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Top Ten N00b Problems (And Solutions)

By Jeff 'Yesukai' Pritchard

Wow. Can you believe I've actually been hanging around these forums for over a year now? And you know what? The same questions that came up a year ago are still coming up today. Seems like these are some of the most common questions that n00bs ask:p

#10: The Compile That Time Forgot
Is your compile process taking a very long time? Well, could be an error, or it could just be hard at work. The compile process uses a lot of heavy math, and it's not uncommon for some maps to take hours. If it's been running an excessively long time, like 24 hours have past and it's still not done, you might have an error. The most common error would be a leak or an invalid brush. To check for the latter, hit Alt+P with your map open in Hammer to bring up the Check For Problems dialog. Use this article for information on leaks. By the way, if you had a leak, and "fixed" it by placing the map in a giant box, your compile time will sky-rocket because RAD has to compute the outside of your map as well. Look at the above article for better ways to take care of a leak.

#09: Hint Brushes.
Hint brushes are handy dandy little things that let you define where vis leafs are split. If this is all Greek to you, there are several articles available that can help explain things. Counter-Map has a hint brush tutorial by Relic25, and David 'TitaNiuM' Nixon has also written a fine hint brush article, here at the Collective.

#08: What are r_speeds?
R_speeds are a measure of how fast the engine is rendering the game, and how much it's having to render. They are named for the console variable that you set to see them: r_speeds. Set r_speeds to 1 to see them. In English, type r_speeds 1 at the console. If you can't access the console, see this article for instructions. You will see some numbers in the top left of your screen.

  • The first one from the left will have "fps" after it. This is your frames per second, or how many times the engine is drawing the game to your screen every second. The higher this number, the better.
  • The second number is the texture load time. If this number is high, you are probably getting bad FPS.
  • The third number from the left is your w_poly. This is how many world polygons the game is displaying right now. This includes world brushes and brush based entities. The lower this number, the better. Your FPS will be higher (better) if this number is lower.
  • The last number is your e_polys; this is how many polygons you have from point based entities, or models like monster or weapons.

W_polys should be kept below 800, which is the maximum that software mode can render. For muliplayer maps, try to keep it under 600, just for the sake of playability. For an overview of common ways to reduce your r_speeds, see this article.

#07: My (insert rotating entity here) is drunk!
If a rotating entity is flying off into space like a botched NASA mission, you need an ORIGIN brush. An ORIGIN brush is a brush completely covered in the ORIGIN texture, the center of which gives a point for your brush to rotate around. So, when you have your brush ready to "tie to entity", make sure you have an ORIGIN brush included in it where you want it to rotate around. This article on rotating entities will provide more detailed information and examples.

#06: Can you join my mod?
Everyone wants to make a mod. Everyone wants their little piece of the pie. And that is the problem. EVERYONE does. So you are going to have a lot of trouble finding people. Not to mention that people who do want to work with someone else's idea also want to make sure their work gets recognized. If your mod doesn't look really good, it's even harder. Consider joining an already established mod. If you truly have a unique and viable idea and you want to advertise for people, have at least a basic website available to show them. You should have information on what the mod is about (its story), what you hope to accomplish (technically speaking), and ideally, some works in progress such as maps or models.

One last thing - an organized mod has a much greater chance of success. Robin Walker, part of the team behind Team Fortress and Team Fortress Classic, wrote a nice article on mod making right here with plenty of advice on this topic.

#05: Where do I get textures?
Here are some great sites to download lots of textures from:

  • JCH headquarters - Lots of resources for HL, including textures.
  • Wadfather - The original texture supersite.
  • Texture Studio - Seems to have a lot of floor textures.
  • The Texture Forest - Unreal site with nice high res textures.
  • Texture Universe - Tutorials and textures, all in nice high res Unreal.
  • Undulation - Yet another Unreal site with lots of textures.
  • The Big House - A great site with TONS of textures, including the Evil wads.
  • Relic 25 - The website of NS's texture artist, complete with a wad of NS textures from before they were NS textures.
  • HFX - A quake 3 site with lots of textures and tutorials.
  • Simland - Quake 3 again, this time with quite a few packages.

And to convert the textures over to WADs for Half-Life, use Wally.

#04: My Map Will Not Show Up In HL (or MAP NOT FOUND)
You either have a compile problem or your putting the map in the wrong directory. In Hammer, go Tools->Options->Game Configurations and make sure the "place map in this directory before running game" field is set to Half-Life/valve/maps (for normal halflife) or Half-Life/<mod folder>/maps (for a mod). If it is, then look in whichever directory you saved you map for a <mapname>.log file. Open this file in a text editor and look for an error. Common errors and how to fix them can be found here.

#03: No Lights.
First of all, this may be a dumb question, but did you place any lights in your map? If not, add some light entities. Is your map free of leaks? If not, fix them like explained in this article. Finally, one of the most common causes of lights not showing up is a bug in old versions of Worldcraft where it only records parameters that you have viewed/changed, so a light that you haven't examined is really non-existent, even though you added the entity. Select your light, right click it, and click the "brightness" parameter. There, now it should show up. (This bug was present in Worldcraft 2.x. It was fixed as of Worldcraft 3.3 and is not present in the Hammer version of the editor.)

#02: How Do I Make The Blue See Through?
When making a ladder, grate, fence, etc, the blue areas are supposed to disappear... yet they don't. Here is what you do: tie the brush you want to have transparent-blue to a func_wall. Then change the render mode to solid and the render amount to 255. Voila. Done. For more information on this and other forms of transparency, check out this article.

#01: Compile Problem.
Check in the directory you saved your map for a mapname.log file. Open this file up in notepad, then look for any errors. This page has a lot of common ones. Alternatively, for a list of practically every error known to man (and fixes), click here. If don't find it there, search the VERC forums for the error, or simply google it. If all else fails, post your compile log (that file you found) in the forums with a descriptive title to your post and someone is bound to know what to do about it.