlay on the ground under the plant as well.
    The player will hardly notice these because they don't have to worry about them, they can run straight over them and they are never going to get snagged on them whilst running backwards away from an enemy.


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    This perfectly illustrates how you should never be afraid to tell the player where to go. You would think that three signs all pointing the same way would be too many, but no, it works just fine and players hardly even notice them. whilst the main brain of the player is busy taking in lush environments/killing waves of enemies/fleeing from waves of enemies a tiney little bit will see these signs and gently tell the main brain where to go next without the main brain even noticing.
    This shot also shows a bit more of how small details are continued in the out-of-bounds areas. And although this area is only blocked off by chainlink fences, don't be tempted to only use chainlink fences in your map. Don't forget to vary things a little


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    Finaly (for now) this image shows where detail is needed. Detail is needed most WHERE THE PLAYER IS LOOKING That means around doors, around windows they might shoot from, any room with intel/CPs in, spawn rooms... You want to be putting details like junction boxes, clocks, signs, boxes etc where the player will be most often and around doors is a great example of this.

    Thats all for now folks, I hope this has been helpfull. Now having said all this I must now go and put these things into practice
    Edit: If you did find this helpful, don't forget to spread some love (in reputation format) by clicking the Rep button under my avatar ;)
     
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    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
  2. R3dRuM

    R3dRuM L6: Sharp Member

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    Thank you for the tips, realllly did help me, and im not being sarcastic
     
  3. TheBladeRoden

    TheBladeRoden L7: Fancy Member

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    Hmm, never thought about the idea of concentrating props around entrances, I've tended to just scatter them along a wall.
     
  4. ZargonX

    ZargonX L3: Member

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    They also taught us another lesson... always make sure to texture everything that will be visible ;)

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  5. Scotland Tom

    Scotland Tom L6: Sharp Member

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    Great advice! Though I'd add one thing: Place more detail in areas that see less action, less detail in areas that see more action. If you want to really optimize things, try to recognize the parts of your map that are major battle zones and keep the detail a bit more sparse in those areas. This is especially helpful for those who play with older rigs. They'll appreciate any increased performance they can get.
     
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  6. DrHaphazard

    DrHaphazard L5: Dapper Member

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    Hah! nice find Zargon.
     
  7. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Yeah unfortunatly there are about 5 visible nodraw textures in the valve maps that I know of. I've sent off a 'bug report' for most of them but they are still there.....
     
  8. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Details: How valve do it
    Part 2: Goldrush

    (Tips and tricks used by the pros)

    Well since I've been exploring goldrush so much for inspiration for hoodoo I thought I'd share a few of the detailing techniques I've picked up on.


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    First off: wires. I've seen a lot of maps that have little or no use of wires in, and I've seen maps that have billions of wires everywhere. The way valve use wires is closer to the latter than the first but they don't go completely over the top, wires between telegraph poles, from crane wheels, between building roofs, these all add something to your map very quickly and easily. The power a simple wire has to make your map look better is amazing; if you've not used wires before try them out! Bung in a move_rope, set it some slack (usually between 90 and 120 looks good) and then give it a keyframerope to connect to.

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    Got any mine carts in your map? This is a dead simple way to make each one look different from the last. Plus, you get the added bonus of it looks like someone actually worked in your map; a map full of completely empty mine carts will just feel weird. Of course you can use different textures to add variation or vary the scale of the texture to make it look like it has bigger or smaller rocks in it. It doesn't just stop at mine carts, you can add displacement mounds of dirt/rocks/gold anywhere.

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    Nice cross beams? Look alright, don't they...
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    How about from here? Can't really see them can you...
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    What if I zoom in? (from the same shot)
    You really can't see them because they aren't there. This is a really great way of cutting the amount of stuff your PC has to render, you pick small brushes that you can't really see from a distance and you make them func_lod instead of func_detail. That way you have complete control over how far away they should fade out and of course once they've faded out they are no longer drawn and aren't a burden on your system. A good little trick for areas that have a few to many details for good fps.

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    Hey look, its another displacement pile of gold...
    These sort of areas - i.e. completely sectioned off areas with a few props in them - really help to enlarge areas. They allow you to easily add or take away light from an area as well as adding props in to detail it without letting any of them get in the way. Because these areas are there right next to you even though you can't get into them they make the playing area feel larger, a good way to avoid cramped feeling spaces, although don't make them too big then the effect reverses and they make the playing area feel smaller. Oh yeah, don't for get to add some glow to those lights, env_sprite, point_spotlight or env_lightglow.

