Adding More Detail to a map

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Detailed maps

Creating more detailed maps takes more time, but it can really change the appeal of a map. It's a known fact that most MODs take screenshots of their most detailed areas. Players like to see detailed areas or places that look cool or fun to play in. However this doesn't imply that you should make a highly detailed room while the rest of the map is very low-detailed for the sole purpose of taking great looking screenshots. Players would prefer to see many areas that have detail. This tutorial will explain simple things that you can do as a mapper to make rooms, hallways, and various other types of brushwork look much more interesting, as well as making areas look much more realistic.


The player walks into a room where there is a hole in the ceiling. The questions the player might be asking is "Where did that hole come from?" and "Why is there no rubble here?" It might, or might not feel obvious that there should be some rubble on the floor to make it look more realistic to the player. Yet you should always consider doing it for those who really pay attention to the map, and overall that will increase the quality of your map!

When detailing a area, start with the theme, and natural contrasting objects.

  • A dark room with bright windows.
  • An outside area, that as it grows higher, snow becomes more and more visible on the ground and area.

It's quite hard to explain natural contrast, but when mapping, it just seems to make sense, and flow naturally, because you have your eye on the scene, and overall an idea on maybe how to mix things up a bit by adding in more detail. Whatever that detail may be.

Choosing the right details

Overall, detailing isn't just adding props into a map. Instead it can be simple things that not only make the map look better, but also serve a gameplay purpose. There are two types of detail.

Gameplay Types

This overall detail not only effects the map itself in visual appearance, but also in how the map itself plays out. This is even more critical in a multiplayer map, where the player can most likely reach any height in your map, or even travel into places due to the non-linearity of the map.


This type of detail hardly affects anything, and only exists for visual improvement. This type of fine detailing is not needed, but helps increase realism.

Examples of settings and detail


  • Setting: Dark/dimly lit, Wet, Cramped, Concrete & Uninteresting.
  • Details: Grates, Pipes (ceiling, floor, beneath grates, etc.), Water, Drainage pipes & Garbage.


  • Setting: Dark, Gloomy, Alien, Metallic & Hostile.
  • Details: Static gunships, Pods, Combine lighting (bright teal), Tele-screens, Bottomless chasms, Glass floors (unbreakable of course), Combine balls & Other futuristic objects.

Combine-controlled cities

  • Setting: Urban, Run down, Combine, Cobblestone streets & Restrictive.
  • Details: Run down looking buildings, Combine gates, Combine walls, Trash, Burnt-out cars & A citadel in the Skybox.

Forest areas

  • Setting: Large &/Or Small trees (Depending on the look you want), Light Effects pouring through various leaves and other foliage, Bushes, Shrubbery & Displacements. Large areas or sometimes Mountains (in the skybox) to add the effect of the Forest being large in size.
  • Details: Birds, Greenery & Trees.

See also