L4D2 Custom Particle Effects Tutorial/sandbox

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Sandbox of article

The scope of this tutorial covers workflow on particle effect authoring that is unique to Left 4 Dead 2 (and possibly similar to future Valve games). Overall, the steps required to create a smooth workflow are easy. Authors are not limited to what is mentioned in this tutorial and are encouraged to create their steps suitable to their unique needs. Information on the actual creation of particle effects can be found at Category:Particle Effects. It is recommended to follow the steps on creating a known working custom particle to limit additional problems if new to the particle editor or troubleshooting a work setup.

Particle systems must be registered in a manifest file. In L4D2, these are:

  • particles\particles_manifest.txt
  • maps\<map name>_manifest.txt (per-map)

(Link to update news from Steam) particles_manifest.txt must be introduced into the game as a simple add-on while the per-map manifest can be introduced externally. It appears that in both cases the custom entries introduced are incorporated with the existing list of particle systems.

The Particle Editor in tools mode is unified work space for particle effect authoring.

Known issues include:

  • Trying to get rid of that Map Unplayable! error while in tools mode.
To do: There is a console command that can disable that error completely, if I can recall correctly. I am having difficulty finding it.
  • Particle effect fails to update in the map while in tools mode.
If a particle effect fails to update despite there being a change in one of the components, a series of console commands can reset the info_particle_system entities that exist in the world: ent_fire info_particle_system stop;wait 120;ent_fire info_particle_system start
  • See also: Particle category, particle lists, l4d2 level creation, mksheet, spritecards, particles_manifest.txt
  • External links: interlopers, tf2wiki


There are two ways listed for the mapname manifest. One says <mapname_manifest.txt> and the other suggests <mapname_particles.txt>. I have found the latter to be the correct choice. However, once you save a pcf file and go back the next day, no new particle systems will render in-game. Only the particle systems initially saved will show up in game, while you will still be able to see the new ones in the particle browser and particle editor. Also note that <mapname_particles.txt> goes in maps/ and not particles/. King Mango