Welcome to The Basics. This section is intended for those of you who have little or no experience with the Duke Nukem 3D map editor. I have done my best to ensure that this section of the guide assumes no prior mapping knowledge on your part. If you are the technically-minded type who prefers to learn from raw information, I strongly recommend using the "References" section in combination with this section to really learn the subtleties of the map editor.
Well, if you're reading this, it must mean you're interested in learning how to build levels (henceforth referred to as "maps") for Duke Nukem 3D. When you first attempt to use this map editor, it may seem overwhelming. But, you will soon realize that it is simply a matter of absorbing a list of keypresses and their respective functions. Once the keypresses become second nature, the remainder of the work relies on your creativity and dedication.
I first learned how to build maps by reading FAQs and experimenting. The FAQs were written entirely in raw text, which was unfortunate because mapping is primarily a visual activity. This often made it difficult to understand what the authors were trying to explain, especially when it involved the archaic method of drawing 'pictures' using a mess of characters and symbols. It also seemed that every single document written about this map editor was absolutely filled with mistakes, and not just spelling or grammatical errors (which were expected), but technical misinformation well beyond what I considered to be an acceptable level of error. In hindsight, this has become more understandable; This game engine is ludicrously subtle and inconsistent. After over a decade of refinement, my own guide undoubtedly has a few errors still hiding within it.
Anyway, some years later, tutorials with images were finally making their way around the internet. However, after browsing through them, I was dismayed to find that they were not only incomplete, but still suffered from the same abundance of mistakes. The inclusion of images was a definite improvement, but I could not shake the feeling of disappointment. It seemed as though nobody was interested in writing a comprehensive guide for this map editor. As time went on, I became more and more discontented with the lack of proper documentation. I realized that the game was aging, and there would never be a mapping guide that was up to my standards. Finally, on April 12th, 2003, I started to document mapping information myself in HTML format. For years, this guide served as my own personal quick-reference. It has grown to be enormous since then, and I'm still occasionally expanding and refining it. It eventually saw public release on March 27th, 2008.
The original DOS incarnation of the game has been dead for quite some time. Currently, EDuke32 is the most utilised form of the original game. Installing EDuke32 is as simple as dropping the
DUKE3D.GRP file (which comes with the official game) into a new directory, then extracting the contents of the latest version of EDuke32 into the same directory. This guide is focused on learning how to use the map editor, post-installation, so I won't be elaborating any further than that.
The original map editor that came with the game was entitled "Build", and it was run in a DOS environment. Build has long been superseded by Mapster32, which is the companion map editor to EDuke32. However, to this day I continue to use images taken from Build. I stick to this format partially for nostalgia's sake, but primarily because Mapster32 is still under active development. While I do attempt to incorporate a fair amount of information from these modernized programs, it has never been my intention to document them; It would be a nightmare to try, as literally every sentence I write could become obsolete the next day. Therefore, my focus remains on Build. There are some major differences between Build and Mapster32. One of the most immediately noticeable differences is that many of the colours originally used in Build have changed in Mapster32. These various differences will account for any inconsistencies you may notice between the screenshots in my guide, and the map editor you are running.
Every form of the Duke Nukem 3D map editor outputs maps with the file extension [
.MAP]. It is best practice to limit your map names to eight letters. This is somewhat enforced, because maps with longer filenames are abbreviated (in DOS), and figuring out which file is which gets pretty tedious. In a roundabout way, this is actually a plus; One of the more satisfying prospects of a map is coming up with a cool eight-letter name that succinctly encapsulates the theme. Anyway, this preface is beginning to get too wordy, so it's time to get going with these tutorials. Remember to test out all of the keypresses as you read through them. You'll gain a much clearer understanding of what the keys actually do if you put them to action, rather than just trying to memorize them.
Mapster32 will prompt you to choose a rendering mode before you start. To avoid issues, you should be using the 8-bit classic renderer during these tutorials (not the 16/32-bit fancy stuff), and the 2D/3D video modes should both be set to the same resolution (of your choice). Whether you prefer to use 'windowed' or 'fullscreen' mode is up to you, but be warned that 'windowed' mode has a tendency to lose program focus occasionally (causing the last key you pressed to "stick" until it is pressed again). However, 'fullscreen' mode is less convenient when trying to flip between this guide and the map editor often. Both modes have their quirks, so it's really up to you. I generally use the 'windowed' mode.
There are 3 fundamental types of objects in a map: Sectors, Walls, and Sprites. Each of them will be explained throughout the following sections: