Author Topic: WorldCraft Tutorial (All about Tribes mapping)  (Read 1483 times)

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WorldCraft Tutorial (All about Tribes mapping)
« on: January 23, 2007, 03:38:50 AM »
taken from

WorldCraft tutorial.
[Dated 03/03/2000]
By: Grym Reaper ( (
SF ZED & WorldCraft Guy
Reformatted to HTML by Nicodemus
                                           Building creation for Tribes


Hey! Welcome to the world of Tribes building design. Hopefully this tutorial will show you all the ins an outs of making custom buildings for Tribes, and if we're lucky, you'll have a good time doing it too. Now, let's get started.

  Table of Contents

 1. Explanation
2. The Essentials
3. Architecture
4. Textures
5. Lighting
6. LOD (Level of detail)
7. Frequently Asked Questions


Okay, you may not understand why we need to use different programs to make maps for Tribes. So, let's think of how the actual game works. In Tribes there are 4 types of objects (not counting projectiles):

 1. Terrain
2. Static Objects (Buildings)
3. Targets,  Items, and Weapons
4. Players and Vehicles

Each of these object-types is handled differently by the engine. The placement of all the objects is handled in the in-game editor, or TED. However, to make the buildings, or static objects, we must use ZED or WorldCraft.

We use WorldCraft over ZED for various reasons. Our first and most obvious reason is: stability. ZED was designed to be used on Windows NT. It crashes constantly if run under Win 9x. Secondly, we prefer WorldCraft over ZED because of usability. With WorldCraft, we can virtually eliminate the empty panel problems that plagued Static objects before. WorldCraft also allows us vertex edit and select brushes from the Perspective View, two options not found in ZED. With it's preset lighting types, WorldCraft also greatly reduces the time it takes to light a particular object. In light of all these reasons (and some not mentioned here), it is obvious why we use WorldCraft over ZED.

What this tutorial will go over is the Tribes-specific processes it takes to make a building for mapping in Tribes. This tutorial does NOT, however, go over the basic WorldCraft tools and techniques. The tutorial included in the WorldCraft help files is great, and should be enough.

   The Essentials

 To create custom buildings for Tribes, we need several things:

 1. WorldCraft (DUH!)
2. The WorldCraft Tools kit
3. The TribesTools kit (Optional, but Definitely Recommended)
4. Tribes (To test our creations)
5. The "Ganas" (Desire )

 ( Check the 'Files' page for links to these resources. Well, most of them.
- Nicodemus - )

Okay, after we've created a new map, we need to set and learn about a few Map Properties. To access the Map Properties, select from the main menu "Map>Map Properties". Once you're in the in the Map Properties window, be sure to set the following variables as follows:

            1.       Geometry Scale =       0.03125               2.       Point Snap Precision =       0.0000               3.       Plane Normal Precision =       0.0001               4.       Plane Distance Precision =       0.0002               5.       Lighting Scale =       0.03125    
 Now, you may be asking yourself," What does all this mean?", Good question.

The first, "Geometry Scale", makes the scale of the building correct for Tribes. If we left this at it's default (i.e. 1), it'd be WAY too big for our map and would definitely cause problems. Usually if you export and put your building in a map and find it's huge, this is the cause.

The second, third, and fourth settings are all changed for the same reason: empty panels. When the program ZEDshape preps our buildings for Tribes, it often creates errors within the buildings. These errors are usually created by points not being placed in their correct position on the grid. By increasing precision of the grid, we help ZEDshape "find" these lost points, and thus, eliminating the empty panel bug (for the most part). Thanks to Hosed, for finding out about this fix.

The last variable, like the first, sets the correct scale of the light-maps and should always be set to the same variable as the Geometry Scale.


This guide assumes you know the basics of WorldCraft and shouldn't be used as a replacement for the one provided in the WorldCraft Help Files. That being said, let's go over some of the things Tribes doesn't like in a Static Shape.

One thing you should always be concerned with while designing your building should always be how it will look/perform in-game. As with most BSP based engines (excluding Quake 3), Tribes doesn't like curves. So, therefore, to keep performance as high as possible, you should avoid curves wherever you can. Another thing that can cause trouble when rendering your model is intersecting brushes. Intersecting brushes often create the infamous "empty-panel" bug, which is a bad thing.

Another thing you should be concerned with while designing your building should be gameplay. No one likes those maze-like buildings with fifty rooms, but only two with an actual purpose. Don't make rooms just because you can. Always have a purpose for making a room inside a building. Remember, you don't HAVE to fill up ever cubic inch of the building with something. Lastly, it's important to make sure that your model's scale is correct. Too many times have I seen a custom building that feels way too claustrophobic. My theory on scale is as follows: It's much easier to fix something that is too big than something that is too small. So, if there's ever a doubt as to what size you should make something, always make it bigger than the largest size you think it should have to be.


Texturing your model is very important. It can be used to cut down on poly's and add that extra touch that makes your building look sweet. Although the textures included with Tribes aren't what we'd call "good" or "decent", they can still be used to cover up lighting errors and make people get the idea of the building.

