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Some pre-mapping questions


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#1 Durandall

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 07:03 PM

I've decided to check out mapping for The Dark Mod.
I did some poking around in Doom 3 back when it came out and I also created 90% of this map in the source engine Hammer editor for l4d2.
I've just started on Springheel's videos and thought, while I watch, I should post some questions.

Description:
The map will be a medium-ish sized house with yard space.
Manor mission with no external facading. All sides traversable.
Multiple enterable windows and doors.
Good amount of foliage and terrain contours. Takes place in the woods. Just a range of yard area around the house.
Invisible wall boundary with some trees/foliage beyond. Perhaps fogging to fade/hide world end?
Low to very lower ambient light level.

Questions:
Does this seem feasible from a performance standpoint?

How is bumpy terrain created? Manually distorting tesselated planes?

Can I group map components under a name and then hide them from 2d viewports?
If not, how do mappers deal with the convoluted viewports after the detail builds up.
This was a huge annoyance in Hammer.
 



#2 RPGista

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 09:24 PM

I think most if not all these initial mapping questions will be answered by Dragofer's extremely nice mission Down by the Riverside, which Im trying to complete. It has a very nice forest area that leads to where the main part of the map happens, and theres also a mansion that is freestanding inside a gated plot, in the woods. Theres a lot more to it, but you gotta play it to find out. Actually, thats my number one tip, you need to play as many missions as you can before you really start designing yours. Perhaps you did already, and played several maps, but theres always that one that really inspires you and there are many which you give you ideas and will tell you how to solve problems. 

 

Terrains can be created using patches. Its not the most confortable thing to do, as you need to adjust it control point by control point if you really want to shape it, but it can be done no problem. You can then look into the SEED system in order to populate the terrain with vegetation or rock models, in a randomized way (if you feel it would be too much work to do it by hand). 

 

You can use a black fog to hide the distance from the player. But it can be visible even indoors, if its dense enough. It will give you a fps hit for sure. Or you can use big rocks, extremely dense vegetation "walls", things like that, to limit the area the player can get to. 

 

The forest will definitely be heavy on performance. You would want to have buffer areas between the woods and the inside of the house (where Im guessing the AI will be). This is very important. Dont open main connecting areas directly to the outside. Study floor plans that would help you with that.

 

CkK0P3nWsAA5Miz.jpg

 

 

 

And lastly, we have layers in DarkRadiant that should help you sort things out. Just have fun. 


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#3 demagogue

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 11:32 PM

There are different techniques for forested areas, but generally you also think about it in terms of "rooms" with thin doorways between them that are visportaled that you're just filling with an uneven dirt ground and trees. And arrange the space so that at any place you're standing, you're not looking through 2 consecutive VPs as much as possible (That is, you're not looking through one VP through the next VP on the other side of it until you're right up near it. In other words, if you turn VPs on in the console, you don't want to see the green outline of a distant open VP inside the green outline of the nearby VP until you're really near it, if you can help it.)

 

To make it a bit more natural looking, my own technique (which you can take or leave) is to draw out a very large and high box, around what you could comfortably fit a small house inside. Then hit control+9 (or cntl-7), to turn it into a 9 sided polygon. Re-size it so you're dragging one end to make it a bit squashed, and rotate it if you need to. Then hit the "create room" key that hollows it out but keeps the brush edges overlapping (not the one that erases the overlap or it'll leak). Then you'd do the same with another squashed oval so there's a kiss point between the two ovals, and delete the walls between the two and connect them so the kiss point becomes your "doorway". VP that opening, and continue making "rooms" like that. Then you use patches to make the ground uneven, put in a bunch of trees, make the top half of the walls skyportal, and the bottom half ... well I had to make a custom "forest" texture since none of ours really work for this job yet, but I hid it behind some brush and trees as much as I could anyway. Get creative with how to deal with making the walls appear out of the way.


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#4 Sotha

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 11:51 PM

I try to avoid exterior areas and this is why
1) they are boring in terms of gameplay. Lots of darkness and room to outmaneuver the AI.
2) they are many, MANY times more work to make look and work good than interior areas.
3) if there are height differences in organic landscape, monsterclipping is a lot of work. (The AI pathing is not built on patches or entities. It is generated on worldspawn brushes.)

All these combined means that if you are maing exterior areas, you are spending a lot of time building something the player just breezes through to get to the good/tricky/interesting parts of the map. The payoff is poor.

