Learning Unreal Engine 3 – UE3 Editor

Editor Basics Topic 1 – Basic Navigation

The best way to learn UnrealEd (and most tools in general) is to dig in and see how other people have used it – so we’ll start by loading one of Epic’s maps.


Note: The file paths listed here are for Windows XP – I’m told things are a little different in Vista, but I don’t have it, so I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist.  You can find documentation on that elsewhere.

1) Load the Editor

Start->Programs->Unreal Tournament 3->Unreal Tournament 3 Editor


Yay, the editor loads!  You’ll notice two windows – the Generic Browser, and the main editor window with four quadrants.  Close the “Generic” window for now, we’ll get back to that later.  What’s left is the main editor window.  This is where we assemble our maps. 



2) Load a Map

So let’s load one of the Unreal Tournament maps.  Go to File-Open, browse to C:\Program Files\Unreal Tournament 3\UTGame\CookedPC\Maps, and open one of the map files, say, DM-HeatRay.ut3.

(Note: lots of other maps can be found in C:\Program Files\Unreal Tournament 3\UTGame\CookedPC\Private\Maps)


You should see something that looks like this.


In the bottom-left is the 3D Perspective viewport, and the other three views are Top, Front, and Side orthographic views. 


You can change rendering modes of the viewports by clicking these buttons.  (Mouse-over them for tooltips on what they do.)  You’ll normally work in Unlit mode in the Perspective viewport, since it’s fastest, but Lit mode is important too.  Wireframe is usually best for the orthographic viewports.  Other view modes are useful for performance testing and polish, so obviously you won’t need those now.


Also, you can change the view that appears in each window – Perspective, Top, Front, Side.

3) Learn to Navigate

Navigation is all controlled through the mouse, and it’s different in the ortho vs perspective views.



Left mouse button scrolls around.

Scroll wheel zooms in and out

Holding both left and right mouse buttons zooms in an out too, and it’s a little easier to use.



Left mouse button is “walk” mode – it lets you move forward and backward, and look left and right, but the camera always stays at the same height no matter where you’re looking.  Great for flying through a game level!

Right mouse button is “look” mode – it just swivels around the current position without moving.

Holding both mouse buttons is “strafe” mode – this is the best way to move up and down, and also side to side.

Scroll wheel zooms forward and backward  – but I never really use it!

4) Selecting, Moving, Rotating, and Scaling objects

For now we’ll be working purely in the Perspective view, so let’s maximize it.  Click the Maximize Viewport icon above the perspective window.


Clicking on stuff selects it just like you’d expect.  Try to find a rubble pile and select it.  They’re all over, it shouldn’t be too tough to find one.

Notice the three arrows that appear in the middle.  That’s the move tool.  Click and drag on one of the arrows, and you’ll see the rubble pile move around.  Neat! 


You can also rotate the object and scale it by changing between transform modes.  Click on the icon like I’ve circled below, or press space bar to cycle between modes.  Try it out!  Also see that drop-down box labeled “World”?  You can change it to “Local”, which means the object will move around its local axis instead of the world.  Again, just try it, you’ll understand if you play with it.


You can make a new rubble mound by copying and pasting it (ctrl-c ctrl-v), or by alt-dragging on one of the move tool handles.  Give it a try – look, I made a whole bunch!


Some other useful stuff –

Pressing the “Home” key will center all of your viewports around the selected object

If your object is floating, pressing the “End” key will drop it to the ground.

5) Other stuff in the world

So aside from props, there are lots of other icons floating around – light bulbs, apples, joysticks, etc.  These represent game objects – things that don’t appear directly, but that are necessary for gameplay.  Briefly, light bulbs represent lights (duh), apples represent path markers that bots use to navigate, and joysticks represent player starting positions. There are some other icon types too – if you’re curious what something is, select it, and its name will appear at the bottom of the window.  You can see here I selected a point light.  In the screenshot above, as you already know, we’ve got a StaticMeshActor.

Oh, and some terminology – “Actor” refers to anything you can place in the game world. 


Now, it’s sometimes useful to show and hide different types of objects in the world.  The little black arrow opens a list of what’s currently visible.  Try clicking on “Static Meshes” (or pressing the shortcut key, “w”.) 


The world goes from this…


To this…


Note that the world isn’t completely empty.  There are a lot of big chunky surfaces still floating around, making up a lot of the floors and some of the walls.  This is BSP geometry.  We’ve got a whole chapter on BSP coming up, but generally speaking, it’s geometry that’s modeled inside unreal.  It’s expensive, and the tools are kind of clunky, so you’re better off using static meshes for lots of the detail.  But it’s great for prototyping the layout of a level when you first begin working on it, and it’s still pretty useful for some simple stuff in the final level (as we can see above.)


If I turn off BSP (press Q), we see there’s still geo left!  There are some trees, which are SpeedTree actors, and some ground, which is Terrain.  More detail on all that later.


Be sure to turn StaticMeshes and BSP back on and let’s continue!

6) Snapping and the Grid

You may have noticed that when you move, rotate, and scale, the object tends to jump around a little – the movement isn’t totally smooth.  That’s because Unreal is trying to keep the object on the grid.  This is a good thing!  Hit that “Maximize Viewport” icon again to get our orthographic views back and let’s look at what that means.



Unreal uses a power-of-two grid.  That means that gridline spacing can be set to 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, or 1024.  What do those numbers have in common?  Each one is twice is big as the previous one. 


What’s cool about it?  Lots of props in Unreal are built to one of those sizes.  Say a railing is 256 units long, and you set your grid to snap to 256 units.  That makes it really easy to clone a whole bunch of railing segments and get them to all line up perfectly.  So yes, you may feel like you’ve got more fine control if you turn the grid off, but ultimately it’s a lot easier to build with the grid on, and set as large as you can mange.


Grid settings are in the bottom-right corner, and you can also change the grid size using the bracket [ ] keys.  You can also change snap settings for rotating and scaling – and again, it’s easier to get everything to line up if you leave snapping on.


Next: The Generic Browser

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