Have you ever played a video game that you really like, so much that you started to daydream about making your own levels for it and playing your own creations? Some game companies are nice enough to help players achieve that dream, by adding a Level Editor
to their games.
A Level Editor
is a program, or feature built into a game, that allows players to make their own worlds, or in some cases, edit the ones built into the game itself
. It has the potential to add a ton of replay value to an existing game, and can sometimes serve as a big selling point. Ironically in some cases, the best levels tend to come from players rather than the less imaginative company that actually made the game.
Of course, this is all good as long as the editor is easy to use. When it's complicated and frustrating, the result is that a tiny minority of players actually bother to make their own levels, while others download and play them (if such a feature is available, and if enough players know how to use that feature).
Other games don't come with level editors, but editors may be unofficially created for them by fans.
Compare Game Mod
and Game Maker
Examples of games that come with their own editor:
- The NES tank battle game, Battle City, which was one of the first NES games to feature a level editor, though you couldn't save them.
- Wrecking Crew also featured one, but like Excitebike, this required special hardware to save that was released only for the Famicom and not the NES.
- Tomb Raider has had a thriving community based around its level editor for the fourth game in the series for over ten years. The Invisible Grid engine makes it fast and easy to build levels, but the expectations of what makes a good level have become higher and higher. There is also Dxtre3D which allows modding of Tomb Raiders 1 to 5, Tomb Raider Engine Patcher (TREP) which expands the limits of the engine and allows for more level features and Next Generation Tomb Raider, which isn't really next generation at all, but it includes a few features from TREP and some new ones. TREP and NGLE are not compatible with each other, which causes some debate over which is the better editor.
- LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventures Continue and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 featured a level editor in the game. Travellers' Tales promised one in both LEGO Star Wars 3 and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, but the level editor didn't make its appearence.
- S. O. S. on the ZX Spectrum has cheat mode that includes a level editor. The victory screen tells you how to access it.
- The PC adventure game Darkstone didn't come with a level editor, but players can download an official one from the makers of the game.
- Glider 4.0 (where the Room Editor was a separate application) and Glider PRO (where it wasn't).
- Super Smash Bros Brawl comes with a rather simplified, grid-based editor that doesn't allow the player to do even 1/10 of what the game designers themselves did. Even so, it's the first game in the series to include an editor, which provided a lot of fun for players who had specific ideas in mind of types of arenas they wanted to make.
- Far Cry 2 has a very detailed multiplayer map editor that allows item/vehicle/building placement, terrain shaping, vegetation, etc.
- Of course, the Build editor. Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Blood, Redneck Rampage... Every game that used the Build engine had a version of the Build editor.
- Every game in the Unreal franchise, sans the console-exclusive games such as Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict for obvious reasons, comes with whatever version of the editor was used to make it. Some even include tutorials.
- The Unreal Developer's Kit (engine, editor, script tools, SpeedTree, and a few other nice goodies) is now free to download and use, although you don't get many premade resources to go with it, and you'll want the Mastering Unreal Technology book series if you're inexperienced.
- Cube is perhaps most famous for its level editor: due to the way maps work, they can be edited in-game, in realtime. Many other first-person shooter engines require external utilities to be run on a map before it can be used in-game. Cube also allows multiplayer level editing.
- Marathon Infinity was named for its inclusion of editing tools.
- All three TimeSplitters games have level editors, the first for multiplayer levels and the second and third for multiplayer and single player levels. It goes beyond typical object placement and weapon placement; the player is allowed to place enemies, edit their health (in 3), determine how many will spawn, place objects, keys, doors, edit what doors need keys and which don't, place objectives, make objectives for multiplayer (in 3), place weapons, edit the look of the stage, choose if it's outdoor or indoor (in 3), place spawn points, change the lighting, place autoguns, place cameras and vehicles (3), and even a remote control cat. The best part: you make the map layout from scratch entirely, no preset map, and work your stage up from there with a large variety of map tiles and multiple floors.
- The Source engine development tools are technically not tied to any one game, but Source games such as Half-Life 2 do include their raw materials to work with. In fact, several Team Fortress 2 maps created by the fan community have been released publicly in content patches. Both Left 4 Dead games, Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2, Portal, and other Source engine games have the Hammer Editor program, which allows players to create maps, custom events, and other things. Valve has started to take community maps and host servers for them. Portal 2 features a simplified in-game editor, added in May 2012. There are so much Portal maps, they are given their own page, here: PortalCustomMaps.
- Eradicator shipped with two editors, a basic offline level editor, and the in-game "ROPE" editor which, as the game's documentation stated, gave you enough to hang yourself. However, much of the interactive parts of the game required specific DLLs to be compiled and added to the maps.
- Halo 3 introduced Forge Mode, which has been refined in both Halo: Reach and Halo 4. It has a rather extensive community.
- WarioWare DIY lets you make whole Microgames.
- And thanks to a certain hack, you can make boss games as well.
- At least several combat flight simulators (such as IL-2 Sturmovik) are famous for their inbuilt "mission builders." One can find numerous missions and even campaigns built by players that are offered up for download on some parts of the Internet.
- Neopets has a multitude of games with level editors, along with Featured Level of the Week for most of those. Most of the games are simple variations of other games, but a few are original content. The most popular of the games with a level maker, Hannah and the Pirate Caves, have several guilds dedicated to making levels for it, and has even sparked an off-site community dedicated to it.
- The added Architect feature in City of Heroes does this for the game. Since it's an MMO, players can play one another's missions and even fight enemy groups created from the ground up (or a chimera of usual bad guys given a new purpose.).
- Star Trek Online has the released Foundry Toolset, which allows players to craft their own missions in a large variety of ways. Quite a few have created broad story arcs, and it has quickly become a major facet of STO. Cryptic has duplicated the Foundry for Neverwinter.
- Mile High Pinball for the Nokia N-Gage has a variation — you couldn't edit the game's tables, but you could rearrange them to an easier (or harder) sequence, then post them online for other players to try.
- In the Game Maker category, Electronic Arts' Pinball Construction Set (by Bill Budge) was all about letting players make and play their own pinball tables. It was later updated and released as Virtual Pinball for the Sega Genesis.
- LittleBigPlanet uses this as a major selling point. Players can make levels and share them online. And share them they do: there are tons and tons of levels online, including ones that are themed after other games, or various movies. On July 22, 2009, the game hit one million user-created levels — one uploaded level every 21 seconds since the official launch.
- LittleBigPlanet 2 includes a level editor that lets you change rules and play control, allowing you to essentially create your own game.
- Mega Man Powered Up also featured one, though to unlock the more complex material and diverse enemy groupings, you had to find them in the main game.
- Mega Man X has one. What's that? Can't find it? It's a secret, Dummied Out Level Editor, as documented here
- Jazz Jackrabbit II has one. It's the only reason there are still people playing this game online.
- Dewys Adventure allows you to make your own levels. They actually have a different format from the normal levels — they focus on collecting stars, and are ideally supposed to be more obstacle-based.
- The first two Jumper games came with stand-alone programs for creating own stages. Jumper Two Editor allows for creating entire sectors, also with Scoring Points.
- When Tower Of Heaven was ported to Flash, a level creator (entitled "Pillars of Creation") was added; it is unlocked by beating the game once, and you have to beat the level you create in order to share it with others.
- Speedy Eggbert, a Mario-style game created for Windows 98, came with a very easy-to-use level builder, allowing players to create levels entirely from scratch. Players could also modify the pre-existing levels.
- Nuts & Milk has a level editor in the NES version (which wasn't even officially released outside Japan); the very different computer version came with a level editor too.
- According to the build-in manual in New Super Mario Bros. U, there is a "Coin Editor" feature that lets a player edit a level by choosing to place coins in it for players to fight over in Coin Battle mode. However, the editor itself is seemingly nowhere to be found.
- Offspring Fling!! has its own,though it must be downloaded separately from the game. Community-created levels can be played straight from the main game.
- Beginning with Rayman Gold, most PC releases of Rayman include a level editor. However, for reasons not explicitly stated but presumably having something to do with pacing, custom levels use slightly different mechanics than original ones (though new official ones usually use custom stage mechanics too).
- This is one of the main features of the fan game Super Mario 63.
- Its Spiritual Successor, Last Legacy, greatly expands on the level designer, to the point that every level in the main story mode can be created in it.
- Abuse has one that can be accessed by using the ABUSE.EXE -edit command in DOS, and you can create your own levels with the game's level editor.
- The 3DS download Block Factory is a heavily disappointing game based on this idea. For example: ever dreamed of playing an endless version of Tetris with gravity enabled? Too bad, enable gravity and the blocks always COMPLETELY fall apart, ergo, no holes will ever be made, and thus, no cascading, strategy, or challenge. You can't even finish the name of the game, given that you can only input 5 letters.
- Boom Blox came with a basic level editor that let you place blox and set basic rules, while the sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party's level editor pretty much gave you access to all the tools the game developers used.
- Every one of The Incredible Machine games come with an editor that lets you create your own Rube Goldberg Device!
- Lode Runner was one of the earliest games with a level editor, having been released on the Apple ][ in 1983. This was a key feature of every port since (though, like with the other NES games, one could only save their creations on the NES port in the Japanese version of the game).
- The PSP remake of Lemmings includes a level editor, for the first time ever. The closest thing available before it was a built-from-scratch clone of the Lemmings engine that was eventually cease-and-desist-ed.
- Repton 3 included both level and graphics editors. The next instalment, Repton Infinity, allowed you to create your own puzzle objects with a built-in miniature programming language.
- Boulder Dash had a separate level editor titled Boulder Dash Construction Kit released for most 1980s computers.
- Shift introduced this in the second game.
- ZZT had a Level Editor as the focus of the game. It also had 4 worlds built-in to the game (though only one of them, Town of ZZT, was in the shareware version).
- Its spiritual sequel Megazeux was closer to a Game Maker.
- Since Crystal Quest levels are largely down to which creatures are spawned in which ratio, its content creation tool was called the Critter Editor.
- Scribblenauts has a fairly simple level editor, though you can really only use it to create "obstacle courses." They sadly can't be as big or as complex as the real levels. Super Scribblenauts, however, has a much more complex one, complete with simple coding abilities and a selection of level types.
- The Marble Madness Construction Set, released for the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum versions.
- Sokoban has had a level editor since some of its earliest versions.
- Pushmo has a level editor where you can share Pushmos with a QR code, as does Crashmo.
- Hoshizora Block has an editor limited to 60 stages, which is the exact length of the main game itself. Interestingly, stage 4 of the main game is included in the editor as stage 4 in the editor, serving an example of how to use the bomb scripts.
- Helter Skelter has one. Level numbers from 81 to 128 are reserved for user-designed levels.
- Portal 2, in addition to the more advanced Hammer editor common to all games that use the Source engine (see entry in First-Person Shooters above) has another level editor built into the game which, while not nearly as powerful or flexible as Hammer, is a lot easier to learn, and can be used to make reasonably good-looking maps much faster. There's also an unofficial program that lets you customize the editor's object palette and add additional items.
- The original Excitebike was marketed partially on the fact that it had a built-in level editor. Unfortunately, that turned out to be useless for most of the world, because saving a level required a hardware expansion that was never released outside Japan.
- Electronic Arts' early effort, Racing Destruction Set included a track editor.
- A major selling point of Trials HD and subsequent games is that all the in-game levels were made with the editors.
- Ridge Racer Unbounded is similar to Trials in that all the tracks were also made with the level editor.
- Moto Racer 2 has a level editor where you can not only amend the track's shape by controlling points, but are given options to select the environment (there are four in the final product) and class (motocross or superbike) you want for it. Unfortunately, you don't get to make courses with roads crossing one another, sharp curves, and very steep hills possibly because of collision detection.
