I always start my maps by building the rough geometry with the nodraw material. By doing this, I won’t have to go back later and add nodraw to faces the player can’t see; doing this would inevitably leave many faces that are hidden still being rendered and not found during the later nodraw process.
I also always start with a grid scale of 16 unites per grid piece. This lets me keep clean geometry and prevent any leaks that would otherwise occur in smaller grid sizes. If I went any larger, I would lose the flexibility of the brush tool, and it would be hard to create basic geometry at the correct scale for the player i.e. all walls would be 2 feet thick.
Something I often find myself doing during this pass is bringing in props or other assets to check scale such as the player model, doors, crates, chairs, etc. This helps me make sure I’m always building to the correct scale for the items I plan to put in the rooms. I will delete the props after the scale is correct, though, and wait until a later pass to add them in during a time when I can focus on their placement. I also make the geometry only meet at the corners when I can. This leaves the edges exposed so if they managed to get textured later, even though they are not visible to the player, I can add nodraw to them later.
One of the first changes I made was to lengthen this first alleyway. I’m worried this may affect the size of the hospital interior later on, as this wall to the right side is the outer wall of the hospital, but the alley way much too short, and felt compressed.
I’ve gotten to that section of the map to find it had a pretty big impact on the hospital, but I still feel as though it’s ok, I just shifted around room 6 and the stairwell of room 5 to increase the space, unfortunately, the second room of section had to be changed pretty significantly to meet the outside wall like it did in my initial sketch.
Every so often I would add little details to the geometry, such as this little path, to add a better world feel to the level, so it feels like it isn’t just an isolated video game level. I will do a lot more of this in the second pass, but I will add it where I see fit as I go here to save myself some time.
This bit was pretty challenging. From the outside, the hospital has to look like a real building with corners and layout that make sense. Of course, I can’t change the interior at all, so I have to take some time to clean up the outside appearance of the building from the parking lot. The other challenge is to not make the exterior appear to not line up with the interior, some player would likely sense that disconnect and have their immersion immediately broken. On top of that, the space has to be kept visually interesting and I can’t just put big flat walls over everything to hide it. You can see the change in a before and after.
After the parking lot, things went pretty smoothly, and here is the final product of the initial block out. The nodraw is still there, but as I’m sure you have noticed, I switched the view mode to flat colors. This is for two reasons, one being that it’s easier on the eyes, the other being that the colors make it easier to determine pieces of geometry from each other. After this step, I will move on to make the first playable version.
That completes the first pass. Thank you for following the progress of my level design.