TF2: Falls (PT 2)

Hi everybody! (Hi doctor Nick!) Just an update on my TF2 map
    

So, I set out from the place you last saw me with a somewhat drastic goal: what if the waterfall... Went the other way?!!! I know, crazy right? Well, after thinking about it, I determined that the map would be much better off if, instead of a shear drop right at the horizon, your eyes would behold a vast and beauty-ous waterfall. Plus it didn't really make sense for such a small channel to be supplying so much water...
 
Changing the waterfall also allows me to work in what I think is a decent gimmick: Water current. I still haven't sussed out the details as I want to keep myself as open as possible for the moment, but there are many possible ways I can take it. Certain classes could be washed away to their death (Heavies), some could cross instantaneously (Soldier, scout, demos) and some could be slowed down fairly severely, having to fight against the current (snipers, pyros, medics). Heck, if I want to get really gimmicky, I could animate a log that allows all to cross that shows up and leaves at 60 second intervals. The possibilities are endless, which makes it easy to balance.

 Rocks

 
 Heavy: 500k
In service of this new objective, I had to make a nice and rocky cliff face for one to gaze at. So I turned the industry standard in rocks: Zbrush. For those who don't know, Zbrush is an application that allows one to sculpt digitally. Over the past few years it has absolutely revolutionized the industry, and continues to do so. The above was the outcome of my foray into the program.  
 
But the big issue with Zbrush is, it makes a lot of polygons. That fairly simply model is 500k polygons, a pittance for Zbrush (Not uncommon for a great Zbrush artist to push 15 mil.) but totally insane for source engine. Don't ask me why Zbrush can do this stuff with ease and no other program can't. I'm pretty sure Pixologic made a contract with the devil.  
      
 Low: 1171     
So I can't use it as is, unfortunately. Instead I have to retopologize the model, a process that I outlined in my very first blog. Go read that if you want, but the important part here is that I turned 500k into 1171, and it took me forever
  Well, that looked alright and fit the "raw polygon" style of TF2, but I knew I could make it better if it was just a bit higher res. But trouble is, it's not as easy as just hitting the divide button. If I do they all instantly become ridiculously smooth boulders. No, I wanted to keep those rough edges. So I dug in there and selected the edges I wanted to keep, and gave them a slight radius. This changes how the computer approaches dividing the mesh, and retains the chosen edges. I may have to revert back to the lower res if I bump up to the constraints of the source engine, but it's nice to have on hand. 
 
 Mid: ~9000
So yeah, that was done. It looks alright. 

Water

Now I moved on to the water that falls. I could've created and interpreted this part myself like a real artist, but hey man, this is the 21st century. Let's simulate it!
   
  
I used RealFlow - a really excellent fluid vfx program - to simulate a waterfall. I imported my mesh, and created a domain around the area I would be simulating in. The domain dictates the area that the simulation will take place in. It's important to only encompass what you need with the domain, else the computer will have to go through additional calculations. I created my emitter - the object that the water particles spawn from - at the top of my waterfall. I hit simulate. It looked weird. After much fooling around (around a day's worth), I figured out that my emitting speed was too high. I fixed it, meshed the particles from one frame and moved on. 
 
VFX is not a part of CG that gets an overwhelming amount of notice (because honestly it can be quite boring to talk about), but it is truly 1/2 of the whole that is today's modern artist.
 
So back in modo (My 3d package), I've got this ugly looking, triangulated mesh. The sad realization that I had to retop again reached me. So yeah. I did that.  
 
 Probably going to have to rework this at some point.
To make it clear, I'm not going to have some awesome particle simulation going in this map like in that video. I just have one static shape and will be using good ol' texture trickery to make it "move", a process I'll outline when I get to there. 

Oh Yeah, and the Rest of the Things I Did.

