Zone Builder tutorial/Getting started
Before you start making your first map, you need to install and set up Zone Builder and get familiar with its interface.
Installation and setup
Download the installer from here and run it. It will automatically install all necessary dependencies. After the installer has finished, open Zone Builder. Before you can start mapping, you need to specify SRB2's IWAD and the executable that is used to run SRB2 when testing your maps. To specify the IWAD, go to Tools → Game Configurations in the menu bar. A window will pop up with a list of configurations. From this list select "Sonic Robo Blast 2 - 2.1", which should have a tick symbol in the box next to it as shown below:
In the Resources tab, click on "Add resource..." and then on the folder symbol in the window that pops up to select the IWAD. Navigate to your SRB2 folder and select
srb2.srb as seen below:
To set the testing executable, go to the Testing tab of the Game Configurations window. There, click on the folder symbol next to the Application box, navigate to your SRB2 folder and select
If you don't know how to make a shortcut on the desktop, then go into the directory you installed Zone Builder in, right-click
Builder.exe and select Send to → Desktop (create shortcut).
Creating a map
To create a new map, select File → New Map in the menu bar or click the button with the blank sheet icon at the top left of the toolbar. A window like this will pop up:
Here you can select the configuration you want to use and the slot that the map will occupy. You can also import additional textures if you want to use them, but for the purpose of this tutorial, you should leave these fields as they are. Make sure "Sonic Robo Blast 2 - 2.1" is selected as the configuration and click OK.
Important map components
Before you can start editing the map you just created, you need to understand the basic structure of SRB2 maps. Maps are made up of five main components: vertices, linedefs, sidedefs, sectors and Things. Look at the triangle in the image to the right. This triangle is a sector. It is made up of vertices (the blue dots in the corners) which are connected by linedefs (the white lines between the blue dots).
- Vertices: A vertex is essentially a point in the map where a linedef ends/begins. Thus, vertices make up the corners of sectors. In our example triangle, they are the blue dots in the corners. Since vertices have no other properties aside from their location, you will rarely need to place them directly; instead you will automatically create them along with the linedefs that you draw. However, you will occasionally need to move vertices around in order to change the shape of an already existing sector.
- Linedefs: Linedefs are the lines that connect the vertices, and therefore the edges of a sector. In our example triangle, these are the white lines surrounding it. In the game, linedefs will form the walls of the level. As you can see in the example triangle, Zone Builder displays a small notch in the middle of each linedef. This notch indicates which direction the linedef is facing. It always extends to the right of the linedef, e.g. if the notch goes north, the linedef is facing west.
- Sidedefs: Each linedef consists of two sidedefs. They are literally the sides of the linedef. The side with the notch is the front sidedef. In the example, the front sidedefs all face inward. The sides without the notch are the back sidedefs, which face outward in this example. Some linedefs, such as the ones that make up the map's outer boundaries, only have a front sidedef; they are called one-sided linedefs. The player should never be able to look at these from behind, or errors will occur. Sidedefs are the map components that display textures, i.e. the graphics that will later be visible on the level's walls.
- Sectors: In our example, the sector is the triangle itself. A sector is formed simply by making a closed loop of linedefs. You can't directly place a sector on the map, instead you must form a closed loop of linedefs around where you want your sector to be. Sectors are the map components that display flats, i.e. the graphics that will later be visible on the level's floors and ceilings.
- Things: These are just what the name says: They are things that you place onto the map, such as a starting point for the player, rings, enemies, monitors, obstacles, scenery objects like flowers, and several others. They are independent from the rest of the map structure, so you can place them anywhere you need them.
Before we start drawing level geometry, we must first take a look at Zone Builder's basic interface. The following is a screenshot of the main window, showing the different parts of the interface:
- Working area: This is where you will create your map. It is overlaid with a grid on which you can draw level geometry. The crosshair indicates the center of the grid.
- Editing modes bar: This bar is where you choose the current editing mode. See below for a list of the most important editing.
- Menu bar: Here you can find menus that give you access to most of Zone Builder's features. To the right of the menus are buttons that give you access to important features for the current editing mode.
- Toolbar: The toolbar includes buttons for the most commonly used features that are independent of the current editing mode.
- Sidebar: This sidebar contains several pop-up panels, including a dialog for undoing/redoing previous actions, a panel where you can set standards drawing settings for the map, a help panel, the tag explorer, and, in some editing modes, panels with additional settings. Hover over one of the tabs to open the corresponding panel.
- Information panel: This panel displays information about the highlighted map component, in this case a linedef. If nothing is highlighted, it displays general information as well as important messages such as warnings or error messages.
- Status bar: The status bar displays status information such as performed actions and information about the current selection. It also displays information about the chosen configuration, the grid size, the zoom level, and the current mouse coordinates. You can click the buttons next to the grid size and the zoom level to open windows where you can change these settings.
This is an overview of the most important editing modes, many of which you will use throughout the tutorial. A few additional editing modes will be introduced later on.
- 1 – Vertices Mode: In this mode, you can place vertices. As explained above, you normally won't place them manually, since vertices are automatically created together with linedefs. However, you can move them around, and insert new vertices into linedefs to split them.
- 2 – Linedefs Mode: This mode is for creating and moving linedefs, as well as editing their properties, which includes the sidedefs. You will use this mode to draw new sectors.
- 3 – Sectors Mode: This mode is for moving sectors around and editing their properties. As explained above, you don't actually use this mode for creating new sectors; that is done by creating a closed loop of linedefs.
- 4 – Things Mode: This mode is for placing and moving Things, as well as editing their properties.
- 5 – Visual Mode: This mode lets you navigate through a 3D preview of your map, which is useful for seeing what your level will look like and finding map errors easily. You can find a more detailed introduction to Visual mode in Chapter 7 of this tutorial.
- 6 – Edit Selection Mode: This mode lets you edit selected map components, for example rotate or resize them. Edit Selection Mode is explained in detail in Chapter 4 of this tutorial.
- 7 – Find and Replace Mode: This mode lets you search for map components and, optionally, replace found elements.
- 8 – Map Analysis Mode: This mode lets you search for errors in your map, such as broken level geometry.
- To select or deselect an object, left-click on it. You don't have to hold Ctrl to select multiple objects; just click on new objects and the old ones will be kept in the selection.
- To quickly select multiple objects, left-click into empty space, hold the mouse button and drag the mouse to draw a box over everything you want to select. This will not deselect any other objects already selected.
- To deselect all selected objects, press C or click into empty space.
- To place a new object, right-click where you want to place it. To edit an existing object, right-click on it.
- When drawing sector geometry, left-click to place a new vertex. Right-click to finish drawing.
- Scroll the mouse wheel to zoom in or zoom out.
- For more controls, select Tools → Preferences in the menu bar and switch to the Controls tab.