Editing Tutorials Rant

14th September 2006

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3
I’m Frustrated

“Why?”, I hear you cry. Well, I have wanted to learn to map and create mods for a long time but I finding good resources is proving impossible. “But there are plenty of websites that cover tutorials etc!”. Yes, you are right but it’s not quantity that matters but quality. I’m going to let you see things through my eyes and then you can decide.

The Statement:

The resources that are available are generally poorly written, badly laid-out, ill-conceived and often wrong. I have experience in teaching and know a little about it. The people who write these tutorials are not educators but skilled mappers who think they can teach. Let’s be clear about it, a tutorial is teaching just as much as standing in a classroom is. The skills required to TEACH are completely different from the skills required to DO. I think it’s harder for many reasons not least the fact that you don’t know anything about your students.

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3

The people who are in regular contact with me know that I don’t judge somebody purely on their age. I have an open mind and am prepared to consider most things. However, I doubt that a handful of writers are over the age of 25. Whilst that shouldn’t matter, it does. The social skills among the Internet generation are questionable and the gaming community is no different. IS it too much to ask that the tutorials are spell-checked or prove (sic) read? These kinds of mistakes (And I freely admit that PP probably has lots of these types of errors) signify an underlying issue; a lack of seriousness towards the task. IF you have no idea what I am talking about you are probably one of the people who aren’t interested in other people’s point of view.

What I want

I want somebody or some people to get together and plan a series of tutorials that make no assumptions about the student. Perhaps consider that everybody is a 40 year old, non-techie/non-geek, housewife (no disrespect intended) who doesn’t know her bit from her byte. Each tutorial is part of a planned sequence that balances new terminology with time spent creating. Each tutorial will include estimated time to complete, clear objectives, easy to print format (Preferably in PDF), areas for notes, clear images (Yes, even if it takes longer to load!), larger versions in the appendix (Full A4 size), glossary of terms, expected knowledge level.

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3

I want to be able to start right at the beginning, even if I think I know it, let’s be sure. The first tutorial should not be “Your First Room”, what about covering general topics about 3d space and some general concepts. Not everybody wants to rush into things, some want to do it properly.

Why The Housewife?

If you want to learn to paint, are you expected to know the difference in chemical composition between oil or water colours? NO, of course not but the tutorials I have found make too many assumptions. The least they could do is publish those assumptions. The point I’m trying to make about the paints is that just because we want to create maps doesn’t mean we are geeks already. I am prepared to learn and study everything I need to but in a proper way. If I have to learn the difference between oil and water colours, then fine, but teach me properly.

Prepared to pay?

I made a post on a editing forum about a year ago asking for personal tuition. I was prepared to pay a monthly fee for tutorials, exercises and one-to-one time. A chance for me to ask question and get clarification. Nobody was interested. I was excited by the announcement of a mapping book to follow the release of Half-Life 2, but that never appeared. Unfortunately my personal circumstances mean I am unable to attend a night-school or college (Even if they taught mapping). I have to learn from the Net!

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3
Teaching Adages

I’m tempted to start writing my own tutorials because I doubt I can do any worse than some of the ones I have seen. There’s a phrase that I truly believe, it is: “If you want to learn a subject, teach it!”

Your Comments

Normally I ask something about how I’m eager to hear you thoughts. Well, this time let me tell you if your comment is going to say something like “Your (sic) wrong” then don’t bother because I’m not. This post is my opinion and as such I can’t be wrong! IF somebody would like to point me to some resources that provide my with a clear path from knowing nothing to be proficient then I will happily follow you.


  1. Zakalwe

    Phillip, I hear you. I’m 39, and just started playing with the Hammer editor in Half-Life 2. In all my searching for tutorials, I found 2 great sites. Halfwit-2.com has excellent basic tutorials and sdknuts.com has some slightly more advanced stuff. Both are run by “adults’, but they do assume you’ve opened up Hammer and played around abit. Maybe reading through the Valve developer community’s wiki would be a good start. Go to developer.valvesoftware.com and search for Hammer. They have a few beginning articles as well. The thing is not to get discouraged by the sheer amount of badly-written tutorials out there.

  2. migandi

    i have lots of links some may be dead


    a good article on basic design layout stuff

    also 3dbuzz did some excellent free video tuts, they are always top notch;o)

  3. Thanks for the links guys. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I knew all of them already. Finding tutorials is easy. The problem is finding a series written by the same author who knows how to teach. I want a coherent series, designed from afresh, not individual tus picked almost from random.

    I might sounding over-critical but look at whats available for other types of learning. Look at the amount of tutorials, books, videos and other material for something like MS Office. Sure, it’s a different market but I’m comparing quality and presentation.

  4. Zakalwe

    No problem Phillip. I know what you want since I’d prefer the same thing. But, for what it’s worth, following the “Basic” tutorials over on Halfwit-2 (they are numbered and build upon one another) comes close. At least you’ll know how to do stuff, if not knowing exactly why you’re doing that way.

  5. migandi

    I do know what u mean phillip, I spent four years making “riot in progress” and dont get me wrong I enjoyed it and it kept my brain active, but from time to time I had this feeling when trawling for all the info I needed that it was somehow all some big bloody secret that only valves fave mappers would be allowed to see, and I agree if valve really wanted to support the mapping community a big manual of whats what would be great.
    I just took one look at half-life 2 editing and thought fuck this I have had enough, its all a waste of time anyways cause people invariably slag your work off if its not valve standard.

    thats a good site I will affiliate it if you do that type of thing?

  6. exe3

    i agree with u phillip, I tried to get into mapping but the difficulty in finding some tutorials that werent bloody useless was a nightmare and I just gave up almost as soon as I started, I much prefer the far cry editor and look forward to the crysis editor

  7. To be honest I’ve never seriously considered mapping for anything other than Source. My problem is that I have quite a few stories related to the HL universe that I wan to tell as maps.

    I suppose I might be able to adapt them for other games but as I said I’ve never considered it.

    Are you saying that the resources for farcry are better or just that the editor is much better?

  8. Zakalwe


    It isn’t my site; I’m just a fan of it. I don’t think the admin over there, Frodo, minds though because I’ve seen it linked from other places.

  9. leon/SPY

    when I started mapping about 8 years ago I only had bought my first pc 2 weeks before. so you can understand that I realy didn’t know anything about mapping or computers at all. in the beginning it takes quit some time to learn about 3d, entities, brushes etc. but after a few weeks you start to get the hang of it. I agree that most tuts are writen by people whjo simply can’t teach. even wors, a lot of the tuts are even wrong, and simply don’t work. don’t understand why there still placed on a tuts site, doesn’t someone check them first out or what? when I now want to learn a new editor, then I always start to look first for a video tutorial, (best from how to make your first room with light, enemies, playerstart, etc). when you don’t know how it works it’s so much easier to see it showed in a video as in a txt doc. Foyleman of Modsonline has writen some very clear and easy to follow starters videos. for HL2 I did also find the best tut site sdknuts.com, (they wher then called different; AKG tuts.


  10. leon/SPY

    sorry for my double comment, but I forgot to say this. there are a whole lot of good mapping forums, and a lot of people are willing to realy ehlp you with it. every one is in the beginning a noob, and with the help of some good mapping forums (who can point out to you where the right tuts are) it realy isn’t that difficult anymore to make maps, with any game you want. just search and ask, ask and search and in 2 weeks you have made your own small map, I promise you!!


  11. Phillip, you’re entirely right about this one. And the reason this situation exists is the same one this problem exists in other parts of the computing world as well: the programmers themselves.

    Simply put: programmers are NOT people-persons(!). Their social skills are typically suspect, if not downright stunted; they are so tight-focused on the task at hand (programming), they forget they are making software for people who can barely touch thumb and forefinger together without causing severe brain damage.

    And so, these programmers basically create manuals/tutorials for themselves, or people like themselves, who all carry a basic set of assumptions and a basic level of knowledge about the software and hardware.

    Want better examples of this problem?? Look at Windows, or Linux: neither are really designed to be used by the complete neophyte. They rely on a basic set of assumptions or experiences for the user to even navigate through the Graphical User Interface. And forget advanced functions, becasue the designers buried them in places where one wouldn’t even think to look, without any real indication *why* it belongs there in the first place.

    Another example: BMW’s iDrive. Talk about the most dangerous geek creation on the planet!! Force a driver to use a freaking MOUSE to navigate menus to access critical or necessary functions WHILE DRIVEING!!?!? Absolutely idiotic; and absolutely indicative of how disconnected programmers have become from the reality of the world.

    A friend of mine, who’s a programmer, and I have regular arguments on this issue. Of course, to him I’m wrong, because it’s so obviously EASY!! Of course it’s obvious to him: he’s the PROGRAMMER!!! He MEMORIZED where everything is, and is trained to memorize such stuff automatically. He forgets, tho, that the rest of us mere humans require visual, auditory, and (usually) tactile feedback on the things we do, so we know that an action caused a reaction. Clicking a “button” withoug some sort of feedback as to what that button is doing is the worst kind of failure, in an ergonomic/human factors sort of way.

