Jump to content
The Dark Mod Forums

Making of an FM


Recommended Posts

So, what i am interested in is, how you're making , or have made your Fm-s. I feel i am progressing very slowly and i suspect it's because i am not thinking good enough as a mapper.

Interested briefly in the process like..Do all brushwork only then place lights and AI, or going from room to room, getting started on the new when the one before is finished fully. Things like that.

Edited by _Atti_
Link to comment
Share on other sites

well I have failed on attempting contest, so I can say how you shouldn't do at least :) and my experience ofcourse.


-If you're going to construct a building with exterior and interrior, then start to building from inside. If you first create exterior then you may not fit rooms or ceiling may be low.



-Don't polish anything (such as texture alignment) unless it's too neccessary. Because later you may need to modify it and all work has gone for nothing. It's important to save time.


-Don't think too much over a scene. Skip it and start to build another part. Later or maybe a week later you can find a fresh idea to make better that.


-If you can't imagine a structure in your mind, then a sketch will help a lot to construct it.


-Listen your fast fav musics. It helps a lot ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes , building from inside would have been more reasonable..

What i did was that i composed from the exterior but from blocks that when carved had the right ceiling height.


The problem i kinda ended up with is when the whole thing was one it looked to me as it will be small...When i carved out and took a walk inside.. it still seemed smallish.. Then i started deviding into rooms and it turned out that its freaking big! :D theres a lots of space..


So my advice:


An area feels a lot bigger when divided up, and may feel small when being one continous space. So i guess things that meant to be monumental should be double the size, but casual things a bit smaller than it looks to be right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I typically plan from a loose schematic (although this wasn't the case for Prowler of the Dark, and the results were very different for Unbidden Guest), and let the needs of the building process establish the final features of the mission. For Return to the City, I originally wanted a narrow and squalid street with lots of small shops you could break into, but because I wasn't familiar with the new editing tools, the scale became larger, the shops were scrapped in favour of larger, more wealthy buildings, and so on.


When I work on an area, I almost always do a rough pass; this establishes the street/building layout (and was absolutely needed in Dromed where you have to havesome carved-out space to then put things). But when I am working on smaller individual areas, I always try to get close to an architectural/lighting/object placement finish; even readables are placed until that "scene" is close to ready and looks satisfying. I may rebuild it, or connect it with another area built later (that's always fun, and adds gameplay variety - although in TDM, it's sometimes not as easy as in Dromed), but I have a reasonably looking and reasonably playing thing. Sounds and AI come at the last stages.


Others often use different models, like stepwise refinement -- i.e. basic world space --> rooms --> texturing --> architectural details --> lights --> AI, but I could personally never do that.


If you worry that you are building slowly, remember that building is a slow process. My missions took 9 months, 4 months, 4 days, 11 months and 2 months to complete, respectively (the odd one out was a speedbuild, but that's for fairly experienced people). Plus your screenshots are looking very good, so the results justify the efforts. I agree, though, that gameplay space is always more important than eye candy. What the player does in your environment is what matters most.

Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I have just looked at the screenshot you posted in the What are you working on... thread, and I really want to play that. The architecture and lighting style is very similar to what I try to achieve in my maps. Great.


Taking this scene, here is how I would approach the building process:

  • What we have got here is a cool street scene - it looks good, it has good lighting, and you can walk along it. Maybe we can later add a guard to complicate things -- there is enough light and shadow for a sneaking challenge.
  • Now how could we get more out of the work you have already done? Let's try to climb up on those fences and look at the other side - maybe there is a small garden here and an ominous-looking crumbling grave site in the other. Build those into sub-scenes and maybe add discrete side-areas. From the garden, you can enter a small apartment that belonged to a poor widow (add readable, a few coins, or maybe a healing potion for her rheuma which she purchased with her meagre wealth); the graves may be just decoration, or an entrance to something significant.
  • There is a lot of wood here. A rope arrow will get us on that building facade quickly. How about putting a bottle of treasure wine or a goblet on the windowsill? Then the player has something to do in what was just a street - if there is a patrolling guard or two, the experience is also filled with tension since he or she could get exposed while on the rope. Or the bottle could be knocked off with an arrow. Or there could also be a potted plant or two for visual variety, sort of to tell small stories about the owners...
  • What happens when the player climbs up the rope to those windows (or finds a way to mantle there - always test both) and jumps on the weird metal pipe things? Where do the pipes take him or her? And what happens if he or she looks over the roofs -- what's behind? Is it possible to get there? How? (Note, this can be dangerous for performance in TDM -- either "wall off" the area with building facades/high rooflines or only allow limited progress there.)

