Severely lacking inspiration


So, over the past year or two I’ve fallen blindly in love with Hammer. It started out in Portal 2, when I wanted to recreate one of my favorite levels from Portal 1 in the newer aesthetic and found the ingame level maker atrociously limiting, and since then I’ve tried branching out to other games, including CS:GO, TF2 and Black Mesa.
But no matter where I go, or how long I think, there’s always one thing stopping me from doing it more:
Inspiration. I’m at a sort of artist’s block, if you will. I’m not exactly a master at Hammer, I’d honestly barely rank myself above a beginner, and I desperately want to learn more and create maps that I feel are worth releasing. But I don’t have anything to make.
I’ve redesigned almost all of Portal’s chambers countless times and even now, with the season incoming, I’m trying my hand at making a Halloween-themed ctf_turbine for TF2. But I don’t have any original ideas to push myself to keep going.

So, now that I’ve shared my life’s story in a short ramble, anyone have any inspiring ideas? Even if it’s something simple (actually I’d prefer simple considering my aforementioned skill-level), I just need an idea, something that hasn’t been done 10,000 times over, that pulls the right lever in my head to get me going, y’know?
Right now my only limitations are assets from the games I own (I wouldn’t mind learning to make those some day either, I already have Blender installed). For reference, I own every Source Engine Half-Life game, every Counter-Strike, TF2, both Portals, and L4D2. Oh and the Steam release of Black Mesa, naturally.
I hope I’m not asking too much.



I’m in exactly the same boat as you. I’m not sure if it’ll help you, but I can say what works for me.

Whenever it hits me, I take a break from all designing, usually a few weeks at least. That time away gives me lots of extra time to just think about ideas, or just go out and have fun. I usually notice ideas accidentally hitting me, whether it be a random thought, or I see a building or room and think, “Whoa, that would look cool in a game” or "That gives me an idea!"Eventually, by the time I get back to Hammer or what-have-you, I’ve ideas flowing, and I’m in such a hurry to get my design fix that stuff just starts falling into place.

Another that also tends to help is looking at a vague or bland architectural base or game level, something to that effect, and just sort of reimagining it. Often times I can somehow think up an entirely original map by just looking at a vague room and getting to work. The hardest part is starting. Once you get going, the ideas tend to flow. This room actually came from looking at a map in Half-Life, with no prior ideas, and you’d never be able to guess which one. Your mileage may vary, but a simple baseline helps tremendously in coming up with a slew of ideas.

A third thing I’d recommend, get a whiteboard! Whenever I have trouble with floor plans, I pull out one of my whiteboards and get to work. It’s such a quick process for me, and changes are so easily made that if something doesn’t work, a quick swipe and you’re ready to give it another shot. They’re also good for “prototyping” some aesthetic concepts if you’re decent with perspective. I suppose an image editing or art program could also be suitable for this, even more flexible, but personally I find whiteboards far faster, more comfortable, and there’s just something about markers smoothly gliding across a canvas. :stuck_out_tongue:

Lastly, once you’ve got something going, start thinking up the area’s history. What’s it doing, what’s it for, why does it exist, etc. Coming up with this stuff gives you some extra story to work off, and that can also help with making up even tiny details.

So yeah, hope that’s at least some help. If not, hopefully someone else has something, maybe both of us can learn a thing or two.



Honestly inspiration is just something that hits you at random, go look at pictures of different shit, watch movies and TV shows, play video games, read books, stuff like that. Often you’ll start getting inspired easily from sources like that.



True. Also, It almost always helps - for me at least - to just talk to somebody in person about it. So if you have a videogame buddy, just go for a walk, watch some halloween films together or go for a hike in the woods at night or something. If you’re trying to create something that is supposed to scare somebody, try to look a t things that scared the shit out of you. Look at the situations and ask yourself: what exactly scared you? Lack of light, lack of knowledge about your surrounding, lack of knowlede about some sound in the dark…anything. And as I said, it helps to discuss things with someone preferably like-minded like you. And then: Note everything. Crypts suggestion to use a whiteboard is great. I myself work in Landscape architecture and i can recommend tracing paper. That way you can overlay you floorplans and just redrawn the parts you’d like to change while keeping your previous versions.
Good luck!



