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Tutorials to Becoming the Best Level Designer and Game Environment Aritst

Massive "WoLD Insider" Newsletter Issue #04 - 2016 Year In Review

December 22, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Welcome to the 4th installment of the "WoLD Insider" newsletter.

With 2016 coming to an end, it is always good to look back on the past 12 months to see what you have accomplished, what projects you've worked on, what you've learned and what you could have done better.

2016 was very busy on WoLD and I am going to keep the momentum going right into 2017.

Here is what you can expect from this "WoLD Insider" Newsletter Issue #4 - 2016 Year in Review.

Following Issue of "WoLD Insider" contains:

  • List of 38 New and Updated Tutorials Released in 2016
  • Premium Tutorials and Books Released in 2016
  • Most Re-Tweeted Tweet of 2016
  • Most Liked Tweet of 2016
  • Top Liked Facebook Post
  • Most Popular New Post of 2016
  • Most Popular Post of 2016
  • Top 3 Most Visited Categories in 2016
  • The Longest New Post from 2016
  • Upcoming Focus and Tutorials for 2017
  • Upcoming Tutorials for January
  • 8 Wisdom for Level Designers and Environment Artist
  • 13 Tips for Level Design and Game Environment Art
  • 12 Tips for Source Engine - CS:GO SDK
  • UE4 Tip
  • 9 Photo References and Ideas
  • 7 Modding Tools, Editors and Software
  • 8 Useful Resource Links
  • WoLD Social Media Channels

3 Ways to View this Newsletter:

I'm changing things up a bit. Last 3 issues have been only available as a PDF format. Now, I am going to introduce a way to view it as online version and fully in email format.

So this issue of "WoLD Insider" newsletter is available as Email, Online or Download as PDF.

  • View this Issue as Email (subscribers only)
  • View this Issue Online as a blog post (currently viewing)
  • Download this Issue as a zipped/compressed PDF (subscribers only)

Let's get started.

List of All 38 New and Updated Tutorials Released in 2016

I released 38 new/updated blog posts in 2016.

Revised and Updated:

Level Design and Game Environment Design:


Maya LT/Maya for 3D Game Environment Art:

Unreal Engine 4:

Premium Tutorials and Books Released in 2016

3D Game Environment Modeling/UVing Foundation with Maya LT/Maya

This is the complete beginner's guide to 3D game environment modeling and UVing in Maya LT/Maya for game environment artist. Finally be able to learn game environment modeling software specifically for game environment art without any prior 3d experience or modeling knowledge required.

Dive deep into 9 hours of sequential and specific tutorial series focused on game environment modeling and Uving with Maya LT/Maya. Includes 3 Modules, 9 hours and 53 videos with every topic and every video is distilled down to teaching you modeling game environments. Maya LT is used but entire pipeline is transferable to regular version of Maya.

Click here for more info...

"Preproduction Blueprint: How to Plan Game Environments and Level Designs"

"Preproduction Blueprint" is a complete system for planning your game environments and level designs. It is a workshop that you can work through at your own pace. The book is designed to take you step-by-step planning process for your game environment and level design project.

It is now available as a Paperback or Kindle version and it has been updated and revised from the 2011 release as an ebook and videos.

Preproduction Blueprint is not game or engine dependent. It is a stand-alone planning system that can be used for any level design and game environment project.

Paperback features 240 pages in full-color and Kindle version can be downloaded instantly through Amazon.com and your mobile device.

Finally be able to carry this book with you and have it on your desk for reference.

Click here to get this book on Amazon.com...

Free PDF "Maya LT/Maya Primer Quick Start Guide"

"Maya LT/Maya Primer" is a FREE PDF quick start guide to begin using Maya LT/Maya for game environment Art. The guide is 148 pages and features over 50+ tips and how to techniques.

If you are looking for an ebook to help you get started with Maya LT/Maya as a complete beginner, specifically for game environment modeling - this guide is it.

Includes 5 sections, 148 pages and 50+ tips, how-to techniques on getting started with Maya LT/Maya software.