By this way of thinking, we could (hypothetically) get maybe four or five times as much gameplay out of a place as originally conceived. Of course, not every building has to be climbable and not every nook and cranny has to be relevant or contain loot (actually, it is sometimes those unexplained little features which add to the glamour and enjoyment of exploration), but in general, this is a good way to improve the reward/work ratio.

Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm definitely interested in learning from whatever wisdom might come from such a discussion. I have major problem with bringing a mission to completion it would seem. I have a long string of starts and burn outs (a couple of them more than 80% finished) for Thief missions in particular. I've tried top-down design, bottom-up, and a haphazard mix of the two, but I still always seem to lose interest or even dislike the attempt before the end. I believe I am too critical anything I create (great in my field, but not so much in making stuff), and in general don't feel very artistic or creative. The building is no problem; it's the designing that hangs me up. Without a focused design to follow, I can't believe it the project and it inevitably fades out.


Any input from those who actually release missions is appreciated. ^_^

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well maybe you are aiming too high. Just do what you can and if it's not perfect then who cares? It can still be enjoyable.


Play to your strengths and don't worry about any weaknesses. Build small so you finish quick before you burn out. All the contest entries were fun to play.


Nothing wrong with your building. That little snow demo was one of the first things I ever saw in TDM and it looked fine. I always hoped you'd include that in an FM! The trainer stealth section was fine - just needed the lighting adjusting and dirt adding. The layout was a perfect stealth section.


If the problem is story then just do a weak story. Here you are....


Fat Lord Grobag is very wealthy and has a large mansion. Break in and steal his stuff. Oh yes and he has a special something - sceptor, crown, golden boot so make sure you get that.


There, you can have that story for free.


Here's another...


Tiny narrow village alleys with tall buildings on either side bit like your snow demo. It's snowing (you immediately score points and wow factor just for that!) Here and there a door you can break into a small house and steal their stuff. In one of the houses is a golden bog roll. Steal it. You don't need any more story.


Techy bits - just start with startmap; it's already a finishable FM including objectives and readables. Keep readables to the minimum or do none if you want.


So, you have the ability to build so it looks OK, layout ability, free stories and free techy bits. There isn't anything else. It doesn't have to measure up to anyone else's. The architecture in my Night Watch was crap especially near the start but it was enjoyable.


Bottom line is I heartily recommend you make some small poor FMs, stick a finger up at the world and don't worry about it. Dark Mod makes anything look good anyway. :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd support this idea for beginning mappers who just need to get something accomplished, and learn the more difficult aspects of FM creation. But generally I want to see TDM FM's really shine with amazing plots and storytelling, intriguing secrets and puzzles, and of course beautiful architecture, with long playtimes. I don't think the TDM team should have put in 5 years of work so that experienced mappers can be lazy and put out mediocre FM's because 'anything in TDM looks good'. I want epicness!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not that I have enough street-cred to say anything in here but...



Putting out smaller FMS will likely help train focus and fundamentals for even experienced mappers... If it's anything like being a musician, the more you do your fundamentals the better you do the advanced stuff???


(In a similar vein, I've heard of a game design company that forced the designers to create Atari 2600 games before working on a modern title... )


...but to soften the blow of not having as many longer FMS perhaps we would urge (beggars cant be choosers...?) that any really short FMS have some new prefab, special effect, texture, etc... or coordinate with new TDM releases to show of the version changes...?


I certainly won't criticize ANY size FMS that gets released :laugh: !


