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          Geometry Brush Actors

          Guide to using Brushes to create level geometry in Unreal Editor.

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          BSPHouse.png

          This document breaks down the use of Geometry Brushes in level creation.

          Geometry Brushes are not recommended as a final method of level design. It is not required, but can be useful at the early stages of creation.

          Geometry Brushes are the most basic tool for level construction in Unreal. Conceptually, it is best to think of a Geometry Brush as filling in and carving out volumes of space in your level. Previously, Geometry Brushes were used as the primary building block in level design. Now, however, that role has been passed on to Static Meshes, which are far more efficient. However, Geometry Brushes can still be useful in the early stages of a product for rapid prototyping of levels and objects, as well as for level construction by those who do not have access to 3D modeling tools. This document goes over the use of Geometry Brushes and how they can utilized in your levels.

          In general, you can think of Geometry Brushes as a way to create basic shapes for use in your level design process, either as permanent fixtures or as something temporary to test with while your artists finish creating final meshes.

          Uses for Geometry Brushes

          While StaticMeshes are now primarily used to populate levels with geometry, Geometry Brushes still have their place. Here are some of the typical uses of Geometry Brushes:

          Blocking Out Levels

          A standard workflow for developing a level might go something like:

          • Block out and path level

          • Playtest flow and gameplay

          • Modify layout and repeat testing

          • Initial meshing pass

          • Initial lighting pass

          • Playtest for collision and performance issues

          • Polish pass

          ElementalBSP.png

          ElementalComplete.png

          Brush Blocking / Rough-In

          Final level

          The first step is to block out the level to figure out the layout and flow before putting any time into populating the level with Static Meshes and other finished art assets. This is usually done using Geometry Brushes to create a shell for the level and then, through testing and iterating, the final layout is agreed upon. Geometry Brushes are perfect for this aspect of the level design process because it does not require any time or involvement from the art team. The level designer can simply use the tools built into the Unreal Editor to create and modify the Geometry Brushes until they are happy with the layout and the way the level plays.

          As testing finalizes and meshing begins, Geometry Brushes are gradually replaced by Static Meshes. This allows for faster initial iterations, as well as providing a nice reference for the art team to build from.

          Simple Filler Geometry

          Often, when a level designer is creating their level, they will come upon a situation where they need a fairly simple piece of geometry to fill in a gap or space. If no existing Static Mesh will fill the space, instead of tasking the art team create a custom mesh, the designer can simply use Geometry Brushes to fill the space. Even though Static Meshes are better performance-wise, Geometry Brushes can occasionally be used without any serious impact as long as the geometry is simple.

          Creating Brushes

          Create a brush using the Geometry tab in the Modes panel:

          1. Choose the Brush Type (additive or subtractive) using the radio buttons at the bottom of the panel:

            add_subtract.png

          2. Drag and drop one of the primitive types from the list into a Viewport:

            BoxBrush.png

          3. Modify the Brush Settings, use the transform tools, or activate Geometry Editing Mode to reshape and resize the Brush. See Modifying Brushes for more details.

          Brush Primitives

          Primitive

          Description

          BSP_Box.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Box shape that can then be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Box Builder Settings

          X

          Set the size in the X-Axis.

          Y

          Set the size in the Y-Axis.

          Z

          Set the size in the Z-Axis.

          Wall Thickness

          If Hollow is checked, set the thickness of the inner walls of the Brush.

          Hollow

          Check this box to have a hollow space inside the Brush (which is a fast way to make a room), rather than a solid. If checked, enables the Wall Thickness setting.

          Tessellated

          Check this box to tessellate the sides of the box into triangles, rather than remaining as quads.

          BSP_Cone.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Cone shape that can then be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Cone Builder Settings

          Z

          Set the height in the Z-Axis.

          Cap Z

          If Hollow is checked, set the height of the inner cap in the Z-Axis.

          Outer Radius

          Set the radius of the base of the cone.

          Inner Radius

          If Hollow is checked, set the radius of the inner wall of the cone.

          Sides

          Set the number of sides around the shape of the cone.

          Align to Side

          Check this box to align the rotation of a side along the X-Axis. Disable to let one of the angles point down the axis.

          Hollow

          Check this box to have a hollow space inside the Brush (which is a fast way to make a room), rather than a solid. If checked, enables the Inner Radius setting.

          BSP_Cylinder.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Cylinder shape that can then be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Cylinder Builder Settings

          Z

          Set the height in the Z-Axis.

          Outer Radius

          Set the radius of the cylinder.

          Inner Radius

          If Hollow is checked, set the radius of the hollow space inside the cylinder.

          Sides

          Set the number of sides around the shape of the cylinder.

          Align to Side

          Check this box to align the rotation of a side along the X-Axis. Disable to let one of the angles point down the axis.

          Hollow

          Check this box to have a hollow space inside the Brush (which is a fast way to make a room), rather than a solid. If checked, enables the Inner Radius setting.

