Since I enjoyed making the other 2 tutorials, I decided to make a third :)
This tutorial will explain the basics about good geometry and architecture.
It doesn't contain everything, but it will give you a good idea of what to
This time with architecture, the thing that is most important in mapping is
contrast- differences- but at the same time keeping the unity in everything,
it has too look like every part is all related to one big part. This is of
course also true for geometry. Map elements that are the same throughout a
level are boring; there is no contrast- it's just one idea repeated over and
over. In the following pics you can see it: there is a giant empty space.
This scene is very boring to look at and not at all interesting
Or what about this leet corridor
You need to ''break'' the surface- it's a straight big line now. Break it.
For instance, make pillars on the walls, tiles that are loose on the floor,
and construction to hold the space on the ceiling together with some air
vents or whatever you can think of. But avoid such large, undetailed spaces
by any means necessary. In the pics below there is a floor, wall, and
ceiling that aren't so boring anymore because their surface has variation in
height and look; it becomes interesting.
And that's important, too- difference in height. In the pic below, the
author made a couple of pillars on the wall on the exact same height as the
wall, so it's flat now.
It's boring again. If you are making stuff for a 3D game, then make it look
like a 3D level. Place the pillars in the front of the wall. There is a
difference in height now -> more variation -> better too look at.
I am not saying you may never place brushes on the same height though, it
can be good sometimes, but don't make your entire map like that, and don't
do stuff like on the second picture.
The next step many mappers do is that they see the big empty spaces they've
created, and they try to fill it up, but they fill it up in the wrong way.
You then get stuff like this:
There is no unity- you are making a building or a landscape. Its 1 level
with one theme, not 100 smaller parts with 100 different themes. The level
has to look unified; it all has to connect and each section of the map must
look like it belongs to a greater whole and that's not the case in the above
screenshots- it looks like copy/paste work, like children do. They fill in
surfaces. What the authors did in the above maps is that they saw that they
had a big space, and they tried to fill it up with typical things like an
air vent, but they just added a cube in the middle of a wall and next to it
a lamp in the middle of nowhere, and so on. The different parts have
nothing to do with each other- they look like they are all from a different
style and pasted on a big wall for no particular reason. The parts need to
flow, just like gameplay has to do. A floor trim goes over in a floorlamp,
that floorlamp becomes a pillar, the pillar becomes a ceiling trim, and that
ceiling trim becomes another lamp, while it splits up and holds down an air
vent or a window somewhere else. That's the idea- connect it all- like in
the screens here:
This is generally something you really learn by time, people who have just
started mostly have a hard time getting this idea. In the second pic, for
example, the slant brush by number 1 on the floor prevents the floor being
boring- it fills up the floor and adds differences in height at the same
time, while the 4 cut out things in it bring out variation in it. The
pillar by number 2 has a slightly wider bottom, to prevent it from looking
too straight, to make it look more dynamic, and at the same time the pillar
makes interference with the ceiling and the bar that goes over it by number
3. And that bar goes over to the sides again, together with the other
ceiling decorations so it's all connected, and feels like a unified approach
to the geometry.
Slant brushes mostly look good in today's maps, they are easy and fast to
make, and make the map look more smooth, and they are not poly intensive
like curves which are generally too high-poly for current hardware. Just
using a lot of cubes with vertex editing on them can do a lot. I made a lot
of maps with 95 % cubes and vertex editing. They can fix a lot, like for
instance the dead corner in this pic, its straight, empty and boring:
But in the other pics below you see the use of an angled brush to make it
look smoother, and it has a noticeable effect. It looks smoother now.
This ''straight lines are boring'' solution works for floorplans too; never
make a giant long corridor that is just flat and long. You can make it
high-poly and give it extremely cool architecture but it stays a long and
boring corridor unless you break it, make differences in heights, add
stairs, or even better a ramp every now and then, some turns, pillars which
are somewhat in the way (but not so much that they make the gameplay ghey-
don't start adding pillars everywhere), anything to break up the monotony.
In the below pic there is a long, plain corridor, which looks okay for the
decoration but it doesn't work for the gameplay and it feels boring because
it's too much of the same thing:
When you have a long bridge, catwalk, or corridor, break it up like here in
CTF-Hydro16, the bridge is narrower and lower in the middle:
And in general, just try to avoid such long corridors. The only place where
they could work is in singleplayer when you try to achieve a certain theme,
but even then still be aware of the fact that it can become boring because
it repeats too much. In multiplayer it never works, certainly not in games
like UT, because no one is interested to run 5000 miles to the next room
through a long, straight corridor. There needs to be variation, there is no
variation in an über-long corridor.
Don't make geometry repeat endlessly either. Don't use 1 wall decoration all
over the map; it needs variation and if it looks like it's been repeated
everywhere it gets boring and it won't improve orientation either. Use
different types of decorations, but make sure they all still look they're in
the same style. Don't make the same room all the time, don't make the same
corridor all the time: make them all look different.
This idea goes for symmetry, too. Don't make everything symmetrical, the
only gametype in which symmetry would be ok would be CTF, but for the love
of god please don't make symmetrical DM maps. When you make everything
asymmetrical you can at least use twice as many cool ideas in the same map
When you have a border on a catwalk or bridge or something trim it off, don'
t just cut it off like in this pic:
The sides are just hacked off. Trim it and make a border around it, like
The same idea goes for doors, If you made a 2d shape extruded corridor for
instance, and you are trying to connect 2 rooms with each other, then don't
just cut them out of the wall, make a nice border around it so it looks
good, like here:
Passage 1 is made with a texture, the total door is 1 texture, and that
texture delivers the border. This way looks the smoothest and best. Or else
you can do it like 2, another shape around your subtraction, as a real brush
Make sure your architecture looks "realistic", too, not like in this pic:
If this scene were in real life, then the construction you see in the above
pic would collapse. Of course it doesn't do that in UT or any other game
built in a 3D engine, but it looks unrealistic, and therefore pretty ghey.
