Home >

Level Design

Most people who build levels for Source do so using Hammer. For most people, that is fine and dandy. However, if you are one of the lucky people who has had the honor of using 3ds Max... you've probably noticed the limitation in Hammer. And you probably started wondering if there is a way to export 3ds Max scenes into Hammer/Source.

There are two common misconceptions about using 3ds Max for designing Source levels:

  1. That you cannot use 3ds Max to design levels for Source.
  2. That you shouldn't use 3ds Max to design levels.

The first one is incorrect as a matter of fact. You can export VMFs from 3ds Max with Wall Worm tools. The Wall Worm VMF exporter will compile levels and even auto-PAK your assets into the BSP if you desire.

The second item is subjective. But it is the stance of Wall Worm that the exact opposite is true: you should use 3ds Max to design levels!

Why?

The reasons to use 3ds Max are limitless (because Max is limitless). But here are some of the main points:

  • By designing your levels in Max, it means that you can design your models in the same environment where you are building your level. This has many advantages, like seeing how props will look in their settings.
  • Collaboration is much easier in Max; because Max comes integrated with Autodesk Vault, it means that people in remote locations can work on the same projects simultaneously. Another factor in collaboration is the use of XRef Scenes and Objects, which are ways to include external files (that someone else is working on) for reference but without the problem of interfering with each other.
  • Wider range of tools. You can make anything quickly in Max. The same is not true in Hammer. With advanced tools like CorVex, ShellVex, PropLine (and other tools) you can design and redesign quickly in procedural, non-destructive fashions.
  • Smart grid tools. Believe it or not, keeping objects on grid are easier in Max than even in Hammer when working with complex shapes. Most Wall Worm brush plugins like CorVex and ShellVex have options to automatically place all vertices on the grid. And with the Wall Worm Brushify Modifier, it's literally impossible to move points off the grid for any brush object.
  • Extensibility. That is exactly how the Wall Worm tools came about. Via MAXScript and the SDK, you can make Max do whatever you want. If there is some feature you want to add... simply script it (or ask someone else to script it). That's not possible with Hammer.
  • Marketing. If you build a level in Max, you can use that level in other projects like animations and movies as sets to help promote your level/mod. However, if you design your level inside Hammer but then choose to make a movie in the setting, you'll have to film it either inside the Source engine, or you will have to rebuild it in another 3D app.

There are more reasons to go with Max. The main thing is to realize that whenever you read some forum post regurgitating that same prejudices over and over about not using Max, you are most likely reading information from people who don't actually know what they are talking about.

Latest Articles

The Grid and Manipulation

Posted on Sep 29, 2017 | Last Updated Sep 29, 2017

Documents on the grid and related topics.

Read More

Nudge Tools

Posted on Sep 29, 2017 | Last Updated Oct 9, 2017

Nudge Tools in Wall Worm

Read More

3ds max, nudge, move, grid

VBSP.exe has stopped working

Posted on Aug 28, 2017 | Last Updated Aug 28, 2017

VBSP can crash if there are no entities or world geometry in your scene.

Read More

vbsp, vbsp.exe, crash, stopped

DX Display Shaders

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 | Last Updated Jul 26, 2017

Information on the DX shaders used by Wall Worm.

Read More

Porting Levels into Source

General Overview of Converting Scenes that Were Not Designed with Source in Mind
Posted on May 14, 2016 | Last Updated Aug 1, 2017

Overview on porting scenes and levels from other sources.

Read More

port, convert, scenes, games, levels

Displacements Fail to Export

Posted on Feb 15, 2016 | Last Updated Feb 15, 2016

Some tips on troubleshooting displacements failing to export from Max into Source.

Read More

displacements, troubleshooting, missing, fail

Displacement edge abutting other edges

Posted on Jan 23, 2016 | Last Updated Jan 23, 2016

Help understanding the VBSP compile warning about displacement edge abutting other edges.

Read More

displacement, edge, abutting, other, edges, compile

Displacement Alpha Blending

Posted on Dec 29, 2015 | Last Updated Jul 26, 2017

Information on displacement alpha blending and the shaders you can use to visualize the blending.

Read More

worldvertextransition, alpha blending, blend material, directx shader, 3ds max, wallworm, anvil

Texturing World Geometry in 3ds Max

Posted on Oct 13, 2015 | Last Updated Oct 13, 2015

Basic tips on texturing world geometry in Max, especially for those with a Hammer background.

Read More

texturing, world geometry

On the Grid

Posted on Sep 8, 2015 | Last Updated Oct 5, 2017

Information and videos on using the grid in 3ds Max for Source Engine Level Design.

Read More

grid, snaps, level design, snapping