If you are doing your first map, I would keep it interiors only. It is easier.

If you must do an exterior, keep it single room only to keep it sane. If you really must have more of them, remember that they are just rooms, too. They must have a visportalled door, which leads to the next room. You must be inventive how you mask each door leading from exterior room to a another. The difference is that the exterior area room has ceiling and walls made out of skybox textures. Remember that you cannot do assassin's creed or farcry with TDM.

You might have noticed that my more recent missions have a single exterior room usually. A sort of post card title view for the mission. That is good. Doing much more exteriors is not a good idea, because of the poor payoff.

I mean, lets look at Down by the Riverside: the forest segment between the boat and the house. If looks awesome, had excellent atmosphere, but probably took a lot of time to make and there is not much in there. The player just walks through it without much gameplay. If AI was supposed to walk there, monsterclipping the hill would be huge amount of work.

Just my opinion with almost a decade of TDM mapping experience. Others may differ.
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#5 Durandall

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 12:35 AM

Wow, amazing responses. Thanks guys.
Really glad to hear we have layers.

Great advice on Down by the Riverside. I will check it and others out for exterior ideas/performance.
I have no idea why I didn't think to do that. Plenty of examples to look over.

I'd like to at least try out something similar to the Knighton Manor and Riverside approach.
Full building, no facades, choose your entry point. I've always loved this setup.
Terrain will be limited to a small space around the house.
Although a neat hidden side path just for the player could be cool...
This can't be too hard and I'll be creating it last, just in case. If needed it can be moved to an easier to design city area or something.
I should be able to keep the player/ai away from most terrain curves.
Mostly flat terrain in the walking space, just a slight variance here and there. The hilly bits just outside the boundary.
The yard space is a cube (really a rectangle) with the building right in the center.
The yard space is bare with no walls or blockers, but corner diagonal visportals should work well, right?
Presumably, when looking n/s/e/w outside only two long strips of yard can ever be visible at once. Though the roof needs thought or blocking.
I.E. east side looking south would only see east/south areas.
Adding other cardinal visportals could enhance this.
Keep windows non-transparent and the ones that open will auto-close.
The internal geometry as simple worldspawn. Some trim and/or wainscoting.

In one of Springheel's videos, he creates the levels ambient light.
He resized this to cover the mission space, but then proceeds to give it a special name.
I would think that only one or the other would be needed or can we have differing ambient lights in parts of the mission.
Either way, It should be possible to get a good fade outside the boundary using some trickery.

First step is laying out each floor in the floor plan as a series of platforms floating in a big ol' sealed box.

 

Posted quite late in the evening and I'm dead tired, hope this all makes sense.

Thanks again for the responses. Really excited to get started.
 



#6 Sotha

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 12:47 AM

Yeah, Knighton can give you good hints how to make the exterior rooms. If you have ultra simple exterior with a fog, you could do it like I did in Glenham Tower. If you have a lot of fog, making exteriors is easier as you need less details. Note that you do not want to have fog inside the house, so you need to teleport the fog light away as the player enters the house. This means a jarring sudden fog disappearance and some sort of antechamber between outside and inside whre you disable the fog.

Oh, and never do diagonal visportals. Just keep visportals boxy and simple. If you have a malfunctioning portal, finding and fixing it can take a lot of time. I've taken the habit of keeping the visportals simple and making them the same way. Never had issues with them afterwards. You might want to check out my Bakery Job video series.

http://forums.thedar...sotha-20170309/

Remember, when mapping, if you keep it simple, finding issues and fixing them is simple as well. It is a fun hobby once you get into it. Happy mapping!
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#7 Destined

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 03:21 AM

I can also recommend Springheel's latest video series in the New Mappers Workshop (if you have not looked at them already). I am behind with my own watching them, but they give a very good introduction for new mappers.



#8 NeonsStyle

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 03:29 AM

My map used quite a bit of forestry around the house, and since I've learned it's a big performance hit. You might want to 

look into using SEED to do ur forest. It's better on performance. Dragofers River is gorgeous mission, and is certainly

a great place for inspiration. I took some fog ideas from it in my mission. 


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Briarwood Manor - available here or in game

http://forums.thedar...2017-update-16/

 

 

 


#9 Obsttorte

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 03:56 AM


In one of Springheel's videos, he creates the levels ambient light.
He resized this to cover the mission space, but then proceeds to give it a special name.
I would think that only one or the other would be needed or can we have differing ambient lights in parts of the mission.
Either way, It should be possible to get a good fade outside the boundary using some trickery.