- One of the racing game Track Mania's biggest draws is its incredibly robust track editor. The only real requirements for fan-made tracks is that they have a start, a finish, and a means to get from one to the other. The editor is also fairly intuitive and easy to use, resulting in lots of fan-made tracks, all available for download.
- Jagged Alliance 2 received several editors along with its Unfinished Business expansion. Together with hacking some data files, this culminated in a load of completely new fan-made campaigns, one of which (Wild Fire) was eventually bought by the publisher and sold on the shelf.
- The randomized X-Cup in F-Zero X was actually what was left after the level editor had to be cut when Nintendo refused to release the 64DD, and the game had to be sold as a normal cartridge title. Later, when the 64DD was shipped in Japan, the editor was sold as F-Zero X-Pansion Kit, which could work in unison with the original game to make new tracks and vehicles.
- ModNation Racers has a track editor that even auto-generates scenery and power-up locations to go along with your finished track (Though to be honest, it's not recommended). To put the cherry on the top, it comes with very robust kart and character editors, which deserve a great deal of mention.
- Diddy Kong Racing DS has a fairly simple track maker — you draw a course, decide how bumpy or flat it is, and race. That's about all, sadly.
- Gran Turismo 5 has one which lets you make your own racetracks. Well, it's CALLED an editor, but you don't make it from scratch, you change the length of the course and the complexity of the corners along with other features.
- Re-Volt has a built-in track editor, though tracks created with it are pretty similar to each other.
Role Playing Games
- Dance Dance Revolution console games allow you to map your own steps to a song, play them in the main game, or share them with others.
- In The Groove for the PC/Mac has it built-in. Those that only have access to the Arcade or PS2 version can just use StepMania instead.
- Pretty much any music-themed game that allows you to input your own songs.
Shoot 'em Up
- The Elder Scrolls games included a Level Editor since Morrowind, pleasing the modding community to no end. In fact, all official "Expansion Packs" for both Morrowind and Oblivion were actually mods of the respective original games made with the same level editor.
- More than that, the actual games are created with the level editor. While this makes the games a little awkward at times, it also makes it incredibly easy to mod.
- The level editor for Dungeon Siege is extremely powerful, and surprisingly easy to use.
- Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten has a level editor that also works as a base editor, considering you can use your own level for your base if you are so inclined. Sadly, the International version is going to wind up neutered a bit, and JP maps will not be usable in US and EU versions. Look at the LittleBigPlanet games and ask yourself "Did the userbase need to flood the game with penises?"
- Dragon Age: Origins has an editor. It's very powerful (it's the same tools the game devs used, for the most part) but has a steep learning curve.
- The Witcher has one.
- Neverwinter Nights, for which the campaign creation tools were arguably the very reason a lot of people bought the game in the first place. Neverwinter Nights 2 has a toolset as much more in depth as the game.
- Bangai-O Spirits has an editor integrated right into the game itself. Which is to say, if you activate the appropriate cheat (press Select), you can edit any official level while you are playing it!
- Something else that's worth mentioning is Spirits's "Sound Load" function: individual levels can be encoded into a sound file, which can be transmitted between DSes via their microphones, or recorded to a PC, uploaded to the Internet, and read by other DSes worldwide.
- Fraxy is a famous example of this. Brace yourself for super-tough bosses - all fan made, fan tested, and fan fought.
- Zeta Flow is basically a level editor, with a little game added on for those who don't bother. 99.8% of the game is fan made!
- Both Descent: FreeSpace and FreeSpace 2 came bundled with the very same level creator that the designers used to create the main campaigns. It's so powerful and easy to use, people are still making campaigns (and even expanding the functionality) today, despite the game originally being released more than ten years ago.
- Sim Copter and Streets of Sim City can load cities made in SimCity 2000, technically making it a level editor for those two games.
- Vector Thrust boasts a Map Editor, Mission Editor and a Campaign Editor, keeping with the creator's focus on moddability.
