Any tips for 3D "mario" style level/landscape creation?

Hi all,

I posted this yesteday, but was lost in the forum downtime+data loss situation, so I shall post again! :slight_smile:

I am a beginner to UE4, although not a complete beginner to programming and games development in general. I have spent the last couple of weeks watching all the official tutorial videos on youtube, and reading through the documentation, but the time has come where I want to get my hands dirty and actually attempt to make something cool.

So, I thought I would start by attempting to create some “Mario” inspired landscapes, the kind of thing I am talking about demonstrated well in the picture below:

Eg. so imagine fairly simple geometry, lots of rolling hills, bright cartoon shading + textures etc.

I suppose I am really looking for some pointers, so that I do not head off in completely the wrong direction. In my head, I have the following type of workfllow planned:

  • model individual “parts” of landscape in 3d modelling software, including: add materials and textures + define uv’s etc
  • import meshes + materials into UE4 as fbx files
  • then literally drag and drop inside UE4 editor to combine/mix and match all the various meshes to form a complete level landscape

Would I be better off using the inbuilt UE4 terrain tools for any of this? They didn’t really seem suited to this type of “Mario” inspired level design (ie. they seems more appropriate for large, realistic open world landscapes instead, which is not what I am aiming for…).

Anyway, any tips or advice much appreciated.


I believe there is no connection between landscape tool and level design like this.
I see a lot of different blocks, nothing more.
Maybe you can use landscape as a canvas for placing meshes, but definetely not like casual landscape

If you take a look at that Mario picture you can see that the whole world is basically built from basic shapes. You can simply use the stock brushes/static meshes that comes with the engine and place them around with the correct materials and you should be able to create a level like that in a fairly short time. The stylized example game/matinee is a nice example how to create a tad more up to date mario/cartoon world.

Thanks guys.

So if I do go down the modular approach, of mixing and matching various meshes to create the level, am I currently going to hit this problem with baked lighting/Lightmass, whereby it does not render the same lighting on adjacent meshes, despite them being identical?

If so, what are my options?

Thanks again!

It’s far from as bad as in UE3. Most of the time it will be fine. You might want to tweak the default lightmass settings some to get noisier maps but with less seams.

You can test it using the basic static meshes in the ue examples to see what kind of artifacts you get. Just stack a bunch of boxes and that should be the worst case scenario.

Also if you run into issues on a specific place in a level you can merge those two in your modeling software and use the bigger pieces for that specific case.

edit: Depending on the art style you may be able to skip lightmass and do dynamic only lighting.

As a beginner myself, I’d recommend building the level geometry with bsp brushes, and import fbx meshes for the bricks/trees and anything you want to be interactive/destructable. I wouldn’t use the landscape tool, but the foliage tool could come in handy for flowers etc.
Don’t forget the post-production volumes, I think depth-of-field etc. are pretty important in getting the right ‘mario’ look.

Those look like texturizate square pieces of the same size, do it on Maya-Max-Etc-3dProgram. Plants and trees look like a props that you can put on any place.

I can be wrong, but i think that it is a good option.


Is there a technique to working with the BSP brushes in UE4, to allow more control over the final geometry? Eg, having rounded or bevelled edges on cubes, etc. If not, presumably I am back to modelling in separate application and importing as meshes.

Remember that Super Mario 64 and Sunshine did not follow the same style as more recent Super Mario games like the one above in Super Mario 3D World. If you went in that direction you could use landscaping if you wanted to. From all the Super Mario games I’ve played, the things that I feel are the most important, are the simplistic look and colorful palate. The game landscape doesn’t have to be cube-like, such as the latest games in the franchise, but as long as you keep simple shapes, bright primary colors and large objects that are easily recognizable, I think you can achieve that appearance. Super Mario games use a lot of contrasting colors too, so objects stand out from one another. Most colors in a Mario game are primary, bright, and bold. Pastels or bold colors are used for theming, but never together. Either a level composed of pastels or vibrant colors. Make sure you use consistency too so themes such as a ice or desert don’t have millions of different colors, but a collection of a few color selections. There are no sharp edges on objects either. Everything, though simple in design, is very smooth. A cube will for example will have very smooth edges and corners. Textures are done in distinguishing patterns too. Such as the dirt that have striations across them in various similar colors. Objects need to be recognized and noticeable. Objects that serve a purpose should stand out. You should easily understand a function of a particular object by simply glancing at it. For example, a giant wooden rolling cylinder that rolls as the plays tries to walk across it should appear to look it would spin if you walked across it. A player should have a general idea of what it would do based on it’s appearance. Also, objects should be strikingly different too. A player can immediately distinguish one enemy or item from another. Nothing should be too similar so that the player when far way wonders what enemy or item they are approaching. Also, if this is done for a mobile market, scratch the detail, and keep things large. Moving objects should be noticed as moving objects, and foreground should stand out from the background. Rendering detail on a small screen is lost in a game style like this. Anyway, hope some of these tips are helpful. :slight_smile: