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Jan 20, 2019
So, I was inspired by 3kliksphilips video and decided to create my own guide... to how make your map more... beautiful.

I am not professional mapper, all of these just my thoughts, advices and knowledge.

Lighting is the one of the most parts of the map. One of these parts is using right skybox and lgiht settings for it. You may or may not have some different custom skybox, but custom skybox (even without specific light settings) makes map more Beautiful! For example:

Cp_Mahogany (its custom blue skybox and cool light settings!)

Cp_Axlebox (this is really beautiful for alpha map!)

Yes, these map also uses sun! If you want use these too, just place env_sun somewhere on your map, make sure it works correct with your light settings and dont forget about shadow_control (I dont know why, but it crashes without it)
(me, using sun in my new farm map)

So, our next part is small lights. Light and light_spot guys. Dont forget about them, in some cases, using light_spots are better than just lights. Dont be lazy, take some of your time to make good lighting interior for your alpha map! (image from plr_longboy)

Dont forget that our teams have different colors! So, sometimes you might change color of one of your lights to make area more friendly for player!

HDR. One of the most powerful parts of lighting. But sometimes, people dont know how to use it and it makes maps kinda like this...

Dont forget to change HDR lighting parametres and tunemaps to scale down HDR a bit! :) (but this still looks too shiny anyway)

Reflective textures
Lets start with Water first! Using some of the water textures can give you images like this!

To be fair, this is not tf2 water texture, but still looks awesome! If you want, you can use it on your maps! So, what we gonna use instead of this? The best thing I found was 2Fort Expensive Water:

20190731144645_1.jpg 20190731144705_1.jpg
To be honest, not the best reflections, but still usable!

So next thing is reflective floor. There lots of reflective floor (not only floor) textures, but to properly use them you need cubemaps! As many cubemaps you have - the better result. But remember, that cubemaps affect on map file size! There is my round calculations:

1 cubemap entity - 2061 kb
11 cubemap entities - 4810 kb

So, be careful with placing them or dont use custom assets much! It dont give you ultra-raytracing reflections, but look at this:


Polished floor from Egypt Thing and this tiled floor (base texture!) from Snowbase

I think We need moooore reflective stuff for tf2!

Sometimes you need to use fog. It is really good tool for optimisation and also makes some feeling of far and high objects!

Speaking of optimisation, Dont forget to optimizate you map!

Blend textures. Displacements walls
The last thing I want to speak of is - Displacements walls. This is really cool new feature which was introduced in such map like Watergate:

And then Valve picked up this idea and used it in new Dust 2! Most of its stuff are displacements and models!

Dont forget to use particles! They do very good job!


this just inspirational images for my map... but I am sure you find more particles in ASG maps than dragons (or alligators) in the whole world!

Remember, even in >20 years old engines you can make cool and beautiful images of your maps, just keep trying! Good luck everyone! I am leaving you with this low-poly parrot looking on sinked low-poly boat :)