UnrealEd

From Academic Kids

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UnrealEd.jpg
UnrealEd 3.0 viewing the Unreal Tournament 2004 map "Facing Worlds 3".

UnrealEd (UEd for short) is the easy to use level design software used to create levels for Unreal, and other games in the Unreal series, although it has changed along with the engine for later games. One of the first companies to do this first person shooters, all Unreal games on the PC had the level editor included for free, and some third party Unreal Engine games did the same with an edited and specialized version. This helped prolonging the longevity of the games. Amateur level designers, also called mappers, could now create their own levels for the game, providing a near endless amount of additional content for the game. In addition, the built-in scripting language called UnrealScript allowed for editors to customize game content.

UnrealEd has a customizable interface, but the most common is the quad viewports with the top view in the top left, then, moving clockwise, the front view, the side view, and the perspective view. It has a row of buttons along the top pertaining to various options such as save, open, and rebuild, and a series of buttons to the left of the viewports which access editing functions.

Versions

With the various Unreal games, UnrealEd itself has seen many different versions. Unreal shipped with UnrealEd 1.0, which displayed most of the editing tools on a single large left bar adjacent to the four viewports. This version was extremely buggy, particularly while rebuilding maps.

The release of Unreal_Tournament saw an update to UnrealEd 2.0. The editor underwent a major visual change from the previously colourful buttons to a more subdued green scheme. The editor also underwent a significant stability upgrade, and though the editor still had its share of strange crashes, it wasn't nearly as particular as UEd 1.0.

Bundled with Unreal_Tournament_2003 was UnrealEd 3.0, which further increased stability. It maintained the green colours, and looks virtually identical to UEd 2.0. The editor added a static mesh browser to support static meshes (known as "hardware brushes" during development), and combined the various browsers into a single browser with tabs to switch between textures, meshes, actors, etc. This is the current version of UnrealEd.

Basic Premise

UnrealEd operates on the concept of brushes. Brushes are primitive shapes, such as cubes, spheres, cones, and more specialized shapes like staircases. UnrealEd treats the world as a giant mass. In order to create space, these brushes are subtracted from the mass, thereby hollowing out space to walk in. Conversely, the addition of mass creates solid space within the hollowed space. A level is built with a mixture of subtracted and added brushes. When a level is compiled, the editor goes and creates polygons to fit these brushes, cutting and intersecting faces where appropriate. Unfortunately, this was prone to inaccuracy - especially when levels became particularly complicated. This is partially why UnrealEd3, which was bundled in varying capacities with Unreal Tournament 2003, 2004, and Unreal 2, strongly advanced the use of static meshes. Static meshes are prerendered geometry, often created in software such as Alias/Wavefront Maya, that can be positioned and used in levels. Although the foundation was still based on brushes, static meshes were used to create complex, intricate architecture that brushes were too coarse to emulate. Because static meshes are loaded into memory only once, even if used multiple times with multiple sizes, they are a more efficient wat of using computer resources. Along with the fact they can be considered as prefabs, Unreal Tournament 2007 will feature static meshes almost exclusively.

Unique to UnrealEd is a comprehensive real-time preview window that essentially runs Unreal in the background. This allows the designer to see lighting, particle effects, light coronas, and more in real-time.

Learning the Ed

You can learn to use UnrealEd by reading online tutorials. For more information on mapping for Unreal, have a look at these links.

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