The development history of rp_hogwarts_sbs began around possibly June 2016, with Star By Star Gaming looking for someone to make them a new map for their Hogwarts RP server. I would be able to tell you the exact date but Garry for some reason deleted FACEPUNCH so who knows lol. SBS previously had been using Steinman’s rp_hogwarts. Steinman’s Hogwarts map is actually quite a good map but it did not fit SBS’s needs. SBS was at the time a top 3 gmod server and was constantly full and required something bigger. I had been mapping for probably 9 years at this point, and since it was a paid job I thought why not and put my name ‘in the hat’.
Months later in October, I had all but forgotten I applied for this map. I had recently released the final version of a DarkRP map that I had been working on for years. I did this mainly as something to get my mind off things, as my dad had passed away in September and I was really shitty. As a side note, I hope to one day redo this DarkRP map under the Shy Studios brand. Anyway, soon after I was contacted by ‘Face’ from SBS and discussion about hogwarts began. SBS liked my work and was happy to give me the job. I believe they had tried with someone else who flaked out.
The earliest screenshot I have of the map development is from October 24th 2016, but in this screenshot I had already made a few custom models and textures. Before this I spent most of the month of October in meetings with SBS discussing details, doing research, gathering assets, and watching the entire Harry Potter series from start to finish. This was the first time I saw any of the films past OoTP. I vividly remember enjoying a large bowl of fettuccine alfredo and fried calamari while watching one of the films(I am hungry while writing this).
I decided to develop the map in an unusual way, first by fully finishing the entire great hall building and it’s courtyard. The intention behind this was to utilize ‘instances’ which would allow me to place the great hall building at a 45 degree angle as it is in the actual Hogwarts design. The second reason was to create a scale that every other part of Hogwarts could be built to. Well sadly due to the nature of how instances work in most source mods, the plan did not go very well. I tried very hard to get the great hall at a 45 degree angle but due to the complex geometry in the kitchen and in the spiral staircase, it simply was not an option. In hammer having complex geometry off the grid will cause quite a few issues, even if they don’t show up instantly. On the bright side the entire great hall was finished, I now had a library of custom textures, some models, and a general level of detail to aim for with the rest of the map. Another great side effect was it allowed me to figure out the right ‘height’ from the water that the castle should be built at. This was around November 27th.
SBS from day one wanted a ‘grand view’ when players first spawned in. The terrain, stairs, and boathouse became the next steps in the project. I began by building the stairs down to where I wanted the grand view, this would also become the location of the boathouse. I built the terrain around the stairs over and over again trying to get something that I liked, if only I knew you could sculpt displacements in 3dsmax with the help of wall worm modeling tools! Eventually I got the terrain looking somewhat decent, utilizing a tiered overlapping approach.
The boathouse was next and not that complex, it was mainly designed just to house all 128 spawn points, with a few spawns overflowing out towards the steps a bit. I actually had architectural drawings of the boathouse from the movie, but for a structure that most players will never really look at that level of detail was not needed. This phase was finished on December 12th 2016.
The grand staircase was next and presented its own set of unique challenges. The main issue was figuring out a good horizontal and vertical distance between the stair landings. I experimented with different sizes for quite a while till I found one that fit well. Making textures for the staircase was another massive challenge. Due to the size of the room simply using decals for each painting was absolutely out of the question. I ended up developing a few wall textures that could be used with my already existing light stone texture. I used a more unique mixtures of the textures around the areas that players were closest to and less in areas that were harder to see from the players position. I did end up using quite a few painting models and decals to add even more uniqueness to the near player areas.
The moving stairs were achieved using the stair model’s unique origin point along with a prop_door_rotating entity. A lot of the stairs are put into groups, each group being able to be rotated without interfering with another set of stairs. The grand staircase is simply a fancy hallway with 5 exits and optimized for player traffic flow. I spent a LOT of time in many areas of the map creating better traffic flow, but in the end even on a full server the size of the map makes most of the school feel empty, for better or for worse. I suppose in the context of gmod this open space allows for people to actually communicate with each other instead of hearing 100 people talk all at the same time.
New years day, January 2017 the grand staircase was officially complete, and I began working on the rooms that connected to it, Slytherin being the first. Slytherin common room is located in a ‘dungeon’, so a lot of time was actually spent getting the small hallway leading up to the entrance of the room looking correct. The common room itself had just enough of an appearance in the films that I was able to almost fully replicate it. I believe that where I placed the dorms is where a split in the ‘real’ design would be, leading to the boys and girls dorms respectively. Obviously in gmod roleplay the dorms are seldom used so only one was included per common room. The hardest part of doing Slytherin common room was actually the door. I knew it had to be a double door made of dark old wood, I had to make the texture totally from scratch like many others, but on top of that getting double doors to work well in source multiplayer is an ordeal of its own.
