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Mapping help Tutorials for Half-Life & Mods


Mapping terms definitions FAQ

You can also download this info in a help file format made by NMEwithin: here, so you will will always have it to hand.

AAATRIGGER - a special brush, always invisible in a game map, used by mappers to help identify trigger brush entities in their editing. If it is used on a regular brush, it causes problems like game crashes; so it must be on an entity like a trigger that is invisible in game.

batch files- a method of compiling that uses the least of the systems resources, leaving the most resources (cpu+RAM) for the compiling programs. To learn how to use this, find a tutorial.

brush- a 3D object in a map, a block. Various shapes possible. Examples: block, cylinder, wedge, spike, ect. These used to make walls, floors, stairs, complex collections of brushes called prefabs, and brush entities.

brush entity- a brush tied to an entity to have a special effect or action. Example: doors, trains, elevators.

BSP - the second of four compiling programs that takes the info from the .pt0 file from CSG and makes a .pt1 file for VIS by preparing clip planes, leafs and portals. It also checks for LEAKs.

xxxxx.bsp - a map in a format ready to be played/tested in a HL mod it is designed for.

bounding box - for a player model, boxes that outline the player model for the purpose of collision detection/contact; similar to the clip plane for brushes, it keeps the player from walking thru things or other players. Different than the target boxes which outline a player for the purpose of defining injury damage.

carve- a tool in WC that lets you cut into another brush. Often, very often, leads to compiling problems or extra wpolys/bad r_speeds/lag. New mappers should avoid until they fully understand how the problems are created. Most mappers "build" a hole in a brush one side at at time, brush by brush.

channel- each sound played in game requires a part of the sound card, so sound cards have a limited number of channels or number of sounds they can play. Too many sounds in a map may cause sound card failure.

CLIP- a special texture that when applied to a brush makes an invisible clip plane/wall, that a player cannot move thru, but can fire thru. Often used with transparent textures to make them "solid", or in rough map area so a player does not get "stuck" in play.

clip plane or clip node- a special plane which is assigned to brushes of many kinds so that a player cannot walk thru them. It makes them "solid". example: Zoner's compiling tools clip plane all SKY textures. There is a limited number of clip planes allowed, but putting a larger CLIP brush around smaller brushes reduces the number of clip planes required.

clipping a brush- a special tool in WorldCraft on the side that is used to CUT a block. 3 options- lose right, lose left, and keep both parts. Clipping a brush may cause problems in .rmf to .map translations. It is my opinion it should have been called CUT, so that it would not be confused with the other clips above, but so it is.

Compile/compiling- taking the raw data from your .map file and changing it thru 4 programs: CSG, BSP, VIS, RAD- into a .bsp map that can be played in a HL mod. These 4 programs must be done in order, and if there is an error in a previous program the latter ones will not run properly.

CSG- the first of four compiling programs that takes the info from the .map file format and prepares a .pt0 for BSP to use. It checks Wads, and stores them, and checks for invalid brushes, invalid face planes, and badly placed/sized textures.

Decal- a special painting, usually 256 greyscale, that can be added to a textured brush to give signage to the brush or variety to the texture tiling. Custom decals to be added to the map should be placed with Wally in the decals.wad file, which in turn should be -wadincuded during CSG into the .bsp file.

decompiling- taking a .bsp apart into a .map format. Usually goes poorly, with much of the .bsp brushes lost. Publishing, without permission of the original maker, a .bsp that you have decompiled and changed is generally considered stealing by other mappers, even if you only give it to a few friends.

Epoly- one face or facet of a model. Too many epolys can cause lag, but it takes a lot!

Entity- a bit of special instructions/programming that makes things happen, can be a point entity or a brush entity. There are various types (func, env, triggers, buttons and more); some work only once per round, some more; many need resetting at the begining of the round. Examples: doors, trains, spawns, lights, buttons, triggers, windows.

error- something that went wrong in a map during editing, during compile, or testing to play because of a mistake the mapper made.

fps- frames per second, a measure of play speed or lag. r_speeds, transparencies, sprites, Internet connection and CPU speed all affect fps.

face- one side of a brush. There are six faces on a cube, 5 on a square pyramid.

xxxxx.fgd - a text file listing all the entitys with their properties and flags for use by an editor. The fgd will not allow new operations with the game engine, it just defines the entitys for the map editor and compilers. If the game engine will not allow something, nothing you do to the fgd will help, but it may cause problems.

flag- a yes/no setting for an entity- like open or closed, or loop play, or trigger only.

front end- a program that makes a batch file to compile your map with the minimum of resources taken. Easier than writing a batchfile yourself, but it takes a teeny bit more RAM than your own batchfile. Examples: HLCC/TBCC, Nemisis' Batch Compiler.

FULLBRIGHT- if your map has an error like a LEAK LEAK LEAK, or it has no lights, or RAD does not run compile, then the map will be fully lit up when you test in the mod game usually, without any shade or shadows. This is fullbright mode, which usually lags badly, and is a sign something needs to be fixed.

Goldwave- an excellent semi-free utility for manipulating wav files.

HINT- a special texture that when applied to a brush makes an invisible line to cut a VIS leaf into 2 or more parts, to control line-of-sight and reduce wpoly counts. HINT is usually used on only one face of a brush, the rest of the brush is textured SKIP.

hollow- a tool in WC that lets you make a brush hollow. Often, very often, leads to compiling problems or extra wpolys/bad r_speeds/lag. New mappers should avoid until they fully understand how the problems are created. Most mappers build a hollow item one side at at time, brush by brush.

hull - the "outside" skin/face plane/facets boundry of a model, including a map which is considered a model. HL & mod maps have 4 hulls, one for visual rendering and 3 for collision detection. Hull only seems to be mentioned when you have a LEAK error, or when modeling.

Lag- a slowing down of play that disconnects actions from results. Like fps, r_speeds, transparencies, sprites, Internet connection and CPU speed all affect lag.

leaf- a triangular area/wedge of the map used by VIS to determine line-of-sight thru portals to other leafs, so that the engine will know what wpolys to draw on screen. This relates to r_speeds, because if you can see from one leaf/portal into others, then all the wpolys in the other leafs are drawn by the game engine, and r_speed is affected.

Leaf saw into leaf- a leaf has a bad portal that thinks it can see itself. Solution: go to the area named, look a the walls and floors, and see if they can be made more right-angled. Sometimes a HINT/SKIP brush across the area can help.

LEAK LEAK LEAK- the map has a "hole" out of the world into the void. This is a BSP compile error. A point file is made and can be used in the mod to find the leak area. The nearest entity to the leak is named as a reference, only rarely is it the source of the leak though- so do not bother deleting it. If you have a leak VIS and RAD will not run, your map will be in FULLBRIGHT mode.

Lights.rad- a text file that keeps info on which textures give off light, the info usually has to be copy pasted from the valve.rad file.

line-of-sight- which VIS leafs can see each other from portal to portal without being blocked by world brushes in VIS-full. Brush entities are see-thru, but their faces still count for wpolys.

xxxxx.log- a text file made by the 4 compiling programs detailing what was done, and what errors were found. Usually found in the WC/map folder. Often vital for debugging problems.

Map- verb for making a map. Noun for the map that is made.

xxxxx.map- the file format used to compile into a .bsp map file format. Often there are errors when WC exports from .rmf into .map format. It is good once in a while to open the .map up in WC to see if there is any strange changes to brush work.

Milkshape - a shareware program to make models with, complex & hard to learn.

model- a special construct used in a map, sort of a 3D painting. It makes epolys but not wpolys. Examples- weapons on the ground, player's bodies in HL mods, sometimes non-player characters, like monsters or hostages. Milkshape is the only shareware tool for making custom models. It is considered good manners to thank the author of any custom model you used in your map for the model.

Notepad- a text editor, it can be used to check out small .map files, .log files, and some other text files. Standing joke: "Notepad is my favorite map editor." This is impossible for all but the smallest maps.

NULL- a special texture than when applied to a brush face, removes that face during compile with the newer compile tools.

