TF2 Map: Messing about with the Hammer Editor

Yesterday I spent a few hours playing with the Hammer Editor, playing with brushes (the building blocks), textures and lights. If I’m going to make a proper TF2 map, I need to learn how to use everything at my disposal and it’s going to be a long and arduous process!

I first wanted to test out some of the heights mentioned in my last post, referencing a tutorial from TF2Maps.net. I created a few simple items, just to help me get to grips with the software. Here is my finished article;

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Gotta love them textures!

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First, I created some stairs. Without any guidance I just created layer upon layer of long flat brushes which all built up to create a stairway.

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Immediately, I had an inkling that this was not the proper, nor efficient, way to produce stairs in a map. It just seemed to take up so many extra resources, all that space and all those layers… completely unnecessary. Still, that’s how I did them! Each step is 8 units tall, which is recommended by all the tutorials I’ve read. After I’d completed my mapping for the day, I actually checked out stairs to see how wrong I really was. This is an example of what a proper stairway looks like in Hammer;

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From Stairs and your map on TF2Maps.net

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As you can see, the steps don’t have all that needless brush underneath them. They’re created with a solid ramp back, and the steps are sort of stuck out of the ramp. There is something called a  ‘player clip’ which stops the view of the user bobbing up and down as they run up the steps. Grazr, the original poster, also shows that most Valve stairways have a trim. This is something I’ll need to add to my steps. Lots to learn with just the simple creation of a stairway!

The second feature I added to my map were some thin ledges for jumping on. Only the scout can reach these ledges, with his double jump, and they lead to a small vent-like opening which bypasses the next room. I actually really like the idea of this shortcut system for a weaker class to escape the mayhem that will be in the next area, although limiting it solely to the Scout means it won’t have a real meaningful contribution to the map balance (unless I make a CTF map or something). Here it is…

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Players jump from ledges on opposing walls to reach this secret entrance

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On the left side of the screen, you’ll notice a small construction. I won’t call it a building because it’s absolutely crap! However, it was my first attempt at a sort of pillbox structure.

Initially, I decided to make it like a Gears of War style ‘chest high wall’. When you stand, you can shoot, when you crouch, you’re in cover. It did work to that effect, but it looked terrible and a sentry gun could not shoot over the wall. While I had no real objective for this test map, I did like the idea of the shortcut and having a defensive area in the main combat room which the Scout could bypass. That was the ‘theme’, I suppose. The pillbox is now more of a sentry position. The sentry gun placement itself will act as cover (like the chest high wall would have done), so it still performs that function. There is also an opening at the top, which skillful Demomen can launch grenades through, giving the attackers an advantage in what is a very strong defensive chokepoint.

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The pillbox structure. Covers the main entrance and the entirety of the room.

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The final things I played around with were textures and lighting. As you can see, I didn’t do a great job! I need to work with some props to create actual hanging lights, although I was just testing various colours and intensities. The map definitely looks better with any mood lighting than full bright light (see below), and it makes my horrendous texture choices much less fugly. That’s the final part, and what I think might be surprisingly difficult. Finding appropriate textures and applying them to create a consistent and cohesive aesthetic is going to be very tough! I’ll need to read a lot more on this, since I really can’t figure out how to make anything look good so far!

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Full brightness look at my simple map. It ain't pretty!

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Overall it was a surprisingly enlightening day. On the one hand, it felt extremely natural and easy to create a simple map layout and place objects in it. On the other, it feels like creating a gorgeous looking community map contender is going to be very tough! Today I will work on a floor plan for the first stage of my map (I’m going to do a CP map in the style of Dustbowl), then I can start putting the pieces together.

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Sam

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