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Why do they call 3DSMax and alike "level editor"?

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Hi I am a veteran in 3DSMax but newbie in game development. I had never heard before 3DSMax being referred to as "level editor". Is it true that 3DSMax, Maya, ... are called "level editor" in game industry? So what exactly does level mean here? Is that like a level of game or a level (floor) in a building or... And also is "map editor" sth like photoshop? Thanks in advance.

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People tend to develop their own, custom editors.

You might have heard 3DSMax being called a level editor because someone was using it to model levels (which would be game levels). You can model a building in 3DSMax, hence you can use it as a level editor.

You can use something like Photoshop as a level editor, for some games, particularily terrain based ones - a grayscale image indicates the heights of hills, and a coloured one indicates the positions of objects.

I don't believe this is done in large game projects - most seem to develop custom tools to get the functionality they want. 3DSMax and photoshop tend to be used how you would expect, the former for modelling objects and people, the latter for creating and editing 2D graphics like logos and textures.

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3dsmax and maya can be used to create 3d models in a game and they can also be used to build levels.

usually level editors or world builders are used because they have extra features specific to the game itself.

map editor could mean a level editor or ya photoshop could be called a [texture] map editor

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Thank you guys.
Maybe I have not been able to articulate my question
accurately. (Typically i am not so pedantic but somehow
i have become obssesed with this phrase "level editor"!)

In the context of game develpment I can presume only
two meanings for "level":

1-game level:
In this sense level is a stage of game. Like when
you face three enemy aircrafts in level1 and after
finishing that level you will go to level2 where
you will face 7 aircrafts and so on.
2-geometry level:
In this sense level is a geometry inside some stage
of the game. Like a terrain or a building floor or
any sort of geometry that can be called level.

If "level editor" is referring to the second sense, well
that makes perfect sense. But sth like "3D Modeler" makes
much more sense.

If "level editor" is referring to the first sense, then
it doesnt make any sense at all. Except if you interpret
that as "a tool that creates every geometry in a level(stage)
of a game."

I know what you are thinking now: "What a pontificating
freak!" :) Well i am always a freak but i am being
pontificating only once. :)

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yes, but there are also lot of people tending to use 3DSMax as a customized version, even for their gamespecific functions; 3DSMax is fully customizeable application, you could think of it as a "OS for 3D applications"; in 3DSMax you can change everything you want, except some system specific topics; 3DSMax is build uppon a completely expandable/replaceable plugin architecture, which gives you absolutely a maximum of flexibility. so, it's no problem to write any plugin/extension for 3DSMax you want, and you can place do arbitrary stuff for any game/production you want.

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For many games, the modeler is used not only to create the geometry for the level, but also to place information like triggers, zones, scripts, etc. As you probably already know, and as DJSnow stated, the modelers are very customizable. So rather than creating and supporting a separate application, it can be cheaper and more effective to use the modeler. Now as far as being pedantic, people don't generally say that 3DSMax is a level editor, they say that it is used as a level editor.

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by 'level', it means both the basic geometry of the world (environment, buildings, terrain), character animations and skins, cut-scenes (scens where you are just a spectator and do not interact), and the game features in the world (volume triggers, AI patrol routes, lights, NPCs (non-playable characters), vehicles, ect...). Basically everything that makes the world alive.

That constitutes a level. So, it's a mix between choice 1 and 2.

Max is obviously a geometry and character builder most nad foremost, but through plugins, you can build the game-features on top of it and make it a level editor.

We use two so-called editors. Max3 for artists, who do the geometry-character-cutscene thing, and another one for designers which deals with placing the gameplay features in the level. we refered as the level editor ('Tools' to be exact).

We have a separation because it works like in Doom3, where the editor is part of the game and you can go into the level editor and back into the game with a click of a button. Since what you usually need to tweak is more related to the gameplay than the geometry itself (add pickups, add NPCs, change NPC patrol route, add a light here and there, add an explosion effect on trigger, ect...), it works really well. And there are some basic tools in there as well to tweak parts of the environment, like texture mapping, adding invisible walls and extra polys to fix little bits of the geometry.

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