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CS:GO SDK Stuck? One Section Level Design for Gameplay - Idea to Playtest

Category: Source: CSGO SDK
February 18, 2016

Are you unable to figure out your map's layout? Stuck with what a section of the level should look, play and flow like?

I've been in that situation too many times I care to admit.

I would be stuck and just couldn't figure out on how an area should look and what I should do next.

In this tutorial you will learn a quick and very useful technique. In fact, in less than one hour you can probably have something to play test and build upon.

However, this technique should NOT take place of a well-planned, thought-out and tested gameplay layout.

This method should only be used when you can't figure out the layout and how a section of your map should look like.

I like this technique a lot because it allows you to go between an idea and implementation right away. It gives you something substantial to test and play.

Here is a quick overview how it works:

  • Pick a photo reference of one single section that you think will be interesting to play in
  • BSP block-in this one single section inside the editor
  • Include a few additional pathways to make it interesting to play
  • Add gameplay elements (hostage rescue, one bomb site, weapons on the ground, buy zones etc)
  • Compile in order to play test inside the game
  • Test and iterate

Let's go more into detail.

1. Find an Interesting Photo Reference

Find a photo reference of an area that has gameplay potential. Something you are inspired by to see in a Counter-Strike map.

The key to this technique is you must pick one single section of the layout. Such as:

  • A site
  • B site
  • CT spawn
  • T spawn
  • Middle/Left/Right
  • Hostage rescue location
  • Any choke point

2. Create a simple Top-Down Layout Drawing

Once you have a single section picked out from a photo reference, draw a top-down layout. I covered this idea of one-section layout design in this tutorial, under Method #2.

This one single section of the level should have just a one or two main paths and a bit of variety to playtest to have fun with.

3. Block-In BSP Layout

Use photo reference and top-down drawing to block-in BSP layout in the level editor.

Start with a floor plan:

Then expand. Keep your geometry simple and use developer textures:

Use a large cube for a skybox and hollow it out. Surround your level section inside the skybox:

Also add env_light and change color and intensity property. You can grab light values to use here:

Note: this is not how you would actually place a skybox in your final level. Since this is a quick playtest of the section, you don't want to spend a lot of time on optimizing your geometry at this point.

Your goal is to use image reference as a guide for one single section of the map.

4. Think of This Section as FY/DM or One Site DE/CT Map

You are not creating a full level. You are only focusing on one section to have something playable.

It helps to think of this section as a Fight Yard (fy) or Deathmatch (DM) map with a potential to expand on later. Or, think of it as a DE/CT one section map.

Both fy and dm maps are small and often fun to play. So when you are blocking in a single section resist the urge to continue blocking in beyond your reference. Just get this section into the playable format and playtest.

5. Add Gameplay Elements

Once you get everything blocked-in, expand to include spawn locations for CT and T teams, maybe a bomb site location or a couple of hostage spawns.

Add buy zones or place guns on the ground like a fy map.

Use entity "weapon_weaponname" to place weapons on the ground:


6. Play Test

Compile and jump into the map to test. Add 3-5 bots for each team and pick a team to spawn on to play test.

7. Iterate

After playing for a bit, go back to the editor and change BSP geometry based on play test.

Iterate and test.

Original pass:

After a few updates:

What Now?

If you had fun with this one section of the map then you can include it as part of the larger layout. Of course there is a lot more to it then designing sections in isolation. A good map is created based on the entire layout as one.

But this is a very helpful technique to break out of a design rut and playtest something very quick as a potential section in a larger and more complete map.

In order to take this layout beyond one section, see tutorials below to guide you.

Recommended Tutorials:

For more in-depth tutorials on designing layouts and creating a full playable map:

CS:GO 6 Principles of Choke Point Level Design

CS:GO How to Design Gameplay Map Layouts (Complete In-Depth Guide)

CS:GO 3 Workflow Techniques - How to Draw Top-Down Level Design Map Layouts

CS:GO From Top Down Layout to BSP Block-In Workflow


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About World of Level Design

My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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