Building Areas Tutorial

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He beginner.png

This beginner tutorial will show you how to create a new area, using the HeroBlade editor.


This tutorial will talk you through how to create a new area, using the HeroBlade client. Elements covered in this tutorial include:

Note: If you have not yet worked through the Getting started with HeroBlade tutorial, you may wish to do that one first.

World architecture

In HeroEngine, the game is composed of a World, which is made up of Areas. An Area contains a variety of graphical elements, which are assigned to "Rooms" which specify which elements can be seen from any particular other room (Room visibility). All of these elements can be chosen and arranged via HeroBlade. HeroEngine is a collaborative editing environment, so just as players can all be in the same area at the same time, so can developers all be working in the same area at the same time.

Exploring areas

First, if you haven't already, it is recommended that you work through the following tutorials:

Visiting other areas

Area Name Location.png
See also: Exploring an area

Before creating your first area, you may wish to explore other areas, such as in the Hero's Journey Reference world, or any others which may have already been created by your team.

When initially exploring, it is best to go to a PLAY instance instead of an EDIT instance (see the next section for more information on these). This is because all PLAY instances are spun up using only a copy of the EDIT instance, so any changes you make to a PLAY instance will not be permanent. This means you can experiment in safety, as none of your changes will be saved.

Play vs. Edit Instances

A very important concept in HeroEngine, is the difference between Play Instances and Edit Instances.

There can be many different copies (instances) of any particular area. All instances are running on the same hardware Area Server. Changes can be made by a game developer in any instance, but the only changes that will be Saved (persisted) are those that are made within an Edit instance.

For any given Area, there can be an unlimited number of Play Instances running at one time, but only one Edit Instance.

Before ever making any change to an Area, it is essential to know which kind of instance that you are in. To do this, you can double-check the informational box with the area name at the bottom right of HeroBlade.

A play instance will have the instance number in parentheses next to it.
An edit instance will say (EDIT) next to it. A small icon of a wrench will be beside it.

The default areas that your world comes with cannot be edited: they are there for your reference only. Selecting edit instances of these areas will do nothing.

Navigating to other Areas

There are two ways to get to other Areas: either using the Area Organizer, or using the /HEGO command.

Using the Organizer Panel

To get to an Area using the Area Organizer:

  1. On the Editors menu, choose "Area Organizer".
  2. In the Area Organizer panel
  3. Expand a folder
  4. Select an Area in the folder
  5. Double-click on the Area.
  6. A pop-up will appear, asking you if you want to go to an EDIT or PLAY instance.
    1. If you intend to change something in the area, go to the EDIT instance.
    2. However in most cases, you will want to go to a PLAY instance. If there is a specific instance you want to go to, you can select it from the dropdown to the right of the PLAY button.
  7. There will be a wait period as the necessary assets are loaded to your system.

Using /HEGO

To get to an Area using the /HEGO command:

  1. In the Chat Panel or your game-specific Chat GUI, type /HEGO <area#> EDIT | NEW | instance#
    1. You will need to know the area ID of the Area you want to go to.
    2. EDIT will take you to the EDIT version of that Area.
    3. NEW will spin up an arbitrary new PLAY version of that Area.
    4. instance# will take you to that instance number if it exists.

For more information about the /HEGO command, type /HEGO HELP in the Chat GUI.

Getting around


After you have sufficiently studied other areas, you should begin to visualize and plan your own area. What is its purpose? What do you want to achieve? What types of terrain will that require? What specific props and assets will be important? These are all things that need to be considered in advance. We recommend sketching your area out before you begin.

Note: If you are just experimenting with HeroEngine, don't worry about designing a complex area, you can just go in to an "empty" area and experiment.

Workstation Setup

See also: Tutorial: Docking HeroBlade panels
A sample setup on a two-monitor workstation, with tools on the left, and viewport on the right.
First, a word about your workstation setup. While HeroBlade is certainly usable with one monitor, we have found that many people are most productive with a two-monitor system for the purpose of editing areas. Though layouts vary -- some prefer their tools on the left, some on their right -- the general consensus is that having two monitors greatly improves workflow.

Creating a New Area

The steps here will be to:


  1. Open HeroBlade
  2. Open the Area Organizer
    1. If you do not see the Area Organizer panel, go up to the Editors dropdown menu.
  3. At the bottom of the panel, select "Create New". This will cause a popup window to appear asking for your New Area Name.
    1. The name may include spaces.
    2. The name must be unique.
  4. Click the OK button
  5. Drag your area to the appropriate folder. For example, if you have a "sandboxes" folder. If not sure, leave it alone.
  6. Double-click on your new area name. You will get a popup. Click the EDIT button, to go to an edit instance.
  7. After a brief delay while your new area loads, you will find yourself standing on a heightmap in an otherwise empty area.

Note: You should always work in the Edit Instance, as changes to the area in a non-edit instance will never be persisted (saved). However, if you are visiting an area to get an idea of its look and feel, you should use a Play instance.

Room Creation

To get started with your area, you'll need at least one room.

  1. Open your Area Panel
    1. If you don't see it, check to make sure it's selected in the Editors menu
  2. Click the "Rooms" tab
  3. Click the "New" button.
  4. Name your room according to your own naming convention
    1. Names may NOT contain spaces
    2. Organizational structure of room names is up to you. One possible name is 001_start
  5. Your room should appear in the list. Select it to work in it.
  6. You are now ready to start populating the room with Assets.

Camera Controls

See also: Full List of Keyboard Shortcuts - We strongly recommend reading this document thoroughly, as it includes special tips and tricks for working with HeroEngine.

There are three basic camera modes to be aware of:

In Game Mode (shortcut: the ` or ~ key, to the left of the number 1), you control your character normally using WASD movement.

  • W is forward
  • A is left (strafe)
  • S is backwards
  • D is right (strafe)

When you first log in with HeroBlade, you should be in Game Mode. If you are not in Game Mode, you can hit the ` (also the ~ tilde key, to the left of the 1) to switch to it, which will drop your character down from your current camera position.

Most of the time you spend creating an area will be spent in Fly Mode (shortcut: CTRL + ~). In addition to the Game Mode's WASD movement, you can also go up and down:

  • R is up
  • F is down

Right-clicking the mouse and moving it around will rotate your camera appropriately. If you prefer your X or Y axis inverted, you can change this option in the Render panel. Note that at this time, these changes do not persist from session to session.

Overhead Mode (shortcut: CTRL-O) is useful when laying Asset terrain and getting a birds-eye view of your area. Movement controls in Overhead Mode are essentially the same as in Fly Mode.

Note: We suggest taking regular strolls through your area in Game Mode to check for problems and to test travel time.


Main page: Heightmap nodes
See also: Terrain Panel

In most cases, areas will begin with a Heightmap node, also known as Terrain. If you do not have a heightmap, then proceed with the following section:


Creating a heightmap

Modifying a heightmap

Main page: Terrain tutorial

There are many powerful options in the Terrain Panel. You should spend some time adjusting the Heightmap to form it into some interesting terrain.

Things to try:

Create a Path

The Paths Panel.
Now that you've got your Room created, you should create an Arrival Path. The first Waypoint of the Arrival Path will be where all characters who arrive in the Area will appear.
A path waypoint

Creating an Arrival Path

  1. Open the Paths Panel via the Panels menu
  2. In the "Paths" section of the panel, click on "Create Arrival"
  3. This will create a Path called Arrival, and a waypoint should appear in the area

You can now position the waypoint using any of the selection tools. You can add more waypoints if you desire, but only the first one will be used by the /go system.

You may notice once the waypoint is unselected that you may not be able to see it. If you need to grab it again, you can do so either using the Paths panel, selecting it from the list, or by changing your Filters so that Paths are visible. See the filters section below for more information.

Placing Assets

The Asset manipulation tools: Translate (XYZ Axis Movement), Rotate, Scale, Dynamic Place, Width/Depth/Height.
Main page: Asset Library

Assets are objects like architecture, boulders, and botany. Assets help to define an area's mood and character, so proper asset placement is particularly important in area building.

Placing Assets can be deceptive in a 3D environment; from one angle you may think that a crate is sitting on the floor, but then you actually move the camera to look at it from the floor, and there's a lot of space in between. Scale and distance can also fool you: an asset may look huge but when it's up against the camera, but drop a character in and perspective can shift dramatically.

