Unreal Development Toolkit: Level Design HQ

5 min read

(For more resources related to this subject, see here.)

So let’s get on with it. We will first look at downloading the UDK, and install it on your PC.

Time for action – UDK download and installation

  1. Download the latest version of UDK.
  2. Log on to www.udk.com and download the latest version of unreal development kit beta. Once you download the UDK Installer, go ahead and install the UDK. The default directory for installing UDK is C:UDKUDK-VersionRelease.
  3. Version Release will be the month and year that the UDK you downloaded was built.

UDK folder structure

The UDK folder structure looks like the following screenshot:

The UDK folder structure consists of the following four folders:

  • Binaries: game/binary executable.
  • Development: source code for UDK.
  • Engine: engine files.
  • UTGame: game files. For level-design and environment creation, the important folder here is the content folder. The packaged environment’s assets such as models, textures, materials, sounds, and such are stored here.

For environment creation and level design, the most important folder is UTGame | Content | Environments. It contains all the files you need to create your map, as shown in the following screenshot:

UDK extension is the UDK package’s name. This is how the models and textures are stored in UDK. Think of UDK extension as folders. Inside those folders are stored all the models, animations, textures, materials, and similar assets. You can browse the UDK files through the UDK editor.


UDK is the map file extension.


Time for action – launching the editor

  1. To launch the unreal editor, go to the Start Menu | Unreal Development Kit | UDK Version | Editor.
  2. Another way to launch the editor is to create a shortcut. To do this, go to the installation folder: UDKUDK-VersionReleaseBinaries, locate UDKLift.exe, right-click and select Send To | Desktop (create shortcut), as shown in the following screenshot:

  3. Once on you have created the shortcut on your desktop, right-click the shortcut and select Properties. Then, in the Target box under the Shortcut tab, add editor at the end of the text. It should look something like the following screenshot:

  4. Now double-click on the desktop icon and launch the UDK Editor.


When you first launch the editor, you will have Autosave automatically enabled. This will save your map at a chosen timed interval. You can set how often it will automatically save by clicking the Left Mouse Button (LMB) on the arrow on the bottom-right of the Autosave Interval and choosing the time you want, as shown in the following screenshot:

You will find the Autosave feature at the bottom right of the editor. If you enable Autosave, there are a few options such as Interval and Type.

Save manually by going up to File | Save As.

Content browser

Content browser is where you will find off the game’s assets. Placing static meshes (models), textures, sounds, and game entities such as player starts, weapons, and so on, can all be done through the content browser. You will be using the content browser very often. To open the content browser click on the top menu bar, as shown in the following screenshot:

Packages are where you will find specific items contained within the UDK. Things such as static meshes are contained within a package. You can search for a package, or just find the package you want to use and select it as shown in the following screenshot:

The top of the content browser contains a search box as well as a filter box. This is very useful. You can sort out the content in the browser by animation sets, material instances, static meshes, sounds, and so on. This helps a lot when looking for items. The next screenshot lists full names of the items within a selected package. You can sort by clicking on the Name, Type, Tags, or Path fields, and it will re-arrange the content’s preview:

The content browser is one of the most commonly used tools in UDK. Get comfortable using the content browser. Spend some time navigating around it. UDK basics covers the most essential tools and functions you need to know to get started with UDK. You’ll be able to quickly jump into UDK and begin feeling comfortable using the most commonly used functions.

What just happened?

So we know how to launch the editor, how to use the Autosave function, and where to find the content browser. We are now going to look at how to move and rotate around the editor.

Time for action – movement and rotation

Time to have a look at movement, rotation, and navigating around the editor.


Buttons used to navigate around UDK.


These are your primary keys for navigating and rotating using the editor:

  • Left Mouse Button (LMB): pan right/left/forward/backward movements
  • Right Mouse Button (RMB): rotate, look around
  • LMB+RMB: up/down

WASD key navigation

The following are other forms of primary keys for navigating and rotating around the editor:

  • Click and hold RMB. As you hold it, use the WASD keyboard keys to move around as you would in a first person shooter game.
  • WASD movement is great if you are familiar with hammer source mapping.

MAYA users

If you are familiar with Maya, the following will be your primary keys for navigating and rotating around the editor.

  • Hold down the U key
  • U+ LMB: rotate, look around
  • U+ RMB: forward/backward movements
  • U+ MMB: right/left/up/down movements

What just happened?

Now that you have installed UDK and know what the content browser is, you are ready to begin. So let’s get started.


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