Hello, fellow mappers! I come to you with instructions on how to make your map look more realistic and become one sexy hunk of data. It will also help you have some cinematic experience to integrate into your map well; it’s more or less a tutorial, but still.
This tutorial assumes you have at least medium-level experience with Hammer Map Editor (HME)
First off, open up Hammer and create a map with at least 2 floors, enemies and friendliest, and a spawn point. Or open a map you are working on.
Now that you have done that, add in any of the following that you need help with or just need to learn: 1. Columns 2. Separate rooms (aside from main room/area) 3. A "VIP/boss" enemy, which is an enemy that is like the others, but is different in a way (more health, needs to be killed to open a door, etc.)
Okay, got everything? Good, let's go.
As for columns, making them seem realistic is very easy. Usually, just putting the correct brushes together and a good texture is good enough to make a column appear pretty. However, you may need more than that to fit the setting. Columns in a war zone (or the room the columns are in has a bunch of enemies in it) are usually really nicked and broken up. See image A for more details. This can be replicated easily. Select the column, and by using the front and side views, cut into it using the clipping tool. Now select random chunks and delete them. Use a brick texture (preferably a beat-up one) for the inside of the broken column. There you go, instant and reliable
now for enemies/friendliest Step 1: makes sure they have a reason to be there. For example: they could fight enemies, help you, or just be there for atmospheric effects. Step 2: now present why they are there. (Disregarding atmospheric effects) they could be there to protect territory, break through enemy lines, cover the player, etc. Step 3: make sure they belong there. Would you see Breen in the middle of a battlefield? Or a combine soldier in a rebel base? Or an ichthyosaur in a desert? I thought not. Step 4: (friendly only) make DAMN sure they are going to help you (disregarding atmospheric effects) because if not, you might as well delete them to make room for something else. If they die in the first 5 seconds, they aren't much help. However, if they kill everyone in the first 5 seconds, they still aren't that great, as they take all the fun out for the player. To decide how many rebels you need (when facing combine) use this equation that I have derived= x(r) = 3x(c) Where for every rebel (r) there should be at least 3 combine (c) in order to get a perfect balance. Please note that when using individual rebels this equation may cause problems.
EDIT: Please note that the player can usually handle 4-12 combine at a time, depending where they are strategically placed. If they are spread out, the player can pick them off one by one and have no problem. If they are heavily concentrated, however, you may need rebels to help the player.
Phew, that was long. Now onto singling out a "VIP" enemy. 1: Use high ground. Instinct dictates that the most important are always the highest. So, if by placing your VIP on high ground in a high-visual area, you can easily single him out. 2: Use point_viewcontrol entities. Using the viewcontrol entity to zero-in on the VIP gives the player a sense of who the player is trying to target. 3: Get some new duds. By dressing the enemy in unique clothing, you further single him out from the rest. For example, in a room full of metropolice, a combine elite soldier would stick out like a sore thumb. It automatically says "Hey, shoot me!"
How about side rooms?
Side rooms are usually just decoration, but they can also serve a purpose. Naturally, you can place a few props in a side room to make it feel realistic. Also, you can hold power-ups and ammo inside for the player to fish out. Or a minigame or mini puzzle to either stimulate the player or to reward him.
As for HDR- it can make or break a map. Too much light, and it gets all white and blurry. Too little, and it won't produce interesting effects. Get the right amount, and you will unlock angels that sing in harmonic chorus, puppy dogs, flowers, and scantily clad women. AKA: heaven. Honestly, however, I am not an expert on HDR. All I can say is that it really makes a level beautiful, to an extent. So put on HDR if you can afford it. It takes a lot of memory, so it isn't exactly efficient. Good luck.
Sprites- yay, sprites! They can really get things done for us. They can add lighting effects, make the atmosphere darker or happier, etc. 1. I suggest using bright, white sprites for lighting hardware, as it makes it appear that it is blurring your vision. You can use the "glow" sprites (see #3.) for different colors of lighting. 2. The correct sprites in the correct situation can make everything better. Need to introduce (or reintroduce) a tough boss? Have a cinematic effect with fire sprites at his feet, as if he was coming back from hell. Good effect if you have already killed that enemy. 3. Using "glow" sprites can really add atmosphere to the game. If a room is lighted green for no apparent reason, adding a "greenglow" sprite could signal a supernatural or alien presence.
Light (environment) - the lighting of a place really makes it great or horrible. Of course, it is hard to get the lighting exactly right. No one ever does. Daytime scenes change greatly over time (orange, yellowish at dusk/dawn, yellow/white midday) compared to nighttime scenes (mainly just dark, with a little bit of white due to the moon). In other words, use a low-light level for nighttime scenes, and a high-light level to normal-light level for day scenes.
Not much else I can explain, but look at screenshots in case you need a tiny bit of help.
EDIT: Thank you people for pointing out some errors. I wrote this at 3:00 in the morning and then copied and pasted it here. Sorry. Anyways, no more spelling or grammar errors, and I fixed the subject. EDIT #2: Ugh. This is getting riduculous. I think it's something with my computer or the website, because I keep on changing the category. I'll keep on trying until it works.
UPDATE SUCKER: Update to this tutorial, due to the relatively good reviews it's been getting (AKA 2 good reviews :p)
Lighting: Using lighting to your advantage, you can not only make your map look pretty, but also put in game components that could set your map/mod apart from everyone else's.
Use with VIP enemies= by placing a colored light_spot above your enemy (with the possibility of it following him) you can single out an enemy without much impact on your map's compile and load time.
Use with HDR= by using lights in unison with HDR can create a rather pretty bloom and eye adjusting effect, assuming you use generous amounts. Too much, and you get a really bright, horrible level. Too little, and your level can be significantly dim.
Use with level environments= you can make some really interesting effects when in use with environments. For example, you can make shadows coming from grates or fences, or provide a shadow of a main enemy or boss early on for dramatic effect. Please note that this is usually costly, and should mainly be used when you can afford it.
Use with environment and psychological status= Also, you can use colored and flickering lights to add to game play emotions and the overall effect. However, do not overuse an element. If all the lights are flickering, nothing will be scary or emotional. However, if there is a flickering light in a room that appears to have signs of struggle, it adds the player’s thoughts of enemies nearby. However, this is an over clichéd effect, making it sort of dull at times.