Slytherin common room was fully complete by January 9th and construction began on potions. Potions was a whole animal unto itself, again very few reference images existed but enough did to make it highly accurate. A lot of custom assets had to be made for potions, most notably the tables which contain the Chief Keef copypasta and the golden wall arch inscriptions. I could have gone even more overboard with potions, but as with each previously completed area I was targeting a specific level of detail as to not go too crazy. Next up Gryffindor common room, the hardest part of which was actually creating a lore accurate layout. Even with the curvy nature of the room the brushwork was not really that big of an issue for me. The entire area was completed in a little over a week.
From here, I began creating the hallway that connected the grand staircase to the Ravenclaw tower. I wanted to recreate a shot from the film of a hallway, specifically the one in Gloucester Cathedral. I however, did not have the amount of time to make a simple connector hallway as intricate as the real thing. During this time I was also working on the outside part of the castle getting measurements to all match the proper ratios, this did not help the hallway at all as it had to be a very specific distance for it to reach the Ravenclaw tower stairs. In hindsight I should have simply utilized the verticality in the grand staircase more and had this connector hallway higher up, so that no spiral staircase was needed for Ravenclaw at all. The bathroom and the infirmary were made once the hallway was detailed, their door locations were preplanned so that the hallway detail models would fit the doors perfectly.
Originally the bathroom was really bad, it was a square room with really disgusting looking windows. I went back and redid the bathroom once I finished the Ravenclaw common room. The infirmary is loosely based off of Steinman’s original map’s infirmary. The Ravenclaw common room was quite a unique take on the design, with a fully open air ceiling that goes off into ‘space’. In reality Ravenclaw common room is just a box with a skybox texture perfectly aligned so it has minimal seams. I used the same texture in the great hall and astronomy tower, it was originally from surf_milkyway one of the coolest surf maps ever. I used black to transparent gradient textures to fade the walls out into the box, the effect looks amazing inside the round ‘dorm’ area and decent in the rest of the common room. Ravenclaw was finished on February 15th 2017.
After redoing the bathroom as I mentioned previously, I moved on to creating the bridge from Ravenclaw tower to the rightmost tower of the viaduct entrance. Using this I was able to get a scale for the size of the tower and the rest of the front of the viaduct entrance. At this point I actually began experimenting with color correction. The map looked totally fine without color correction but I wanted to give the map the exact look of the films, I found a pack with many LUTS for various movies and luckily there was a harry potter one that worked perfectly. I even developed a method of converting typical cinema color correction lookup tables into source engine .raw files.
Because I had the front of the viaduct entrance completed, I was now able to actually create the main viaduct itself. I started with simple brushwork for the top of the bridge as it is very important to always try and have surfaces that many players will walk on be bsp geometry as opposed to models. This is because when multiple players collide with a model it creates excessive performance issues with the server itself. I have heard this is not actually an issue with windows dedicated servers and is an issue specific to linux haha. Modeling the angled arches was kind of annoying as I did not have a good workflow for getting appropriate topology on off angle surfaces that need to line up perfectly with existing brushwork. I think I ended up just using pro boolean to cut the arches in an off angle surface and repaired the polys by hand. The bridge certainly could use a rework but honestly it isn’t that bad.
I now had the front of the viaduct entrance finished as well as the bridge(aka a viaduct), I began building the terrain underneath and testing some fog settings. Basically the entire ‘grand view’ was finished, minus the skybox, which would come later. Again I used overlapping displacements to connect the new terrain with the old, this created kind of an ugly seam but I was able to hide it somewhat with use of large rock models. I made another traffic flow decision to connect the viaduct entrance with the Ravenclaw tower bridge, as well as have a second hallway branching off of that for quick access into the middle courtyard. Even though the rest of the school was not yet built, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do and I had created placeholder measurement brushes using ratios from a top down architectural drawing of Hogwarts. It was March 4th 2017 when the interior of the viaduct entrance was fully complete.
This marked the last time I worked using the area completion method. By March 12th I had essentially finished the entire middle courtyard, and I had built placeholder hallways and classrooms around the perimeter. During this time I even built most of the 3D skybox. I created skybox models for the astronomy tower, Gryffindor tower, and the 3 towers of the Long Gallery. I also decided to use a mostly esoteric mapping method at the time that I call ‘skybox world projection’. This is a technique that essentially allows for a low detail version of the map that is stored in the skybox to fade in with the real world using a lower than fog zclip distance. I had used a primitive method of this all the way back in I think 2013-14 during the construction of my DarkRP map (which was a WIP since 2011 haha). When hogwarts came out I as aware of only 2 or 3 other maps that used this technique, today it is slightly more common especially in large city maps.