          BSP_CurvedStair.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Curved Staircase shape, meaning a staircase that bends around at an angle but cannot wrap over itself - for that, you would need a Spiral Staircase. The Curved Staircase extends all the way to the ground. The shape can be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Curved Stair Builder Settings

          Inner Radius

          Set the radius of the inner column around which the steps will wrap.

          Step Height

          Set the height of each stair.

          Step Width

          Set the width of each stair.

          Angle of Curve

          Set the angle of rotation each stair.

          Num Steps

          Set the number of steps in the staircase.

          Add to First Step

          Set additional height to the first step, effectively changing the height of the entire staircase. (Enter a negative value to reduce the height of the first step).

          Counter Clockwise

          Check this box to curve the stairs counterclockwise, rather than clockwise.

          BSP_LinStair.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Linear Staircase shape, meaning a straight staircase that does not bend. The staircase extends all the way to the ground. The shape can then be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Linear Stair Builder Settings

          Step Length

          Set the length of each stair.

          Step Height

          Set the height of each stair.

          Step Width

          Set the width of each stair.

          Num Steps

          Set the number of stairs in the staircase.

          Add to First Step

          Set additional height to the first step, effectively changing the height of the entire staircase. (Enter a negative value to reduce the height of the first step).

          BSP_SpiralStair.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Spiral Staircase shape, meaning a staircase can repeatedly wrap over itself. This staircase does not extend all the way to the ground. The shape can be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Spiral Stair Builder Settings

          Inner Radius

          Set the radius of the inner column around which the steps will wrap.

          Step Width

          Set the width of each stair.

          Step Height

          Set the difference in height of each stair relative to the stair below it.

          Step Thickness

          Set the thickness of the stair.

          Num Steps Per 360

          Set the number of steps required to make one complete revolution.

          Num Steps

          Set the number of steps in the staircase.

          Add to First Step

          Set additional height to the first step, effectively changing the height of the entire staircase. (Enter a negative value to reduce the height of the first step).

          Sloped Ceiling

          Check this box to create a sloped underside for the staircase, rather than tiers.

          Sloped Floor

          Check this box to create a sloped floor, effectively turning it into a spiraling ramp instead of a traditional staircase.

          Counter Clockwise

          Check this box if you want the stairs to curve counterclockwise instead of clockwise.

          BSP_Sphere.png

          Creates a Geometry Brush Actor in a Sphere shape that can then be customized within the Details panel. Options include:

          Sphere Builder Settings

          Radius

          Set the radius of the sphere.

          Tessellation

          Set the number of sides used to make the sphere. Due to the method of tessellation, this is capped at 5.

          Modifying Brushes

          You can modify Brushes using several methods, each of which is suited to particular situations and how you wish to edit the Brush.

          Geometry Editing Mode

          The best way to change the actual shape of a Brush is to use Geometry Editing Mode. This editor mode allows the direct manipulation of the vertices, edges, and faces of the Brush. It is very similar to working in a very simplified 3D modeling application.

          For more information about Geometry Editing Mode and how to use it to modify Brushes, see the Level Editor Modes page.

          Transform Widgets

          It is also possible to modify your Brush using the various editor transform widgets. These allow you to interactively translate, rotate, and scale and are accessible via the widget buttons in the viewport toolbar:

          TransformWidgets.png

          For more information on the Transform widgets and how to use them, please see Transforming Actors .

          Brush Properties

          Existing Brushes can be edited by selecting the Brush and then looking in the Details panel. If you have the entire Brush selected, you will see the Brush Settings category:

          BrushDetails.png

          Brush Types

          The Brush Type dropdown includes the following:

          Brush Type Dropdown

          Additive

          Set the Brush to Additive.

          Subtractive

          Set the Brush to Subtractive.

          There are a variety of different Brush types you may use throughout the level creation process. Each type is particularly suited to specific situations.

          Additive

          Additive Brushes are like solid, filled-in space. This is the type you will use for any Brush geometry you wish to add to the level. A good way to visualize an additive Brush is to imagine the four walls, the floor, and the ceiling of a room. Each of these would be a separate box-like additive brush in your map with their corners matching up to form an exclosed space.

          Subtractive

          A Subtractive Brush is a hollow, carved-out space. This is the type of Brush you would use to remove solid space to create doors, windows, and so on, from previously created additive Brushes. Subtractive space is the only area that players can freely move around in.

          Advanced Properties

          Clicking the Advanced button at the bottom of the Brush Settings exposes the advanced Brush properties:

          BrushDetailsAdvanced.png

          Polygons

          The Polygons dropdown offers the following options:

          PolygonsDropdown.png

          Polygons Dropdown

          Merge

          Merge together any planar faces on a Brush.

          Separate

          Reverse the effects of a merge.

          Solidity

          The Solidity dropdown includes the following:

          Be sure to read the Brush Solidity section for more details.

          SolidityDropdown.png

          Solidity Dropdown

          Solid

          Set the Brush solidity to be solid.

          Semi Solid

          Set the Brush solidity to be semi-solid.

          Non Solid

          Set the Brush solidity to be non-solid.

