I've recently decided to start mapping for the Source engine, and I thought it could be beneficial for everyone if I started chronicling my progress. This is my first real attempt at mapping in over 6 years, and even the one map I have released to my credit (DM-Zkorch for Unreal Tournament, receiving Insite's 3rd lowest score!) wasn't really "good," and all the really cool stuff (details, sweet skybox, trap…) was added by my good friend Christian. So essentially, I was starting from scratch here.
I decided to start with something very basic to get my feet wet in the editor: A deathmatch level, based as exactly as possible on a map called DM-Permanent][ made by Frostblood for Unreal Tournament. Using an existing level saved me from trying to come up with my own layout, which I think was a great decision for my first level: just like a good workout, it's important to focus on individual "muscle groups" in mapmaking when you're learning. There's no reason to have to come up with your own layout and figure out a map's flow when you're not sure you can build a room yet. The original DM-Permanent was made as an entry in a three-day speed mapping contest that Christian ran on some forums a long time back, and so I figured that if it only took Frostblood 3 days to make, then maybe I'd have a chance at finishing it. It's also been one of my favorite UT DM maps for a long time and has always stuck in my head, so I figured I might as well start with something good that I really enjoyed. I'm proud to say that all the work you see in here (though I grant it may not seem like much) was done in about 4.5 days, which I think is a pretty good start; for the first day and a half, I didn't even know how to make a cylinder! [I thought you had to make a block and then start cutting, and you just had to figure out the angles if you wanted something other than an octagon… Thankfully I figured that out after finding a beginner's tutorial; I wondered why nobody was complaining about how terrible the tools were!]
I've returned. I promise no rigorous schedule, but I've been getting some encouragement to start back up, so I figure I'll post as ideas come up.
Today's post regards last week's excellent announcement from Epic about their Unreal Development Kit, which has surpassed 50,000 downloads in its first week of release and already has updates on the way. Whether this release was in reaction to Unity releasing their cross-platform game engine (formerly $199 per license) for free to indie developers or if that's just a matter of coincidence, the end result is that there are now 2 well-known game engines available to you so that you can do whatever your heart desires! (Rock, Paper, Shotgun raised a really interesting question: Instead of larger-scale mods, will we now be seeing more indie games released? I highly recommend the article. My guess would be that both will find their places; the major Total Conversions will move to being indie releases so they're not bound to the owners of a certain game, and the mods will shift back toward expansions/extensions of the parent's gameplay or story.)
My initial thought when I read about the UDK was that it was basically like giving everyone free licenses. Obviously that's not exactly true; the main differences between this and a license are 1) no tech support from Epic, and 2) no diddling the engine source code. However, it IS the latest possible version of UE3, so all the Lightmass technology and everything else that hasn't come out in a commercial product yet is in here. To quote one of Epic's employees from the BeyondUnreal announcement, "Man, one thing I hope you guys realize is that this is almost EXACTLY the engine build that we're using here at Epic! You get every single feature that we've been using here that aren't even in any games yet! We only got some of these features last week!"
The Lightmass technology really is beautiful. Included with the UDK is a trimmed-down version of UT3 featuring several levels overhauled with the new technology. I had to fire it up and make the comparison for myself, so following are screenshots from the 2 different DM levels. Feel free to click for the full-res versions, but be warned: they are huge.