Source Mapping Process and discussion

05-25-2005, 02:55 PM
I'd like to setup an informal group of custom mappers...not like iNw or the old editing sites...but right here in this forum where we discuss techniques and run map tests in an attempt to get the very best custom maps built. If you go back and look at all the custom maps in the HL1 world you see 99% pure crap and 1% decent. I doubt we'll have as many custom mappers out there as we did before so it's time to shepard the ones we have.

I've gotten some assurances that we'll recieve guidance from the devs on techniques and approach to take while building maps. I'm working to get a fgd released but brush, displacement, and other techniques in CS are similar to DoD. That said...this is purely a custom deal w/no guarentee things you build and get tested in the group will go official. I have to think however, that our combined strengths would, at a minimum, help get some custom maps out on the street that are worthy and playable. BTW...this does not mean folks will be able to get in on the beta team because they can map so don't ask.

I have to assume if there are some decent mappers out there who would be interested in sharing.

Ginger Lord
05-25-2005, 03:39 PM
Firstly, do not rush.

In HL1 to be honest you could hollow a cube and texture it and call it a room.

In Source you can still do this, but don't expect to get any good feedback. Maps take a lot longer now to do, the detail is immense, look at de_inferno for example.

Another great tactic is displacement mapping for rubble and broken walls but FD can go into this better than I can.

05-25-2005, 04:17 PM
I toyed a little bit with the Hammer and i think the displacement tool is a bit annoying, especially if you are working with different heights and try to connect different shaped displacements.

So make sure if you do terrain that your brushes have the same dimensions, so you can use the sew tool to connect them.

I found a cool optimization guide for source maps with some good information. Click me (

05-25-2005, 06:16 PM
Originally posted by FuzzDad
If you go back and look at all the custom maps in the HL1 world you see 99% pure crap and 1% decent.

hope I'm with the minority in this one D'OH! :D

I have been mapping for hl1 long enough that I think I can put together something decent, but I haven't done more than open up hammer 4.0. now seems like as good a time as any to get to work.

what did you have in mind as far as getting started fuzzdad?

05-25-2005, 06:18 PM
This sounds like a great idea. I've only made two maps for dod, but i have been working on ones for Plan of Attack and HL2DM. It is definetly harder to make maps in source. I look forward to mapping in dod:source.

05-25-2005, 07:47 PM
I've just started mapping recently. just toying around with Hammer. Using that little thing you made, FD, for the hinges, etc, has helped me alot figuring out little things.

Maybe post the link, or with you permission, let me mirror it for you, for other beginners to toy around.

05-25-2005, 08:07 PM
I've already got one dod source map in the can (dod_falaise) and the two others I'm starting are a beach map and a Normandy farmhouse (causeway) map...but the purpose of these posts are not my maps but what I and other senior mappers can help with as we do our own in help w/your mapping techniques, help with entities, etc.

Now...I really have not organized my thought processes yet so expect this to be a little disjointed and out-of-place for a while while I get stuff together...but eventually I'll post a guideline set of instructions on how to go about making a map...what to look for, how to play test them, etc. Some of this will be purely my own technique and that of others, some will be parts of discussions I've had with dev team members as I went through the process of getting maps into the official pipeline and some will be how I've had many maps of mine tested up on CoJ and how important that is. Together they represent a sort-of "best practices" listing of how to create and ready your maps for release. you progress w/your maps we'll critique them, give you help, playtest them, and try and hook you up w/others to model and texture for you. The goal is to try to get back some of that spirit we used to have here w/map releases and a sense of teamwork. It might be lofty a goal but I think it's worth it.

05-25-2005, 08:09 PM
im a terrible mapper, but it is a good idea and I think we do need to stick together and help each other out because I can see the ammount of mappers falling sharply with source.