Contact me to receive this guide if you are a subscriber or sign-up here if you haven't subscribed to WoLD yet.

Most Re-Tweeted Tweet of 2016

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Most Liked Tweet of 2016

View this Tweet on Twitter

Top Liked Facebook Post

View this post on Facebook

Most Linked to and visited New Post of 2016

[SOLVED] How to Fix CSGO Black Prop Statics That Don't Light Properly After Wildfire Update

Most Popular Post of 2016

23 Recommended and Available 3D Game Engines (Updated)

Top 3 Most Visited Categories in 2016

Largest New Post from 2016

Largest blog post/tutorial is an interview with level designer Pete Ellis (5,600+ word count).

Interview: Professional Level Designer Talks Designing Single-Player vs Multiplayer Levels, VR Challenges and Tips for Getting Started

Upcoming Focus and Tutorials for 2017

For the first half of 2017 I am going to focus on 3d game environment modeling and creating custom props for UE4.

I also want to begin covering UE4 blueprints, texturing and tips, techniques, how-to for level design processes and theory.

This may change but at the moment, this is what I will focus on in 2017.

Upcoming Tutorials for January

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

Something I've been intermittently working on the last few months and it is now ready for release.

The series is 2+ hours across 5-tutorials of extensive workflow on how the "Abandoned House" environment was created.

The tutorials are already done, ready to go and will be one of the first thing released in January.

8 Wisdom for Level Designers and Environment Artist

On Motivation and Daily Work Habit:

Don't look for motivation; develop daily discipline, a habit to do the work regardless of how you feel.

On Improving and On Being Done:

You are never done. You never arrive. Always be learning and honing your level design and game environment art skill.

On Research and Experimentation:

"Paintings are but research and experiment. I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are research." - Pablo Picasso

On Daunting Level Design and Game Art Tasks and Projects:

"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs" - Henry Ford

On Difficult Exhausting Days:

When I have a tough, exhausting day where everything seems to be falling apart, I think of it as a mental workout. Training for discipline, willpower and focus. Building resilience. Stay with it.

On Planning Your Level Designs and Game Environment Art Projects:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln

On Small, Daily Wins:

Every time I finish a tutorial it's a small win. Aim to get a small win every day and every time you work. Over time those small wins will add up to something significant.

On Project Purpose:

Every level design and game environment project you work on should have a sense of purpose behind it. A desired outcome you are trying to achieve.

13 Tips for Level Design and Game Environment Art

On Capturing Photo Ideas:

I always have a camera or my phone with me so I can take photos of random objects I see every day for environment prop reference. I can't help it. I HAVE TO TAKE A PIC!

Which Ideas to Pursue:

Whatever the idea you are naturally being pulled to explore is the idea you should pursue. Pay attention to what you find interesting, what you are naturally drawn to, excited and inspired by.

Exterior Boundaries CS:GO Thunder Map:

Great use of exterior non-playable boundaries in CS:GO Thunder map. Very important in creating a believable world. Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time on these areas:

On Creating Exterior Boundaries:

Create exterior boundaries of the map referencing the player's point of view and what they will see. Build according to that. In the example screenshot below, I always try to maintain a point of view from the ground where the player will be and see the exterior boundary of the world. I add trees, tree cards and foliage detail to make it look the best as the player sees it. I avoid designing from vantage points where the player will never get to see from and always ask "How will this look to the player and what will they see?"

"Max Payne 2" Level Design Example:

Good example of MaxPayne 2 giving you a weapon to pick up and first enemy to kill within context of the level and environment storytelling through a cut scene:

"HL2: Lost Coast" Fact:

HL2 Lost Coast ship wreck was supposed to be a puzzle you solve but was cut due to time constraints:

"HL2: Lost Coast" Memorable Scripted Event:

Repelling Combine in "Half-Life 2: Lost Coast" is one of the memorable scripted events in the level. The fact that the player is going up the cliff side and always looking up ensures that the scripted event will be seen:

On Horse Shoe Level Design Layout:

John Romero applied horseshoe shape layout design in some of the Doom's levels. Horseshoe shape layout applies to the whole map but can be applicable to room design:

John Romero Level Design Tip:

"Design and build the middle level first and first level last. This way you'll use all the knowledge of the game's capabilities to make a good first impression on the player" - John Romero

On Rewarding Exploration:

Reward exploration with side quests or items. Example of Fallout 4: The Cabot House:

Game Environment Story Telling Examples:

Environment storytelling with prop placement in CS:GO cs_militia map.

