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zastels

UE4 and Blender - BSP style is a must

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I've always been very frustrated by the lack of brush work ability in UE4 and modeling packages like Blender. I'm a level designer who comes from the BSP era, and I understand BSP is no longer being used as an end result, what I think developers fail to realize is that we still need it so that we can shape our visions properly. The argument that BSP is for "roughly blocking out" your level is insane, no real level designer would say something like this. I think everybody knows, that perfect brushwork from the very beginning is how you truly shape something into being amazing. When everything is lined up, you make discoveries in your own work, and you run with that. When everything is smashed together roughly with no procedure or method, I don't understand how you can have creative insights. 

 

My main gripe with UE4, is that everything looks wrong in it. Every time you pop into an example file, it is proportioned terribly, and it is devoid of meaningful structure and guidance. I remember someone at Valve once saying, "If you can figure out how to the player look up, let us know how, we can't figure it out!" And that right there sums up UE4 design, most of the details are straight up in the air, and everything has this width of perspective to it that is entirely wrong feeling. When we design on BSP, we go into the map, we observe, we modify, ect. In UE4 I get the impression that these designers are making the mistake of designing from the editor perspective exclusively, and never properly viewing it from a player perspective. So the screenshots look great, but they're never realistic in the sense that they're taken from a place where the player reach, and with a field of view that is expanded. Many mappers on BSP take pride in taking real screenshots from actual player locations, where UE4 is all about dressing up the screenshot with the player perspective not being the primary focus. 

 

I want to create Quake 1 style maps in UE4, but I have to first solve these problems. Does anybody have any suggestions, a plugin or maybe a feature I could use I'm not aware of? 

 

 

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Paragraph by paragraph...

In my humble opinion, there are two jobs (not roles) when levels are being created that are critical. The level designer and the environment artist. One is functional, and one is formative. They are both, however, at the whim of the game constants defined by the game designer. So, the games designer says 'this is how long it takes for the player-controlled actor to go from A to B' and 'this is how strong the gravity is on them...and how tall they are etc etc etc' all of the 'universal constants' for which the player will be effected and affected by.

From there the level designer, with these constants in place, can get to work on designing the levels/maps for blocking out. After this is complete, then the environment artist takes it over the finish line as, no more testing needs to be done, and they are obviously supervised/managed by the creative director, who in turn overseas everything audio and visual, including marketing material (sometimes).

With that in mind, UE4's GEO tool (MK1) is not meant for final work, it is meant for final analysis prior to modelling work and the internal round-table discussions. It is functional, not formative.

Your second paragraph...

If you use a standard character (2 metres high?) and use UV scaling on the default material of 4-8 for BSP surfaces, in BOX alingment, I have found this pretty much makes stuff look within the realm of 'correct'. In addition, you can set/alter the FOV to something closer to the level design of/for the intended game. You can also drop a camera into the level and take a screenshot using a variety of camera options, like perhaps using a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and with a very shallow DOF, if that's your thing. You can use nVidia Ansel as a plugin, too, so get the full-on 3D shot for uploading/sending to peeps. Funky stuff.

You could of course continue to use Hammer ét all and use HammUEr plugin to bring your brush-work and custom materials directly into UE4. It works pretty well, especially if you use power of 2 in the project/editor options versus the base10 math that UE4 uses as default (I believe) for the UV/Grid of the BSP. I will defer to others here if I'm wrong on that.

Another option is the WallWorm Pro plugin for 3DMax, combined with the Unreal Studio Datasmith plugin(s) - this is all high-end stuff, and you just gotta get to the point where you are happy with something.

If all you want to do is build maps in Hammer and bring them into UE4, then HammUEr is your goto point. If you want to build in 3DMax and import into Hammer/Source SDK, then Wall Worm. If however, you just want to build solely in UE4 (and no other programs) for form not function, then I could argue you are more of an environment artist than a level designer. I'm not sure whether I would win that argument, but I could argue that point. If that is the case, then (fortunately) Epic Games are working GEO MK2, which is essentially a 'mesh component static mesh creation tool' for UE4. Having played with the GitHub variants of this, it does have some work needing doing before it releases, but the framework is there for (basically) 3D modelling inside of UE4.

 

Just a PM ramble before I go for my afternoon walk and nap, so if any of this comes across as a bit snooty - I apologise. 😎

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Zastels it sounds to me like you're trying very hard to justify not learning new tools. That's never going to be a helpful way to approach a problem. The truth is, modern engines and modelling software are all perfectly capable of producing what it sounds like you want to make, you're just unwilling to get your brain around how to use them, therefore nobody but you can solve your problem.

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9 hours ago, zastels said:

I've always been very frustrated by the lack of brush work ability in UE4 and modeling packages like Blender. I'm a level designer who comes from the BSP era, and I understand BSP is no longer being used as an end result, what I think developers fail to realize is that we still need it so that we can shape our visions properly. The argument that BSP is for "roughly blocking out" your level is insane, no real level designer would say something like this. I think everybody knows, that perfect brushwork from the very beginning is how you truly shape something into being amazing. When everything is lined up, you make discoveries in your own work, and you run with that. When everything is smashed together roughly with no procedure or method, I don't understand how you can have creative insights. 

 

My main gripe with UE4, is that everything looks wrong in it. Every time you pop into an example file, it is proportioned terribly, and it is devoid of meaningful structure and guidance. I remember someone at Valve once saying, "If you can figure out how to the player look up, let us know how, we can't figure it out!" And that right there sums up UE4 design, most of the details are straight up in the air, and everything has this width of perspective to it that is entirely wrong feeling. When we design on BSP, we go into the map, we observe, we modify, ect. In UE4 I get the impression that these designers are making the mistake of designing from the editor perspective exclusively, and never properly viewing it from a player perspective. So the screenshots look great, but they're never realistic in the sense that they're taken from a place where the player reach, and with a field of view that is expanded. Many mappers on BSP take pride in taking real screenshots from actual player locations, where UE4 is all about dressing up the screenshot with the player perspective not being the primary focus. 

 

I want to create Quake 1 style maps in UE4, but I have to first solve these problems. Does anybody have any suggestions, a plugin or maybe a feature I could use I'm not aware of? 

 

 

I totally get what you mean. When I tried to use UE4 "bsp" tools I could never get my stuff to line up correctly. Maybe I'm retarded or too lazy to learn it properly, but as soon as I moved any brushes they would fall out of the grid. I don't remember Hammer behaving like this but it's been ages since I used it.

If Unity is an alternative for you, it's got an amazing open-source bsp toolkit called Sabre-CSG. It works pretty much like hammer, the only functionality missing is being able to copy UVs from one face to another. The good thing about sabre is that it automatically generates lightmap UVs, so if you use Unity's progressive lightmapper you can get some really cool looking results with very fast iteration times. The downside of Sabre is that the tool tends to slow down like crazy the more brushes you have...

Another good alternative for Unity is ProBuilder, bit of a different workflow but might be more optimized than Sabre:

I don't want to turn this into a Unity vs Unreal discussion, but Unreal is so bloated! It seems that every time I use it I spend more time trying to figure why something is not working (and it always turns out it's some stupid small thing buried deep inside some menu) than actually making stuff. 

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6 hours ago, text_fish said:

Zastels it sounds to me like you're trying very hard to justify not learning new tools. That's never going to be a helpful way to approach a problem. The truth is, modern engines and modelling software are all perfectly capable of producing what it sounds like you want to make, you're just unwilling to get your brain around how to use them, therefore nobody but you can solve your problem.

That maybe true, but like @Minos pointed out, the throughput you get seems slower nowadays, especially when people want to create very simple retró environments.

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9 hours ago, text_fish said:

Zastels it sounds to me like you're trying very hard to justify not learning new tools. That's never going to be a helpful way to approach a problem. The truth is, modern engines and modelling software are all perfectly capable of producing what it sounds like you want to make, you're just unwilling to get your brain around how to use them, therefore nobody but you can solve your problem.

No, you're wrong. I'm a carpenter by trade, I build houses, we use the same 16" on center methodology in imperial. Everything is always on a grid, from the very first inception in a CAD program. I am a proper designer, I am not a sculptor. Nobody in their right mind would start building a house without a blueprint, and that is basically what you have to do in UE4. 

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I've never come across a single piece of modern 3D modelling or level design software (including Blender and UE4) that doesn't allow you to snap to grid. In this regard the only difference between UE4 and Quake 1 is that you now have a much higher resolution grid to work with, but nobody's forcing you to take advantage of that.