Two great tools included with WorldCraft that can save our time are Texture Lock and Replace Texture tools. With Texture Lock tool we can set the texture of a particular panel on a brush, but not worry about it shifting when we move or edit the brush. The Replace Texture tool allows us to quickly replace textures across multiple panels with relative ease.

One very important feature in Tribes is the ability of textures to have different lighting properties. This is why the metal textures look shiny and the stone textures look grainy when light is placed on them. Besides the obvious use of making the building look more realistic, this can also be used to cover up lighting errors in your building. Sometimes, when ZEDlight calculates the light-maps of the building it creates errors. These errors are seen as dark lines, or sections of the model that should be lit that just aren't. To cover these errors up, we often only have to change the texture of the brush to one with different lighting properties.


Lighting truly is the complex part of building-making for Tribes. This is because there are four different variables involved in lighting:

 1.     Building Ambience ("Shadows")
2.     Funky Mission Ambience ("Sunlight")
3.     Lighting Effects ("Man-made Lights")
4.     Textures

It's best if we think of these three variables as if they're in a "tug-of-war". They're each affecting the other and the strongest one usually wins, colouring and lighting the brush.

To change the Building Ambience, we use the "Ambient Colour" variable under Map Properties. It's important to note that this color can only be a shade of black. Anything different and it'll crash the game. Always be careful in changing your Building Ambiance. Too low and it's hard to see the wall right in front of you. Too high and none of your Lighting Effects show up and the building just looks fake.

The Funky Mission Ambiance truly is the kicker in the whole setup. It's controlled by TED and is by far the most powerful of the three. For some reason, the Mission Ambiance doesn't quite work like it should though. Too often does the mission ambiance create "hard-lines" or ugly places in the building where the mission ambiance just suddenly stops working. These "hard-lines" are characterized by a line where on one side of the line it's dark, while on the other side it's extremely light. There are no really good ways around this problem, other than night missions, you just have to work around them. You can use textures and light-traps to hide the problem, but it will always be there.

The Lighting Effects are how you can really control the lighting of the building. One thing you should be careful of is thinking of the Lighting Effects as a "light".. it's better to think of them as a "glow". Let me explain. The only lighting effects you can see in-game are those which are reflected off of a brush. To put it another way, if you shot a flare up in real life, you'd be able to make it out in the night sky. However, in Tribes if you put a red lighting effect way above the model, you wouldn't see anything.

Lighting effects work on colors and distances. The color not only determines color of the lighting effect, but the brightness as well. The higher the luminosity ("lum") of the color, the brighter the effect will appear in-game. The Distance 1 (Falloff 1), is the distance from the lighting effect where the lighting effect will be totally effective. The Distance 2 (Falloff 2), is used to determined where the lighting effect stops becoming effective. Everything between the two distances is a gradient where the effect becomes less and less effective.

One important thing to remember while placing your lights is how Lighting Effects interact with each other. Just as Building Ambiance and Mission Ambiance are interacting with your lighting effect, so do other lighting effects. It's easier to think of the interaction of these lighting effects like the mixing of paints. If you have a dark blue lighting effect and a white lighting effect both in the same area, the result will be a light blue color where the two meet. This interaction can also add the strength of two same-colored lighting effects to create an area which is brighter than the areas of both the lighting effects could accomplish alone.

The final variable, textures, is often used to cover up places where the lighting just doesn't fit. We can use textures of different lighting properties to cover up hard-lines and lighting errors. Also, by changing the texture of a particular brush, we can make it appear more realistic according to it's purpose (i.e.. A steel beam being shiny).

   LOD (Level of detail)

LODs are Level of Detail models. They allow Tribes to run faster and more efficiently because the engine can display less complex building models as the player moves farther away from the model. This comes in handy because a lot of brushes that cannot be seen from far away would still be rendered if all the models were high quality which would create bunches of lag and would be pointless. With LOD models you can virtually eliminate these useless brushes making it easier on the player and server.There are a couple different variables (Found under the "Map Properties") involved when making LODs. Below is an explanation of each variable, how it should be set, and how it relates to the other ones.

Detail Levels (ie. Detail 0 , Detail 1) - These are the separate levels of the model, each level contains the set of brushes that will be displayed in-game. To expand on that, lets say the engine is going to render a model from far away, lets just say that the model is far enough away so only 800 pixels are going to be displayed when it's rendered. Let's also say that it's detail levels are set identical to the chart below. So, the engine looks at the model, it sees that it will only use 800 pixels.. It's always going to try to render it at the highest possible quality. So it goes up the list, but it has to stop at Detail 1 because, 1000 is the Min Pixels for detail set for Detail 0, it can't go any higher in the detail tree because of that.

Min. Pixels for Detail - This is the minimum number of pixels required to display the detail level it's assigned to. One thing that's important to note, lets say you're looking around the corner of a building right?.. and only a VERY small portion of that building is being shown would then the engine assign one of the lower LODs for the model ? Answer: NO! The engine only uses LODs if you're a certain distance away from the building (depending on your resolution and settings). I've found this distance to be somewhere around 5-10 m (Tribes units) away, with my setup. So, no matter how small of an area of a model you're looking at, if you're within that distance of the model, you're going to see it in high quality. Something that's also kind of interesting about LODs (and really cool) they're affected by the players resolution. Really.. it's perfect if you think about it. A player with a higher resolution system PROBABLY has a better system and would therefore be able to render the models at higher quality so, because this rendering system works on pixels, the higher resolution setup would display a model with more pixels thus, allowing it also to render the higher quality model.