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    The same building viewed from upclose and from the other side of the area. How many props can you see in the first that aren't in the second? I make it about 26ish (probably more than that though) which means from the far side of the space you can see this building from it still looks much the same but you're rendering about 5-6 thousand less polies. The way this is achieved is from the fade distances set in the model's properties, on custom maps I think about 1% of props have these values set, on valves its more like 99%

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    Ahh yes, the displacement roof... There was a lot of discussion about this a while back that some people might not remember or have been around for so I'll go over it again. Make some of your roofs into displacements - then warp them slightly like this one, whilst from a static image its not that easy to tell and doesn't looks amazing when you're playing its a small thing that really helps make seeing roof after roof after roof less monotonous. Because displacements are done as a batch process this isn't as intensive as you might think, whilst I can't give any really figures on if its better or not it really isn't the sort of thing you need to worry about when optimising.
     
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  9. Laz

    Laz L7: Fancy Member

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    thanks for this! I never really noticed the fading distance. I just think my map got an fps boost.

    I have some prop_detail in there, but that doesnt work on the little bushes and such, they start displaying big ERROR red models of death.

    it is amazing if you point it out, how stuff fades out! and how the player doesn't even notice! this would be a nice addition to any optimization guide.
     
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  10. Solynth

    Solynth L5: Dapper Member

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    MORE! These are fantastic, just what newbies like me need to be able to make good maps. Thank you so much Youme
     
  11. grazr

    aa grazr Old Man Mutant Ninja Turtle

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    I've been setting a load of prop fade distances in my current map, setting them all to the furthest setting that a player can see within the given area. I hadn't realised how many props don't get rendered at a distance like that in goldrush. I'll probably shorten a load of my fade distances, maybe i was being over zealous in them, worrying about people getting worked up about props visibly fading in and out. It seems to be clear that not only in battle to people not notice props out of alignment but also them fading in and out. Aslong as they are not right in your face of course.

    A problem i've been having making my map look more "real" that i only realised a few days ago was a complete lack of windows. Valve's buildings are riddled with windows, even if most of them are "blocked" out. Adding a good amount of windows to your map can only improve it's aesthetics. It allows the player to believe the geometry has an interior and a purpose.

    A very nice addition to your details guide Youme.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 24, 2008
  12. MangyCarface

    aa MangyCarface Mapper

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    Had never heard of func_lod. Very, very useful tip
     
  13. Gadget

    aa Gadget

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    thanks for the tip with func_lod - one thing I didn't know so far. Going to try that where it's useful...
     
  14. luxatile

    aa luxatile deer

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    Wow, the func_lod thing was useful. Both parts - especially the Badlands part since I knew nothing when I read it - are incredibly useful, thanks so much for making them.

    (And of course, I hope you'll make more guides if you find something interesting to point out. :p)
     
  15. Laz

    Laz L7: Fancy Member

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    if you have your map open in hammer, just go to your map proportions, where you set the skybox and such. The min and max fade distance you set there is default for all your props.
    if you then have some props that are disappearing to soon you can play around with the fadescale(0 if you dont want the prop to fade at all) or just override the values.

    this way you dont have to go in and set fade distances for each object seperatly.
    probably one of the best things you can do to give your map an fps boost!

    func_lod kinda makes your func_detail work behave like props. so there ya go.

    edit: I was wrong, the entries at world spawn are measured in pixels, not distance. Thats a shame ... would've been too easy :(
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2008
  16. MrAlBobo

    MrAlBobo L13: Stunning Member

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    heh...I just saw this and realized I can contribute, awhile back I listed out some gameplay details Ive seen on dustbowl, that help to maintain peoples interest based on new attack angles few people know about
    too lazy to repost all the pics, so heres a link:
    http://mralbobo.myhosting247.com/dustbowl/
    so...it never hurts to make your details useful to the game ;)
     
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  17. doctor killing

    doctor killing L1: Registered

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    i love those type of things in maps, espicailly the first one on that page because a pyro can easily wip out the sentry and engineer, so its not a camp fest
     
  18. laghlagh

    laghlagh L6: Sharp Member

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    Thanks, I looked it up, and heres another Dustbowl-jumping walktrough.
     
  19. 3DRyan

    3DRyan L2: Junior Member

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    Great post, definitely something everyone should think about, especially the boundaries. Makes maps ten times more immersive.
     
  20. Zan Miguel

    Zan Miguel L1: Registered

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    These are great tips and pointers! Thanks.