Conversely, I imagine that there are some large maps out there that keep getting revised to include new features (Duke Nukem syndrome)... if so, I would be among the group that prefers the author sticking with a fixed feature-set in the interest of completion. Luckily many feature improvements in TDM are things that existing FMS automatically inherit.

Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:




(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm doubting it's aiming too high -- one of my complaints in the TTLG thread about "what I hate about missions" was that most missions try too hard to one-up each other rather than being enjoyable. In fact, I think one of my problems is that I'm not aiming at all. I go at it without any floor plan, because floor plans are really hard for me, so I end up failing due to lack of direction. I think, at least. So one guess is I'm bombing out because I don't know how to harness the creativity to create the floor plan. To think; I was going to study to be an architect at one point!


Build small so you finish quick before you burn out. All the contest entries were fun to play.

Funny thing is, I tried to compete in the speed contest, but ... you guessed it, burned out. :laugh: I had a feeling I might not succeed in finishing, so I didn't even announce my participation. It was a prison escape mission, and was going to be very small. I came up with an architectural theme (in fact, it's what I was referring to here), went with it for some hallways... and then decided "man, this looks pretty weak" (thus why I think his looks much better than mine). I feel like I always do that -- come up with a theme, build with it, then decide I'm not doing anything interesting with it.


I also have a story for my old TDS mission, just lacking architecture getting to the end. ;) The story was the most fun part. I had readables and background that I liked and everything. It's just that I get all that together, then make a hallway.. and then a connecting room.. then another hallway.. and then I'm like, "uh.. what now? this sucks." Maybe I'm too worried about failing so I'm holding back trying. I dunno. Anyway, I'm not giving up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still think a small modest FM with a weak story and poor architecture is better than an abandoned masterpiece. The first is an FM; the second is nothing at all. I have seen players over at ttlg enthuse over quite plain FMs so there is value in them.


Go for it. Don't accept your feelings in the matter. What right have they to tell you what to do? Start with startmap which is already a working FM. Just quickly string together some simple rooms and corridors over a week or two and seed it with loot. Don't plan it if you are going to agonize over it. Careful design is good but it's not the only way. Nobody is an authority on this. Results are the authority. Enjoyment is the authority. Players enjoying themselves is the only authority.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also have a story for my old TDS mission, just lacking architecture getting to the end. ;) The story was the most fun part. I had readables and background that I liked and everything.


Sounds like you should get together with the other guy who wants to make map from an old Thief level because he hasn't got a good storyline/design to work from.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I absolutely love... appreciate... and will damn well take the time to stand in awe of the eye-candy -- believe me I do -- but what I really really love is playing the sneaksie-thief.



  • 80% gameplay.
  • 15% excellent story (readables and etc. -- I'll read them all day {as long as they aren't silly bathroom or otherwise juvenile humor}).
  • 5% being awestruck by the gorgeousness (this is the icing, and I would never discourage it as we all recognize it and love it, but it is not necessarily necessary).

Huge missions, btw, may be too much for the engine anyway. I'd rather see episodics/campaigns.

  • 'Cause I can get my hands on them sooner. :laugh:
  • They aren't apt to be too big for our rigs/the engine.
  • They allow progressive growth for mappers... (Prelude.. get out of your cell and on to the streets; 2 rooms)

"A Rhapsody Of Feigned And Ill-Invented Nonsense" - Thomas Aikenhead, On Theology, ca. 1696

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By that way, i too find smaller Fm-s more fun, but i guess that because they run smoother.

But i am just cheating myself with making a not so small one:D Btw i mostly finished the brushworks of my map now i adjust the lights the ai , the challenges, filling it with ideas and content.. it's enlightning... guess it's because i never previously made that far.


oh and thanks for the comment on the topic, they are thoughtful and useful.

Edited by _Atti_
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I never plan mutch (maby that´s where my map´s fail?) I just start with a greneral idé and then make up as I go!

With Too Late I just wanded to make something with a dokside!, so that´s what I startede with, as I build I made up the story! I got the idé of the warehouse by the doks and that it was a front for some thiefs!.