    What does this all have to do with level programs and tutorials?? Everything: because the writers of the programs have no clue how to interact with mere humans, they cannot, as a rule, figure out how to teach the use of said software to mere humans. Therefore, there are many people who have ideas and the time to implement them (Phillip), but who can’t get them out of their heads because the tools are too esoteric and difficult to make it happen; and those who *can* use them, either cannot or will not teach them.

    Once upon a time, back in the dark ages of computing, BBS’s, and the Internet, you had people who were always willing to help the n00bs; today is a different story, with most experienced users/abusers resorting to flaming and ridicule to drive the n00bs out of . As rosy a picture as Leon paints about asking the experienced ones, the truth is a majority of them can’t be bothered (Leon, not saying this about you: you’re more than helpful on all occasions, the exception that proves the rule).

    Until this shortsightedness in programmers changes, this problem will persist. And until the programmers get it into their heads that they CAN make the computer easier for mere humans to use–including applications, GUIs, and level-design software–this won’t change.

    Back to the point: you may *have* to do exactly as you describe: learn the software, the publish a REAL tutorial, written by a person who CAN teach, and CAN reach mere humans. Written BY a human FOR humans?? Perish the thought!! :-O

    Thanks for letting me rant, folks… this is a pet peeve of mine. I have a mechanical engineering degree, and it chaps my hide when I see fellow engineers create things that completely ignore the user, then they go ballistic when someone points out their designs don’t work for that reason, or they kill people. And computers are no different: in order for PEOPLE to use them, they need to be designed properly.

    Flame on!! 😉

  12. Phew! That told’m buster!

  13. leon/SPY

    i agree with what is writen above, but still can mapping be learner easely.
    simply make use of (mapping)forums, where you can ask. most of the users on these forums had the same problems and are willing (not all, but still a few of them) to help you out with the problems. I realy don’t see the problem that much, that is, when you want to learn mapping only with using tuts, that will cause problems. but like always, with the help of a few friends, you can easely succeed.


  14. I disagree with you Leon and I believe our disagreement comes from our different experiences and perspectives.

    You started with Duke and that maybe had fewer options, although using the editor might still have been different. As you progressed to more complicated editors some things were similar others different. Your improvement and progression was gradual.

    I have an excellent working knowledge of Microsoft Word and learning new word processors is much easier for me because I understand what it can do. I appreciate that when somebody completely new to applications starts it can be very overwhelming.

    Imagine somebody who has no knowledge whatsoever of word processors and has only seen documents but never created them.

    When people, especially marketing people, talk about intuitive I truly believe they have no idea what it is like for newbies. I believe that NOTHING is completely intuitive. it’s all based on our previous experiences. I doubt that most Windows or Apple icons mean anything to somebody who has never seen a computer.

    Working with 3D is even more complicated. I have seen the working space as described as a hollow cube where you add solids, then in the next tutorial it was described and a solid cube where you subtract spaces.

    You must remember I, and quite a few others, are starting with almost no knowledge. Nothing should be expected about our knowledge.

    I do agree that trying to learn how to map only from tutorials would be silly and using for forums is essentially but you need to know what questions to ask before your visit! And let’s be honest a lot of the forums aren’t exactly newbie friendly except maybe SP-Mods.

  15. leon/SPY

    it is indeed true that having worked with other game editors before makes it much easier to learn working with a new one. and that the first time does take quit some time extra, (i still can remember all to well how frustrating it was to learn working with my first editor, the duke building engine). so I agree fully with you Phillip, the first time will take indeed much more effort and time to learn. still, what I have seen around in the mapping community was not so much that people had trouble learning how to make things as ones they knew how to make it, they didn’t know what to do next. I realy believe that being able to map is not so much how to use an editor as what to make with it. the game editor is simply a editor simular as sound, photo or other editors, (although the 3d part of a game editor is indeed something that you just have to learn to understand). so, after people have learned how to use an editor they most of the times don’t know what to do with it, they have a lack of imagination and therefore there are so many ugly maps around.
    but that’s something else. still, the best way to learn a new editor (for me) is watching a video tutorial that most of the times is called My First Room, or something simular as that. to be more precise, the best video tuts that are made about this subject are made by Foyleman, the admin (and owner) of Modsonline.com. he has made a lot of those videotuts for severel editors, and he explains all that has to be known. he describes it all, from start to end. please check for the HL2 Hammer editor this video tut and you will see that it realy isn’t that hard anymore, even when you never have worked before with one;


    (choose First Room video tut!!)


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