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Game Editing

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The “Weekly Rant” column was featured in the PC Mechanic Newsletter since 2005. Topics relate to some aspect of technology, which include opinions on hardware, software, new technology, technology companies, and computing standards.

Over the past week or so, I’ve gotten back into game map design.  For those who saw mention of my hand injury in last week’s letter, it left me one-handed for a bit, and gaming with First Person Shooters is nearly impossible in that state.  So, unable to play games for the week, I put my energies instead toward actually *making* a game map rather than playing on one.

One of the multiplayer games you would usually find me playing is Half-Life 2:Deathmatch.  So, logically, I started working on a map for that particular game using Valve’s Hammer editor available in the Source SDK under the “Tools” section in Steam.  Now, you will probably have to own one of the official Valve games to download this, but after that, it’s free to use and release maps that other people can download and play.  Hammer can be used for pretty much all of the official Valve-branded games you can get from Steam.

This was actually the first time I have played around with Valve’s Hammer editor after it matured.  I played around with it a little bit in 2005 when the Half-Life 2 game came out, but didn’t have too much time to dedicate to it (not to mention it was quite buggy, crashed a lot, and was resource intensive).  Before that, I worked with the JK engine in 2000, so I was already familiar with a map designer.

Now, the Hammer editor works pretty well, although it still does crash on occasion, but you’ll get that with any editor.  Hammer offers the benefits of being easy to use, and as you become more familiar with it, you gradually can do more advanced techniques.  This is unlike other editors where your screen is completely covered in nonsensical buttons, text, and dynamic data.

First off, here’s a few things that would help with game editing that you know beforehand:

  • How to use CAD software or be able to understand the three viewing planes that make up 3D.
  • How to navigate in 3D environments- A sense of scale
  • Being able to think in terms of simple geometry (squares and triangles and how to use them to make more complicated shapes)

After that, it’s only a matter of understanding how to use the editor.  If you begin to get the hang of it and develop an interest in it, this is a primary component of game design.  While I may only dabble in it for fun on occasion, there are people who make entire careers in game design and development, which often includes more than just working with just a single editor or game.

Either way, it’s a fun thing to do if you’re active in a gaming community or like to play a certain game with your friends all the time.

(Originally published in the newsletter)