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Designing Caves

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Hi all, For the map i'm currently designing, I am attempting to build a medium sized cave, with two or three rooms. However, I can't seem to make any decent looking caves, they just end up looking like normal rooms. Can anyone possibly give me any tips on how to make caves look unique?

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3 minutes ago, Hopel said:

Thanks for the tips. Seems like I'm making them tool chaotic :)

Welcome Hopel. Always remember that theres a fine line between overdetailing and not much detail.


If the amount of detail you put in hampers the player in any way, its probably a bit too much.

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Change the grid size all the way to 1 mp, or hold down the Shift key and start freely drawing the outline of your caves. This method is useful for making the sectors look less like man-made rooms. Forget the grid and draw using free-style, and connect the sectors as you see fit.


You can also play with the vertices after drawing out a room. Add in a few extra ones, then hold click and drag them to shape out your sectors more appropriately. 

Edited by Rosh Fragger : Press V to toggle vertices mode

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If you're using UDMF, triangular sectors can have their verticies easily dragged up and down to form natural sloped landscapes. 


At the edges of your cave, draw a border sector about 64 units wide, and criss cross it with zig-zag lines, creating a series of triangular sectors. Grab the floor verticies closest to the wall of each and roll them up a few notches, and the ceiling ones down. The map format will automatically slope the sectors to match.


Do that all the way along and voila: natural walls.

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I usually have Oblige generate caves as a first stepping stone, and then convert the maps to UDMF to be able to flesh them out with Vertex Height and various terrain manipulation.

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Another tip: Try to be creative with lighting, especially shadowing. Proper shadowing can make a huge difference. You wouldn't expect to find torches in caves, but in Doom, it's ok. Also, you can leave cracks in the roof, allowing sunlight to come through.

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Here's a little idea, maybe take a look at some basic quake1 style terrain.

While keeping that in mind, try some zterrain in a given sector area.


Unless your plan is to stick with vanilla style editing?

The first few posts has that covered.


I totally agree with the lighting factor as kb1 mentioned.

If you use lighting in really small increments it can make a big difference, without even having any height variations yet'.  




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I second the idea to take a look at natural landforms/cave systems as a source of inspiration, while nature makes a lot of chaos patterns there is always underlying reason for such things... It can be valuable (depending on the time you want to spend) on planning a "back story" to the map, was someone mining in parts of the cave? the workers would need structures and lighting systems. If the cave or parts of it are intended to seem naturally formed, then they would have been made by some water/air/earth process or combination of those. A cave map will possibly look like a river network when you zoom out of it, made by trickling water or lava shaping the land over time.


New sections of cave are small and dense and give opportunity for close combat/tunnels/blind corners, while the central cistern hollow areas are meeting places that could be made into any type of gameplay setting, really. More ancient caves have generally wider tunnels, with the possibility for complete dead-ends from cave-ins or landslides, maybe even the ceiling completely collapsing inwards. 


You can ask questions along the lines of "how linear should the map be?" and that will answer many questions of how to make the map already. A lot of long spidery tunnels? Interworking passages of varying dimensions? Half destroyed awful honeycomb tunnel mess? Do you want the player to have total free movement or is every few steps a challenge to look around for death pits? 


A good cave map will probably have a few of these ideas or some in combination, and caves/hills/mountains are always a good contrast to huge cubic/brutal architecture that is easy to build in Doom/Quake. There was an early Doom map based on Alcatraz that had a really cool cave part, it was an interesting oppsite to the prison interior/island exterior. Hexen also has some of the best caves I've ever seen in a Doom engine game, so you can look there for ideas specific to the game engine as well.




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MAP09 from Hexen (CAVES OF CIRCE) is a pretty good example of a cave map. open it up in the editor and have a look.

Some images of it







I think its a good balance between chaotic and functional. You can still navigate through it, and there are a few landmarks, but it still feels like a claustrophobic natural cave system.

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