          Order

          The Order dropdown includes the following:

          Be sure to read the Brush Order section for more details:

          OderDropdown.png

          Order Dropdown

          To First

          Make the selected Brush the first to be calculated.

          To Last

          Make the selected Brush the last to be calculated.

          Align and Static Mesh Buttons

          If you expand the properties under the Brush Settings Category, the following buttons appear:

          Brush Type Dropdown

          Align Brush Vertices

          Snap the Brush's vertices to the grid.

          Create Static Mesh

          Convert the current Brush to a Static Mesh Actor, saved at the location specified.

          Drag Grid

          The drag grid used to snap objects in the world is very important when working with Brushes. If the edges or corners of Brushes are not set on the grid, errors can occur causing rendering artifacts or other problems. You should always make sure the drag grid is enabled when working with Brushes and make sure that you keep the vertices of your Brushes on this grid at all times.

          Brush Order

          The order in which Brushes are placed is extremely important as the addition or subtraction operations are performed according to this order. Placing a subtractive Brush and then an additive Brush will not have the same effect as placing an additive Brush and then a subtractive Brush, even if they are in the exact same locations. If you subtract from empty space and then add on top of that, the subtractive Brush is essentially ignored as you cannot subtract from nothing. However, if you place those same Brushes in the opposite order, you are adding to empty space and then subtracting from the addition carving space out of it.

          Sometimes you may place Brushes out of order or want to add a new Brush that needs to be calculated before an existing Brush. Luckily, the order of Brushes can be modified as you can see in the Brush Properties section.

          Brush Surfaces

          If you select a Brush surface (use Ctrl + Shift + Left Click to select the surface and not the Brush), you will see the following categories in the Details panel:

          BSPSurfaceDetails.png

          Geometry Category

          The Geometry category contains a few tools for helping you manage Material application across Brush surfaces.

          Geometry Category Buttons

          Select

          Helps you select Brush surfaces based on a variety of situations.

          Alignment

          Realigns the texture coordinates for surfaces based on your desired settings. This is useful, for example, when you need a complex arrangement of Brushes along the floor to align and look like a single surface.

          Clean Geometry Materials

          If through any operations your Brush surfaces have lost their Material, this will fix the problem.

          Surface Properties

          The Surface Properties area contains a variety of tools to help you control how textures are placed across your surfaces, as well as lightmap resolution.

          Surface Property Categories

          Pan

          The buttons in this section allow you to pan the texture of the Material either horizontally or vertically by the given number of units.

          Rotate

          Rotates the texture on a Brush surface's Material by the given number of degrees.

          Flip

          Allows you to flip the texture on a Brush surface either horizontally or vertically.

          Scale

          Resizes the texture of a Brush surface by the amount given.

          Lighting

          The Lighting section allows you to change a variety of important light-centric properties for your Brush surfaces.

          Lighting Properties

          Lightmap Resolution

          Essentially allows for adjustment of the shadows across this surface. The lower the number, the tighter the shadows.

          Lightmass Settings

          Use Two Sided Lighting

          If checked, this surface will receive light on both the positve and negative side of each polygon.

          Shadow Indirect Only

          Check this box to allow the surface to create shadows from indirect lighting.

          Use Emissive for Static Lighting

          Check this box to allow emissive color of the surface to influence the lighting of static objects.

          Use Vertex Normal for Hemisphere Gather

          Check this box to use the vertex normal, rather than the default triangle normal that prevents self-shadowing.

          Emissive Boost

          Scales the amount of influence emissive color will have on indirect lighting.

          Diffuse Boost

          Scales the amount of influence diffuse color will have on indirect lighting.

          Fully Occluded Samples Fraction

          Fraction of samples along this surface that must be occluded before it is considered to be occluded from indirect lighting calculations.

          Brush Solidity

          Brushes can be either Solid, Semi-solid, or Non-solid. The solidity of a Brush refers to whether it collides with objects in the world and whether the Brush causes BSP cuts to be created in the surrounding Brushes when building geometry.

          The solidity of Brushes can be changed in the Details panel after the Brush is created:

          BrushSolidity.png

          The three types of solidity are explained below.

          Solid

          Solid Brushes are the default type of Brush. These are what you get when you create a new additive or subtractive Brush. They have the following attributes:

          • Block players and projectiles in the game.

          • Can be additive or subtractive.

          • Create cuts in the surrounding Brushes.

          Semi-Solid

          Semi-solid Brushes are colliding Brushes that can be placed in a level without creating cuts to the surrounding world geometry. These can be used to create things such as pillars and support beams, though such objects should normally be created through the use of Static Meshes. They have the following attributes:

          • Block players and projectiles, just as Solid Brushes do.

          • Can only be additive, never subtractive.

          • Do not create cuts in the surrounding Brushes.

          Non-Solid

          Non-Solid Brushes are non-colliding Brushes that also do not create cuts in the surrounding world geometry. These have the effect of being visible but unable to be interacted with in any way. They have the following attributes:

          • Do not block players or projectiles.

          • Can only be additive, never subtractive.

          • Do not create cuts in the surrounding Brushes.

          Select Skin
          Light
          Dark

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