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UT2004: UnrealEd Browsers, Textures and Pickups (basics)

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Warning! Sometimes the editor will ask if you want to save a texture package or static mesh package or whatever when you are closing the editor. To my knowledge, you should always say “no, don’t save” to these prompts.

Browsers are quite important as you work on levels, but the 3 most used ones are the Texture Browser, the Actor-Class Browser and the Static Mesh Browser.

These three browsers operate on similar principles – you select what you want in the browser, and in one of the viewports, you add it to the level. Either via right-click context menu, or additionally in the case of textures, with a key combination of Alt+LMB. It’s handy to know that Alt+RMB will “pick” a texture, which makes it really easy to keep using a texture you’ve already been using throughout the map, though the only caveat is there is no sound or visual feedback that the texture has indeed been picked.

On this image above, I’ve highlighted these three browsers which are found at the top of the editor. From left to right:

  • Actor-Class Browser – Chess pawn icon
  • Texture Browser – Landscape photo icon
  • Static Mesh Browser – Archway icon

Textures and the Texture Browser

Adding textures to your level is simple. There are only two time-consuming parts about it: learning where all the textures you want are, and aligning textures when you want things to look particularly neat in a high traffic area of the level, or whatnot.

So as you’ve seen or tried already, if you make a new level and carve out a new spot it’ll have a funny texture. We want the above room to use some of the Egypt type textures that exist in UT2004. We open up the Texture Browser using that little landscape photo icon like above, but where are these textures anyway?

A lot of texture package choices here…

Normally, when you want a specific texture, or one from a specific style, there are three things you can do.

  • You can click the little “open folder” icon and open specific texture packages individually and look through all of them until you get frustrated and eventually learn where what you want actually is.
  • You can also open one of the default/official levels in the game with the editor and pick the texture from there and load your level again and use it there, and also see what packages it loads that aren’t loaded by default.
  • And, you can look at the texture package reference found on this old Unreal wiki, which as far as I know, is probably one of the most useful resources for the editor, that’s actually still bobbing about from way back when.

In particular I already know that what I want is in the BarrensArchitecture package, so I click the little open folder icon and find it in the game’s textures folder:

Selecting and opening the package we want to use.
This little dropdown has several categories within the package you are looking inside of.

Specifically I want this texture that is found within the “Base” category of the package. But why didn’t I just pick the BarrensArchitecture package that was already present on the package dropdown before?

Well, if I had picked it there, it wouldn’t be the full package of textures, only a sub-set that was already loaded into the editor, let’s say because I had another level open previously that used some of the textures from that package, but not all of them.

So anyway, I navigate the browser with the scroll-bar on the right-hand side and I click the texture I want to use and then I minimise the browser, then starting to use Alt+LMB to apply it to a surface under my mouse pointer.

Starting to look better…
But I can also apply the texture by right-clicking the surface I want and choosing “Apply Texture”.

There’s only two more things you need to know about the Texture Browser. Clicking the “All” button next to the categories drop-down will show all of the textures in that package on the same window, rather than having to select each different category to look through them. This is useful when you are unfamiliar with what textures are contained in a package.

The other thing is that the little button with the “!” is used so that animated materials and shaders can be viewed moving while within the Texture Browser.

Now you know how to add any texture to any BSP surface in your level. One of the most important parts of basic level layout design.

Pickups and the Actor-Class Browser

Adding pickups is simple, but not immediately obvious. In the room below, I have since added a player start position, which I’ve easily added with the right-click context menu, as you’ve seen before by now.

The player would spawn only with the default weapons here, if this was a room in a larger map.

To look for actor classes, we need to open the actor class browser, which has a chess pawn as an icon.

Remember, you can find all the browsers up here. The chess pawn icon represents the Actor Class browser.

You should see a browser like the one above pop up if you click that chess pawn icon. These are the several actor classes that are used in UT2004 for all the content to actually exist in a level.