 
  •  Began to differentiate the two sides through differing architecture 
  • added stairs/tentative logs across the body of water 
  • animated a log going down the falls for the aforementioned idea that I may or may not carry out 
  • created underground path through midpoint 
  • tentative design of stairs linking upper and lower of midpoint  
  • got a rough idea of how I'm going to style the unreachable scenery 
  • restricted sniper/sentry views 
 I think I'm nearly ready to take this all in to Hammer and start to make it all playable. The rest of the props and details will be built to order as I progress. I am in no way stopping in developing the map conceptually though, so I'd still love to hear more suggestions/questions/criticisms if you have some.
31 Comments
32 Comments
Posted by Akrid

Hi everybody! (Hi doctor Nick!) Just an update on my TF2 map
    

So, I set out from the place you last saw me with a somewhat drastic goal: what if the waterfall... Went the other way?!!! I know, crazy right? Well, after thinking about it, I determined that the map would be much better off if, instead of a shear drop right at the horizon, your eyes would behold a vast and beauty-ous waterfall. Plus it didn't really make sense for such a small channel to be supplying so much water...
 
Changing the waterfall also allows me to work in what I think is a decent gimmick: Water current. I still haven't sussed out the details as I want to keep myself as open as possible for the moment, but there are many possible ways I can take it. Certain classes could be washed away to their death (Heavies), some could cross instantaneously (Soldier, scout, demos) and some could be slowed down fairly severely, having to fight against the current (snipers, pyros, medics). Heck, if I want to get really gimmicky, I could animate a log that allows all to cross that shows up and leaves at 60 second intervals. The possibilities are endless, which makes it easy to balance.

 Rocks

 
 Heavy: 500k
In service of this new objective, I had to make a nice and rocky cliff face for one to gaze at. So I turned the industry standard in rocks: Zbrush. For those who don't know, Zbrush is an application that allows one to sculpt digitally. Over the past few years it has absolutely revolutionized the industry, and continues to do so. The above was the outcome of my foray into the program.  
 
But the big issue with Zbrush is, it makes a lot of polygons. That fairly simply model is 500k polygons, a pittance for Zbrush (Not uncommon for a great Zbrush artist to push 15 mil.) but totally insane for source engine. Don't ask me why Zbrush can do this stuff with ease and no other program can't. I'm pretty sure Pixologic made a contract with the devil.  
      
 Low: 1171     
So I can't use it as is, unfortunately. Instead I have to retopologize the model, a process that I outlined in my very first blog. Go read that if you want, but the important part here is that I turned 500k into 1171, and it took me forever
  Well, that looked alright and fit the "raw polygon" style of TF2, but I knew I could make it better if it was just a bit higher res. But trouble is, it's not as easy as just hitting the divide button. If I do they all instantly become ridiculously smooth boulders. No, I wanted to keep those rough edges. So I dug in there and selected the edges I wanted to keep, and gave them a slight radius. This changes how the computer approaches dividing the mesh, and retains the chosen edges. I may have to revert back to the lower res if I bump up to the constraints of the source engine, but it's nice to have on hand. 
 
 Mid: ~9000
So yeah, that was done. It looks alright. 

Water

Now I moved on to the water that falls. I could've created and interpreted this part myself like a real artist, but hey man, this is the 21st century. Let's simulate it!
   
  
I used RealFlow - a really excellent fluid vfx program - to simulate a waterfall. I imported my mesh, and created a domain around the area I would be simulating in. The domain dictates the area that the simulation will take place in. It's important to only encompass what you need with the domain, else the computer will have to go through additional calculations. I created my emitter - the object that the water particles spawn from - at the top of my waterfall. I hit simulate. It looked weird. After much fooling around (around a day's worth), I figured out that my emitting speed was too high. I fixed it, meshed the particles from one frame and moved on. 
 
VFX is not a part of CG that gets an overwhelming amount of notice (because honestly it can be quite boring to talk about), but it is truly 1/2 of the whole that is today's modern artist.
 
So back in modo (My 3d package), I've got this ugly looking, triangulated mesh. The sad realization that I had to retop again reached me. So yeah. I did that.  
 
 Probably going to have to rework this at some point.
To make it clear, I'm not going to have some awesome particle simulation going in this map like in that video. I just have one static shape and will be using good ol' texture trickery to make it "move", a process I'll outline when I get to there. 

Oh Yeah, and the Rest of the Things I Did.

 
  •  Began to differentiate the two sides through differing architecture 
  • added stairs/tentative logs across the body of water 
  • animated a log going down the falls for the aforementioned idea that I may or may not carry out 
  • created underground path through midpoint 
  • tentative design of stairs linking upper and lower of midpoint  
  • got a rough idea of how I'm going to style the unreachable scenery 
  • restricted sniper/sentry views 
 I think I'm nearly ready to take this all in to Hammer and start to make it all playable. The rest of the props and details will be built to order as I progress. I am in no way stopping in developing the map conceptually though, so I'd still love to hear more suggestions/questions/criticisms if you have some.
Posted by ajamafalous

I'm not too keen on the idea of the river having some type of current gimmick. A log as a mobile platform that goes down the river (similar to the trains in well or freight) might be a cool idea, though.