05-25-2005, 08:38 PM
1) Start with a plan

a. Every map you make should start with an overall layout and general plan of what you want the map to accomplish. Is it an objective map? Will there be multiple objectives? Will it be a flag map? Will it be a clan-type circular map or a linear map?

b. Using paper and pencil sketch out your pathways first and buildings second. Understand that game flow in DoD is generally funneled into combat areas…you want to design a map where players seek out and demand combat…not run away and hide from it.

c. The most played maps in DoD are what I call “light-n-tight” maps…that is they are well lit and are small CQ-type maps. You can go dark if that’s your vision…or go large…but remember that if a goal is to get a lot of people to play your map then realize your customers preferences will have more to say about that then your talent.

d. Decide what area of the world you want the map to be. When you do historical research you’ll want to stay true to the architectural standards of the area you plan to map in. Get multiple copies of pictures and other items of what you are making that can keep you in sync w/times and can help you as you map. Start favorite’s lists in your web browser. Print them out and tape them to the wall around your PC or make a folder w/them in it…but PRINT them out so you can look at them.

e. Spend days…not minutes…on your design. Draw it out in your head and on paper countless times until you feel comfortable w/your design:

i. Every combat area has several entrances and exits.
ii. Wide open area’s have cover spread about.
iii. There’s a main pathway and balancing side pathways.
iv. If a house on one side of the map is opened a corresponding house on the other should be opened as well.
v. Think vertical…try not to have a perfectly flat map. If you do have a flat map put in things you can climb up and over on (rubble, staircases, etc).
vi. If you can find a artist have them start to do conceptual art work on what the houses should look like, what the terrain should look like..etc. If you can’t get a “real” artists then do a harder job at researching and try and make “real” buildings based on those pics

f. Show your plan around…ask hard-corps gamers who you trust what they think. Show your mapping buddies…be ready for harsh criticism from people who couldn’t map their way out of a box and accepting of comments from guys who you respect as mappers.

g. Do all this without ever opening hammer.

Remember that nobody has a patent on originality...these are guidelines only and although they work for me each of you has to find your own path. I used to map in parts...letting the overall design develop over time as I mapped but I've since found that to be a slow arduous process prone to redo's and remakes. It's far easier to have a good plan and execute from that then make it up as you go along.

05-25-2005, 09:40 PM
Wow, thanks FuzzDad, I'm gonna go do that right now.

Sly Assassin
05-26-2005, 02:30 AM
Great Idea Fuzzdad, I'm an average mapper and to be honest the one map I released wasn't that flash at all and I never did release the fixed up second beta of it.

I've played with the displacement maps alot in hammer and consider myself as having a reasonable understanding and skill in that area. If you'd like a hand in working out some tuts or maps for people to download and have a gander at then I will give a hand where ever its needed.

Also something I do when deciding on what I would like to include in my map is to write down ideas, like for instance how wide the roads will be in hammer units, their heights, width etc, the same with buildings, open fields and so forth.

05-26-2005, 04:53 AM
With source maps, i think its necessary to invest some time into research about architecture and environment. I dont want to see huge block houses with a roof on it, just because it fits in the scene or the map borders.

And i hope the official guidelines for physic objects arent that high. I mean a physic object here and there is ok but too many of them influences the performance.

I also read that you have to be careful with water in multiplayer maps. It can cause lag, especially if you use high quality dx9 water.

05-26-2005, 06:26 AM
ok might be useful this is how i work,

1), find inspiration, reallife, movie, book even an other game, write or think of what sortoff objects you want the map to revolve around , example ( i wanna do something along the lines of spr neuville,) i want a nice church, town square , field with a bunker maybe an 88'trenched in. this all seem very basic but all maps start with an idea.

2) ok next up, ref hunting! thats right. google, militairy sites, french/belgium/germany toerist pages, anything that shows you arcitecture, we want a church, google up the churches, town square idem. looking at other games/pictures of other games, is not a bad thing. these guys are leveldesigners aswell, they know their stuff lots you can learn from them just dont try to copy it instead use it for inspiration.
step 2 is amoungst the most important steps, you need to take. you dont wanna have a level full of arcitecture that has nothing to do with the actual country.

3) ok now that you have a folder filled with ref you might need, its time to dig into them, you found a good church you'd like to use ? great. now rename it or put it in a sperate folder. found some nice houses ? bunker ref do the same.