Origin texture- a special texture that when applied to a brush makes an invisible brush, this brush MUST be used with a brush entity like: a rotating door (as a hinge), a rotating object like a fan (the shaft), a vehicle (as the ground contact), or a train (as the track contact). It cannot be left by itself, or it makes an error in compile.

plane- all brushes seem 3D, but each face is really a plane of 3 points- if you remember Geometry. The intersections of the face plane with the other face planes of a brush define the edges. Actually, a face has more than 1 plane, for each face of a brush, 8 planes are created. That's because each face creates 2 planes (front and back) for each of of 4 hulls (1 drawing, 3 collision). Like bits in a word processor, planes in a map are the hidden basis for everything that is done. This is the main reason for the co-planar error in CSG- if two planes are parallel and overlapping, they go on forever.... a

portal- the "edge" or face of a VIS leaf. VIS actually checks line-of-sight for the portal to other portals, not from the leaf interior to another leaf interior. This relates to wpolys and r_speeds, bacause if you can see from one leaf/portal into others, then all the wpolys in the other leafs are drawn by the game engine and r_speed is affected.

prefab- a combination of one or more brushes and entities. There are prefab chairs, tables, soft drink machines in WC- and you can download prefabs made by others from the web. Other people's prefabs often are poorly made, however, and often cause errors during compile or testing of the map. Even the best may have many hidden wpolys and so cause lag. There are prefabs for many programs, not just for HL out there, so be careful. It is considered good manners to thank the author of any prefab you used in your map for the prefab.

property- a variable for an entity, like its name, how it appears, the sound it makes, ect.

xxxxx.pt#- a series of special files made during compile to pass on vital data to the next program in the compiling series.

xxxxx.pnt- a special file used to find LEAKs.

Qtools- an old set of 4 compiling programs designed for Quake, not HL. Not as good as the newer Zoner's compiling tools, but they come with every version of WorldCraft.

Quark editor- a map editor (QUake swiss ARmy Knife), with the viewpoint of cutting the map out of a solid block, instead of making blocks in a void. It can do some things WorldCraft can't.

R_speed- redraw or refresh speed. Commonly used for the wpoly count only, as in: "What are your r_speeds?"- although really it also includes many other factors such as: transparencies, epolys & sprites. R_speeds affects lag and fps.

RAD- the final of the four compiling programs, it takes the data from VIS and uses it to sort of ray trace light from sources onto textures, and then it assigns each texture its light value so the game engine does not have to ray trace light while you are playing. RAD requires a lot of RAM (128M+) and a lot of CPU/coprocessor and often a lot of time. Large maps and extra lights types square the time required to run.

render- 1.the game engine putting textures into a game on brushes, or 2.a property of an entity that tells the game engine how to display a entity brush, or 3.the name of a special entity that also tells the game engine how to display an entity brush.

xxxxx.res - a txt file for game servers to guide players' systems with downloading, thru the server, all the correct files for playing a map, without having to FTP from a website/server.

xxxxx.rmf- the "rich map format" for files made in WorldCraft. It demands less precision than .map format for brushes, which can lead to translation errors switching between the 2 formats. This often leads to the "brush out of world" compiling error.

round- in many HL mods, such as CounterStrike or DoD, the battles are broken up whenever a goal is met, and a new battle (round) is played. Sometimes there is a problem with entities that do not automatically reset themselves to the original start condition and have to be manually round reset.

scale- either the face plane of a brush subdivided for lights (compiling "making scales"), or how large the texture is stretched on the face plane (scaling the texture).

skin - the outside covering of a model, sort of like a face & clothes. Many player & other human models have more than one skin that a mapper can choose between. Objects and animals usually have only one skin.

SKIP- a special texture used with HINT texture on a brush, it just tells the compile to ignore that face plane and delete it. SKIP cannot be used with any other texture.

SKY- a special texture used in mapping, if used in the world of a map it is invisible brush, if used on the edge of the world it shows the sky environment TGA pictures. If all sides of a brush have the SKY texture then it gives off light, as the env light entity tells it to. If you do not use zoner's compile tools, then you must by hand put CLIP brushes in front of SKY to stop players from walking out of the world map.

sky environment- a set of six TGA pictures that are shown on the sides, top and bottom of a map thru the SKY texture. Usually the TGA files are found in mod/gfx/env folder. It is considered good manners to thank the author of any sky enviornment you used in your map for the TGAs.

sprite- a 2D picture, still or animated, that always faces a player. Often used for fires, or trees and plants- but it has some weaknesses. For example, if you look down on a sprite from above it still show the same face, so it looks like the tree is lying sideways or the fire is flaming sideways- a bit odd. Sprites cause some loss of fps/lag, but not as badly as wpolys do. SpriteWiz is the main tool for making sprites. It is considered good manners to thank the author of any custom sprite you used in your map for the sprite.

