Basics: Creating a large outdoor level

This is no doubt a very newbie question, but I am very new to Unreal and game creation (but a long-time developer). I was really hooked in by the UE4 pricing model, and want to try my hand at it. If it goes commercial, so much the better, but I have no expectations there.

I would like to create a level that represents a large outdoor space, like a forest, jungle, or desert. But I am looking for help getting started, because I don’t fully understand the relationship between the level map, and the detailed geometry contained within, and the “geometry” (if that is also what it is called) that is created by the Landscape editor. If I start walking in my level, and eventually reach a dune, say, that I carved with the Landscape editor, would I simply be able to walk up it just like anything else? If I wanted to create a large forest, would the trees I paint in Landscape mode be the same, interaction-wise, as trees that were modelled with static meshes?

I am also confused about scale. How big an area (in real-world terms) can I create in a level, given the limits and best practices of the Unreal geometry engine?

I have been hunting for tutorials on this kind of stuff, and while there are certainly things available that touch on some of these questions, I feel like I am missing the Step Zero basics, to enable me to get my head around the rest. I also have no doubt I am taking a really big bite off to chew, but want to be able to know what I am up against before simply throwing in the towel. The folks at Epic have really done a great thing by making this so available, but the “penalty” is that dolts like me are going to try and do stuff that the pros have been doing for years.

Thanks, in advance, for any help anybody is willing to throw this way.

– tomo

It always depends on how steep the dune is, but when you want the player to be able to walk up, then you can always do that (either decrease the steepness or just increase the max steepness which the player can walk up)

The trees that you will paint on wont have a collision, because that feature will be added later -> Foliage collision + foliage bend on collision- In engine feature? - Content Creation - Unreal Engine Forums

Basically those points are pretty important for large open world maps:

-good LODs
-level streaming
-culling volumes
-foliage culling
-low poly meshes (e.g our trees just have around 2000 verts)
-and a well planned map → e.g where do you place big meshes to block the view of the player,…


Foliage Tool: (
Landscape Tool:

Lots of questions, let me try to anwser a few of them.

So Landscape is just a way to bring in a terrain into your level. Geometry is a term for everything that is made out of polygons. It can be landscape or StaticMeshes.

Well, for landscapes, they automatically come with default collision. That means if you just create and shape your landscape, you can walk every area, but you can’t walk up too big of a slope, because the default movement model does not allow that. So that means if you sculpt a dune, you would be able to walk on it.

The paint thing - erm yes and no. You actually paint StaticMeshes with the paint tool. However, the last time I tested it, the StaticMeshes did not have collision, but I might have missed something there(probably just a checkbox).

Scale… you can go pretty big, probably larger than you could handle as solo artist.

Tutorialwise, there isn’t much available just yet, but you can check out UDK tutorials for Landscape, since this is pretty much the same workflow.

I cannot give you a number but I would say fairly huge (like many kilometers across)… although given your world is huge enough you will eventually run into the limits of single floating point precision (you will have to google that if you don’t know what it is) in which point all weird of behavior may occur.

Of course you could always make multiple levels assuming you don’t care about a fully seamless world.

I would say unless you are making a flight sim you should be more than okay.

Thank you all for your input so far. It is enough for me to take the next step, which is to just try it and see what happens. The whole “units” thing is still not obvious to me, but I probably have not read the documentation enough. But there ought to be a way for me to, say, create a space that is 1 sq. kilometre, and know how to size things in the units that the UE4 editor provides. If anyone has quick tips for that, it would be appreciated.