Edited by Akrid
@ajamafalous: Yeah... I went in to this thinking I would not make it gimmicky, I would just make a good map. But I think this is fairly unobtrusive. I'm not likely to do the whole moving log thing at all really, it was just a thought/diversion. It crosses that barrier where you have to wonder why a log is coming down and getting stuck the exact same way over and over again. Breaks the illusion a bit. 
 
I don't think the current bit itself is gimmicky, personally. It's just like the rest of the paths in that some classes can take it and some can't.
Posted by Jellybones

Excited to see the map evolve. Thumbs up, sir.

Online
Posted by ajamafalous

But I feel like, with all other paths, it's apparent who can use the path and who can't. With a river, I don't think it would be readily apparent, unless you mean something like the water is rushing by incredibly fast and anyone that jumps into it is instantly dead, or something, but Scouts can double jump over and class that can explosion jump can also make it over. I dunno, with just a "strong current" type of thing it gets into the territory of not being immediately obvious what it does, and I feel like that's bad map design.

Posted by supermike6

Man, you're crazy smart. I can barely comprehend what you are talking about.

Posted by scarace360

What if  the whole map was a river and it was ctf but on a moving river.

Posted by Akrid
@Jellybones said:

Excited to see the map evolve. Thumbs up, sir.

Thanks! 
 
@ajamafalous said:

But I feel like, with all other paths, it's apparent who can use the path and who can't. With a river, I don't think it would be readily apparent, unless you mean something like the water is rushing by incredibly fast and anyone that jumps into it is instantly dead, or something, but Scouts can double jump over and class that can explosion jump can also make it over. I dunno, with just a "strong current" type of thing it gets into the territory of not being immediately obvious what it does, and I feel like that's bad map design.


That's true. I'll at the very least make a little sign denoting that it is a strong current. As for insta-death, I don't think that's much of a solution. Water is established as something you can swim in as far as TF2 is concerned. It would piss people off even more if it just killed them instantly. I dunno, the whole current thing is still under consideration so I'll definitely try and take  your points into account.  
 
@supermike6 said:
Man, you're crazy smart. I can barely comprehend what you are talking about.

I'd chock that up to poor writing... Refer to my status.   
 
@scarace360 said:
What if  the whole map was a river and it was ctf but on a moving river.

Now THERE'S an idea, ha ha. A little too late for that though. 
Posted by supermike6
@Akrid: Woah man, no need to be so hard on yourself. It was still an interesting read, I just don't understand math talk is all.
Edited by DonPixel

@Akrid: I don't play TF2 but nice work dude, Map is looking good!

Posted by Akrid
@supermike6 said:
@Akrid: Woah man, no need to be so hard on yourself. It was still an interesting read, I just don't understand math talk is all.
If you say so! 
 
I dunno. Not very happy with how this blog came out. 
 
@DonPixel said:

@Akrid: I don't play TF2 but nice work dude, Map is looking good!

Thanks!
Posted by CowMuffins

You should post this on Facepunch.

Posted by Akrid
@CowMuffins: This is my first map, so I'm not really familiar with that community. Maybe on future projects.
Posted by karatetron

I just might have to get into TF2 so I can play this map when it's in the game. Awesome work so far, and I like the idea of using the log.

Posted by Akrid
@TrippinBungalow: Uh, I really can't make the claim that my map will be better then what is in there already, ha ha. But thank you all the same.
Posted by Tim_the_Corsair

Looming awesome mate, but I echo the sentiment that any gimmick you have on the river has to be VERY simple.

First principal of map design is that the player is there to fight other players, not the level. Having the current sweep everyone downstream is fine, I think, but having it move at different speeds based on class or some other factor is getting to the stage where it would be a major distraction from actually fighting opponents.

Edited by Sweep

Just so you know, water is a complete bitch in the source engine. You are going to run into all sorts of problems trying to export that shit into hammer :/

Moderator
Posted by Akrid
@Tim_the_Corsair: Well, not really move at different speeds. It's a set speed, but I was thinking that only the faster classes could "resist" it, you know? Like, a heavy couldn't actively go against the current, but a scout could easily. 
 