texture- a color picture (256 color, even numbered dimensions) that is rendered on a wpoly face. A stretched texture on a large brush face makes a large wpoly which takes the same amount of engine to render as a small wpoly brush face with small texture. Some textures are special- SKY, HINT, CLIP but also !water, {transparent, +#animated, -#random, scroll and other textures. A texture perpendicular to a face plane makes an error in CSG compile. It can be fixed with the texture adjustment tool. Any paint program can used to make a texture, but only Wally can turn textures into WADs to be used in a map.

texture adjustment tool- a multicolored box on the side of WC, this versatile but complex tool allows single faces to be textured, to change texture orientation and sizes, and to orient textures to face or world, and more.

texture light- a brush with a texture that the lights.rad text file says gives off light. does not have to be an entity. The preferred method of giving light indoors instead of point light entities. All texture lights everywhere of the same texture name have the same light setting, unless they are tied to an entity that has a different setting.

texture lock- a special button on the top WC task bar so that textures do not move as you move a brush, but stay in the same position relative to the brush.

texture tile - if more than one instance of a texture can fit on the face of a brush, then it tiles along the size of the non-stretched texture or the 244 size limit which ever is smaller. If the texture is stretched larger than 244, then the texture tiles according to the larger texture size.

transparency- a special texture or effect of texture that allows a player to see thru some or all of the brush. Transparency rendering on some machines is supposed to take an extra pass or more, multiplying the wpoly effect or r_speeds in that area of the map by 150% or more. example: to make a window, make a brush with a glass textures, tie to a func_breakable, and set properties to texture mode and FX to 90.

trigger- a special brush entity that makes other entities or effects start to happen, or stop happening.

xxxxx.txt- a text file used by most mods to explain the situation setup or "story" of the map you made.

vertex- in WC the corner, or edge, of a brush. This can moved with the vertex manipulation tool, but it can easily go bad- making an illegal brush or causing compile problems.

VIS- the third of the four compiling programs, it takes the .pt2 file from bsp with all the leaf and portal data, and figures out line-of-sight, which leaf portals can see which other leafs. This info is sent to RAD. VIS uses the math coprocessor, but not too much RAM. There is also NETVIS which allows more than one CPU to work on VIS. VIS can be very slow, especially with large and complex maps- time required goes up with the square of the number of leafs. Finally VIS has problems with vertical connections like stairs and mine shafts. Always VIS-full when you can.

visgroups- have nothing to do with VIS, should have been given another name. It is just a grouping in WC .rmf format to allow easier handling of the group while mapping. Visgroups do not exist in .map format.

xxxxx.wad- a special HL file type that holds a series of textures. More than 8 of these in WorldCraft may cause odd things to happen. All wads should be kept in the folder of the mod, example: seirra/halflife/TFC. It is considered good manners to thank the author of any wad you used in your map for the wad.

Wally- a special program used to make textures and put them into WAD files for HL games and mods. Many editions/versions are out on the web, make sure you get the newest.

xxxxx.wav- HL and mods use a special (8 bit, 11025hz, unsigned, mono, with one start que) wav format to bring outside sound files into the map, and play them with an ambient generic entity. The ambient is very particular about spelling and capitalization of the path/name of the wav. Goldwave is an excellent free tool for manipulating wav files.

WordPad- a text editor, it can be used to check out all .map files regardless of size, .log files, and some other text files.

world- term for the area in the map, or for regular brushes vis brush entities. If a brush or entity is out of the world, or partly out of the world it gives an error in compiling. Also in WC there is a switch on the left for returning a brush from an entity "to world", that is regular status.

WorldCraft editor- a map editor, with the viewpoint of making blocks in a void, instead of cutting the map out of a solid block. There are two versions 2.1 and 3.3 which are incompatible with each other. The most common map editor for HL and mods, a version comes on HL CDs. WorldCraft, also know as WC, has its own .rmf format for its maps, and has to translate/export into .map format. WC is not a very reliable program.

Wpoly- a flat polygon shape (like a triangle, square, pentagon, or other) needed to render the world brushes or entity brushes in your map. - all brush faces have wpolys, even brush entities.

World Spawn- an entity or map info about the basic settings and properties of a map, like the name, maximum viewable distance, what will be the sky enviornment, in some mods whether there will be fog, what wads will be needed, and more.

Zoner's Compile tools- a set of the 4 compiling programs that comes with clear error descriptions, clipping of SKY, and numerous other improvements over the old q tools. They may not be faster, but it is better.


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webpage copyright (c) January 2003 Tommy of Escondido