Do something else.

Most of my inspiration for things comes from:
Taking a shower, walking outside, when I’m supposed to sleep, being drunk.

And watch movies. Anytime I watch a sci fi movie - God damn I’m gonna create that shit in hammer.

Then hammer crashes and all my inspiration is turned into rage. Cheers! :slight_smile:



When I’m trying to make something specific, I go and talk over the area with friends in terms of how it works, what goes where, that sort of thing. Usually we come up with a plausible “story” for an area and design its appearance around its function.



Thanks, everyone, for the advice! Unfortunately all of my friends much prefer playing games over designing them, so I don’t have many second opinions, but I’ll keep everything in mind!
Honestly, I’m planning on going on a horror movie marathon when October hits, so maybe I can find some inspiration in some of the classics.
If I were to try to make a playable level in a game, which game might you recommend? I’m personally a bit iffy about CS:GO, because that would require a lot of forethought for balancing the map on each team’s side, and might become a bit creatively limiting.



Even if they’re not quite designers, you could always use their help for some “usability” checks. For instance, you could ask something along the lines of, “as a gamer, what do you personally think this particular spot in the map would be good for?” or even “Here’s an area. Where is the first place you want to explore?” and tweak your designs from there.



Re-design 2fort with pits.

So like instead of water, have a massive canyon and put some pits and stuff inside the buildings. Once you get started it should set your creativity going again and what started as 2fort with pits will eventually become something unrecognizable.



That’s actually an interesting idea, I’ll have to poke around with it sometime.
But for now, I’ve finally found inspiration for at least some time-killing mapping! And I was hoping I can get some advice for a couple Hammer things that I don’t think are worth making a new thread for.

1, Would it be absolutely fine, or inadvisable to mount other Source game content in Black Mesa’s Hammer? Such as Half-Life 2 and its episodes, through the “Game Configurations” tab in the options?
And 2, does anyone know what the “ideal” light_environment settings are for Black Mesa’s skyboxes? I’m terrible with natural lighting.


  1. I think it would work, but that also sounds like a great way to invite compatibility and asset confusion down the road.

  2. Well, you could always look at maps in the mapsrc folder, I don’t think the devs would mind for lighting…



Also, HL2 content is mounted by default, because it’s stock Source content. Episodic content would require that users own the episodes as well.

There’s actually a light_environment zoo VMF included with BM that demonstrates all of the values the team uses in their maps.



Didn’t know that, thanks!
Also, the content I really need for what I’m making right now is from Episode 2, the trees from the forest. But for some reason I can’t get Ep2 content in. I’ve only got original Half-Life 2 content. And yes, I do own both episodes.
I’d like to mount the whole game for extra content, but I guess if worse comes to worst I’ll just port the content over the old-fashioned way… Copy/paste.



I have a very hard time committing to my projects. I recently built a website, began designing a video game in Unity with C#, wrote the first 50 pages of a book, and started a Twitch stream (which I swore to myself I’d do 3 times a week!) Out of those, the website is the only thing I’ve actually completed–the video game prototype stopped a few months ago after I barely made my way through coding the cannon physics and magic system (as the developers here know, it’s no easy feat making a video game), the book is on a slow burn of about 1 page a week, and the Twitch stream is still too new to make bets on. Needless to say, I often find reasons to put things off, and it’s only at 3AM when I have work early the next morning that I actually find inspiration. Sometimes it comes to me when I’m standing behind the grill at my second job, at which point all I want to do is fake sick and go home. I believe that inspiration comes in flashes to most people–it’s just a matter of whether or not we kindle those flashes into something greater.

With that said, I simply suggest going about your life. Do your thing, and if you’re as creative as you seem to be, the inspiration will come to you in time.

EDIT: And another thing. If you want a fun engine to play around in that might spawn some inspiration, check out the free version of Unity. It does require coding (C#, JavaScript or Boo), but the physics are built in and you can spawn objects to play around with. It has a built-in terrain editor and texture painter, plus a myriad of other cool features.



I just started working on my Black mesa project again after a break from it for a month or two.
Feels great.