- The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series had one since the second game. Originally it was just grid based, with basic items, but as the series progressed onto the sixth generation consoles, a fully free form Rail Tool was added, allowing rails to be put anywhere at any height, making the editor much more useful and allowing skate lines to be better set up.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Level editors in general are considered almost a required feature, especially for RTSs, such that reviewers are known to complain if the game doesn't have one included (see the Gamespot review for the first Dawn of War, whose editor is a separate download).
- In every Advance Wars, players could create maps and, since Days of Ruin, share some of them on Wi-fi.
- Gadget Trial has its own level editor similar to Advance Wars above.
- The Age of Empires games all have editors.
- StarCraft and the second and third Warcraft games have editors. The later games have editors that allow for creating scripts and changing rules, essentially allowing players to create totally different ways to play.
- The ever-popular Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars is a user-created map.
- Custom maps are incredibly diverse and often bear little resemblance to the original game. Warcraft III gave everything from hero arenas, Sheep Tag (where you play as sheep, or as wolves trying to eat the sheep), to Pest control, where you play as an infestation of insects trying to wipe out the human tenants. StarCraft II seems to have taken this to a new level, as genres as varied as shmups, beat-em-ups, to outlandish things like kinetic novels are all possible. People have even used SCII's to do such things as a Fan Remake of SCI , and a Fan Sequel to Warcraft III .
- World in Conflict saw a map editor codenamed "WiCEd" released by the developers, which allows creation of both single and multiplayer levels. The notion proved so popular that the developers haven't released a single "official" map in about a year, instead endorsing fanmade ones and offering them for download at the official website.
- Battle for Wesnoth: As an open-source game, the vast majority of its content is user-generated. The level editor isn't exactly user-friendly, but it still has a large and active community of people creating everything from maps to factions to entire campaigns.
- The Heroes of Might and Magic series came with map editors. Since player-created maps contribute a lot to the games' longevity, the fifth game raised a significant outcry for not being released with a map editor immediately. It was added later with a patch.
- Sacrifice had Scapex. Notably, it even allowed you to edit the game's campaign map.
- inFAMOUS 2 includes a mission editor. It's fairly extensive, allowing for a wide range of mission types.
- Roblox does this very well. With the basic blocks and a few scripts, you can pretty much make whatever you want. You can also publish these "Models" so other players can use them.
- The Adventure Creator in Spore Galactic Adventures.
Examples of games in which the community ended up creating an editor of their own:
- Apogee Software had bad luck with fanmade editors:
- For Duke Nukem 1, they threatened the creator of the first editor with legal action, and the editor was only released under the condition that he modified it to only work with the full game, not the shareware version.
- For Wolfenstein 3D, there were two contests planned: A secret item which told you to call them and tell them the codeword, and a final score verification code so they could award the best player and confirm they weren't cheating. Then several fans started releasing level editors/viewers, and they realized neither would work and they had to call them off.
- Chaos Engine for the Amiga now has one too, Chaos Construct.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl has its own built-in editor, but that didn't stop people from making their own.
- Mainly because the editor in the game has limitations such as how close certain blocks can be placed, and only so many are allowed to be placed, whereas the editor on the computer removes both these limitations, and you can even stack multiple objects onto each other. You can even edit the stage thumbnail with any picture you want from your hard drive. All of these stages will play but, be warned, placing more objects than usual may slow down gameplay big time, and there are chances you can cause a stage to be Unwinnable by Mistake unless you did that on purpose.
- Doom was so popular in its time that tons of editors were created for it, numerous competing level editors among them. Levels could even come with built-in music, sounds, and graphics to change the experience even further. Currently, one of the most popular editors is Doom Builder.
- Ditto for Quake, which is essentially the spiritual successor to the Doom series.
- Because the aforementioned track editor for F-Zero X was so rare, a member of the community who goes by BGNG created one for ROMS.
- Mario Kart Wii has a fairly active modding community that has lots of custom tracks and other features people can play with.