4) due to your ref search. and ref sort, your plan is shaping up. by now you should have a good sense of what the map should look like visually. its always good to work with area themes, shoping street, church square, etc we dont wanna make a boring level were every area looks the slowly the layout is forming in your head. so its about time we move to that.

5) layout. this will determine your gameplay so you wanna get it right. you've already drew a layout before you've started planning ? scrape it. once again were gona hunt for ref/ideas
that will set the guidelines for your layout. theres lots of diffrent layout's that work others that why does layout A. work for dod and layout B doesnt?
in otherwords. why is ava the most played map? why anzio? why caen? while others arent played as much. investigate. search yourself why you find it fun to play those maps. study the flow of the level. figure of 8 maps like anzio. or linear maps like caen and Ava. am i advising you to copy the layout ? hell no. im advising you to study maps that do work and use their guidlines for your own layout. you dont wanna put a month work in your level. to find out people dont like it because theres a huge bottleneck which could have been avioded if you just thought about the flow before you drew that "killer" layout.

6) ok now that you've studied the visuals and gameplay its time to put them together. start with drawing a map flow.
next step is to draw out the roads. and fill in your ideas about the visuals. we wanted a square , church. field etc make them come together. i cant give much more pointers on this because this part is free for your imagination aslong as you stick to level guidelines. usually you see people make 2 main routes come together through a square. however its always best to have atleast 2 extra routes. why ? a square is open. when 2 teams come together in that area you'll just have the same bottleneck as you would have if the road was straight and narrow.
good example is caen, electric alley. bank alley.

6a) this doesnt go for all because we cant all draw, but if you can i advise you to translate every area into a concept piece. translate the photos to what is possible ingame and give your own twist to it.

7) ok now that you've build your layout and got your visuals planned its time to start building. which can be the hardest part for some. because this is really a person to person thing. im just going to write what works for me. i never start with roads. its the highway to bad scaling. yes even if you put a playermodel in there first. instead i usually pick one of the buildings i want to do, that i feel the most comfertable with or looking forward to doing.
instead of just building it somewhat and leave detail for later, i would do this building full detail as a standard for the visual i will maintain through out my level ( can you see a pattern here :P guidelines guidelines guidelines) now that i've got this building done, ive got a scale mesurement and a visual guideline. and progress from there.

1) idea
2) ref
3) ref sort
4) visual plan
5) layout study/planning
6) layout
6a) area concepts
7) start building

handy tips.
just a few extra tips to keep in mind while work on your map.

- stick to your plan. if you planned it well theres no need to drift from the path you set out unless you've made a mistake and something doesnt work. same goes for visuals its always ok to ajust some as you get new ideas while going, but dont move away from your plan to much. it are these things that will have you ending up with a hd full of unfinished levels with 1 or 2 cool area's just because you got a new idea, and just had to crame it into your level. bottle it and serve cold later.

- COMMEN SENSE. yes i capsed that on purpose. commen sense people. houses have doors, windows. multiple rooms. no ladders to get to second floors. houses are big if you gona make a house open make sure its big enough to live in. but you just want one room on the top floor open ? no problem just make sure that it would look as if theres more rooms, add door, stairs dont need to be open but make it look as if it could be opened.

- sense of materials. Important dont revolve your map around 1 or 2 textures you think look awsome if you dont have a full set that goes along with it. these things gotta work together, in style, color huey etc think about a material and its purpose before you place it. rooftiles dont go on a vertical side of a roof. nor do they go on the edges. think about the direction of the nerve before you place a wood material on a doorframe, the nerve would be vertical not horizontal, and that goes for everything. if you place a tudor texture make sure you align it with wood on either edge of the house. that sometimes can take awhile? indeed but its all about detail. Also keep in mind the materials suite the area the map revolves around. you've made a big ref database in step 2) USE IT!. investigate if the material you are about to place would be found in that area.

- compile often. keep track of the preformance, and visuals ingame. besides theres nothing as motivating as seeing your hard work in action.

