Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Workflow improvent in Hammer (1)

Improving your workflow is not hard if you just want it. And there are many ways to do this.
Shortcuts (Hotkeys) are a great thing to improve your workflow and to get faster results of your work.
But for that you have to use them! Yeah that is my problem, I don't really use them in Hammer. In other programs like Blender I work nearly complete with shortcuts but in Hammer I never get used to it. Hammer is a great tool for beginners to get started, with the small UI and just these less buttons, so I never considered it for necessary to use shortcuts because it was just so easy, just to use the mouse.

But this changed the last weeks there I thought a bit about useful things to improve my mapping workflow to get my maps faster finished. One important thing to make progress as fast as possible is of course a good planing before you start to create your map itself in the editor. I learned that as I worked on my Application map (Stay on the track) that was the first time were I invested a lot of time for planing before actually starting to create something in Hammer, and yeah I got less problems by the mapping and polishing. But about the planing stage I will write another blog post because it is to complex to put it in here as well.

First I want to give you some tips to better configure your Hammer itself.
Go to Tools>>Options
  1.  Enable Autosaves. And set one for you reasonable amount of Numbers of iterations to save and time between the saves. So that you always have a version of your map saved then your Hammer or Windows crashes, else all your hard work would be wasted. And who wants that?
  2. I also recommend a high amount of undo levels if you made something wrong you can go back. But don't forget that your machine also needs to have enough ram for that.
  3. Enable the default to 15 degree rotations in the 2D view. So it is much easier to fast rotate something exactly. If you want to rotate without 15 degree steps just press Alt while rotating.
  4. Disable Draw Vertics. So your 2D view just draws vertics from the brush you have selected. That makes your 2D view much cleaner and easier to work with.
  5. Enable Visgroup colors for object lines. That makes it easier to differ map areas from each other and makes it easier to keep the overview on big maps.
  6. Enable Center on camera after movement in 3D. So you don't have to adjust your 2D view every time after changing your camera position in the 3D view.
  7. Increase Distances. You should also increase the Back clipping plane and Model render distance in the 3D Views so that you can see more from your map on your 3D view, but remember this costs performance and that your machine has to handle that. If your Hammer lags, it reduces your productivity.
  8. Disable Animate models. Animated models in Hammer are just obstructing, and remember this also costs performance.
  9. Increase the camera speeds. A high Forward speed makes you moving faster around your map, less wasted time. Also increase the Time to top speed useful if you just want so make minimal adjustments. I recommend values about 6000 and 1 sec.
  10. Adjust the FOV. Match the FOV you use Ingame with the FOV you use in Hammer, else you may wonder later why things ingame looks different than in your Hammer.
If you got more than 1 Monitor and want to use Hammer on multiply monitors you can also do this. Just go to the Options Menu again and check the Use independent window configurations and Load default window positions with maps under the General tab. This enables you to drag the Hammer to the size you want it. Then use the Window button in the upper toolbar and New window to add a new window in Hammer for a view port you want. Add as many windows and configure them like you want. I recommend a single monitor just for the 3D view and all the 2D view on another. After arranging everything just press the save Window state button (the blue one with a S in it) in the top toolbar, and you are done.
But badly Hammer cant go full screen, you don't have to try that, this is the reason why I personally don't use that. I use my other monitors just to show references. But for ATI users like me there is also another option, just create a eyefinity profile for Hammer. In this case Windows use all your monitors as one and Hammer goes full screen, but I don't know if the same is possible for Nvidia users.
I also can recommend to use the expert mode for compiling in Hammer with custom profiles. It is a good idea to create custom profiles for different situations. As Example I have my own presets for leak detection brushwork and layout checks were I just compile .bsp and also different light presets for any situation I could need. With a good preset list you can compile much faster, than every time adjust the compiler again. But I personally don't have to use the Hammer compiler often because internal in our mod we use a set of own compiling tools :)

It is also useful to assign the Hammer Editor in Windows as default program to open .vmf file types. But be sure to select the right Hammer.exe for your Engine version, as example, for mods you need the 2007 Hammer.exe (Steam/steamapps/yourusername/sourcesdk/bin/source2007/bin). And if you have problems to load the right default sheme, there is a solution. That makes it much easier to open your maps to do quick fixes.

So that´s it for now from my side but I think this post is now long enough ;)
I will continue this in another article soon, so stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stay on the Track (1) Introduction

in my first real blog entry I want to tell you something about a map I have created for an Application for a university of applied science where I applied for a Games Creation course of studies.
I will write more than one post for this because I want you to get a bit more detailed look at the whole progress I have made through the creation of this map and show you a few more pictures for that, and this would just blast a single post.

The theme for the Application was "track". What exactly we have to do was our own choice as applicant, it just had to be something about Games and should have a location and time.
So I decided to create a map because this is were I have the most experience in. The time to learn mapping on  the Unreal Engine or Cryengine was a bit short and I wanted to have something more in my portfolio than just the maps I have created for The Stargate Mod so I decided to create my level with a newer version of the Source Engine. Because in Source I have the most experiences.
My final decision was Counter Strike Source because it has one of the newest Engine versions and a big amount of useful models and textures for my project that would be useful if I have not the time to create everything by my own (looking back that was a good decision :>).

 The first thing to do was to get an idea about what setting the map should have.
At the beginning I had a few ideas about what I could create based on the theme track,
  • A long journey, with a mountain or Forest setting?
  • Industrialisation, first railroad in Europe?
  • Space, a spaceship on a long travel through space
  • Stay on the Track, railroad, USA, mid 19th century

Some screens from my brainstorms, but in German.

After a lot of thinking and searching the web I decided to use the Stay on the Track idea would be the best choice. So I started to detail the idea and bring more background information's into it to create a deeper story and to show my progress and what I thought at the time with Mind maps again.

 To get useful ideas and background information's I "googled" a lot but my main source of information's for a useful background idea I took from wikipedia and the website from the Karl May foundation. And all these information's and ideas I collected by searching and thinking I put together again in two new Mind maps.

I hoped that this planing would get paid later in the creation of the map because I got a more clear idea about what exactly I want to create, and that this will also help the guys who watch my final map to understand what exactly I have tried to create. And by the way it seems that this idea was a good one because after I sent them my application with this map I was invited for an interview ;)

But that's it for now. I will show you the next progress stage in another blog post soon.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Welcome Post

and welcome to my little blog. I created this blog to share some of my work and experience to people out there who are interested in the creation of games or digital art.
I will try to post some things for all of you who are interested in regular intervals but if I don't post something for a while do not worry this is currently just a hobby for me and so I will post every time something new for you if I have something interesting for you ;)
And sorry if my English isn't correct all the time, I will try to improve it over the time :>

In September I will start my Game Design study and I will try to inform you about that as often as I can. Until than my main topics in this blog will be about the Mapping and 3D/2D stuff I have made.
And it can also happen that I will rework some of my posts over the time because some of them will be a kind of article, but if these are big changes I will post a note for you on twitter. And I will try not just to post about that stuff and also post something about some useful learning tips or interesting hardware for you guys out there who are interested in the same stuff as me.
But yeah first I have to post something at all :P

If you want to know more about me just visit my Homepage or write me a mail.

Bye for now