Chair, axe and milk jar in attic (what's in the milk jar?):

Bottles used for target practice on top of the car:

Unattended circular saw:

Table full of ammo:

Computers, tvs and garbage (CS:GO lan party?):

On "Doom" Game Experience:

"The foundation of any Doom experience past or present is unquestionably combat, that centered around 3 things: badass demons, big f-ing guns, and moving really, really fast." - Marty Stratton

Dust 2 Level Design Example:

De_Dust2 (excluding AR or DM) is one of the only official map in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where you can engage in a long-distance firefight almost instantly from spawn. It works in Dust 2 due to a very narrow field of view and you never get to see player spawning - you do have to move a bit and into position:

12  Tips for Source Engine - CS:GO SDK

Missing Compiling Parameters:

In CS:GO SDK Hammer Editor, if you happen to delete compiling Parameters under Fast Configuration command $light_exe here is the text:

  • -bounce 2 -noextra -game $gamedir $path\$file

Bounding Box Display Toggle in Editor:

Red lines surrounding every object in 3D view? I = Toggle Display of Red Bounding Boxes. Pressed a button in Hammer Source and every object displayed red box lines. Didn't know what I pressed. But found that "I" key will toggle display of red bounding boxes around all objects in the scene.

10 Quick Tips for CS:GO SDK: (links below lead to YouTube)

UE4 Tip

Power of 2 Grid Scale Size:

Unreal Engine 4 uses decimal system grid spacing - 5, 10, 50, 100 etc. This is very different from the traditional power of 2 grid spacing - 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 etc.

To reset back to traditional grid spacing go to "Edit > Editor Preferences: Viewports > Use Power of Two Snap Size".

View video on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=jNGy-UFzr-s

9 Photo References and Ideas

Anytime I find interesting locations, areas, props I share them. Here is what I shared in 2016.

Urban Environment Security Door Entrance/Exit:

Building back alley and props:

Modern/Futuristic Trashcan and Recycling:

Stylistic Railing Support:

Real world scripted event: draw bridge, traffic, tug boat:

Thick Mist Beach Environment with a Bridge (color, lighting and atmosphere):

Movie Set Environment Idea "10 Cloverfield Lane" Bunker (small, manageable but lots of props):

Movie Set Environment Idea "Hateful Eight" Cabin Interior:

More set design from "Hateful Eight".

Admiring the Church environment in "HL2: Lost Coast" build with Source Engine. Simple and still looks great after all these years:

View video on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=TA4Tgsa6U-M

For more level design and game environment location ideas see this blog post "121 Level Design and Game Environment Location Ideas (Updated)".

7 Modding Tools, Editors and Software

Classic - Max Payne 2 Modding Tools:

Blast to the past with Max Payne 2 Modding Tools. Messed around a bit when they first came out. Still up for download, but don't know for how long.

Visit Rockstar Games website to download.

Classic - Deus Ex (2000) Modding Tools:

Blast to the past with the original "Deus Ex" SDK Modding Tools. Now you can create custom levels for a Cyberpunk themed game.

These tools allow you to create your own stand-alone missions, build custom maps and modify current made Deus Ex maps.

The "Deus Ex" SDK is only 6+mb and includes all of the tools used to create the game. The level editor is the original Unreal Editor. Note: You do have to own the original "Deus Ex" game released in 2000.

Visit ModDB website to download.

Killing Floor 2 Gets Full Steam Workshop Integration:

If you play and like "Killing Floor 2", then the game now features a full steam workshop intergration.

Visit Steam to download and documents on Trimwire Interactive website to get started with the tools.

Level Editor - Neon Struct:

Indie minimalistic stealth game "Neon Struct" gets a level editor.

