Tutorial: Going from J.A.C.K. to TrenchBroom Last edited 2 weeks ago2023-11-13 14:15:50 UTC

This tutorial is a very early work in progress. It will get filled in over time.
Article about TB GoldSrc support
Complementary to this guide, it would be a good idea to write a dedicated article which tracks and documents progress in TB's GoldSrc support. That way, some of the contents in this guide can get moved to that article, so this can focus more on what it takes to switch from J.A.C.K. to TB.
This guide outlines some basic differences between Hammer-style editors like J.A.C.K., and TrenchBroom. TrenchBroom initially had rather barebones GoldSrc support, however over time it has been getting better.

This caused an influx of TrenchBroom Half-Life mappers, and some J.A.C.K. users even considered switching. In hopes of making that process easier and clearer, this guide was written.

Another purpose of this guide is a means to track TrenchBroom's GoldSrc support. As new versions come out, the guide will be updated and, where applicable, mention the new/old behaviours. With that said, this guide is written with TrenchBroom v2023.1 in mind, and it is very likely that some of the differences here are already incorrect in the latest development commit.
New to mapping?
This guide was written for people with existing mapping experience. If you are entirely new to the field, there is no need to read this guide. Instead, you may begin by reading these: If you would like to set up TrenchBroom, there is:

Making the switch

Transitioning to a new map editor, especially after years of using one and the same, can be a little difficult. All of that muscle memory is now potentially in the way, and keyboard shortcuts are different. Everything seems to be different. It is a bit like moving into a new city.

There is a certain amount of time that is needed for you to reach the same level of proficiency in the new editor as in the old one. For some people, this is just a couple of months, for others it may be a year. Depending on how much free time you have, for this reason alone, it is probably not worth switching.

Another thing that can be said is it's less about the tool, more about how you use it. Ultimately, the choice of tooling boils down to what you're most comfortable with. So if you're already comfortable with one, then:

Why even bother?

Sometimes it may be a new, attractive workflow. Other times it may just be better quality-of-life features. If you are reading this article, chances are you may already have a reason of your own. Definitely, in that case, keep on reading.

The core differences

J.A.C.K. and TrenchBroom have a fair bit in common: In the context of Half-Life mapping, their major differences however, are:
Area J.A.C.K. TrenchBroom Meaning
General brushwork Done in 2D views, several tools for brush manipulation such as Select, Clipping, Vertex Manipulation etc. Done mainly in the 3D view, occasionally in a 2D topdown view. Several editing modes like the default mode, face mode, edge mode and vertex mode. Does not have any builtin shapes other than a cuboid. Overall it is a very different workflow, must get used to it. The lack of a cylinder primitive is not a showstopper, as there are established workarounds.
Working with entities User-friendly keyvalue names, file browsers for different types of paths... Raw keyvalue editing for paths, smart editor widgets for a few certain keyvalue types, like a colour editor. No audio preview. Substantial difference. Will be less comfortable when working with ambient_generic and similar entities. However, basic trigger-target stuff is on par.
Files and formats Full support of GoldSrc formats. Lacks sprites, animations on models (+skins, bodygroups). Full Valve220 and WAD3 support, however. Lack of animations can be troublesome when working with scripted sequences.
Map compiling Simplified compile dialogue and expert dialogue with existing compile presets. Only "expert mode" without any presets. Possibly one of the greatest obstacles in switching to TrenchBroom, now covered in the TB setup guide.
System requirements Supports very old machines and OSes. v1.1.1064 has been tested successfully on a 2005 Windows XP machine. Requires hardware capable of OpenGL 2.1, minimum Windows 10. This is insignificant to most mappers, but if you are using a 2007 laptop or Windows 7, you will not be able to use TrenchBroom.
Development Closed-source, seemingly inactive. Open-source, relatively active, based on feedback and community contributions. TB has considerably healthier signs of development.

Concrete examples

The table above won't exactly give you a clear idea of what it's like to work with TrenchBroom, so let's cover some common scenarios: In these scenarios, we will get to see all the small details, such as how textures are aligned, quirks when editing entities and such - and workarounds in case something is not available in TrenchBroom.

Scenario 1: Creating rooms

TODO: write this section.

Scenario 2: Button activates a moving platform

TODO: write this section.

Scenario 3: Beams and zaps

TODO: write this section.

Scenario 4: Zombie scripted sequence

TODO: write this section.

Scenario 5: Creating terrain

TODO: write this section.


TODO: write this section after all above is done.

1 Comment

Commented 1 month ago2023-10-24 19:59:07 UTC Comment #105608
So I've been using both editors more-or-less simultaneously for a little while now, here are some things I find worth mentioning:
  • TB works with .map files, J.A.C.K. also works with .map files but saves them as .jmf files. Going from J.A.C.K. to TB means exporting the .map file in J.A.C.K. first.
  • TrenchBroom's groups do not carry over to J.A.C.K., nor do J.A.C.K.'s visgroups carry over to TrenchBroom. To keep brushes together between editors, they have to be tied to a brush entity like func_group.
  • Unlike J.A.C.K., you can't have more than one map open at the same time in TB, so copy-pasting things between maps requires you to keep opening and closing them. This makes using a separate map as a "prefab stash" possible, but annoying.
  • For the reasons above (and probably a lot more) switching back and forth between editors on the same map is likely a bad idea.

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