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46 minutes ago, text_fish said:

I've never come across a single piece of modern 3D modelling or level design software (including Blender and UE4) that doesn't allow you to snap to grid. In this regard the only difference between UE4 and Quake 1 is that you now have a much higher resolution grid to work with, but nobody's forcing you to take advantage of that.

As an aside, snapping to grid is never accurate in UE4, and you can't snap to rotation. Doesn't appear to make any difference what the actor is (mesh, BSP, particles, volumes, lights) the engine does not snap to grid perfectly.

Does anyone know of a plugin/tool that snaps everything to grid, AND, snaps rotation.

Too often I have actors with positions like this: X = n.00003297, Y = n.0097841, Z = n.0000376 and rotations with the same quantity of decimal points after it. I just messes with my lightmaps and light leaks that I have to place blocks behind stuff with a fully rough material to stop issues and just 'weird' lighting artefacts everywhere.

Would be really great if a plugin could just snap it all perfectly to whatever base10/powerof2 setup is running...floating points are killing my OCD gland.

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4 hours ago, text_fish said:

I've never come across a single piece of modern 3D modelling or level design software (including Blender and UE4) that doesn't allow you to snap to grid. In this regard the only difference between UE4 and Quake 1 is that you now have a much higher resolution grid to work with, but nobody's forcing you to take advantage of that.

I not talking about floating point calculations, I'm talking about working in cardinal planes and having things properly line up on a real system of measurement. This does not work in UE4, 1 unit in UE4 is extremely ambiguous, and it's extremely hard even visually to tell if something is flush. When you have extremely high floating point abilities, and no rigid snapping system, you have micro gaps and all sorts of weird things that happen. 

 

The moment you lay a floor down in UE4 and start putting in walls, it should be apparent to any BSP mapper that something is seriously wrong. You can't work methodically in the engine, it just doesn't let you. 

 

Don't you think it would be beneficial to have a proper BSP blocking tool, that can then be exported into meshes that you can than bifurcate to your VIS needs? Right now you jankly 'block out' a map, and then convert it to a mesh in a 3D program, and then what?! You have no choice but to go modular, literally no choice. Your workflow halts if you're not creating modular meshes, but creating modular meshes also is very time consuming itself!

Edited by zastels

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1 hour ago, zastels said:

bifurcate

Exactly!

Level Designer. Environment Artist.

There is your fork!

Btw...

 

You do not have to convert it into a mesh in an outside program - you can do that inside the engine.

You can export to a 3d engine, but the process really should be this:

1: BSP.

2: Give to Environment Artist.

3: Beer.

 

*minor edit:

 

If the level/map plays like rubbish - it's on the Level Designer. If the level/map looks like rubbish - it's on the Environment Artist.

Edited by Mitch Mitchell

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42 minutes ago, Mitch Mitchell said:

You can export to a 3d engine, but the process really should be this:

1: BSP.

2: Give to Environment Artist.

3: Beer.

 

*minor edit:

 

If the level/map plays like rubbish - it's on the Level Designer. If the level/map looks like rubbish - it's on the Environment Artist.

All of the above is basically true albeit heavily simplified. In practice, you will find that a collaborative process where Art gives feedback at a much earlier stage will save you lots of time and work in the end.

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I bifurcated your mum.

 

 

 

Sorry, I couldn't resist lowering the tone. I still think your fundamental hurdle here is that you don't want to move with the times. It's not necessary in UE4 to seal a space the same way it is in Quake 1 or any of it's derivatives, but visually speaking it's still possible to achieve a similar style if you take the time to learn the tools. I'm sure there are apps that provide a shortcut or approximate 10-20 year old workflows, but they will always have the drawback of obfuscating the way the engine is designed to be used.

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1 hour ago, text_fish said:

I bifurcated your mum.

 

 

 

Sorry, I couldn't resist lowering the tone. I still think your fundamental hurdle here is that you don't want to move with the times. It's not necessary in UE4 to seal a space the same way it is in Quake 1 or any of it's derivatives, but visually speaking it's still possible to achieve a similar style if you take the time to learn the tools. I'm sure there are apps that provide a shortcut or approximate 10-20 year old workflows, but they will always have the drawback of obfuscating the way the engine is designed to be used.

You’re right, but don’t you think a modern engine like this should allow ppl to work in such basic way if they want? You would expect the tech to work incrementally.

~

Maybe i missed something and maybe this has been said, but is my understanding that UE4 allows you to change the reference unit, can you not simply make it bigger and less precise from some settings panel?

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