Unreal Editor Beginner Tutorial
So you've decided to start making levels for Unreal Tournament 2003/2004, but have no idea where to begin? This basic tutorial will get you far enough to start making maps of your own, whether you are a complete beginner or already proficient in another 3d program. Although it might seem overwhelming at first, with enough practice and studying you will be able to make anything your imagination can come up with. Let's get started!
Before You Even Open The Editor
Obviously, you have to have the game installed to make levels for it. Be sure to stop by the Official Unreal Tournament Site to download the latest patches and other important fixes for the game. In addition, make sure you have updated drivers for all of your computer hardware.
The Unreal Tournament series is incredibly customizable, and you may want to get a few extra programs to get the most out of the editor.
Paint - A Paint program is incredibly useful for making your own textures and character skins, as well as the level preview screenshot that appears when you select a map in game. Any program that can save bitmaps will work, you can also find plugins for a few that can save to the file format UT2k3/4 uses, DDS.
3D Modeling - Mainly for making static meshes for UT2k3/4, a 3D modelling program such as 3D Studio Max or Maya can also be used to make characters and weapons, although some programming skill is required to import these into the game. A free Personal Learning Edition of Maya is included with the game.
Now that we have everything we need to get started, let's open up the editor. The program can be found in the UT2k3/4 System folder, named UnrealEd.exe. For convenience I like to place a shortcut to it on my desktop. If everything is working properly it should start up without any problems. If it does not start up feel free to email me and describe exactly what happens with your computer specifications included. If you are using an illegal version of Unreal Tournament or your operating system I will not be able to help you, and any questions you have will be forwarded to my recycle bin.
Navigating The Editor
Your first look at the editor might be incredibly overwhelming, but I will guide you through the interface to give you a better idea of what everything does.
Important Note - The one question I get asked more than anything else is, "My screen is all white!" This error is quite common, and is easily corrected. First, click on View >> Viewports >> Close All, then View >> Viewports >> Configure. Make sure the first one is highlighted for now and hit Ok.
Important Note 2 - Do not press any buttons until you know what they do, this tutorial assumes everything is still set at default and you might accidentally change something that should be left alone.
The four main windows of the editor are our viewports. The three grey ones are set by default to display the Top, Front and Side views, while the window with the black background and blue grid is our 3d viewport. At the bottom left of each viewport is a 3d axis display, and the eyeball icon with the red arrow pointing from it represents our 3d camera's position. At the top of each viewport is the toolbar we can use to customize the displays or select different ways to look at our level.
Right now we only have to worry about how to move around in the viewports. For the 2d viewports, navigation is simple. Holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse moves us around, while holding the right mouse button moves us around at twice the speed. Holding both mouse buttons allows us to zoom the view. Moving the mouse up zooms out, and moving it down zooms us in. For people with a scroll mouse, the mouse wheel can be used to zoom as well.
Navigation in the 3d view takes a little getting used to. Holding the left mouse button moves the camera as if it were a person walking on level ground. Up and down moves the camera forward and backward, while left and right turns the camera left and right. Holding the right mouse button makes the camera act like a person standing still and looking around. Up and down makes the camera look up and down, while left and right make the camera look left and right. Holding both mouse buttons allows us to move the camera while it continues to look straight ahead. Up and down moves the camera up and down, while left and right moves the camera left and right. Take a little bit of time to practice moving around in the viewports until you are comfortable with it.
The Top Toolbar
Now we're going to take a look at the top toolbar, where a lot of what you will use is located.
The first section of the toolbar is pretty self-explanatory. It has buttons for Create New Level, Open Level, Save Level, Undo and Redo buttons, and Search For Actors, which will make more sense later.
The second section of the toolbar has all of our browsers.
Actor Browser - Actors are anything in the level not used to create the architecture. They include weapon and item pickups, path actors for the AI, and emitters used to create fire and other effects. After you are able to create basic rooms we will come back and take a closer look at some of the Actors.
Group Browser - As your level gets more complicated, you may want to learn how to separate things into groups to make things easier to see and make rebuilding your level faster. This browser is used to look through your groups.
Music Browser - Obsolete in UT2k3/4. This was used in UT99 to open music files. Do not try to open music files here, it will crash the editor. Music files for UT2k3/4 can be played using Winamp or any other player supporting Ogg Vorbis files.
Sound Browser - This is used to look for ambient and triggered sound effects for your level.
Texture Browser - This is where we find pictures to apply to surfaces to make them look like a floor or wall etc. In here we can also import our own textures to use as well as create effects with our textures.
IMPORTANT NOTE - NEVER resave a texture or static mesh package that comes with the game or add your own textures or static meshes to one. Doing so will cause version mismatches and levels that use them will be unplayable online.
Mesh Browser - Obsolete in UT2k3/4.
Prefab Browser - Obsolete in UT2k3/4.
Static Mesh Browser - Used to look for static meshes to put in our levels. Static Meshes are premade pieces of architecture that have a higher number of polygons than BSP architecture, which we will learn about in part two of this tutorial. This browser can also be used to import static meshes made in another 3d program (.ase or .lwo files). At the top of the viewport the number of triangles in the mesh is displayed.
Animation Browser - Used to view animation sequences for the weapons and characters.
The third section of the toolbar has buttons for opening up the 2d shape editor and unrealscript editor (beyond the scope of this basic tutorial), and buttons for viewing actor or surface properties.
The final section of the top toolbar has all of our build options.
Build Geometry - Rebuilds all geometry, even if it is hidden. Does not calculate lighting or paths.
Build Lighting - Rebuilds all lights, even if they are hidden. Uses the current geometry to calculate it, does not take into account changes that have not been rebuilt.
Build Changed Lighting - Recalculates lighting for lights that have been changed. Saves time over a complete lighting rebuild.
Build Paths - Builds paths for the AI to navigate the level.
Build Changed Paths - Recalculates paths for nodes that have changed.
Build All - Builds geometry, lighting and paths according to the current build settings.
Build Settings - Contains optimization settings which for the most part should not be changed. Also has an option to only rebuild visible actors.
Test Level - Saves your level to a temporary file and runs it in the game.
Help Button - Non-functioning.
The last section for part one of this tutorial will cover a few options that can be changed in the Advanced Options menu. Click on View >> Advanced Options to bring up the menu, then navigate to Editor >> Advanced. The most important property here is AutoSave, this feature saves you a lot of rework from crashes or other errors. I always make sure AutoSave is set to True, and AutoSaveTimeMinutes is set to a reasonable value, the default being 5. As you are working on your level, the editor will automatically save it to the maps folder as an Auto file, numbered 0-9 in sequence. If the editor crashes before you have a chance to save your level, the easiest way to find the most recent Auto file is to open the UT2k3/4/Maps folder, right click and choose View >> Details to see the one that was saved at the most recent time. Reopen the editor, and open that Auto file. If everything looks normal, save it as the level you were working on and continue from where you left off.
The only other option I want to cover for now is UseAxisIndicator. If you don't like the axis indicator in the bottom left of the viewports, use this option to turn it off.
In part two of this tutorial, we will learn how to manipulate the Active Brush, and create our first room. Let's keep going!
Continue to Part Two of this tutorial