7 Surprising Kick-Ass Things You Can Do with Google Sketchup

Make a Left 4 Dead Level!

For a lot of computer users, their first experience with 3D modeling was in building levels for one of the classic 3D shooters, like Quake. In terms of sheer fun value and sense of accomplishment, it’s hard to do better than getting to run around and gun down your friends in your newly created model. While Sketchup was not originally meant for making game levels, Google’s been making efforts to move in the direction, starting with a plugin that allows you to use Sketchup to make levels for Hammer—the level editor that powers Source engine games like Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress.

Making a Left 4 Dead level in Sketchup is a pretty simple affair with the Hammer Sketchup plugin. First, install the plugin by downloading the Left 4 Dead Authoring tools in Steam (requires a purchased copy of Left 4 Dead) and finding the plugin in \Steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead\sdk_tools\plugins . Extract all files in the plugins folder to Sketchup’s plugin directory. Once you’ve done that, two new items will be in the “Plugins” menu next time you start: Export SMD and Export VMF.

By allowing you to export as VMF, the Hammer plugin lets you to save your Sketchup models in a format that the Left 4 Dead version of the Hammer level editor understands. This means you can use Sketchup to quickly model props for Left 4 Dead models, or even entire level geometries, then use the Hammer editor to add the finishing touches, like scripting and AI pathing.

A word of warning: the Hammer editor is finicky, and this affects how you have to model in Sketchup. The primary concern is that Hammer requires that all brushes(objects to be placed in the level) have a convex topography, which is means no straight line can intersect a brush at more than two points. This means that any components you wish to use must be composed of simple, convex blocks, which themselves have to be made into components (by selecting them and pressing G in Sketchup). This can be a tricky process, so if you want to learn more, check out this link and keep your eyes on MaximumPC.com—we plan to offer a more detailed guide to Sketchup and Hammer in the future.