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UDK: New Map Templates Deconstruction

Category: UDK
September 08, 2011

In UDK June 2011 beta we were introduced to New Map Templates. The map templates help to quickly set up an environment with variety of lighting. These four lighting setups are midday, night, dawn and sunset. Basically you could choose any of these four map templates and begin to create your own environment or test your custom assets without much work.

All the necessary properties are already set up. There is no need to insert lights, fog, sky dome, set up world properties or insert a player start. Everything is done for you. Since you don't have to set these up yourself, you may miss key elements that may help later. Such as tweaking properties or setting up a scene of your own.

In this tutorial we are going to deconstruct the map templates and talk about what is going on behind the scenes so you better understand what you are dealing with. This will allow you to tweak, modify or create your own.

If you are interested in add your own custom template to show up in the selection menu, take a look at this next tutorial. For now we are going to reverse engineer the UDK map templates.


When you fire up UDK you are presented with the default map template midday that is automatically launched for you.

You can also choose to open other map templates by choosing from the Template menu or going up to File -> New and choosing the following:

  • Afternoon
  • Morning
  • Midday
  • Night
  • Blank Map

You can also choose Blank Map to start a brand new scene.


You can change the default map that is launched when UDK starts.

Default map is Midday.

To change this to any other template or to launch your own map as UDK starts up is simple.

Go to installation folder:

  • UDK Version Installation Folder \UDKGame\Config

Example of my UDK installation:

  • C:\UDK\UDK-2011-08\UDKGame\Config

Open DefaultEditorUDK in notepad.

  • \UDKGame\Config\DefaultEditorUDK

Make sure you back up DefaultEditorUDK first before modifying it.

Find [UnrealEd.SimpleMap]

Change the following entry:



To the map you want to launch. The path has to point where your map is.


I changed path to point into folder for one of my projects like so:



What is included in UDK map templates? There are a few things behind the scenes. Lets cover them one by one.


LightmassImportanceVolume helps to define the boundaries where the Lightmass (light bounces) will be calculated. This is an important volume that needs to be set up from the start.

If you want to learn how to set up your own, follow this tutorial.


ExponentialHeightFog is distance fog. This is very similar to standard HeightFog. ExponentialHeightFog is more dynamic and creates more fog density in low places, and less fog density in high places. It is more natural and realistic way how the fog works. You also have two color values to control, allowing you to create better visually pleasing environments.


DominantDirectionalLight is the primary lighting in the map. The sunlight or the moonlight. It illuminates the entire map and has no falloff. It is the lighting you see in the map templates.

Learn more about how to place DominantDirectionalLight here.

World Properties

World Properties include various map settings that can be modified, such as post process, lighting and gameplay elements. You can access World Properties

View -> World Properties


InterpActor Skydome. InterpActor is a type of StaticMesh. The InterpActor is a dynamic Static Mesh that uses dynamic lighting, can be controlled through Matinee and Kismet.

Static Meshes

There are two StaticMesh actors. The floor and the cube. Floor is the ground plane and the cube is used to show the shadows.

Learn more about how to place StaticMeshes into your map here.


Player start where the player can spawn from.


You can change and modify any of the properties that are in the map templates. You can also take a closer look at what has been modified so you can better understand what you would need to set when you create a map of your own.

The key actors you want to take a look at are:

  • ExponentialHeightFog
  • DominantDirectionalLight
  • World Properties

To see what was changed is simple. Lets take Exponential HeightFog for example.

Choose the actor and press F4 to go into properties. You could also double click on the actor to open up the properties.

Go to Expand All to see. Anything bolded has been modified. You could also go to and select Show Modified Properties.

Do the same for any other actor you want to take a look at. DominantDirectionalLight has been modified in various properties.

You can change any of the modified properties to see what else it does and change the default map templates.

We deconstructed the UDK map templates and I hope you have a better understanding. You should be able to control and modify the properties and tweak to your liking.

In the next tutorial we will cover how to add your own custom template and have it show up in the menu as a choice.


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My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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