This series of guides will cover the creation of custom levels, including modeling, lighting, adding weather and sounds, and populating them with decorative objects like scenery. Once a level is completed, it can serve as the stage for a custom singleplayer mission or multiplayer map.

Some of these pages are intended for Blender users so 3ds Max users may want to refer to the classic HEK tutorial. Others pages are applicable regardless of the 3D software being used. These guides are also applicable to both the HEK and H1A MCC tools.

Overview

Creating a custom Halo level is an iterative process; you shouldn't try modeling a map to completion and only then trying to get it ingame. It's best to set up the workflow first, familiarize yourself with the tools and steps needed, and understand the engine's rules. Making repeated small changes to the level and testing them ingame will help you avoid getting overwhelmed by BSP issues, refine the layout and size of the level, experiment with lighting, and make any other changes early while it's still easy to do so.

The process of building a level. Your level may not require custom textures/shaders.

The above workflow may be part of a broader goal, such as creating a singleplayer mission, but we'll not cover that in this section. The main point is that you'll be repeating parts of this workflow many times as the level evolves towards completion. Sometimes you need to go back and remodel, adjust a shader then relight, or move objects after playtesting.

Given the iterative process, you should avoid polishing too much until you're confident that the level won't change drastically. For example, placing detail_object_collection, running lightmaps at final quality, or modeling certain areas in high detail should be done later in case you need to change the level's layout.

The guides in this section will be organized according to this process -- first we'll learn how to get a simple box map ingame, then further guides will expand on specific features you might want.

Guides

GuideSkillDescription
My first box levelBeginnerIntroduces the basic end-to-end workflow of creating a custom level, including how to set up the needed folder structures, modeling a box level in Blender, exporting it using the Halo Asset Blender Development Toolset, then getting it in-game. You can use the output of this guide for other guides.
BSP troubleshootingIntermediateHow to avoid and resolve some common and not-so-common errors you might encounter when importing a level BSP.
Advanced levelsIntermediate to AdvancedCovers numerous other features you might want in your level, such as sculpting terrain, adding bases, streams, and more.
Additional InfoAdvancedCovers some other advanced features you may not need for your level.

External tutorials

Name

Description

Author(s)

Last updated

Links

Weather poly tutorial

This tutorial will help you make weather polyhedra for your map.

Dsalimander

2018

Mediafire

Setting up OpenSauce 4.0 directional lightmaps (DLMs)

An extensive explanation on how to set up directional lightmaps/radiosity normals in Halo CE to give your levels more visual depth. This is an advanced topic.

The OpenSauce team

2015

OpenSauce Bitbucket Wiki (archive.org)

Custom lighting in 3ds Max using Aether (video version)

A slightly less detailed version than the written tutorial, but is defenitly helpful for the people who are better at listening and watching than reading. This is an advanced topic.

MattDratt

2014

YouTube

Saving space by making portals fully coplanar

How to stay under the BSP portal limit by optimizing the amount of data Halo needs to store them.

MosesofEgypt

2014

Imgur

Intro to water

Explains how to make a water plane. Note that "water" is a shader from b30, but you can make your own water material.

Wildrender

2013

Youtube

Phantom BSP tutorial

A simple tutorial to help you fix invisible walls that only block bullets and vehicles in your maps.

Siliconmaster

2010

YouTube, YouTube

Terrain modeling tutorial

An in-depth look at how Higuy (a Lumoria dev) models his outdoor terrain, using 3ds Max.

Higuy

2010

YouTube, Vimeo

Detail objects tutorial

A tutorial on how to make and place detail objects like little grasses and tiny rocks.

ZexGX

2007

halonet.net

Complete mapping tutorial

An old, but still relevant beginners tutorial on making a map from start to finish for CE.

LlamaJuice

2007

  • Part 1 Setting up the enviroment: YouTube
  • Part 2 Modeling (1/3): YouTube
  • Part 2 Modeling (2/3): YouTube
  • Part 2 Modeling (3/3): YouTube
  • Part 3 Texturing (1/3): YouTube
  • Part 3 Texturing (2/3): YouTube
  • Part 3 Texturing (3/3): YouTube
  • Part 4 Sapien, Tool, Guerilla (1/3): YouTube
  • Part 4 Sapien, Tool, Guerilla (2/3): YouTube
  • Part 4 Sapien, Tool, Guerilla (3/3): YouTube

Halo Editing Kit official tutorial

The official tutorial that comes with your HEK install.

Gearbox

2004

halomaps.org, halonet.net, haloce.org, nikon.bungie.org

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following individuals for their research or contributions to this topic:

  • General_101 (Writing this page.)