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[FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:31 pm

Interesting project. I read your blog every now and again :)

So you model entire level in Blender and basically don't use too many brushes?
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:34 pm

Yeah, I started doing that this year. Especially since FTE got mesh collision.

Build the environment in Blender, ideally from modules because it saves work in the long run. Re-use tiling textures wherever possible; this allows you to keep the apparent texture resolution high (by making the UV space bigger than the image, thus using the tiling to your advantage) and to reduce the number of surfaces for the engine. I use decals, meshes and shadows to break up surfaces.

Then seal the level and do basic Vis with a caulk hull. Disable blocksize and build your portals by hand using hint brushes. Use areaportals and antiportals wherever it makes sense. The goal is to have working occlusion with a minimal amount of portals.

The main reason is that Blender is a better modeling tool than Radiant (though Radiant is very good to create a greybox layout.) The reason for the simplified Vis is to increase performance (it seems counter-intuitive, but it does work.) The amount of vis leaves in a typical Quake / Quake 3 map is ridiculous - it was meant to improve performance in a corridor shooter of the late 90s. The situation today is different. id Software and Infinity Ward understood this when they made Doom 3 and Call of Duty, where you have fewer, larger cells. What I'm doing is an approximation of that.

This was all a gradual process, but it only takes things that have always been done in Quake 3 mapping and uses them consequently.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Wed Jun 25, 2014 7:13 pm

You know you can turn brush work into "detail" or into func_wall and would functionally become a "model" that doesn't affect vis ?

I was pondering the idea of making levels in Blender, but it seems like a double amount of work making caulk hull afterward.

Doom 3 relies on manually placed portals that can not split meshes (you still have to use brushes; you can't have solid mesh crossing a portal) and PVS culling (per surface; not per entity). So it's kinda all manually optimized. I wish it had occlusion culling, like UE3/UE4.

Anyhow, I was just mostly wondering because I tried that and found making mesh levels to be a painfully slow process, especially that brush-made caulk hull had to be a tad smaller than the walls (or walls larger than brush-made caulk hull; especially if brushes are on the grid).
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Wed Jun 25, 2014 7:36 pm

motorsep wrote:You know you can turn brush work into "detail" or into func_wall and would functionally become a "model" that doesn't affect vis ?


Of course. I want to move away from brushes for the environment, though.

I was pondering the idea of making levels in Blender, but it seems like a double amount of work making caulk hull afterward.


The caulk hull can be a lot simpler than the environment, though. It only needs to follow the layout very roughly. For pure outdoor levels, you can just use a box. And brushes are very quick to place.

Anyhow, I was just mostly wondering because I tried that and found making mesh levels to be a painfully slow process, especially that brush-made caulk hull had to be a tad smaller than the walls (or walls larger than brush-made caulk hull; especially if brushes are on the grid).


Environment modeling is challenging like all 3D art. It's true that brushes are simpler to use, but brushwork is extremely limited. A good 3D modeling suite has tools that make modeling a lot faster and more efficient compared to something like Radiant. You also get smoothing groups, vertex colours, vertex normals and so on that you can't use with brushes.

Modular environments (kits) also make creating levels even faster than brushes. Of course you have to model the kits first, but you can then combine the modules to create levels very quickly.

The only thing Radiant does better than Blender is quick layouting (greyboxing.) This is an area where brushes are still very useful.

I'm not sure why the caulk hull would have to be smaller than the walls? Remember that caulk is only needed for Vis and to seal the level, not for collision. The collision is done by the engine.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:04 pm

Caulk blocks light, so if these is slight precision loss, you will get artifacts on the walls (slotches, spotting, etc.) because mesh ends up slightly inside caulk wall. That's the experience I had with q3map2.

The way I make maps is blocking layout with brushes, using base texturing on them and adding decorative models if I need complexity.

Currently I have Doom 3 map exporter for Blender, which I would like to extend to use booleans, lights, and entities. This way level can be modeled in Blender, but exported as a map with brushes and models (can do it now, but it's not a one-click operation). Not sure if it worth turning Blender into fully featured level editor or if it's just better to use Radiant for texturing brushes, placing/linking entities, tweaking lights.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:42 pm

Caulk blocks light, so if these is slight precision loss, you will get artifacts on the walls (slotches, spotting, etc.) because mesh ends up slightly inside caulk wall. That's the experience I had with q3map2.