Visit Steam to download and start with level editor documentation.

Game Engine - Lumberyard:

New game engine from Amazon called "Lumberyard". It is a free AAA game engine deeply integrated with AWS and Twitch with full source code. Visit this Amazon page for more info.

See more recommended 3d game engines: 23 Recommended and Available 3D Game Engines (Updated).

Mod - Crysis Co-Op:

You can now play Crysis in Co-Op. A mod that enables AI in multiplayer for cooperative gameplay. Co-op dramatically changes gameplay experience. I don't think I would put in so many hours into a game without co-op. (Such as the time I did for Left4Dead2)

Visit ModDB website to download.

Game Engine - Comparison:

Source/Source 2 game engine comparison from L4D2 Plantation level. Source 2 isn't out yet, but I can't wait to get my hands on Source 2 game engine when it finally comes out. Maybe, just maybe it will be with L4D3.

7 Useful Resource Links

Analyzing "Gears of War" Knock Knock Level Design:

Level Design notes I took after reading Zi Peters article on map analysis for Gears of War level "Knock Knock". Highly recommend the article. Lots of insight into layout, orientation, navigation, challenge, reward. Loved the "Combat Bowls > Corridor > Combat Bowls" concept. Read the article here on Gamasutra website.

SpaceX Public Domain Images:

Amazing resource of public domain images from SpaceX. Visit FlickR website to view.

400+ "Uncharted 4" Photo Mode Screenshots:

Great visual reference from "Uncharted 4" Photo Mode with over 400 screenshots. Visit FlickR website to view.

11 Day Challenge of "L4D2 Brooklyn Bridge" Map from 2010:

My old "L4D2 Brooklyn Bridge" map created in 11 days as a challenge back in 2010. Not my best & needed a lot of work but I learned a lot from this. Original forum thread is still up. View Interlopers forum thread.

Fallout 4 and Skyrim's Modular Level Design:

GDC 2013 Transcript from Joel Burgess on Skyrim's modular level design.

Fallout 4 video from GDC 2016 on modular level design:

View video on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=QBAM27YbKZg

Classic - Dynamic Tone Mapping from Valve:

Valve Explains Dynamic Tone Mapping or HDR from HL2: Lost Coast Commentary

View video on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=v52QWiqF598

More info on HDR (High Dynamic Range) or Dynamic Tone Mapping in Source Engine here on Valve Wiki page and in this Valve Siggraph PDF publication.

WoLD Social Media Channels

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Make sure to follow WoLD for wisdom, tips, tutorials & secret knowledge for level design, game environment art and game dev.

Screenshot Reference:

"Uncharted 4" ©Sony Computer Entertainment. Developer: Naughty Dog. All rights reserved.

"Ori and the Blind Forest" ©Microsoft Studios Developer: Moon Studios. All rights reserved.

"RIGS: Mechanized Combat League" ©Sony Interactive Entertainment. Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge. All rights reserved.

"Counter-Strike: Global Offensive", "Half-Life 2: Lost Coast", "Left4Dead 2", Source™, Source 2™, ©Valve Software. All rights reserved.

"Crysis" ©Electronic Arts, Dev: Crytek. All rights reserved.

"Max Payne 2" ©Rockstar Games. Dev: Remedy Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Unreal Development Kit (UDK) ©Epic Games, Inc. All rights reserved.

"Doom" (1993) ©GT Interactive. Developer: idSoftware

"Doom" (2016) ©Bethesda Softworks. Developer: idSoftware

"Fallout 4" ©Bethesda Softworks. Developer: Bethesda Game Studios.

Lumberyard ©Amazon. All rights reserved.

Unreal® Engine 4 ©Epic Games, Inc. All rights reserved.

"Killing Floor 2" ©Tripwire Interactive. All rights reserved.

"Neon Struct" ©Minor Key Games. All rights reserved.

"Deus Ex" ©Eidos Interactive. Developer: Ion Storm Inc. All rights reserved.

"10 Cloverfield Lane" ©Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

"Hateful Eight" ©The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

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