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Building an Island with Worms

Posted May 23, 2012
Last Updated May 23, 2012

Believe it or not, building an island with Worms is a lot cleaner than you'd expect. Mostly if you do it in 3ds Max with Wall Worm... but it's been such a great experience that I encourage someone to try it in the real world sometime.

But we'll get back to that in a minute.

First I want to share some news about our longtime hero Neil "Jed/Wunderboy” Jedrzejewski. He's taken a break from modding. Neil has apparently burnt himself out and has lost his passion for the Source Game Engine. You can read all about it in Jed's own words here.

I learned about this on the very day that 3ds Max 2013 was released. Which naturally leads me to the issue of Max/Source people running around like chickens without any heads. You can stop doing that now... since you can actually export models from 3ds Max 2013 into Source already. Yep... just use Wall Worm until Jed re-compiles his plugins. Wall Worm actually has a built-in SMD/VTA exporter. It's not as fast as Jed's... but will do the trick until he comes to and re-compiles.

(Now, I know I'm a big one for rumors... but does this repeated reference to "until”, "Jed” and "recompiles” mean that I have some insider information on Jed? Yes... yes it does. Mark my words! It won't be long before he tires of a life of Sex, Drugs and Rock-N-Roll. It's only temporary. He'll return...)

So lets go back a bit. Max 2013 is out. Yes, most of Wall Worm works in it. Not all... but most. I'll tell you more after the first Service Pack (which I guess has now been refactored into something called "Product Updates”). I've tinkered in Max 2013 for a few... but I've noticed several things that will keep me from using it until it's fixed: 1) it loads really slowly. 2) It broke one feature in WW that I use a lot. 3) some of my favorite plugins aren't updated yet (looks like Orbaz won't update PF Tools Box #2 and #3 until August!)

Back to Building an Island out of Worms

Not long ago I released a video on Youtube on using Wall Worm and the Object Paint Tool in Max to paint a bunch of Wall Worm Model Tool (WWMT) proxies onto a scene. The video has been well received... though there are some interesting negative responses on it over on Facepunch—though most people there actually seemed to like it.

The point is that around the time I made the video one of the guys in our gaming group and a longtime friend of my family enticed me into doing a little mapping contest with him. While enjoying some Leffe (a really great Belgian beer) I blurted something like this:

"David, I'll give you a month. You spend a month building a map. Then, six hours before the deadline, I'll start mine and we'll see whose is better.”

To be honest, I probably said it much less eloquently, with some pauses to drink and think. In any event, it turned into a contest.

So it was on.

A few weeks later he sent me the map. I felt terrible. And elated. I initially decided that I was going to import his map into Max, shrink it down into a tiny model... then insert that model into a trash can inside my map... or in a toilet... or tied to a stone at the bottom of a pond.

But I didn't do that. I still might at some point, though.

So I wanted to share with you this contest results. First... David's map, made entirely in Hammer. I have to point that out mostly as a cheap shot to Hammer. In reality... considering it was his first attempt at mapping it was commendable.

In fact, he won the contest on two accounts. First, I spent around ten hours up to the point the contest ended (and I had promised only 6). Second... I had only finished compiling as our game began... and failed to properly load all the custom assets to the game server by the time our game began. So, even though the hilight of David's map was a giant kitten overlooking boxes of blueberries and cherries (WTF!?)... it beat out all of my giant, red, throbbing Error models!

Here's David's map. Sorry you have to click to see... as this is a Wall Worm blog/newsletter... I don't want someone scrolling down and getting the wrong impressions about Wall Worm!

The good news is this. Losing this gave you all some WW updates! Yes... it prompted me to flesh out the RES file maker... and then a new feature altogether: Automatic Asset Pak in the VMF Exporter. You can now automatically PAK your models and other assets directly into your map when compiling in the most recent release of Wall Worm.

Back to the island. The beginning of building this map was actually recorded in the Proxie video (except it was preceded by my building the tree models).

I'm not going to go on and on about the map... but I figured I'd share some screen shots. I have shared tidbits of things over the last couple of years... but this is only the second level I've brought to a play-test phase in quite a while.

The notable features for Wall Worm readers is that it was done entirely inside 3ds Max. All assets (except the displacement textures which will be replaced in short order) were done completely in Max. The level was made in Max. The sky (using a barely modified Vue sky background) will be enhanced soon.

Not only would it be impossible to do all that in Hammer... but it would simply take a lot longer to do this for Source without Wall Worm.

I will end up fleshing out this map with props, lighting, optimization. I will also likely release the source Max file at some point to help some of you learn it.

Other News

In the last blog, I gave some credit to Andrew Penry, Wunderboy and Michael Little (developer of Convexity). Unfortunately, I did not get around to mentioning Fabian Groß of 48Design.de for helping out in a great way a few months back. He wrote a script to write PFM bitmaps from inside 3ds Max—which was an essential component missing from Sky Writer. Adding that was necessary to make Sky Writer truly HDR compatible.

Sorry Fabian. But thank you!

Fabian is also a developer of a nifty 3ds Max plugin called Snow Flow. Check it out!

I would like to put some more plugs for some of my other friends and fellow developers. But this is already a lot longer than it ought to be. I know that most people into modding may not be old enough to read past the first paragraph anyway. But for those of you who made it this far... expect some more cool things to come. I also hope to highlight some of the tools of Kostadin "Miauu” Kotev next time.