How does everyone start their mapping projects?

Hey everyone.

I wanted to start a little discussion on design planning, tactics people use and how people generally outline their projects.

I’ve seen videos where mappers have built the entire layout in dev textures, and then added to it. I’ve seen people detail section by section. I’m just interested to farm ideas on new methods to map. I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years, as I taught myself without any tutorials and made my own methods. It wasn’t until I started partnering with people recently that I learned not to build brushes with textures instead of NODRAW, and how to optimize effectively. I figured a thread like this couldn’t do anything but help others with your own experiences.

I typically start my maps with an idea of what I’m going to build - Cabin in the woods, a fire station, or high rise. If I don’t have a concept or setting, I can’t even get started. I texture each section as I build it, and add props towards the end. Optimization is always last. My downfall is that I usually end up trying to detail too soon, and that makes it very hard to move things around or change layouts. Watching 3klikphilips videos on YouTube, it appears he builds the whole basic layout in dev and then adds from there. I can’t seem to do that because I always end up with something that’s entirely different anyway, so I found it was easier to just build as I go.

What kind of things do you guys do? Does anyone do a blueprint before mapping? How has that helped / hindered you? Does anyone map professionally? Post your tactics and see what we can come up with.

when starting out mapping i use to just build the odd building or a scene then move on to a another map and learning the in’s and outs of the entity inputs/outputs it only in the last few months i’ve starting doing a personal project converting hl1 Decay levels to source using Blackmesa assets, not by decompiling and converting them but by using crafty to fly around the level taking screen shots and then building the level layout with my little view on it, when building the level i would use NODRAW and make 4 or 5 areas then texture it, build more layout then go back and detail

I build a mini-model of my map in Minecraft. Thats the only thing I ever use that game for anymore lol

That actually might be a great planning idea, but very time consuming. I could see doing that though.

My maps almost always start with an idea for a cool looking scene, and if I’m satisfied with the area I’ll expand upon it. But I mostly think in visuals and not gameplay, and I never really plan ahead so I quickly run out of steam or motivation.

I’ve gotten better though, and designing areas with gameplay in mind and still having it look good has actually been really satisfying. But before mapping it out I still do all my designing in my head, and not on paper for example, because I get caught up in the particulars and dimensions.

I usually start with sketches, looking to get a strong layout and theme
But as development goes on it just happens as it does, and it’s usually a weird kind of build and texture as I go, try to come back at the end and ram in as much detail as possible. But other times I’ve gone and fully detailed an initial area and then been like “fuck, what do I do with layout”
Anyway, here’s a heap of sketches and ideas and stuff I guess :v

Nice Mac. So you start by building a basic layout and using that as your framework? I used to do that but I ended up making maps that were not scaled very well.

I always slap together a quick sketch on one of the whiteboards I keep next to my desk or my sketchbook. Then I put the layout together with what I usually call preliminary detailing so I can quickly establish a style but can still leave room for improvement. Then I slap together the rest of the level bit by bit, sometimes detailing while I go, or doing one whole area from start to finish, calling it a day, then scrapping an entire room and adding more. I don’t rely on my sketches outside of a rough layout, since in the end the map is a self evolving project, each area can inspire a new one. It’ll never be the same as you started (though I’m sure you’ve all figured that one out). Often before I do a project I refer back to my older study/details tests. Which are small rooms testing excessive detailing for a style or logic functions, and then copy and paste from those if I’m too lazy to rotate the props myself. Also do this by drawing on my completely finished overdetailed maps. Really speeds up the detailing process. Have these little clusters of details from other maps, change a skin and move a prop and it’s unique. Very quick and cheap way to overdetail. I’m also prone to making modular wall sets and prop sets so I can rapidly assemble background scenery or otherwise that doesn’t need to be unique or player interacted. Essentially, all my newer maps are just little bits of almost all my other maps.

[editline]22nd October 2016[/editline]

Oh, and I always do dev textures on everything, and then do find and replace to nodraw at the end of the mapping phase. Always do a big skybox or skydome til I finish and then patch up leaks when I close up the skybox later. Just removes stress til that last leak fix part.

So I have a question about using dev textures. How has it helped you out and why do you do it? What I mean is, for example, I build everything in NoDraw and then texture it once I have my layout designed. It’d be nice to find out how and why people use dev textures.

Dev textures are just easier on the eyes, plus since there are many many many dev textures to choose from I can differentiate different areas, or detail geometry from non detail before I make anything into entites. Helps with measuring mostly.

I only start a map project after much rage and frustration with my other maps and//or life.

Sometimes I let myself daydream though, and I use whatever I dreamt up for inspiration. If I have a locale in mind I’ll use google street view to check it out, maybe copy some buildings. I did that extensively with rp_california and de_mukou.

I tried the dev texture mockup for de_mukou and awp_monument, I don’t know if doing that helped any. But maybe it kept me from being distracted by bullshit details, well that was the goal anyway.

Make the starting area, and if I still feel like it, ill expand from there
Might explain why I have 20 unfinished maps

i’ve been trying to work up the motivation to keep developing my new city map for the extended movement gamemode (parkour), so far I have a few prefab buildings but whenever I start hammer as a blank slate I just get the feeling of ‘I can’t be bothered’. Also as i’m using CSGO sdk, loading the map through gmod’s hammer will almost certainly always end up crashing ingame or during compile, good thing they both use dev textures which my map is based around.

And why my maps have such sucky layouts

I like to go in image editing software and draw a top down layout. Then test gameplay while the map is in dev textures. Then aesthetics etc.

Try to start Hammer. Find it’s inexplicably broken itself again since the last time I opened it. Spend half an hour troubleshooting it.

Load Hammer and forget what I was going to make.

Close Hammer.

I’ve been slowly reading everything everyone’s been saying, and I’ve decided to attempt the dev texture layout methods on my new map concept, and might I say it’s been working beautifully. I should have started doing that sooner! I had my entire map laid out, and got to walk around and check flank points, diversions, and exit paths before I even detailed one area. Once I was satisfied with the pathing and scale, I starting going room-by-room and detailing one room at a time. The focus I can spend on detailing one place at a time (thank God for Cordon Tool) with the whole map already determined has been a huge help. Keep the tips coming guys, if nobody else is benefiting from this, at least I am.