Improving on detailing

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we've all had better times to die
Feb 10, 2017
When detailing maps, I've rarely been able to make things that are interesting to look at, and make sense in terms of how they are lain out, etc. My detailing work often ends up feeling almost 'sterile' and unnatural, awkward to look at, yet I don't know how I can improve it.

If anyone have tips for detailing maps, specifically on:
-Making geometry overall feel purposeful and interesting to look at while still feeling realistic to a degree
-Small bits of details that make the map feel properly 'alive', and like a place that is inhabited, or has been inhabited

Any tips and such concerning detailing in general, as well as the named things above, would be greatly appreciated
Dec 2, 2012
Overall detailing generally takes a lot of practice to look right. It helps to find references of what you're trying to make.

Making stuff look purposeful is as easy as thinking of a purpose for it. Barns are going to have hay and tools inside, and cranes and that sort of thing to get them into the lofts. Stuff like footprints in snow, shovels lying around in a work zone, and things like that really help the place feel alive. People are messy and lazy and tend to leave stuff lying around, so think of what it'd be like to work in that environment, and what you'd leave there.


Takes way to long to make and update maps
Jun 11, 2015
The key to good design, whether detailing or layout, is, in my opinion, a good mixture between order and chaos. Basically, have things be predictable enough to be familiar, but not predictable enough to be boring.
I feel like your problem is that your geometry is fairly simple; I'd suggest trying to add more angles, and to stay away from plain squares and rectangles. Another thing I feel you struggle with is that you don't really think of how an area should be played in; a large part of your maps that you've made have just been corridors to move through, not areas to fight in. One thing that Egan told me when testing my (absolutely terrible) first map that stuck with me, is that, when making your map, you need to think about how *multiple* people will interact in and between each area, not just how one person would move through it.
Overall, "designing with a purpose", as you might say, is a pretty difficult thing to learn, and even harder to get right on your first try. The best way to learn, as always, is to practice, get as much experience as you can, and see what people like and dislike. The second best way is to analyze your favorite maps, see what they do, how they do it, and figure out *your* likes and dislikes


L3: Member
Jul 21, 2016
Take ingame screenshots of anything you find interesting. This can be interesting geometry, prop placement, composition, and anything else evocative of the locale. You can then ask yourself questions or go in depth as to what makes that screenshot interesting. Here's a spoiler of some examples & why I thought they were interesting.
L4D2. A bucket was placed here to catch falling water from a leaking pipe. Note the FX particle and puddle beneath. This is story without words.

CS:GO. A garage holding a tank inside. Note the small details like the gravel tracks, the pillars breaking the repeating wall texture, and the concrete just above the gravel to add depth.

LiS. This is a composition using a water tower as a focal point. Note where your eyes gravitate towards. The tower stands above the earth with the trees, sky, and sun as a background.


TF2. A busy environment for what essentially serves as a hallway. Note anything evocative of this blimp interior like the shipping crates, handrails, and electrical boxes. I'd also like to point out the diagonal lines contrasting the floor. The blimp walls and metal sections create contrasting shapes that makes you passionate for this place. Also, hail comrade Pyro.


I really suck!
Nov 5, 2016
When I detail exteriors, I try to imagine the BLU and RED forts as massive, sprawling castles with bastions and ramparts springing off each other in imaginative ways, only made of wood and metal and to serve a purpose (granary, farm, industrial stuff, etc.)

For interiors, wooden beams, inaccessible areas cordoned off by windows, chicken wire/etc., floors above casting light below through broken floors and such.
I never use strictly white light in any finished products. In wooden buildings, I like to tint them orange or pink to make them feel warm, in metal buildings a cool slightly-blue or fluorescent yellow. It really changes the feel.

Also, if you haven't already, check these articles out.