If I get an idé for readables, side quests or whatever along the way I make short notes of them and sort them out later or as I go!

Building a mission is a VERY messy process for me blush.gif

Edited by Nielsen74
Link to comment
Share on other sites

well, i do well understand dave...


if often had the same problem. i have often started fm's in thief 2, can't tell how many, but did not even manage to finish ONE. but, to be honest, most fm's failed because of technical issues (f.e. adding ai's at the end dropped fps to an unacceptable amount, etc.). but sometimes i failed because of - and here we meet, my friend - "burning out" or sometimes just because of desperating about he concept...


but this time, i am sure, i WILL finish my map (for tdm... uhm... even if i allready have given up my FIRST tdm-fm-try)... but thats another topic.



to cut a long story short: i feel with you, when you sometimes get rid of starting fm's again and again without ever finishing one... unsure.gif

Edited by Darkman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel quite like Dave here smile.gif Starting missions, but after a few weeks I lose interest in it and want to start a new one. I have thought of starting another map to keep the fun in mapmaking running, but I imagine I will gradually leave my original map and the new one will soon follow...So I have decided to keep my discipline and hold on to ONE mission which I SHALL finish! Hehe...


I have gotten myself into a huge projekt, but when the mission is done, it will be VERY unique in at least one way wink.gif I am very eager to get the mission ready for playtesting so I can get some feedback for my effort and hard work. smile.gif

Edited by Fieldmedic
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The map I'm now working started out with a small idea: the main plot in a few words.


After that I thought briefly about layout of the building and started from the exterior and worked inwards. I never bothered to draw a floorplan (but I should have!) but I compensated this by trying to be realistic.

I first listed the types of rooms which should be present in the locale and then filled the empty areas with the rooms logically. Logically means how the rooms should be layed for the convenience of the inhabitants.


So far everything has proceeded nicely. My recommendation for new mappers is the following:

ALWAYS place a one AI-character nearby the area you are working on! Then build everything using the character as a reference. This way will not build houses for giants or hobbits. Keep in mind that you need to remove the AI before dmapping, if the area is not completed yet (sealed).


-The mapper's best friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For outside areas I just block it out and then run around pretending to have fun. My id then tells me what to build next. If I feel like climbing onto something at a certain point would be fun then I make it so. I start building big outdoor areas inside a large cube of sky until everything is well defined enough to enclose it properly.


For interiors I think of the function of the room. I start with a corner and then build the walls around properly placed furniture. That way you can get the spacing correct. I don't like dead-space.


For areas which aren't aligned to grid, like curved streets, I roughly block it out how I want it. Select everything that isn't aligned and then export as map. New map -> import it. I then try and line it up best I can, and then use that as a base to build properly on the grid. After it's finished I import that into my original map after deleting the rough reference, rotate the whole thing and line it up. Then I stitch the brushes together.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recent Status Updates

    • The Black Arrow

      Happy birthday to me!
      Yes, today's my birthday and as much as I want to play The Dark Mod, I won't until it's late Autumn, where it should be a bit chilly in my place and there's some wind too.
      For now, it's time to enjoy my birthday, if any of you want to play a great fan mission in my honour...Well that's asking too much, just play the mission because it's fun, not because of me, enjoy it yourself! 💪
      · 4 replies
    • nbohr1more

      New texture wiki article created: https://wiki.thedarkmod.com/index.php?title=Creating_textures_from_Ornate_Photos
      · 2 replies
    • Xolvix

      Took a break from TDM until I got my backlog under control. It's been months and it's still not "under control". Damnit.
      · 4 replies
    • Ansome

      I sleep well at night knowing the player will never see the absolute nightmare that is my sealing brushwork outside the playable area. Only the pointfile can judge me now.
      · 4 replies
    • JackFarmer

      Somehow I admire the fact that the material from Dune has now been filmed for the third time. Personally, I could never do much with the material, but as a child of the 80s, I of course know the David Lynch movie...and that movie was at least funny!
      · 2 replies
  • Create New...