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11 Secrets for Level Design and Game Environment Ideas, Layouts and Reference with "Google Maps 3D"

Category: Level Design, Game Environment Design
February 13, 2018

11 Secrets for Level Design and Game Environment Ideas, Layouts and Reference with "Google Maps 3D"

I just spent half a working day looking at 3d maps. If you saw me during this time, you would yell at me "AG! Stop playing around and get back to work!"

But, I was actually working. I was searching for interesting locations, collecting architecture reference and getting ideas for top-down layouts.

Once I started using "Google Maps 3D View" option I couldn't stop. I would get lost in a neighborhood after neighborhood discovering interesting locations and collecting real-world reference. When I thought I was done, I would see another street corner, another building, another layout and I had to explore it further.

So here are the 11 secrets I found using "Google Maps 3D View" to get more ideas, top-down layouts, research and reference for your next level design and game environment art project.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

UE4: Night Time Lighting - Moon Sky (Static/Baked Lighting) Part 2/2

Category: Unreal Engine 4
February 06, 2018

UE4: Night Time Lighting - Moon Sky (Static/Baked Lighting) Part 2/2

How to light night time outdoor scene with a "moon" sky in Unreal Engine 4?

What if you want to have more atmosphere filled environment with moon lighting instead of a starry sky?

In this second tutorial we focus on how to have a moon in the sky lighting our scene and all the steps that it takes to get there. No custom content is required and you can do this with default installation of UE4.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

UE4: Night Time Lighting - Starry Sky (Static/Baked Lighting) Part 1/2

Category: Unreal Engine 4
January 30, 2018

UE4: Night Time Lighting - Starry Sky (Static/Baked Lighting) Part 1/2

How to light night time outdoor scene with a "starry" sky in Unreal Engine 4?

There are 2 major obstacles with lighting night time scenes (or daytime scenes).

First is artistic. You have to understand color theory and how lighting works to communicate proper feel, mood, and atmosphere of the environment.

Second is technical. You have to know which actors to use, which properties to change and in what order. You also have to have the content to light the scene with, such as sky Static Mesh and sky material.

In this first tutorial of two you will learn how to light a night time scene for starry sky. No custom content is required and you can do this with default installation of UE4.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

UE4: Making Water Material in "Starter Content" Work Without Stretching or Distortions

Category: Unreal Engine 4
January 16, 2018

UE4: Making Water Material in "Starter Content" Work Without Stretching or Distortions

UE4 "Starter Content" has 2 water materials - ocean and lake.

These two materials are great to use in your environments and to study how water is created - ocean and lake.

But there is a problem with these materials.

If you apply ocean or lake water material onto any large Static Mesh plane, the texture will be stretched out, distorted and unusable.

Here is what to do and how to fix it.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

MASSIVE 29-Step Quick Start Guide to Creating Custom Game Environment Assets for Unreal Engine 4

Category: Unreal Engine 4, 3D Modeling: Maya LT/Maya
September 18, 2017

UE4: Quick Start Guide to Creating, Exporting, Importing Custom Static Meshes for Game Environment Art

There will come a time where you no longer want to use default Static Meshes or Static Meshes created by someone else to construct game environments. Instead you want to begin creating and using your own custom Static Meshes.

You will quickly discover the amount of work and knowledge you'll need to acquire before creating your own 3d assets.

Custom Static Mesh creation is an involved process that uses multiple software and specific guidelines to follow for each step of the pipeline.

The process itself is actually very straight forward and simple once you've gone through it a couple of times. The problem is getting there. You must know the process sequence, rules, guidelines, options to check and problems to anticipate along the way.

Learning what to do for each step of the pipeline is what takes so much time. You will need to make sure your 3d modeling software is set up correctly for matching the scale and grid spacing in UE4. You will need to model a low-poly and a high-poly mesh, UV for textures and for lightmaps, set hard/soft edges, bake normal maps, create textures, material, collisions, export/import using specific settings while problem-solving at every step of the way.

In this MASSIVE quick-start tutorial guide (7,800+ words), we'll cover the entire overview from idea to final static mesh and all the steps that have to happen along the way.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

Update: Now Out - Brand New UE4 Tutorial Series and Game Asset/Prop Workflows

Category: News/Updates/Resources, Unreal Engine 4
September 14, 2017 (Updated: September 19, 2017)

UE4 Tutorial Series and Game Asset/Prop Workflows

Update: "UE4: Custom Static Mesh Formula" tutorial series is now out.

I can finally announce the release date for the brand new tutorial series.

This tutorial series is the reason for lack of updates on the blog and emails within the last few months. Something I have to find a way to balance when working on longer tutorial series.

What is this tutorial series about?

"UE4: Custom Static Mesh Formula" is a complete step-by-step tutorial series to creating, exporting and importing custom Static Meshes into Unreal Engine 4 for Game Environments.

So next week...

Continue to Read for More Info...

My System for Setting Up Game Environment Projects for Maya LT/Maya, UE4 and Texturing

Category: Unreal Engine 4, 3D Modeling: Maya LT/Maya
September 07, 2017

My System for Setting Up Game Environment Projects for Maya LT/Maya, UE4 and Texturing

When working to create a game environment or custom assets set such as Static Meshes, you'll be using 3d modeling/sculpting software (Maya LT, Maya, 3dsMax, Modo, Blender, Mudbox, ZBrush etc.), texturing software (Photoshop/Gimp, Substance, Quixel etc.) and Unreal Engine 4.

In order to keep all the files organized between different software you need a system. A way to maintain consistency and organize your project files.

In this tutorial I'll share a system I currently use and how I set everything up.

Before you start working on any game environment or custom assets project for Unreal Engine 4 here is what to do.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

Summer of Tutorials - WoLD 48-Hour Flash Sale (2 Days Only)

Category: News/Updates/Resources, Level Design
May 29, 2017 (Updated: May 31, 2017)

Summer of Tutorials - WoLD 48-Hour Flash Sale (2 Days Only)

UPDATE: "WoLD Pre-Summer 48-Hour Sale " has ended.

WoLD Pre-Summer 48-Hour Sale begins today.

Summer is almost here!

As a kid I always looked forward to summer vacation because for 2-3 months I didn't have to go to school.

As I grew older, 2-3 months of summer became a way to focus on a project or improve a specific skill. When I was going to Ringling College for computer animation I used 2-3 summer months to learn and practice what I was going to be dealing with in upcoming school year which was modeling, texturing, animating, lighting, rigging and rendering.

After graduating and to this day I continue to use the summer months as a way to dedicate to a project and work on a skillset to becoming a better game environment artist and level designer.

Take the next 2-3 months of summer and learn 3d modeling software, a game engine, practice creating a game environment and improve a skill from a series of Premium WoLD Tutorials.

For the next 2 days only, starting today Mon, May 29 until Wed, May 31 download any digital premium tutorial series at a significant discount.

Here is the breakdown.

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26 Ways to Have Your Best Level Design and Game Environment Art Year

Category: Level Design, Productivity/Time Management, Game Environment Design
January 11, 2012 (updated: April 04, 2017)

26 Ways to Have Your Best Level Design and Game Environment Art Year

Steve Jobs once said that "You can't connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards."

Looking back, I now know what I should have done.

I needed to develop daily discipline to work, to maintain focus on one project at a time, to assign a project to work on for every goal I set, focus on small projects first that I could do before attempting to work on larger goals, don't multi-task, focus on hourly work sessions without interruption and a lot more which I will share with you in this post.

I now no longer care if it is a Sunday, a holiday or a New Year. I have a weekly work schedule that I rarely deviate from. I have 1-2 projects that I am working at a time, I have a daily hour work session that I have to hit, I work to a timer, I don't multi-task and I keep track of all hours worked. It took me few years to figure this out. I'm still constantly refining and trying new things to hone my way to better focus, work ethic and productivity.

I want this post to be practical and useful. I want you to start working and applying the principles you learn here to improve yourself as a game environment artist and level designer.

Here are 26 ways to have your best level design and game environment art year.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

The Complete "Abandoned House" Workflow Tutorial Series in Hammer Source (All 5 Tutorials)

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
February 09, 2017

Extensive 5-part workflow tutorial series on "Abandoned House" environment. Follow along from the very beginning of an idea to BSP block-in, texturing, detailing, displacement/terrain, foliage, beyond the house, skybox, lighting, color correction and final compile.