I guess you are referring to the ambient_world. This light is threated in a special manner. It uses its own shader and the player can reduce the performance impact (significantly in some cases) by changing the ambient mode to simple, which will then turn this light off and use a simple additive blend on the materials instead. The name is used to allow the engine to identify this specific light.

 

You can use local ambient lights, too, and I would even say you should do so to create good lighting. You should only be causious when using ambient lights near light sources that can be turned off, like torches or electrical lights that are switchable, as they will stay on which may look artificial. Of course you can control their state accomodating to the nearby lights, but that is a more complex setup.

 

Regarding the outside I partially agree with Sotha. The forest areas we had thus far normally didn't provide much in terms of gameplay, but as they tend to be performance-houngry they require a lot of work to look and run good. I guess you can create forest areas that will provide good gameplay, at least there is no reason why not as they are, as others said, just rooms, too. If you keep the forest "rooms" small enough they might provide a tense enough gameplay.

 

Another advice would be that adding visportals doesn't neccessarely improves performance up to a good state. If you are creating areas of which you know they will cause problems in that regards, you have to plan them out carefully before mapping, to make sure they really restrict the field of view and view distances in a sufficient way. You will have to think a lot about how you keep the "doors" which connect the seperate areas as small as possible, without letting it look artificial or repetitive.

 

All in all I would say that this is probably not suitable for a beginner. You should probably restrict yourself to a small outside area on one side of the building, two sides as most. You can have several entry points with this setup as well if that is what you are aiming for. No need to allow the player to be able to walk around the whole building. :)


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#10 Judith

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 04:57 AM

I'd also vote for making an interior-based mission first, and then carefully trying to expand it, while watching performance metrics.

 

There are 3 main tools which should become your best friends: the FPS meter (com_showFPS 1); triangles / portals view mode to see whether visportals work and what is actually being rendered in current view (r_showTris 1-3, r_showportals 1); and the real-time stats (r_showprimitives 1). Even if you have like 3-4 year old hardware, aiming for constant 60 FPS is a good idea. Players won’t notice occasional 10 FPS dips, but if your mission goes from 60 to 20 FPS or lower on a regular basis, it will be distracting and immersion-breaking. Using rendering stats and performance guidelines should help you avoid poor performance. The “tris” value in your stats can be pretty high, like 2 million per scene, but “draws” (drawcalls) will start impacting your performance when around 3000 and more. The same goes for “shadow” stat, keeping it around 80k-100k per scene is generally a good idea. You might want to see this page later for more details: http://wiki.thedarkm...tial_Must-Knows


Edited by Judith, 17 August 2017 - 05:19 AM.


#11 Dragofer

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 04:57 AM

Down by the Riverside is in that vein, though there are several things I'd do differently the next time after my experiences with it. Another mission I'd add for review is Alberic's Curse, as well as Soultear's Dark Forest.
 
These are my thoughts on the various aspects of an outdoors forest mission:
  • Forest boundary: the easiest situation is when you can use a wall and put trees behind it. When it comes to open forests, I've never liked the large rocks approach because it feels unnatural, and my wall of foliage wasn't exactly great either.  Soultear's dark forest has got this down well: big tree trunks with vegetation in the gaps between, more tree trunks and a dark forest texture in the second row. It's the most lifelike forest I've seen. I don't think you can do this with the tree models currently available in TDM, you'd need to make them out of patches.
  • Skybox: you can put dense foliage into your skybox, then move the skybox out of your ambient light's radius so that it becomes dark. In Down by the Riverside I used the rotation spawnarg to downsize individual models, which meant I couldn't use SEED on them, which resulted in 200 extra entities/drawcalls. So if I did it again I'd use Blender to downscale them (edit: DR can also downscale now), or alternatively combine many vegetation models into collages for the skybox. On the other hand, if your forest is made like Soultear's you wouldn't need any vegetation in your skybox.
  • Forest floor: take a look at Alberic's Curse for organic decoration.
  • Visportals: I made this image some time ago. If you have dense fog, remember to use func_portals to manually close the visportals after a certain distance.
    Spoiler
  • Forest paths: don't look too closely at the first path in Down by the Riverside, use the specialised path textures instead like they're found in other scenes.
  • Monsterclip: my way of monsterclipping patch terrain is to create a huge monsterclip brush underneath, clipper it into 64x64 boxes (if the terrain is relatively smooth then 96x96 or 128x128 boxes can also be used), then in 8-unit increments raise the top of each box so that it's just under or partially intersecting the patch. Then, wherever there's a height difference greater than 8 between adjacent boxes, I add in 8-unit steps so AI can move across them. You could evaluate this system in several locations in Down by the Riverside as well as the beach in One Step Too Far.