SBS really wanted to test the map out for themselves, so far I had only been sending them screenshots of the map. This was actually by their request as they did not want the ability to take the map from me before I was paid. Since before the map even began we talked about ways to protect it, and one extremely good method always came up but I never had a clue how to implement it. Well we eventually discovered a program written by I believe, CodeGS that would do exactly what we wanted. The only problem was that program did not work at all and would not compile as is. Luckily because the source code was available and I just so happen to know the C programming language, I was able to modify this program so it would actually compile on my computer and function correctly. This meant I could protect the map and host my own dedicated development server to do early map testing. I remember the first time we tested the map I had quickly thrown some lights into the placeholder hallways and classrooms to give an example of how things were going to be laid out.
The work then began on the hallways and classrooms, starting with class one. I decided early on that I wanted each hallway to have a unique look and color so it was easy for players to differentiate what part of the map they were in. Class one was originally a circular amphitheater style room with a nice domed top, this was cut however to make place for a classroom that looked closer to the defense against the dark arts classroom from the film. I actually originally intended for the amphitheater to stay where it was, but have class one be moved to the small empty space at the near end of the hallway, currently where a room of requirement door sometimes spawns. I was not that satisfied with the original design anyway so cutting it was actually a choice I am glad happened. Sadly the design of the new class one was still quite ugly and I had issues with it up till I remade the whole room in the modern versions of Hogwarts. On March 27th the class 4 hallway was the next area to be fully finished and has hardly changed since. Next, the class one hallway was finalized along with the flag hallway. All four classrooms (minus the class one remake) and each of the hallways were fully complete by March 31st.
Next I spent a lot of time fixing various bugs and working on other areas of the map such as the astronomy room, the dueling room, Dumbledore's office, and the class one remake. All of these things were finished by April 27th and I had begun construction on the outside areas with the entire school walls being built by May 7th. The outside areas were built in chunks much like the early parts of the school. The chasm below the bridge was the first new piece of terrain to be fully constructed. SBS wanted the rickety bridge from the movie in the map, even though I decided early on to not include the part of the school that this bridge was actually connected to. Even though it wasn’t accurate, I used this as a quick and easy way of blocking off the entire southern map boundary as the bridge could be used to signify the end of the map. Still I wanted to keep the lore accurate positioning of Hagrid’s hut, and the iconic overlook with the standing stones from the third film.
On May 24th I had actually replaced the 2D skybox texture with one I painted myself. I wanted a dark overcast look that is typical in the Scottish mountains but one that would blend perfectly with my fog color choice from every angle, unlike the texture I had been using. Hagrid’s hut and its surrounding paths were finished by May 27th as well as a rough design of the dark forest’s terrain. The quidditch pitch was fully complete by the 30th as was the dark forces cabin, which was strongly based off of a cabin I had made for an unfinished forest map in 2013. The dark forest terrain was fully complete by June 13th including my custom detail sprite card which gives the dark forest it’s lush grass. Around this time Half life 2 Ep 2 was no longer able to load the full map, so I had to rely on gmod for all future major development.
Once the forest was complete all that was left to do was fix bugs and add minor things, such as the room of requirement and an admin room. On June 17th we began bringing select community players onto the map for performance testing, mainly ones who we knew had bad computer hardware. This was followed by lots more testing as well as the final cherry on top, Soundscapes. I spent quite some time gathering and creating sounds that would be used in each of the fully custom soundscapes. Almost every area of the school has a unique soundscape that really brings the map to life. On June 25th SBS staff members came on to try and break the map in any way they could. Over the next few days the test server remained up while I fixed up some of the last major bugs. Finally, on June 29th 2017 the map was released to the live server for all to enjoy as rp_hogwarts_sbs_t1 (I think that was the name anyway).
Over the next few months I began doing more and more bugfixes and changes, as now we had thousands of unique eyes to look over the map and give feedback. The one thing that everyone seemed to want the most was a ‘day’ version of the map. It seemed the ‘sunny map’ theory was once again proven true. The problem with this was getting a skybox that matched the fog, I needed something ‘sunny’ but with gray clouds as well. On September 17th I began testing a version of the map that used a skybox from the amazing game Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Eventually the original cloudy version was re released as rp_hogwarts_sbs_oc, the OC is for overcast. And by mid October, the map simply called rp_hogwarts_sbs was released using the new ‘sunny’ skybox. I don’t actually have many screenshots of this version, I suppose it is because I didn’t LOVE how it looked in some places. But the map satisfied the players, up till I released the modernized versions later on…