Tutorial series features CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial series including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

But, what if you don't use Hammer Source?

The principles and workflow featured in these videos can still be applicable to your game environments and level designs. Some steps may not be directly relevant to a non-Hammer Source user but there are many principles and techniques that can be used regardless which game engine you are using. 

Continue to All 5 Full Tutorials...

CS:GO SDK Hammer Source "Abandoned House" Workflow (Part 5/5) - Beyond the House, Lighting and Final Compile Tutorial

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
February 09, 2017

In this 5th part of "Abandoned House" environment you will see the creation for beyond the house sections, lighting, color correction, fixes and compiling. This process can be applied to any game environment you create with Hammer Source.

I will be using CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

Topics in this tutorial include adding additional props to build up believable non-playable areas, tree cards, additional foliage, updating the sky, updating lighting and fog, tonemap and color correction, bugs and fixes, cubemaps, final compile and screenshots.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

CS:GO SDK Hammer Source "Abandoned House" Workflow (Part 4/5) - Displacement/Terrain and Foliage Tutorial

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
January 26, 2017

In this 4th part of 5 you will see the creation of displacement (terrain) and foliage process for the "Abandoned House" environment. This process can be applied to any game environment you create with Hammer Source.

I will be using CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

Topics covered in this tutorial are adding and modifying displacement (terrain), texturing the terrain, blending between terrain textures, working with displacement patches and making sure everything is aligned, placing foliage, adding displacement decals and creating additional terrain detail.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

CS:GO SDK Hammer Source "Abandoned House" Workflow (Part 3/5) - Detailing Tutorial

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
January 26, 2017

In this 3rd part of 5 you will see the detailing process for the "Abandoned House" environment. This process can be applied to any game environment you create with Hammer Source.

I will be using CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

Topics covered in this tutorial are adding props, refining BSP brush work and adding decals. We'll do a detail pass, create stairs, porch and overhang porch roof.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

CS:GO SDK Hammer Source "Abandoned House" Workflow (Part 2/5) - Texturing Tutorial

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
January 24, 2017

In this 2nd part of 5 you will see the texturing process for the "Abandoned House" environment. This process can be applied to any game environment you create with Hammer Source.

I will be using CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

Topics covered in this tutorial are using nodraw textures to start with and why, replacing textures, texturing the "Abandoned House" environment, texture alignment and scale, texturing shortcuts, re-using textures and importance of maintaining similar color and texture theme.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

CS:GO SDK Hammer Source "Abandoned House" Workflow (Part 1/5) - BSP Block In Tutorial

Category: Source: CS:GO SDK, Source: L4D2, Source: L4D1
January 19, 2017

In this 1st part of 5 you will see the entire BSP block-in process of an abandoned house environment. This process can be applied to any game environment you create with Hammer Source.

I will be using CS:GO SDK version of Hammer Source, but any Hammer Source version will work with this tutorial including Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead series.

BSP block-in is the first and most important development process that starts you off to create your game environments.

A lot of topics are covered in this tutorial including planning/preproduction, scale, layout, essential entities to quickly compile and test, using developer textures and blocking in the entire house environment.

Let's begin.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...

121 Level Design and Game Environment Location Ideas (Updated)

Category: Level Design, Game Environment Design
October 17, 2008 (Updated: December 08, 2016)

Update: List has been rewritten and revised to include a total of 121 locations (originally 100). All images have been updated.

Ideas are everywhere.

Every time you see a photo, concept art painting, a movie, every time you step a foot outside your door - all contain possible ideas for a game environment or a playable level.

But sometimes you want to see a list of possible locations ideas to stimulate your mind without having to actively look for them.

I originally created this list in 2008. It was actually one of the first posts on World of Level Design.

Now, 8 years later it is time for an update.

Mix and match any these locations to create a unique idea for a stand-alone game environment or a playable level design.

So whenever you get stuck and need help to generate idea locations - this is it.

Continue to the Full Tutorial...