Max. Texture Mip - Really, this is an unnecessary setting for making LODs only need the upper two are required. However, if you want to totally streamline your model, you can use this as well. What this setting allows the engine to make the textures blurry, therefore making the building a bit easier to render.. I've not found it too useful or necessary. However, do not use this on a high quality Detail Level, or one that will display up close, as the textures would blatantly look strange..

As far as WorldCraft is concerned, each Detail level is a separate model. So it's VITAL that you complete the model in its highest quality state before you begin making LODs. It's also important that all lights are placed and adjusted, because even though you can use LODs to take out brushes, all lights have to stay, even if there isn't any brush for it to reflect off of. So, once you have a completed model and want to make LODs, first copy your model to another directory (simply for organization) and name it something like (also for organization.. wouldn't want to get mixed up with the models, eh ?)Once you have it moved, open it up in WorldCraft and change the Min Pixels for Detail Variable under Map Properties, change it to something high (Depending on the size of the model ... the bigger the model the higher this number should be). Now exit WorldCraft and Copy the file and name the new file or something. Now, open up the second model in WorldCraft and open up it's Map Properties, under Detail Index change the "0" to "1" and change the Min Pixels for detail to any number LOWER than the number you put on the first model. Delete a few (or a lot) of the brushes on the inside and or anything that can't be seen. Repeat the same process, making new files with increasing number and detail levels, decreasing Min Pixels for detail and having the building contain less and less brushes every time. Another thing you can do to decrease the complexity of the model is make complex brushes (Cylinders... anything with curves) simple brushes (Wedges, Cubes), and delete small things that people wouldn't see from afar anyway.

 Infamous Chart depicting LOD variable relationships:

            [More Complex]       Detail Level       Min Pixels       Max Texture Mip               
      Detail 0       1000       0               
      Detail 1       500       0               
      Detail 2       150       1               [Less Complex]       Detail 3       80       2    
(*Note* This is just an example, showing the relationships between all of the variables and the model's complexity. Your model might use different settings depending on it's size and shape)

 Frequently Asked Questions

  Q - I'm trying to render my model and while I'm running ZEDshape I see a bunch of "Doh!"s. What does all this mean?

 A - Sometimes, if the model is too large or complex ZEDshape has trouble rendering it. The only way around this, other than simplifying your building, would be to cut the building into pieces and reassemble them in TED.

 Q - When I render my building, I find that some areas of my building are empty. The player can fall and/or shoot right through them? What the heck is going on!?!

 A - Ahh.. yes.. the empty-panel bug. This usually occurs if you don't have the precision variables set correctly. This can also be caused by intersecting brushes, lights with huge gradients, lights inside of brushes, and points not snapped to the grid correctly. The latter usually happens when you've formed an arch or complex brush of some sort and have edited it's size or shape. Sometimes it's near impossible to totally fix this error, but avoiding all of the above and setting the precision variables can eliminate it ninety percent of the time.

 Q - This ugly hard-line is RUINING my building! What can I do to cover it up?

 A - Sometimes, textures just won't work when you're trying to fix these errors. If this is the case, try placing small lighting effects around where the hard-line is or try placing a light-trap. If neither of those work, try placing point lights in TED or lowering the Mission Ambiance.

 Q - For some reason, dynamic lighting (i.e. Disc Glows, Blaster Glows, etc.) won't show up on my custom building, why is this?

 A - For some reason, dynamic lighting won't show up on any custom building. The dev team believes it's an OpenGL bug, and should be addressed in the next patch. However, if you still have problems with this bug after the 1.10 patch, why not e-mail Nels Bruckner . Maybe if we bug him enough he'll fix it .  =P

 Q - How do I make a "light-trap"?

 A - Light-traps are used to eliminate Mission Ambiance from the inside of a model. Although they sometimes result in hard-lines, they can eliminate the unpredictable hard-lines that would appear if you didn't use them. To make a light-trap, you have to isolate the light at it's source, the doorway. From the doorway, you would make a hallway, in this hallway you'd create two columns extending from the sides. The two columns combined width would equal that of the hallway, but the two would be pushed far enough apart to allow the player to enter and exit through the entrance. See figure 1 to give yourself an idea of what I'm trying to explain. There are several examples of this in Tribes (think of the Raindance base and the drop at the entrance, or the Broadside base and it's main entrance with the T junction).

 Figure 1 (Light-Trap)

  Q - What is "Screaming Fist" thing I've seen ?

 A - Screaming Fist (SF) is an upcoming Total Conversion for Tribes which includes, all new weapons, models, gametypes, vehicles, textures, and yes.. buildings. Check it out at (When the site goes public).


 Grym Reaper
ICQ: 8543553


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