This problem is one you see in a lot of noob maps- things that are extremely
thin, or extremely long constructions that are realistically not supported
by the surrounding geometry to make it look possible. You need to make stuff
like you have in real life. Put in big iron bars that hold it, or wood, or
stone, or whatever. And it has to be thick enough to look real, so no 8 unit
high catwalks and using it to cross a distance of 4096 units with it or
something that looks like crap
Make detail too on some places, but avoid making too much of the same thing
or getting a too-high poly count through it. Make everything leet. If
something is wrong then don't be afraid of deleting it and trying again. It
's always better to work a few days longer on your map then to finish it
quickly and then have a sucky map. Be a critic for yourself, look at the map
like you would look at someone else's map, and look at what is wrong. Your
map is only as good as the worst part of it.
- Added September 29th '02
Few things I need to add.
Coming back on the slant brushes for a sec. Slant brushes will cause your architecture
to look less cubic, it will literally and figuratively give the impression of
Following pic is a corridor with cubic brushes :
It's boring and cubic.
- Now look to this pic :
It's the same corridor, but now with made of slant brushes, the 90 degree corners
are gone, it now looks a lot less cubic, and more interesting for the eye. The
shapes really flow and "play" with each other For the best flow result you should
also let it flow in between the pillars, letting the pillars flawless flow over
in to the wall, and flawless to the next pillar. So it flows in X, Y and Z axis.
You could also do this with your whole map layout, having some parts of your
map 45 degree rotated. This will give a cooler result, but UT's engine isn't
the best engine to do this with due to the bsp and the grid.
In the new Unreal engine and in programs such as 3DSMAX you can easily select
a poly/face, and extrude and bevel in, this is easy to do and gives decent results.
For the people that are always asking "how do you make those slant shapes
?". With cubes and vertex editing. 2D shape might work too, but most people
use vertex editing and cubes, since its faster and easier to adjust later on.
And it's the same method as you would use to model things in programs such as
Forgot to mention this common problem in the original tut'. What you see noobs
do a lot is adding ridiculous underscaled and thin pillars or other small things
to a big space. Like this :
It looks so wrong, makes no sense at all. And it's still cubic like hell. In
this case the pillars are uberthin, while pillars are mend to support the building,
they make sure it doesn't collapse. So pillars should at least look a bit strong
and looking like they really help the building, unlike this example.
Other thing you can do is working things open. Having the inside cut out, so
you only keep the outer frame. This gives a much better 3D effect, and good
Simple example :
It's less boring, breaks the flatness of the original shape.
When you don't know what kind of detail to add to your map, a thing that could
help, next to searching reference pic's online and in books, is looking at textures.
Textures often have lot of detail, and some of it could be transformed in 3D.
Like next texture from AVP1 which I quickly turned in to a low poly 3D wallpanel.
You don't have to copy it exactly, bit lame too, but you could get some nice
inspiration from it.
Next thing is the so called thing "thematic execution", something
that will get a lot more important in the future. The "why does this building
look like an alien starship" thing. Not only the big general architecture
shows what type of building it is, also the detail does, the detail you barely
got in older engine as the UT engine. Things like little control panels, little
plants, even spiders on the walls, anything, detail that fits by your theme,
and that improves your maps theme. It's not enough to make big very smooth curved
pillars, and very high poly spheres. You also need the detail in between. After
all you are making an environment. And a research lab, an alien starship, a
temple, ... were, if this would be the real world, build for a specific purpose.
Researching, military outpost, worshipping a god, etc. It's build for that,
so there are tools, and items and things in the level, which would be there
in real life too since you need such things in a research lab or anything else.
Sounds logical, but lot of people forget it when they come from a low poly engine
to a new higher poly engine like the new Unreal engine now with UT2003
A thing what you certainly shouldn't do is letting the textures control your
theme. If you need textures to show you just made a temple, then you got a problem.
The textures help the theme, they don't create it ! 5 year ago it was done since
the PC's could barely handle a decent polycount so you had to use cubes with
textures. But today the day with quickly rising polycounts you can't do that
If you would take away all materials (= textures) from your bedroom, so your
bedroom would be totally unskinned and having a default color, then you would
still see it's a bedroom. Why ? 'cause of the detail, there are typical details
in that room which clearly show what type of environment it is, and what purpose
it serves. That's what you need, thematic detail, your environment has a purpose.
Everyone sees that this is a garage, and while it may not have good architecture,
it does have detail, small but important things, like the earprotectors against
that wall, and the little red rotated wire at the ground. Very typical elements.
Imagine that you would need to make a spacedock, where they repair and work
on spaceships. Then you would most likely make big curves, pillars and bars,
and other stuff. And on the ground you would place some buttons to open doors,
some occasionally cable and wire, and some bombs that are ready to be loaded
on the ships and most likely you put in a few ships too to show its a dock.
But the real detail is still missing then, without the few ships and signs in
the room you wouldn't see if its a dock. You could add a drill on the floor,
some material, maybe some little stairs, some helper robots, some little or
big cranes, etc.... Searching for pictures online as reference will help a lot
with that stuff. The more powerful the engines will get, the more important
this will be.
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