The art of making 'good' maps

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by Metritutus, Oct 16, 2008.

  1. Metritutus

    Metritutus L1: Registered

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    Hey there people. I've been trying to get into using Hammer. I know roughly how it all works, entities, etc.

    However the real problem for me is architecture and details. It never EVER looks right, it's too blocky and, well, to be frank, crap.

    I've tried looking at pictures of locations, I've tried looking at tutorials on details etc, I've tried using displacements and decals, and it just doesn't help. I think it's the brush work which I really suck at.

    Can anyone offer advice? Or am I alone out there, trying to struggle to make a map feel like a place and not a set of building blocks? :(
     
  2. eerieone

    aa eerieone

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  3. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Clever use of the varying grid scales is a brilliant tool, you can use the 2 or 4 grid to do small details like trim around doors, windowframes, planks of wood, etc. whilst using the larger sizes like 8 and 16 for main brushes. Don't be affraid to recess bits into walls and floors as well as building out from them either.
    Use of props really, really, helps, adding pipes, conduits, barrels, foliage and other stuff really makes an area stand out, you do have to be careful where you put them though, don't go overboard with one prop, get enough variance in there. look at the decompiled valve maps, they're a great help showing you how and where certain props and textures work best as well as seing how valve construct their geometry.
    Making buildings from reference is a good idea for practice, you'll browsing through the prop lists to find the ones that match best, this will help because the better knowledge you have of all the props in the game the easier it will be to think "this area needs this prop" since you often only really use the ones you know even though you should be using lots more variety.

    Have a read though of this - I've gone over some of the key points that valve use. the official maps are a goldmine for inspiration, I've loaded up TF2 just to look around their maps countless times and its so useful.
    I think I might go though another of the valve maps tonight and write up another bit of that guide, any preferences?
     
  4. Uriak

    Uriak L8: Fancy Shmancy Member

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    This could connect with the "do you give your map a story ?" topic

    Well, I feel there are two ways.
    Either you get experience through... mapping. My first map is very blocky, it was more from the start but it remained so even with additions. Exeperience will tell you how to add things :
    ->displacements and theyre combined use with props and brushes
    ->hollowings walls to show some underneath areas (very very common) filled with some props
    ->adding small structure details to improve hallways, corners, borders, roofs and such
    ->using texture variations to avoid boring the eye
    ->getting dimensions right. Cyclopean buildings/walls are the bane of the pretty map

    Otherwise (or should I say along this), you can imagine the story behind the map. Where are we, what did happen, how are this buildings going to be used ? What the players are fighting for? Each questions drives an answer you can apply to add eyecandy.
    ->blowing some part of your level (old attacks, accident) with eventual partial repairs
    ->show rooms along the playable part (did they need computer cluster ssomewhere ?, What this rocket would need to be moved ? )
    ->what are the spawnrooms supposed to be ? A real base (complete with toilets and such) some forward camp (with freshly dragged supply crates and such)

    This should give you some hindsight for decorating your basic layout.
     
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  5. eerieone

    aa eerieone

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    i would love to see you opinion on the alpine-setting in arena_lumberyard,
    or goldrush :)
     
  6. Laz

    Laz L7: Fancy Member

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    major factors affecting the "crap" feel are:
    1. Proportion! Get a feel for proportion, making things the right size, steps, windows, doors, .... can be tricky, and it is only through practice you gain the experience to make things the right size immediately. Put in a few player models, so you get a feel how the map looks with players running around in them.

    2. Bad Texturing: Make sure your textures are aligned properly, don't be afraid to cut a brush up to make texturing come together. Experiment with scaling up, rotating textures. if your beam is 45 degrees, align your texture properly.

    3. Perfectness: Buildings that look to perfect look like crap. No real building is perfect. Experiment with making that on beam crooked, have a tile in the floor missing, displace a roof, its all these little imperfectness that makes your map come alive. Especially wooden structures leave a lot of room for broken boards,

    4. Scenery. Not talking about 3d skybox or anything. But the little scenes you set up. scenes that tell stories. little stories hidden away in corners of your map, behind windows in sealed of rooms, in the hallways where everyone passes by. A barn with a swatch of paint on it, acompagnied by a paintbucket and brush, perhaps a few empty beercans. Someone was painting there, while drinking some beers, got to drunk/bored to finish up...
    It's these kind of things that make your map come alive. Look around you, what evidence is there present in the room you're sitting in of human activity, ignoring the humans? perhaps an empty plate with crumbs, or that half finished drink on the table?