Most importantly right now, we’ve got the HealthCharger sub-class of the xPickUpBase class highlighted, which I’ve done by simply clicking on it. Now that this HealthCharger is selected, I can right-click on a viewport to place it somewhere.

The health charger is the standard +25 hp pickups found in most maps.

Though I placed it roughly where I wanted it, the positioning isn’t quite the one I wanted, so I’ll have to move it, and as explained in the UED basics, I will do so by using having the charger selected, holding Ctrl+LMB+RMB and moving the mouse to drag the object down to ground level. It’s also not centred where I wanted, compared to the player start, so I’ll also have to move it on the top view using Ctrl+LMB.

To move the charger up and down, it might be best done in the 3D view with the camera at an angle that makes it easy to visualise the contact to the floor, and though it can be done in the 2D viewports too, these can get very messy as a map gets to its final stages, even without static meshes showing.

These are the basic principles of how to add any actor-class. But there’s quite a few actor classes and some have similar names, so here’s a little list to help you differentiate some of the more important ones, and lets you know which ones you’re most likely going to use.

  • I’m a list, FILL ME please.

Static Meshes and the Static Mesh Browser

Last but certainly not least, is the Static Mesh Browser.

You can skip this paragraph if you like, but it may be an important thing to know as a level designer, or even just as someone interested in game developing in general, that up until around 2004, a lot of detail was given either through Sprites or through complex BSP brushes and nearly almost all level geometry was based only on BSP, especially if you look at popular games like Deus Ex (2000), Daikatana (2000) and Half-Life (1998). UT2003 and UT2004 were some of the first (at least more well-known) games that really started to use a lot of static meshes (3D models, simply put) in its levels, even for level geometry, and this has definitely become the cornerstone of modern game worlds that are filled with detail, to the point that the BSP format is now almost completely unused, but interestingly enough, sprites are still a very effective means of adding low-poly but high-detail to levels and hasn’t really been topped yet, although approaches to sprites have certainly become refined.

Anyway, the Static Mesh Browser works a lot like the Texture Browser. You have to find the SM Package that contains the mesh you want, and like finding textures, your best bets are to either look in each package individually or check a reference, such as this one.

Re-using meshes can be a bit more annoying than re-using textures. I will demonstrate how you can add a pillar to the level and explain why meshes can be annoying to re-use sometimes.

Remember, the little arch icon represents the Static Mesh browser.

Similarly to before, I want to pick an Egypt-theme static mesh now, and I already know that I’ll find what I want in the BarrenHardware package. So I click the little folder icon to pick the package I want to open…

Don’t forget you can use the “All” button or just select Pillars from the category dropdown.

And I got the pillar I wanted to find, so now to place it in the level I’ll have to do the same as before with both the health charger or the textures, and right-click roughly where I want to be…

So now that I’ve put the pillar in, I’ve selected it and I’m going to move it more where I want it to be, but I also want another one a bit further up, so I Ctrl+C while having the pillar selected to copy it and Ctrl+V to paste the copy roughly in the same place.

As you can see on the left, when the pillar is pasted, it is pasted at a higher position and slightly off-set in the X and Y axis as well. On the right I’ve moved it to the next location, where I want it to sit. In this case, it’s not super annoying that it moved like that, but as you start to re-use the same mesh more and more throughout a level, it can become annoying, but furthermore, as you find yourself using these tools below…

The mirroring tools, which will mirror in the X, Y or Z directions.

…then you will start to notice that groups of cloned and mirrored meshes start to mis-align, resulting in tiny flaws in detail which become very obvious if a large portion is done this way. The mirroring tool is still very useful when both meshes and other objects are selected, but you should take care to check if everything is actually lined up properly once pasted and mirrored.

Play around with the mirroring tools with both brushes and meshes and see how you get on.

This concludes the guide for the basics of using the three main browsers. As with level design in general, you’ll only feel more comfortable with using these tools and everything they lead to by actually spending time making mistakes with them and understanding on an intuitive level how certain things work.

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