You may be right though, now that I think about it. I think the best alternative then would be to create a way to get up and out after being washed downstream. But ugh, that could raise a bunch more problems... I dunno, I'll think about it. 
 
@Sweep: Really? That doesn't sound good.... Can you elaborate a bit?
Edited by CowMuffins

@Akrid: The mapping section of the site has some really helpful people who know what they're talking about. Since this is your first map, I would recommend you to go check it out even more. They've got a lot of threads that will help you understand Hammer better and, at least in the mapping sections, a lot of the people are pretty helpful.

Also, water is only a problem if it's moving. As in, the actual water brush is moving. You aren't going to get away with any sort of flooding effects, but a stream is going to be find, and a waterfall should be fine as long as it's just a model.

Posted by Akrid
@CowMuffins: Yeah, I did check it out. Seems like a good resource if (Well, when) I run in to problems. 
 
Good to know about the water. But I'm not actually animating the water geometry - just texture trickery + sprite whatchamacallits - so I should be fine.
Posted by CowMuffins

Just a waterfall model with an animated texture, and some particle effects at the bottom? The map Sawmill already has a waterfall, you might want to check that one out.

Reading about the "current" system, I just had in my mind that you were going to have a long river that would spawn from the waterfall and eventually drop off a cliff. Logs would roll down the river at slow speed and would change the gameplay because you can only cross at certain times. If anybody was still standing on the log after it reached the cliff, they would fall off and die.

You could create a water brush in Hammer for the river, and have a "push" brush inside the water brush to push players downstream.

Looking at your map, it doesn't seem like you're going to do that, but that's just an idea.

Posted by Akrid
@CowMuffins: Yep, I'm styling it exactly after the one on sawmill. 
 
As far as the current system goes, I was thinking of something similar to what you outlined, yes. The log falls down the waterfall, gets stuck at the midpoint for X amount of time so people may cross, and then it floats away again and returns after X amount of time. But I'm pretty much definitely not going to do that at this point. Too gimmicky. I will have some sort of current in the water for sure though.
Posted by valrog

Awesome! Awesome. AWESOME!! Followed.

Posted by Akrid
@valrog: Awesome.
Posted by MisterMouse

Looking really cool thus far, that waterfall is definitely a cool feature that would be cool to see as I am playing through the map.

Posted by LamoTheClown

I think if you're willing to put the effort into making the river treat certain classes differently then it would at least be really cool to try out. So long as you'd be willing to erase said effort if it turned out badly. 
 
P.S. You, sir, are awesome. I am so excited for this to be playable.

Posted by MaFoLu

About the water current, I think the best, though maybe not the easiest, solution would be to just get your map playable and then playtest the crap out of it with all the different settings for it.
Just be prepared to drop the whole thing if it doesn't playtest well...
How about having the log be in the river at all times? That would make it a very risk/reward type chokepoint, but that maybe removes the dynamic element of it.
Anyway, keep up the good work!
I'm sure you'll have no problem finding playtesters here or on Tested.

Posted by MistaSparkle

Lookin good. I wanna go to college for game design so this is some pretty interesting stuff. 
 
Also, excellent Simpsons reference!

Posted by Akrid
@pyromaster222 : Thank you! 

@LamoTheClown@MaFoLu: Yep, I'll definitely try out a whole bunch of approaches to the current. I'm sure the rest of the map will need some heavy tweaking after some testing any way. Thanks for the comments!
 
@MistaSparkle: Thanks! 
Edited by Randdalf

Hi Akrid, I've been mapping for TF2 essentially since the game came out in 2007. I'm not the one to say you're taking the wrong approach to things, but modelling the map in 3DS Max is a rather strange method. One of the key things with making TF2 maps, is that you very much need to perfect the layout before you begin to get to detailing. This means creating a basic sketch of the layout (e.g. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1085379/projects/karate/progress18.png) with which you can playtest, tweak, playtest, tweak until you're happy, then you lather on the detailing (which I suspect you're going to be especially good at) - turning into http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1085379/projects/karate/progress95.png. At least that's how I like to do it.
 
