Apologies for big post.
What does not using them too prolifically mean? Is it something like all solid for cubic brushes and semis for things that make lots of cuts (like arches) or that cut into complex geometry?
I simply mean that you should never use a semi-solid for a job that a solid can do better. And solids are better for most situations. I've seen maps where Semi-solids are overused for general construction, for floors, walls, trims, and supporting structures. Basically, if you open UED and see a world of pink, that's too much. If it comes down to a situation where you are relying on an overabundance of Semis because you want to fit all your ideas into one map and converting most of your basic geometry into solids again will make your map malignant, then your map already has a big problem that semi solids are merely sweeping under the carpet. It's like putting a band aid on a gunshot wound.
What happens to a lot of mappers, even if they have years experience (it has happened to myself too, in my sloppier moments) is that they fall into this trap. The map is pushing the limits of what one .unr can do, and rather than risk deconstructing a map properly (or starting over, as you have to do sometimes if it's just not coming out right) the mapper will simply go on a Semi-Solid spree. The reason they do is because it's possible to get a map to play okay even if the place looks like a mess in UED. There are maps out there in functional SP packs that can be turned into crash frenzies simply by performing another rebuild. The reason they released fine? Well, it's because that last faithful rebuild held together.
The reason I posted is because I've recently been going through all the BFNP content I've accumulated for the project merge to Residual Decay, and one constant I've seen from a lot of the maps are Node counts that are at the brink, and in most of these cases the map in question has excessive Semi-Solid use. That's why I say it is a problem, because it is very frustrating (or can be) to build a .unr backwards from this point if Semi-Solid use has become such a prolific issue and there is a stability problem bugging the map. Yes you can try deleting them all, but that's easy to say and quite another to do. The experience can be daunting; you're deleting half or most of your map's features in the hopes that you can replicate them again later, but depending on how bad the damage is this can be a waste of time. I've abandoned potential SP maps for less aggravation than that.
Proph: Aside from the additional zones bug, which I was already aware of and which is easily detected and fixed, I don't recall anything you told me dissuading me from thinking that semisolids are the way to go.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't use any Semi-Solids
If you've developed a tenacity to use them often with positive results than I'm not suggesting you change your method. It IS possible to make functional maps that are heavy in the pink, as I've said.
I just hope mappers know that pink isn't a quick fix around the node count or other potential issues you might have, so it doesn't pay to use them as a solution...or even as a solution to a roadblock that hasn't presented itself yet.
I would like to thank you all for your generous input on the matter of brushes, but I think I did not explain properly why I was asking about nodes and semisolids. You see, I've been working with UnrealEd for almost 8 years now, and I've pretty much got things covered concerning (semi)solids and the way (not) to use them. If a brush is complex - go with semisolids. Can the player walk on the brush/there is a bunch of brushes together - go with solids, as semis create weird zoning problems, plus you can easily fall through semis if they aren't built correctly. One exception are stairs, which I always make semi-solid for the insane amount of cuts a solid stair makes.
But this was all besides the point.
When I started building this pack, I had two maps in my mind. I've stayed true to my original idea, but I've had to split the first map into two parts because of the insanely high amount of nodes in the level. That was until yesterday, when I hit 68k+ nodes on a quick geometry rebuild (no optimization and no lighting), when I was forced to cut the map into two additional pieces. So, basically, the first map will be divided into three maps. Not because of its size, but because the complexity of the map forced the engine over the edge. On another note, I wish to just add that the map has not one BSP problem or a HOM yet. I really use as clean a geometry as possible. I just do not understand what it is in the level that is bumping the node count so much, as I m building this level as I've always built them, my Zephon work included.
That is the sole reason for my growing interest in nodes and the nature of their creation/impact on maps. That is why I asked for advice, and that is why I would like to learn as much about them as possible
Just to make matters crystal clear on how I am building the level:
- 80% of the geometry is carved out using substracted brushes - I'm avoiding the "substract a cube and than add geometry back in" method. None the less, things need to be added back into the world to make it interesting,
- so the remaining important 15% of the level is solid. This includes brushes that would otherwise create small zones within themselves, were they semi-solid. General rule of thumb I have is "if a brush is simple (e.g. cube-based), make it solid". Same goes for surfaces on which the player can walk,
- next 4% of brushes are semi-solid. They are decorative brushes that are either too complex to be solid (e.g. made with the 2D shape editor - pure decorations), or are better of being semi-solid (again, the case with the stairs),
- the remaining 1% are 4 brushes with 600+ polys each, which are added in the world as movers simply because they do not add to the node count and have nothing to do with the BSP.
Also add a few non-solids in there and that is it (zone portals and a few flame brushes).
I think the main reason problems like Node Count occur is because nobody wants to split a map
A map is an idea before it can be anything, and as often happens you can't do what you want to do in only a single .unr. It happens to you, it happens to me. I don't think this should be a roadblock. Often times, I find I map better when I split a map. In the past, this has led to the creation of "in-between" maps that get added to the overall map count anyway. I mean, look at Xidia. I think we started with an idea for three maps. By the time we were done we had six, and because of that we had maps like the Xidia Mines and Derelict Surface. Levels that were never originally part of the program. With Seven Bullets, map splitting led to the Titan map and a couple of others that weren't originally supposed to be there. Dead Cell started as a single map and is now composed of two main HUBs and a bunch of smaller .unrs. So you really can't plan to make a "two map campaign" or what not.
It's just good to know the direction a map is going when you're halfway through it (or at least 60%). If you get to that point you should have a pretty good idea of how much it will take to do the rest in one map, if
it can be done. You look at your node count. You gauge the frequency of any BSP anomalies you might have. You consider what "big" brushes you'll still need and what prefab duplication you have yet to add (the big 1% you were talking about, since this is the 1% that will always cause the most Node damage). If you can't finish the map with the resources allotted to you after all that foresight, then you find a way to end it, and save any unrealized ideas for the next map. Don't think of it as defeat either, because trust me. It usually allows you to add new ideas into the end of a map, or at the beginning of a new one, that can turn out to be the best thing you do with the whole package.
It's good that you have a checklist. But I'd watch that 1%. If you're not done adding that 1% and you have map problems, experience has always told me (when I've been in that same situation) it ain't gonna happen. On the topic of Semi Solids, it looks like you have a good percentage there. Just know that factoring them in for that 1% isn't a sure bet, since in the end the fact that they may be composed of semi-solids isn't gonna help you if the big boys just carry too much baggage into the nodes.
Some tips I'd suggest;
-If you have a problem with making Solids out of the staircase brush, then don't use the staircase brush to make stairs.
-High brush count does not necessarily = high Node count
-If at all possible, avoid complex brushwork or prefab use for things you can do with simpler geometry for similar results.
-Avoid using movers in place of basic geometric structures as a way to stunt node issues/BSP plight. It's better to fix the map properly, and you aren't doing yourself any lighting favors...since those purple things will never light nearly as good as your additives.
-I strongly recommend considering layout completion before you include that fateful 1% you were mentioning, if you can. It's helpful to do this when you aren't sure about the progression your level is taking and you don't want to risk an unnecessary split.
-There's no such thing as an necessary split. Look at every map split as a pass to expand your work.
/wall of text