Note that you do not want to have fog inside the house, so you need to teleport the fog light away as the player enters the house. This means a jarring sudden fog disappearance and some sort of antechamber between outside and inside whre you disable the fog.

Maybe it'd work to use a script to alter the fog's opacity dynamically. Obsttorte has made a script that increases or decreases shaderParms in the context of making a magical wall disappear or reappear.
 

All these combined means that if you are maing exterior areas, you are spending a lot of time building something the player just breezes through to get to the good/tricky/interesting parts of the map. The payoff is poor.

That's true, I remember making the river section during that 2-week speedbuild and just wondering what else I could've been doing in that time. However, the mission wouldn't have been the same if it had minimal exteriors.
 

All in all I would say that this is probably not suitable for a beginner. You should probably restrict yourself to a small outside area on one side of the building, two sides as most. You can have several entry points with this setup as well if that is what you are aiming for. No need to allow the player to be able to walk around the whole building. :)

Leafy outdoors are quite daunting, but I think there should be a distinction between either making an actual forest or surrounding a house with vegetation. No beginner should make a forest, but in the case of the latter you can make use of a perimeter wall as a map boundary, the manor for visportals, lanterns for illumination. Once you've done the work of creating one exterior room - forest skybox, finding a style for the vegetation as well as the house's exterior, ambient sound - then it won't be that far to surround the whole manor with it. As long as we're talking about a compact manor and not a sprawling one like in Full Moon Fever.

Edited by Dragofer, 17 August 2017 - 05:04 AM.


#12 Obsttorte

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 05:16 AM

Some addition:

  • Skyboxes are very performance-houngry. Beside the fact that you have an additional image rendered, the whole screen will be rendered with the skybox image before the actual area the player is in gets rendered on top of it. Lot's of overdraw. A static sky is a vialable alternative (those are cubemaps, a few are shipped with the mod, and there is a wiki article on how to create them).
  • It is generally good to try to get a basic understanding of how the engine renders things. This way you can more easely evaluate where problems may arose and what you have to consider. This is a very interesting read that helped me a lot in understanding those basics: http://fabiensanglar...m3/renderer.php

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#13 Sotha

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 05:20 AM

It makes me wonder if forests could be done with modules, too.

Like this:
http://www.bestoldga...f-chaos-ss3.gif

Mapper makes a boxy room with skybox texture walls and grass/forest floor. On the walls the mapper lines up premade "forest facade" models. The "forest facade" works like building facades made by Springheel, and is impassable forest+shrub wall.

In order to let the mapper to adjust the tallness, the modules would have "roots", middle "trunk+leaves" and "top canopy" parts.

The mapper can make corridors with the models or organic round fillings to the boxy skybox room. Add few model trees to the middle and the forest scene would be ready.

Could it work in practice... I am not sure.
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#14 Obsttorte

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 05:35 AM

You probably would let go off using rectangular shapes, but it should work. Betheshda has used modules for there caves, too.

 

https://www.slidesha...-buildingfinal

 

(Image 126)


FM's: Builder Roads, Old Habits, Old Habits Rebuild
WIP's: Several. Although after playing Thief 4 I really wanna make a city mission.
Mapping and Scripting: Apples and Peaches
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Texture Blending in DR: DR ASE Blend Exporter

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#15 Judith

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 09:24 AM

For a long time in games LDs have been using mesh tilesets for all major pieces, organic or otherwise. Then they use decorative meshes to break the obvious patterns, and unique "hero mesh" to distinguish a location from other areas. Creative re-use of the set pieces made by modelers is the key.


Edited by Judith, 17 August 2017 - 09:24 AM.


#16 NeonsStyle

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 02:52 PM

Wow Dragofer, that was a wealth of info. If you want a lesson on how not to do a forest performance wise, take a look at mine lol,

 

Also as Springheel said and others, limit yourself. Make a plan and stick to it's limits. It' easy to want to just go nuts

and add room after room.. but it's also hard to finish. 


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Briarwood Manor - available here or in game

http://forums.thedar...2017-update-16/

 

 

 




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