I hope the way you're planing to do it is completely remaking the entire layout in Hammer based off the 3DS Max thing, and making the rockwalls (I love rockwalls - your one looks great, the folks at http://www.tf2maps.net/ would probably appreciate a tutorial on that) into props etc. Also, it is much possible to create a watefall in Source, because Valve added one to the game in koth_sawmill - you should take a look! The approach they took is modelling something vaguely like a waterfall, then adding a scrolling texture to it. They also put a few splashy particle effects where it hits the water This makes it pretty cheap to render, for something that looks pretty great. On the subject of currents, it's going to be very hard to do. The reason being that the water surface flow system in Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 (http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2010/siggraph2010_vlachos_waterflow.pdf) is not in TF2's version of Source, and making a scrolling water texture would look pretty horrible because reflections are pre-baked. A current would be a cool idea though. I've playtested some maps with currents in them before, and none of them did it particularly well. Most ended in annoying deathpits, and the current was annoyingly fast.
 
Anyway, I really think you should give Hammer another try, I've got 4 years of experience of it and I'm still learning useful new things - it's an incredibly robust and easy to use tool once you get to know it. Things like rotating and vertex editing mystified me in the early days, but now they're second nature. I suppose we're kind of like opposites, because I've been trying to learn 3DS Max and it's an absolute pain, coming from using Blender and Hammer to do TF2 work. I gather that you know you can't make it exclusively in 3DS Max, but I'd urge you to make it exclusively in Hammer. It is far from a crappy editing tool. In fact there are several key concepts - mainly involving optimisation - that need to be learnt through Hammer.
 
The aforementioned http://www.tf2maps.net/ is where a bunch of us congregate (mainly through our Steam chat room), I'd poke you in that direction, make a work in progress thread in the showcase. We do playtesting daily and on-demand, and there's a forum for tutorials too (though the best way to learn is through experience). You're obviously talented at what you do, so you'd fit right in - I think 6 official community maps have originated from our halls.
 
I wish you luck in your future endeavours.

Posted by ajamafalous

@Akrid said:

@Tim_the_Corsair: Well, not really move at different speeds. It's a set speed, but I was thinking that only the faster classes could "resist" it, you know? Like, a heavy couldn't actively go against the current, but a scout could easily.

You may be right though, now that I think about it. I think the best alternative then would be to create a way to get up and out after being washed downstream. But ugh, that could raise a bunch more problems... I dunno, I'll think about it.

In the event that you do go with some type of current gimmick, here is a chart with all the movement speeds for each class.

Edited by Akrid
@Randdalf: Hey, thanks for taking the time to help me out! 
 
I'm definitely going to block out first and detail later; I only took it as far as I did so I had a good concept of what I wanted. The rock bits were really just time-consuming things that I did while I meditated upon the map. I also am going to do exactly as you said - make everything again in Hammer and import the rocks and details I did make as props.
 
I know I definitely can't make the map entirely in an external program (using modo, not max by the way), But I felt that it was important to get a good reference and rough goal through a medium that I was confident in instead of jumping in to Hammer and slapping down some walls. I don't know, this is my first try at this so we'll see how that works out for me. In any case, I've already started in on the Hammer version and have pretty well finished the base. I misspoke when I said it was crappy - it's for the most part pretty excellent. It can get a bit dicey when trying to work at anything but 90 degree angles, but you mention "understanding" rotate? Is there a trick I'm missing here? Besides that, the big thing barring my progress right now is the difficulty of creating an .smd (Just for reference purposes) to the correct scale...
  
On the subject of the water, I did take a good look at the koth_sawmill one and am modelling it specifically after that. From what I can see it's doubled geometry - one semi transparent - with a diffuse flow texture + "detail" droplet particles and macro cloud particles.
 
that's too bad about the reflections... I'll take a look at my options, but in light of this it's probably going to invariably look pretty poor... That PDF will be an excellent resource in any case, thanks for bringing it to my attention.  
 
With the way I'm going to handle the current, It'll be pretty rare for someone to fall in. I'm hoping to make it so it only has a minor impact on the way the map as a whole plays.
 
I've been snooping 'round tf2maps for the past few days, some very impressive stuff there! I may start up a WIP. 
 
Again, thanks for the help. 
 
@ajamafalous: I got four pm's from your post!! 
 
But yeah, thanks. I'll keep it on hand.