Freeform Mapping Challenges | Mapeadores Mapping School

As outlined after the second ‘Mapping for Dummies’ tutorial, the best way to learn to map is to progressively develop maps with increasing complexity. Beyond the simple challenges given by the end of each tutorial, it is reasonable to create an ‘idea pool’ with some prizes thrown in for those that are willing to put some effort into mapping.

In this thread we will describe a few mapping challenges, open ended but with some guidelines to them, for mappers to follow. Since we have been working on the new Prey (formerly Zombie Survival) server, we will try to also link the challenges with it when possible. Each challenge will imply trying to fulfill a set of basic requirements, beyond which only personal creativity will apply. A successful solved challenge will, at the very least, serve as a prototype for a bigger project.

Upon solving a challenge, you should post both your playable map (in BSP) and your development assets (with the VMF file at the very least, and custom assets, if any). In doing so, you will allow other people to learn from your design choices, get inspired and develop new ideas. If you fully fulfill all the specified guidelines, you will be rewarded with 1 month of free supporter status on the servers. You may only apply for free supporter twice, though you can solve as many challenges as you wish. Any person, either inexperienced in mapping or already well advanced, may solve challenges and claim the rewards in doing so.

The following list of challenges is open to being modified if they are promptly solved, deemed as too hard, or otherwise just replaced by alternative challenges. The challenges appear sorted by increasing difficulty. To further give a sense of progression, the challenges will be divided in three categories: Easy, Medium and Hard. Hard challenges may imply building complete (although unpolished) maps, while Easy ones will fall within the lines of pure prototypes. Medium challenges will rest between the two. Aside from solving challenges, mappers may suggest new challenges.

Without further ado, the freeform mapping challenges are, per category:

  • Recall that along the two first mapping tutorials, we ended up building a bedroom. Building a realistic indoors space is a good way of getting the hang of proportions and design. For this challenge, try to build a room from a real life location. You must:


  • Maintain the proportions within objects and with respect to the player.
  • Design a reasonable layout in which to drop the details that bring the room to life.
  • Appropiately detail (through brushwork, props or both) the environment.
  • Correctly manage lighting in the scene, considering both environmental light (sunlight) and indoors light sources.

The result should be a realistic, well detailed room. When posting your solution to this challenge, it would help to show some reference photos/ideas.[/INDENT]

  • In any game engine, there are loads of things you can do. This can be quite annoying when you’re starting to get into it, because there is an excess of information which, in the end, only serves to confuse you. In this challenge, we try to change that, focusing on entities. You will have to build an ‘entity zoo’. You must:


  • Create a testing area that lets you test both point and brush-based entities.
  • Set up some basic scheme to test your I/O, for example with buttons placed in front of each booth within which you will test specific entities.
  • Find out how to (at least) make and/or work with:


  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Smoke
  • Fog
  • Dustmotes
  • A breakable door
  • A spotlight
  • A physics object made with brushes.

The result should be an entity zoo in which a player can hop in and see a set of different entities, being able to interact with them. The player should always know which entity he’s trying, for which you could use console commands, for example. To find out about entities, use

  • One thing we have not studied throughout our ‘Mapping for Dummies’ tutorials have been smooth surfaces. In Source, these are called displacements and are used to build natural, organic environments such as hills, cliffs, etc. In this challenge, you will create a very simple cave with them. You must:


  • Look for information on how displacements work, applying them only on faces that you want to displace and that the player will see.
  • Design a simple layout for a cave with brushwork, which you will later displace and smoothen.
  • Create the displacement surfaces for the cave and smooth them out by keeping the displacement edges adjacent, being then able to sew and subdivide them.
  • Add variation to the cave so it looks natural and realistic.
  • Add lighting and extra details (vegetation, rocks, …) to further the inmmersion.

The result should be a reasonably natural-looking, displacement-based cave. Since we haven’t covered displacent mapping ourselves, you can look here: Do not copy the tutorial bit by bit, instead, try to work on your layout so you understand what you’re doing.[/INDENT]

  • On the ZE server, a good amount of people like the balance between escaping and holding. Certain maps focus on certain things, and there are maps that sit on the extremes of each gameplay mode. One of the most liked maps for the ‘holding’ variety is ATIX Panic. In this challenge, you will create a Panic-styled layout, complete with I/O. You must:


  • Create a layout (for instance, a building) with a set of holding spots, all of which have a locked door that, when open, will lead to a common area.
  • Add detail to the layout and try to think of interesting gameplay ideas, such as holds that depend one on the other, dynamic holding spots with random events, etc.
  • Implement the entity work and I/O so that the locked doors open after 2 minutes of round time.
  • Build something in the meeting point. This may be anything and not necessarily an escape vehicle or bunker: you could build a different set of hold spots so that you turn the prototype into a Prey map with dynamic holding, create a ZE map from this point onwards, etc.

The result should be a Panic styled layout, featuring both gameplay, entity work and design. When posting your solution, make clear what you imagine happening AFTER the meeting point, describing what you would work on after the prototype if you felt like going further.[/INDENT]

  • Hard challenges coming soon!

In this post I will share assets and other content that might help you in developing your projects. Other mappers are more than welcome to share their content to help those who are trying to learn to achieve their goals.

To kick it off, I have included the VMF files of my two Prey maps (Big Iron Plaza and Stormy Days) so you can get some ideas from them if you decide to design a Prey map. To get the custom content they might need, use Pakrat or VIDE (you can find PakRat clicking here[/URL] and VIDE clicking here, VIDE is newer) and extract the content from the BSP files which you can download on my gamebanana page here: [url] I believe Prey maps are a good starting point for mappers that want to create something playable from scratch but may lack the experience to build a fully fledged, complex project.


  • (This post) Prey maps VMFs: Stormy Days and Big Iron Plaza
1 Like

Wow, already so much challenges!
It’s nice, as it is summer vacation, I hope many persons will do this challenge!

Challenges look fun. Unfortunately won’t have access to a laptop capable of supporting the Hammer Editor until the first week of August when I am back. Will give it a goo then. Nice work Envi.