Analysis Guides

Anatomy of a Ricochet Level

Ricochet's gameplay has players hopping between platforms and launching discs at one another. This analysis deconstructs a Ricochet level to determine how it all works.

Deathmatch Deconstructed: Bounce

Following Stalkyard, VDU expands upon the successes and failures of HLDM's Bounce.

Deathmatch Deconstructed: Stalkyard

The first in a series on dissecting HLDM maps, Stalkyard's strengths and weaknesses are examined in-depth.

GoldSrc Map Decompilers: BSPTwoMap vs. WinBSPC

Decompiling maps for GoldSrc games is a bit touch and go. We tested two GoldSrc maps decompilers against one another to see what came out.

Investigating the "Wider is Better" VIS Anomaly

An old article claims that thicker brushes lead to shorter compile times. The Valve Developer Union investigates.

Item Spawns in Custom Quake Levels

The way you, as the level designer, place items in a Quake level can affect the look, difficulty, and flow of the entire map.

How They Did It: Special Effects in Half-Life

At its release, Half-Life's effects and scripted sequences were ingenious and revolutionary. In this guide, we break down the entities and effects that make it all tick.

Power Up: More Special Effects in Half-Life

More of the scripted sequences and effects in the original Half-Life are dissected and examined.

What Goes Into Compiling a Source Map?

Maps need to be compiled before they can be played in-game. This guide attempts to explain in-depth what each tool in the process does.

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Editor Guides

Accelerating Map Compiles in Quake-Based Engines

Optimization and smart decision making can drastically reduce your compile times.

Anatomy of an FGD (and How to Write Your Own)

Worldcraft-like editors use special FGD files to make editing the properties of entities easier. Writing a custom one is simple.

Advanced FGD Editing Made Easy

Far more options and settings can be used in FGDs than first discussed on our site.

Making Better Use of the Carve Tool

The Carve tool is one of the most messy and misused tools in Worldcraft-like editors, but it's possible to use it effectively.

The Cordon Tool

The Cordon tool in Worldcraft-like editors will only compile the section of the map you tell it to, making iterative work in one area much faster.

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Texturing and WAD Management

A Primer on Tool Textures

Tool textures are special, unseen textures that play an important part of scripting, visibility control, and map optimization.

Converting WADs to Materials With XWAD

Valve has left no easy way to convert a WAD to materials in the current Source SDK. Here's how to use an old tool to get it working.

Creating New GoldSrc WADs with Qlumpy and Wally

WAD files are the way the GoldSrc engine stores its textures, both the defaults and any you might create. Creating new ones is a simple process.

Custom 2D Skyboxes and the light_environment Entity

A custom 2D skybox texture adds a layer of polish and ambience to a map, and a well-configured light_environment can enhance the effect.

Getting Around in the Material System

In the Source engine, materials, sets of images and text files, replace the traditional way of storing and rendering textures.

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Engine Features

Colored Lighting in the Quake Engine

Quake, through custom compilers, supports colored lighting. Here's how to get it working.

Config Files

Config files are lists of commands that can be run in-game. Writing your own can save you time.

Controlling Visibility With Areaportals and Occluders

There are times when your map renders more than it should and VVIS can't help. Special brush entities may be able to squeeze more juice out of your map in busy areas.

Cubemaps: What They Do, and How to Use Them

Cubemaps are an important part of getting shiny materials to shine. Each game has their own caveats to getting them to render and work properly, however.

Entity Interactions in the Input/Output System

Source's I/O system replaces the old target system for entity interactions. Here's how it all works.

Features of Modern Quake Source Ports

Modern-day Quake source ports add a variety of new and enhanced features for level designers to make use of, such as fog, colored lights, or texture transparency.

Making Use of Source's Water Materials

Water in the Source engine is more complicated than you might expect.

Nodegraphs: The Key to Intelligent NPCs

AI nodegraphs are an integral part of level scripting and design, and having a good one means challenging enemies and helpful allies. Fortunately, they're easy to create.

Prop Types in the Source Engine

The Source engine uses 3D models called props to populate its levels. Not all prop entities work the same, however, and there's many different types.

The Showbudget Panel and Optimizing Source Levels

A well-optimized map means happy players. You can make use of a little-known debug feature in the Source engine to determine exactly what's slowing your map down.

Understanding Source's Physics Constraints

Source's physics engine can simulate a variety of constraints, or ways objects are attached to one another.

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Misc. Mapping

Constant, Linear, and Quadratic Lighting in Hammer Explained

Hammer includes three cryptic keyvalues that completely change the way your lights render in-game: constant, linear, and quadratic attenuation.

Properly Avoiding the "Pollen Sprites" in Half-Life

NPCs in Half-Life placed around tight, complex geometry will give off yellow error sprites that look like pollen. You can use a scripted_sequence entity to fix this.

Source Multi-Tool: A Field Guide

Source Multi-Tool is an all-in-one launcher that partially replicates the functionality of the now-defunct Source SDK.

Zipping Files Into a Map Using BSPZIP or VIDE

Compiled maps include a section of their format for packing custom textures and models right into the BSP itself. We'll look at two tools you can use to take advantage of this.

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