The easiest way to place an asset is with the Dynamic Place Tool. The Translate and Rotate Tools can then be used to refine the asset's placement.

The more you place assets, the more you get a feel for proper technique. So let's get started!

Placing Your First Assets

As a general rule of thumb, you want to shape and paint your Heightmaps before you place any Assets, as even a minor change can cause massive upheaval in asset placement. The art of terrain painting is a very large subject that has its own tutorial.

When populating an Area with Assets, you should go from big to little. Start out with the big stuff (terrain blockers, buildings, gateways) and then continue on down to the smaller details: trees, bushes, static vehicles, and then finally smaller props like books, bottles, skulls, bones, chains, spiderwebs, crates, etc.

How to Place an Asset

  1. Open up the Asset Library by clicking on the Library Button (Hotkey: cntrl-L)Library.png
  2. Navigate to a Library that corresponds to the area you're creating.
  3. Pick something you like
  4. From the dropdown menu, you can choose to have the Asset added where your (Fly) Camera is, at the Area's Origin [0,0,0], or on top of a Selected Asset. Since you do not have any Assets in the area to select, it's probably best just to add the Asset at Camera.
  5. To add it, either:
    1. Double-click to add it to your Area; or
    2. Click on the Add button.
    3. This creates an Asset Instance of the Asset you have selected in your Area.
  1. With the Instance you have just created selected, click on the Dynamic Place Tool DynmicPlaceTool.png (Hotkey: 6)
  2. The Instance will now follow your mouse around on the terrain you have created.
  3. Left-clicking on the terrain will place it.

Placing and Snapping

Using the Snap Grid

See also: Snap Snap forces objects to line up on the Area's snap grid. It is useful for dressing sets that use lego-like pieces that must align together.

There is a Snap button in HeroBlade. Clicking the arrow next to it will cause the Snap popup box to appear. It looks like this:


Selection tools

There are several tools for placing objects.

HeroBladeTransformSelect.png Select
Hotkey: 2 (in Fly Camera Mode)
Selects the object, but does not allow movement.
TranslateTool.png Select and Translate
Hotkey: 3 (in Fly Camera Mode)
Selects the object, and allows for movement on the X, Y, and Z axises.
RotateTool.png Select and Rotate
Hotkey: 4 (in Fly Camera Mode)
Selects the object, and allows for rotation on the X, Y, and Z axises.
DynmicPlaceTool.png Dynamic Place
Hotkey: 6 (in Fly Camera Mode)
Selects the object, and follows the mouse.


Adding Sky

Sky is generally added to an area in one of two ways:

Dynamic Sky

There are many other options for dynamic sky including clouds and wind. For more information, see Environment panel.

Adding a Skydome


Main page: Filters menu

Sometimes when you're working in an area, you want to filter out the visibility and selectability of certain objects. Maybe you'd like to only see Terrain. Maybe you only want to be able to select SpeedTrees. This is where Filters come in.

Filters toggle Asset type visibility and selection. In the case of things such as Paths, Waypoints, Lights, Audio and other "intangibles", "visibility" refers to the Asset's visualizer and bounding box.

The Filters list does not save from session to session, so turning visibility of certain items off, will reset back to visible the next time that you login.


Main page: Particle effects

Particles are a dramatic way to add a dynamic element to an area. Particles are used to emulate fire and light, give sparkle to spells, and as on-screen indicators of quest items and clues.

Particles consist of two separate assets: a particle emitter, and the particle that is emitted (which could itself be an emitter). Particles are created primarily by artists, though some GameMasters have expressed talent in particle creation.

If there are any particles associated with the area you are working on, they will be in the library, under a Particle tab.

Create a river

Main page: River tutorial
See also: How to create water

Environment Schemes

Environment Schemes can be found in the Environment panel.

You can apply an Environment Scheme by selecting one and clicking "Apply to Active room" or "Apply to All Visible Rooms'. 'All Visible Rooms' applies the scheme to your Active Room AND all rooms visible to it.

Saved environment schemes are stored in the HE root directory.

Audio Nodes

Similar to other assets, audio nodes are added via the Create menu, by selecting Create Audio -> Load Audio.

Once the audio asset is loaded, it can be placed using the Asset panel.

What next?

There are many other Tutorials to try. Now that you have an Area, how about:

See also

Personal tools