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Map editing - Tips, tricks and advice

Covered in this article:

Size Matters!

Size DOES matter in AssaultCube! Don't make fanatically huge maps as they will lag players down. Not to mention, it will take forever for players to find/frag each other, in what's supposed to be a fast paced game. Due to the restrictions of the cube engine, it is generally a BAD idea to try and rebuild your favourite map from a different game, as most engines allow for larger rooms and bigger lines-of-sight than the Cube engine does!

World Quads (WQD)

The WQD count can be found by typing /showstats 2. Some figures will appear at the right of your screen, one of them will be WQD...

WQD is a good way to measure how good your map will or won't lag. Maps should ideally average a maximum of 5000 WQD (less is better). It's okay for your map to exceed this if it's only a little bit more in a short area. Keep in mind that lights and details will raise the WQD counts, so a rough layout won't really represent the final WQD values of a map. In an empty map (layout is the only completed part) which only has corridors and basic geometry, WQD shouldn't be above 1000. This leaves enough overhang for details, lightning and mapmodels.

The key to getting a good WQD count is by using occluders or "solids" (press F). These are full-sized walls that block the view, and it allows the engine to know that it can stop rendering whatever is behind it.
To undersand the concept of occluding, do the following:

  1. Load one of the official AssaultCube maps.
  2. Enter edit-mode (Press E).
  3. Fly above the map (beyond the skymap).
  4. You will now see occlusion at work. The blacked out parts of the map are where solids exist, and the engine has decided not to render past them. Parts you can see have, of course, not been occluded.

You can toggle occlusion on and off by using the F5 key (Warning: This may be very laggy!). Viewing occlusion at work will give you an idea on where to place solid cubes while creating the layout for your map.

Keep in mind, the better your map runs, the more people will want to play it. If your map looks awesome, but can only be run on a decent, new computer, then people won't play it as their computer simply won't be able to handle it. Many AssaultCube players are still using quite old hardware!

Layout and design

When creating a map, make sure not to make areas far too small. Six or more cubes wide is a good dimension for doorways, to allow people to pass through them easily. Take reality as your guide. If you're unsure about how large your door/window/stairs should be, look at those in your house or outside somewhere. If players block a doorway for teammates, just because the doorway is only 4 cubes wide, people won't like the map very much. Another up-side to allowing enough space in the map, is that it also gives room to plays to "strafe-run".

When you build your map, use more than one level. Flat maps are boring. By adding vertical variety, you also make the gameplay more intresting. Even small alterations in floor height usually makes things more diverse.

Be sure that players aren't "fighting the map" too much. They should be fighting each other after all. Also make sure that players aren't constantly bumping their heads, especially against the skymap, as it can be annoying, and unrealistic.

Try to keep wall sizes about 3-4 cubes thick, to allow for detail and realism.

Second floors

Due to the limitations of the Cube engine, it's simply not possible to build a second floor out of geometry. You can however use architectural mapmodels to create them... but don't try to build a 5-storey building with them, otherwise it will be impossible to make it look right, especially with lighting, since lights in the Cube engine are circular (not spherical), meaning you can't change the lighting on each level of the platform. By creative use of levels, you can make maps that very well give the impression of multiple floors! If you use the bridge mapmodels, use it with care!

Texture use

Take your time in chosing textures. Don't just decide by "how it looks", consider reality to be your guide.
Don't put a floor texture on the ceiling, or wall textures on the floor (although there are exeptions). Try to use some common sense. A nice wooden structure will probably not support a concrete roof too well, or your factory will probably not have a wooden flooring. Brickwalls on the ground are very uncommon... etc, etc.

At the end of the texture list is a texture imprinted with the words "missing content". DON'T use it, it's not a texture, in-fact, it's lack of a texture. It looks ugly and shouldn't be used in any map, because it's actually there to show if textures and skins did not load properly.

Mapmodel usage

Though they can add some nice and neccesary detail to your map, don't heavily rely on them! It is advised to add mapmodels at a late stage in mapping. Think of them more like the icing on the cake. A boring room won't look better if you add lots of mapmodels. When you add them, less is often more. If every square metre has a cigarette and a leaflet on the ground, the effect will be lost.


Careful placing of lights can produce different effects. Contrast in lighting is what makes a map look atmospheric. Be sure to take time placing lights correctly, don't use very bright lights to light the whole map, instead, use medium-sized, mid-brightness, ambient style lights instead.
A good approach is to imagine that the map is real, and then use what is appropriate for the situation!
Small, bright lights (i.e. 255 brightness, 4 radius) should be used as highlights for actual light sources, such as lamps and lightbulbs.

Coloured lights:
When adding coloured lights, be careful. Some textures can become bland if exposed to certain colours. Also make sure you keep a consistent colour theme. Don't add a red, a blue and a yellow light to the same area...

Item placement

Pickups must be placed strategically through maps and do take some time to position correctly. Powerful pickups should be few and not be too close to each other (unless there is a good risk involved) and pickups should be well spread and not be too high in number, this encourages players to move around. Try to keep powerful pickups away from the spawn area so players are encouraged to leave their bases. Strategy is key! A good idea to keep in mind when mapping is "what would I need here to help me pwn?"

If you want a spot to have grenades for when players are playing the mode Last Swiss Standing, but not for other modes, be advised, that pistol magazines turn into grenades during Last Swiss Standing mode... so if you want, you can strategically place pistol magazines with this thought in mind.

It's a good idea to put powerful pickups in risky areas, this helps keep balance and makes it harder for players to hog them.

Spawn points

Rule of thumb: The more, the better. Try to add as many as you can. Avoid creating spawnpoints that are in the middle of a room, or a corridor. Spawning and being instantly killed just because you're in the line of fire of some other players is frustrating.

It's a common mistake to new map editors to place spawn points with an incorrect orientation. If you want to add a spawn in a corner, select the cube you want the spawn to be and fly over it, then add the entity while looking in the desired direction!

Be sure not to use too many models. Mapmodels slow down the gamespeed and that's a problem on older machines, so a map that's heavily laden with models just isn't good for those players.

Co-operative map editing

If you'd like to create a map with friends, you can use co-operative map editing to let you build and modify maps with others online easily. This mode allows you to edit maps online with other players who could help speed up repetitive or boring tasks, bring in fresh ideas or spot errors you may have missed.

To start co-operative map editing, when in a server, first you will need to send the map, which you want to edit. You can do this by typing: /sendmap mapname and pressing ENTER. Later type: /mode 1 and then type: /map mapname . Alternatively, after sending a map, you can type: /coop mapname.

Note: Custom materials can't be sent, they will have to be downloaded another way if you are using them. If you are using a custom "cfg" file, it will automatically be sent with the map, if there is a cfg file present.

Note: Some useful editing commands can't be used in co-op editing, such as: copy, paste, slope, arch, undo, etc.

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