    5. Lack of detail. Don't be afraid to dig in and put some trims in here and there. Detail can be timeconsuming, but very rewarding. Look at other maps, at how they created detail using brushwork, Whenever Im playing I catch myself just looking at the buildings quite often, carefully observing where the trims are, how the brushwork is built up, trying to define why that building or wall looks so damn good.

    most of all, spend alot of time in hammer, or any other level editor. Practice is still the best teacher.
     
  7. Hawk

    Hawk L7: Fancy Member

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    I find that flying around a nice-looking map as a spectator can do wonders for you. Just find a map you think is gorgeous and start looking around.
     
  8. Metritutus

    Metritutus L1: Registered

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    Wow, so many replies so quickly. Thanks people. :)

    Here's my first map:

    http://metirilucasitus.freesitespace.net/maps/map.rar

    It was intended as, as the name suggests, a dust-style map, with the clan tag to make it unique (I couldn't really think of a name).

    From reading what you people say, I can already see some flaws. I didn't really have any purpose for the map. I built it kind of on game-play ideas, rather than location ideas. Consequently I think that's why I found it hard to 'detail' it.

    Anyway, it's not really finished, and if I ever get some sort of inspiration for it I'll have another crack at it.

    Currently though, I decided I'd have a try at a different style of map with TF2, although so.
     
  9. TheDarkerSideofYourShadow

    TheDarkerSideofYourShadow L10: Glamorous Member

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    Though its long passed now, you might consider trying your hand at mini mapping contest 4, where you were given a limited space and had to make as nice a building as possible. You could see what other people choose to do in such a small area, and then see what you're able to do when limited. I found that contest to be a great experience for learning proper detailing (or, at least, improved detailing).
     
  10. Metritutus

    Metritutus L1: Registered

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    Do you have a link to this? I'll look at the rules and have a go at it, and post up the results here. :blushing:
     
  11. Banni

    Banni L1: Registered

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    Rules and discussion here
    Submissions here
    Votes and results here
    I definitely learnt a lot by entering this competition, so I can certainly recommend having a go, even if it is no longer active.
     
  12. Nineaxis

    aa Nineaxis Quack Doctor

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    Dustbowl would be a pretty obvious pick, or 2fort.
     
  13. MangyCarface

    aa MangyCarface Mapper

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    In my opinion, hydro or gravelpit. Hydro is BLU/neutral perfection. Gravelpit has solid architecture with complicated latticework.
     
  14. Sgt Frag

    Sgt Frag L14: Epic Member

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    I don't think anyone posted this.

    It's a TF2 specific thing. Same thing applies to all games, you need to match their style.

    Easier said than done I know. So what is TF2's thing? Deserts, wood, brick, red blu. All YES, but not what I mean.

    Someone also mentioned scale/proportion.

    This is stuff that really matters in the TF2 feel I believe. The scale/proportions in TF2 are really quite contridictory.

    For example, all the player spaces, doorways, stairs, etc... All player interaction is realistic scale. Doors are typically about 7 feet tall, hallways are wide enough for people to pass each other. Stairs are about 1 foot tall.
    All very real world dimensions.

    Then you have the outside areas. The unusable by player areas. Super tall skinny buildings that aren't big enough for stairways, maybe there's a ladder(?)
    But from the outside alot of the wood buildings are very cartoony. Way too tall and skinny to have any purpose. The exact opposite of all the areas players can go which are correctly sized.

    They also place alot of overhanging parts, lots of roof shapes/changes/sizes/tapers.
    -------------------
    So basically all areas players use need to be proportionately correct. But all the extra stuff to spice up the level can border on excessive and almost rediculous.
     
  15. Laz

    Laz L7: Fancy Member

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    to get your doorways the right size, these days of source it is easy. Just get a doorframe model, and size your wall around that. Perfect size. and a nice frame to boot.