How to create a copy of real world's location (landscape, buildings) and use it as a game map?

I have never used Unreal Engine 4 and I’m not even sure if that’s the right program for me, but I wanted to get some directions for my goal.
My goal is to create a playable map for a FPS game that is identical to a real world’s location - my childhood environment with apartment buildings, landscapes, forest etc. And have fun with my friends who I grew up with at that place. As a minimum I would like it to be a shooter similar to Call of Duty, but it would be even cooler if we could use vehicles (like in Far Cry) too. I’d also like to design the inside of me and my friends’ apartments and make them enterable.
What do I need for this? Can I do it all with Unreal Engine or should I use another program like Hammer? Which is easier for the beginner, but at the same time offers the possibility to match the details very precisely. And would give an impression that you are really living in your old home, but it’s virtual. I’m ready to learn everything I need just to reach that goal.
Also… should I pick a game and just create a level/map for it, since it’s probably easier than to create a new game? If so, how does this work exactly? Do I need to import the data of the game from somewhere?
There are a bunch of things I don’t know and I only have experience with Call of Duty 4 map editor (Radiant) where I just created non-enterable buildings and some other simple stuff, but now I want to go all in and create something awesome.
What would you recommend? Thank you very much!! :slight_smile:

Well, minus the real-world map … your going to need a modeler to model all your buildings for you. There is no easy button to make those. I used some map API before to do my entire city (Dallas, TX) and it was like 1% of what i would have hoped for. Was not good.

You will need a modeler to make the entire city for you depending on how much detailed you want.
Short story: your going to spend a lot of $$ for just the buildings alone. A lot maybe an understatement, in all honesty.
Call of Duty map editor i wouldn’t really call “game making experience”. Its an easy button since all assets and, well, 100% is already made for you, you just tell it all where to go.
Is unreal for you? well, you have a long road ahead really. Lots andlots of learning to do. If you dont have the funding to pay someone, you have to loearn c++, blueprints, 3d design, environmental design, logic for your game, AI, etc etc etc. Its a lot. You wont need to be pro at them all, of course. You dont need 4 years of c++ to code in unreal. You dont need 10 years of 3D design to model. You will just need to learn a lot of stuff is all.

Just so you know, CoD2 had a 50 million $$ budget for just the game itself. Total budget for CoD2 was $250 million (marketing, design, everything). On the other side of it all, Halo was only 90 million in total.

One accurate way to start recreating a real world place is to use something called a digital elevation model which can be acquired from “The National Map”, a free service from USGS. Just google it and you will find the website. You can actually download a digital elevation model (called DEM) and the satellite photos that goes with it from a particular region. You could use this as a way to recreate a real world location. If the satellite imagery provides enough detail, it may even map out the location of buildings and such, making it easier for you to know exactly where to place them. Of course you will still need to provide your own buildings. The digital elevation data only gives you the shape and layout of the terrain from a real world place. However, learning to model buildings should be a fun and not too difficult way to start in CG. The shapes are all very geometric and easy to achieve with some practice and patience.

If you choose to go this route, the DEM comes in tiles, and will need to be stitched together. You can use software called GlobalMapper to stitch the tiles back together (which I don’t think is free, there may be free alternatives though, you may need to research this one). There may be some clean-up involved to remove shadows from the DEM. You can use photoshop to do this. After that you should be able to use it in most 3D applications. Anyway, that’s all kind of advanced for somebody who is new to CG, but hey, you said you were willing to learn :).

If I were you, I’d start with modeling the buildings, and then look into terrain solutions.

If you want to do that just for fun then it’s likely not worth the effort, you could use some Google satellite photos to model off of, but you’d need to go to the location and take some photos and measurements and model it yourself in something like Blender. There’s not going to be an easy way to do it.

Thanks for the comment. I understand that I have to model the buildings myself and I can do it with my friend, who has more experience with these things. But do I need to create a game logic and all of that other stuff if I will just use a game that is already done and I only create a map/level for it? That seems to be much easier, although it might be more complicated than I think, because only a few games probably support that.

That’s really helpful to know, thank you! The National Map seems to be only for US, but I live in Europe. I found the alternative though: Next I need to learn how to clean it properly and and convert it to a heightmap. At least I know some directions now :slight_smile: Still wondering what game to use for the base or if I should create a new game (which would take a lot more time and learning). Do you know which games support the option to create a new map for it (the kind I was telling you about), or where can I look into that?

Let’s not forget that the appearances of a number of modern (or partially modern) buildings are protected by copyright - so you’d need permission from the architect in order to use them.

I started modding with ARK to learn unreal engine better. It was a much cheaper way to learn, since, they have all the assets i would need. All i had to do was learn to get a solid heighmap and learn the “ins and outs” of how things work in that regard.