- learn texturing. now theres alot of people that wont learn this or try twice then pass it off as "i cant do this" but i strongly advise you give it a try, you dont have to be as good as texture artists like daniel luka, blazeeer etc but every leveldesigner should have a knowledge of were these materials come from and beable to ajust the colors/ heuy or contrast to suite their lighting/settings,
usually texture packs are created for specific levels and settings, for instance jagd, luka and me ajusted and created everything to match eachother creating a visual marriage between lighting, materials and leveldesign, applying that same set and colors to your level will prolly have it end up looking unorginal
that doesnt mean it cant play good, but it doesnt stand out visually. alot of people here will prolly disagree with me saying gameplay is everything, but remeber we are leveldesigners, not just gameplay designers, gameplay and visuals go hand in hand.

well this should conclude the lesson for today. if you have specific questions about the subjects above or anything else feel free to ask me

05-26-2005, 07:20 AM
References for me are one of the most important things in mapping. I live in the UK, right outside a town with a lot of Victorian style elaborate town hall type buildings, and I've been to Normandy so I can create things just from memory in maps. I also have a good imagination which helps, so I can just create things from scratch and they work out fine. But photos are another good way to get ideas as has been mentioned loads of times. I've got a folder full of mapping references; if I see a photo that could be used in a map somewhere I just save it. I've got some of photoshopped forrest photos that aren't particularly useful but they gave me an idea and had some good ruins that I used as a reference. I've also got hundreds of WW2/WW1 photos saved on my HD, which have given me a lot of ideas also,
And as IR said, other games can give you ideas. I've been stuck on my cherbourg remake for a while, and after playing United Offensive yesterday, I got a lot of ideas on how to do some things, especially filling in the huge spaces you have for buildings in a map like Cherbourg.

killer tomato
05-26-2005, 07:26 AM
Posted by IR:...before you drew that "killer" layout.


I like your setup. The advice gave allready shows some of the most important elements of mapping: preparation and thoughtfull mapping.

I'm watching this thread closely! :)


05-26-2005, 09:55 AM
IR and I kinda grew up together as mappers in iNw so there's a reason why both out approaches are similiar...because they work. The other thing I think needs mentioning is that it took us years to get half-way decent at this. Mapping is not as simple as picking up Hammer and firing away. So have patience. For every released version of saints or glider there were hundreds of versions that sucked. You can actually look at a mappers sequence w/maps to see how they progress w/their technique. Just the other day a friend of mine was showing me something in Hammer that I never knew exisited...the next day I learned how to work an entity I didn't know existed. So even now I really do not feel I know enough to make all the smart decisions on mapping. So folks like IR and me and others form loose friendships where we occasionally discuss these things and share technique and learn together.

Part of this journey is not only learning how to map it's learning how to work w/others. Gaming today is team-oriented. A mapper might do the loose layout and put in simple structures and then artists will conceptualize detail and a modeler will add more detail and a sound guy will add sound and testers will show that some pathways need to be changed and so on and so forth. The point is...if you can't work well with others than forget about a career in this's collaborative not confrontational.

As far as mapping assistance and training...start with VERC and other sites like that. You might not always find the best advice but they are places where like-minded mappers hang out and discuss technique. If you've never mapped before start small with test maps...figure out how to map a house with a door first and go from there. There's also a set of standards the devs would like to see used w/respect to brush sizes and widths. It's really more a combination of what the engine can do smartly and how the engine was designed. Wall thicknesses, brush height, door and window sizes, etc. If you look in the texture set you'll see standard size orange-colored textures with pictures of a person, stairs, etc. These are templates that you should use as a standard. As a point of fact...when you get ready to map you should not worry too much about textures...just keep things fairly standard and use orange or grey textures for the's more important at this stage to get a map that plays well over one that looks good.

Maps can always be made to look better w/textures and detail...but if the gameplay sucks no volume of eye-candy will work. Gameplay first...then eye candy.

05-26-2005, 11:34 AM
While I can't map, I can offer the services of CoJ for playtesting and feedback.

05-26-2005, 11:47 AM
This thread is more than worth the time to read. Excellent idea, FD. I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

Sly Assassin
05-26-2005, 03:30 PM
Maybe we should also start a collection of links and so forth to reference pictures of buildings from all over europe, we all agree that prep is the biggest thing so why not build a data base of pictures like I did when I remade the dod map names database.
I can handle looking after that and update it when people add links etc.

05-26-2005, 03:40 PM
Originally posted by Sly Assassin
Maybe we should also start a collection of links and so forth to reference pictures of buildings from all over europe, we all agree that prep is the biggest thing so why not build a data base of pictures like I did when I remade the dod map names database.
I can handle looking after that and update it when people add links etc.

Well, Waldo, FuzzDad, IR, Izuno, insta, and skdr are all moderators here, so I think it will be easy for them to put their heads together and organize this particular sub-forum in a really useful and productive way. :)

05-26-2005, 03:48 PM
Yep...we'll work through that. As I first it'll just be posts talking to map technique and the like...over the next few weeks we'll get organized a tad better and work this like a team on the outside would.

In the meantime here's a small CounterStrike Source test map I did ages ago to teach myself some entities:

1) Shutters that you can shoot open (phys_hinge)
2) Shutter that teeter-totters and falls off if shot (phys_ballsocket)
3) A one-way door that can come off it's hinges once shot (phys_hinge)
4) Ropes that break w/nade blasts
5) Roof beams that bust up when an explosive barrel explodes (breakables, etc)
6) Using displacement mapping for broken walls
7) Details for interior wall breaks (so your walls look realistic) some other stuff. BTW...if you have sv_cheats on you can use impulse 101 from the console and get all the weapons and blow stuff up real good...

VMF Mapping FIle (

Playable CS Test Map (

05-26-2005, 04:07 PM
Good thread. FD and IR really covered the stuff nicely. I'd like to add my beans to the can:

From my point of view, mapping is not only making stuff look good but play good. Of couse you might have a awesome layout in your mind but sadly it might not work ingame. What might go wrong then? Not the visuals; you can design and imagine awesome ww2 stylish buildings and ruins in your mind, draw those to paper and then start your Hammer. Up to this point it might be easy for productive persons but when building the map itself these things collide with each other and makes the map basically "explode", heh.

What you would do, is make tha layout with simple lines, connecting eachother with flag placements. Do not draw your detailed roads yet, its worthless at this point. Finish up your basic route and flag placement with simple lines. One good technique here is to start with blank paper and make dots where you want the flags, even before designing the roads. After placing flags, start drawing the roads with lines connecting the flags with eachother. Add few side routes to the mix.

Good plan is half a victory they say. When you have a good and working plan in front of you, you can go and start working on the map layout in hammer. You can also start the design process with making few (3-6) house designs in hammer so you can get a nice view of what you're up to with the design style...

Adding detail when progressing with the map is a good thing. If you just make the map from blocks and start working after finishing the basic stuff, it might make you confused what is your goal with the map design and complexity of the detail. I've always made the area kinda "ready" when moving to next one. Gives me more motivation to move forward when I see my current work in progress done and ready :)

Hope this helps the new and old mappers. It's my point of view on these things. This is why I love mapping. I can talk about it with people, communicate how people design the maps, how the different techniques are working etc etc. It's a productive circus where everyone can act their own part, clown makes a nice moves but elephant is slow but precise :)

05-26-2005, 09:14 PM
As I asked before... Do you want me to mirror that for you, FD?

05-26-2005, 10:21 PM
Originally posted by *RAR*
As I asked before... Do you want me to mirror that for you, FD?

No need too

05-27-2005, 02:14 AM
Nice idea this.

Looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

05-27-2005, 03:19 AM
theres been serveral topics in the general section now asking

what will make dod:S the best ?

and imo its this thread, all games have mappers but none have a community of mappers that work 2gether 2 produce perfection and i think if you guys help each,dod source maps will be the jeleasy of all online fps

<3 fuzzdad
<3 Ir
<3 Skdr
<3 the rest of u, u know who u r ;)

05-27-2005, 10:52 PM
been very busy lately, but yeah i'm in. I think this is a good idea.

bottom line is that in order to get the custom mapping community back up to what it was during growth of DoD on HL1, it's going to take some serious cooperation between mappers on how to map in Source, particularly because Source is more complex than HL1 engine.