Oh, I misunderstood you. Yeah, the caulk faces shouldn't cover the lit faces of the mesh. The caulk hull is wider than the mesh.

Currently I have Doom 3 map exporter for Blender, which I would like to extend to use booleans, lights, and entities. This way level can be modeled in Blender, but exported as a map with brushes and models (can do it now, but it's not a one-click operation). Not sure if it worth turning Blender into fully featured level editor or if it's just better to use Radiant for texturing brushes, placing/linking entities, tweaking lights.


When you export your mesh from Blender to a .map format, you still have the same restrictions as with brushwork. Exporting everything to .ase gives you more creative freedom.

I agree that it is suboptimal if the making of a level requires many different tools; it would be nice to have a completely integrated environment. For example, in SJ the realtime lights are even placed inside the engine, so making a level requires Blender, Radiant and FTE together.

On the other hand, it is common to have a separate 3D modeling suite and level editor, as with UDK. 3DS Max isn't a fully featured level editor either.

The absence of an integrated level editor with realtime lighting preview probably keeps many people away from using FTE/Darkplaces as a game development platform. idtech4 has an advantage there (although Doom 3 also required you to use the engine to place ragdolls or even generate normalmaps - I'm not sure if you can now place ragdolls in Darkradiant or something.)

Personally I think that Blender and Radiant work very nicely together, though - Radiant can export brushes to .obj, and it can load the .ase models coming from Blender. Unfortunately both Blender and Radiant have a reputation of being difficult to learn. I would think it worthwhile to add a setup wizard to Radiant, because newcomers tend to have problems with that.

Anyway, making levels from brushes is perfectly fine, but when you want to bevel your walls or have them slightly irregular looking, models are the way to go, and modular environments are the most efficient way to make levels, in the end.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:55 pm

Have you tried making modular pieces?
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:22 pm

Yeah. In February I made a level which used a combination of brushes and modules. Currently I'm using a modular wall set to rebuild one of my older brush-based levels. In the future, I plan to build the remaining levels using largely modules.

I also have stuff like modular wall supports, sets of stairs, etc.

I'm trying to use modules more and more. The only thing I won't use modules for is setpieces.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:47 pm

What are "setpieces" ?

Do you have screenshots of parts of your levels made with modular pieces?

I wonder if you stumbled upon any art dump from games that use modular geometry for level design (except UT3) ?
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby Spike » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:50 pm

the focal point of the map. for example some big spire that you can see from any part of it that says _THIS IS E?M?_ at a mere glance.
or something like that.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:39 am

A setpiece is a unique piece of environment, often a large one, that the player will remember and that lends a sense of place to the level.

In Marcher Fortress for example, the famous outdoor part of the fortress that's set into the mountain is a setpiece. It's iconic and it's how people remember the level.

I use unique geometry for these memorable pieces. I'm more likely to use modules for a bunch of corridors, for example.

Polycount has a lot of info about modular environment art. Mapcore has some as well. It basically means to build a level from re-usable parts that will snap together on the grid. The more different parts you have, the more interesting your level will look.

I'll see if I can post a few screenshots tomorrow.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby Spiney » Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:43 pm

Last two blog items:
There's a place for photosourcing, but hand painted usually looks better, esp for normals. Good job.
For the crate, if you can do LODs I think you should try modelling on the handle. It looks a bit weird now imo.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:54 pm

Thanks. You're right about the handle, I'll see if I can spare a few polies for it. Not sure if we can do LODs for baked-in meshes.

Motorsep, I'm pretty busy but module shots will be forthcoming.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby goldenboy » Fri Sep 26, 2014 7:39 pm

Scout's Journey will likely no longer use a Quake engine in the future.

Wall of text version at my blog.
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Re: [FTE][in production] Scout's Journey

Postby motorsep » Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:48 pm

I feel your pain! That's why I switched to Doom 3 BFG engine. Although if I knew UE4 will be such a sweet deal (although it's not that sweet at this moment due to engine being _raw_), I'd probably learned Kismet nd general workflow and tools of UDK.
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