I think the other mappers here have covered all the key points, so I won't blabber on.

Like I said, count me in.

Sly Assassin
05-28-2005, 02:54 AM
So we're talking basically setting guidelines for sizes of things like say wall widths and heights etc etc, usings say 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 unit sizes etc etc except for func_details which it doesn't matter what size they are.

So am I thinking along the right lines here then?

05-28-2005, 01:34 PM
i believe it's more like sharing techniques with each other, but standard sizes isn't such a bad idea.

05-29-2005, 12:38 AM
thanks for the techniques FD and IR, now lets see if i can actually put those into good use :D

05-29-2005, 03:51 AM
I know alot of you don't know me, but that's ok, I have a serious interest in source mapping, and have done a few dod maps already. I would be willing to go along with this. I plan to continue mapping with source.

05-29-2005, 12:04 PM
I'll help out, but seeing as I barely have the time to map for dod 1.X I dunno if I'll ever finish a dod:s map :(

05-29-2005, 02:50 PM
IR said it pretty good about textures, alot of you dont even try. Your never gonna have the 'wow' factor with standard textures. Standard textures = standard level. Me-- almost everything has to be custom. Even if that takes so much longer, its worthwhile to see it through.

All I can add is that if you make yourself a set of standardized things, like wall sizes, window sizes, stairs, door frames, etc. Your gonna thank yourself because you'll end up with more consistant look throughout your levels.

Also -- try constructing some houses fully clean and intact first, even if you know they will be destroyed buildings. Trying to create good looking destroyed building can take a lot longer than making an intact one first, and it may not look as realistic either.

You can always break out the bulldozer after your done. And -- you'll have 2 different versions you can use in the same map or in a future project. :)

05-29-2005, 04:37 PM
That's a great idea, I'll keep looking at this thread...

Dod_Dijon will be my first map ever, I learned how to map on it too, and I've been working on it for the past 6 months, up to 10 hours a day (being unemployed helps a lot sometimes). It's nearing beta testing stage, as I am testing dod Source with CoJ and therefore have access to the Dod Source content.

Although I haven't release anything so far, I think I'm beginning to have a not so bad insight on how Source works. With that said, I know I'm still learning new stuff every day.

I also happen to be French, and I'll be glad to help out in whatever way (French website walkthroughs, custom textures spelling, location research and background).

I chose to map Dijon because it's where I live, and I always thought the historical downtown where I live would be a good design. Although this doesn't mean my map will be any good, it can be a good first try for any brand new mapper who don't have a clue what their plan should look like. Try doing your neighborhood, if it doesn't work you'll understand why. If it works that's for the best....

The only piece of advice I can give so far is to try and be original. We've pretty much seen it all in terms of carentan or caen like maps. Don't venture into Legoland either, but you can change the scenario of your map, or its gameplay.

For example Dijon has never been bombed during WWII. Downtown Dijon hasn't changed since the 17th century (the buildings that is). This makes my map without ruins. I set the story around my basement in which a resistance leader (GMan) is held captive by the Axis, and the allies need to secure the sector and free him...

As a matter of fact a lot of France wasn't bombed during the liberation by the allies. People always know about normandy, but the rest had to be liberated too....

Knowing whether or not it'll work was besides the point for me, I wanted to try something that had not been done before. The gameplay will be "hybrid" between "horizontal" (dod_verdun) and vertical (any map with 5 stories buildings and two streets). Think Ava with a church twice as high.

05-30-2005, 08:07 AM
I would be interested in some sort of closer relationship between serious mappers for source. Fuzzdad has a great idea here and I would stand behind it and work with it in anyway I can.

I personally have never released anything beyond the fun map stage mainly because I don't have as much creative dediction as some people. I am however working on a design for a beach map in the way that has been suggested here. Hopefully that will help some with the ideas.

Personally I've been mapping and modeling for a few years. I belong the to the same group as Furyo and have been working closely with him on Dijon. I'm currently learning as well how to export models for source to help Furyo with some arches etc. After that's done we'll see how my plan works.

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