Making Quake II maps today -- An overview

Note: This war written around 2010. Many of the links are dead now, and some of the projects listed here are dead by now. You should still be able to find most of the tools on the internet though, just use your favourite search engine.

Quake II (Q2) was released by id Software more than 10 years ago, many people still enjoy it though.

Since the sourcecode was released under the free GNU public license, various project teams have used it to create improved implementations of Quake II. The tools used to create Q2 levels have also evolved quite a bit.

This article gives mappers who want to start making Quake II maps today a rough overview. It does not explain how to use a map editor or other tools but tells you which tools are available and common today.

Quake II implementations (or "What should I install to play the game?")

While the Q2 source is free (and many different Q2 engines are thus available for free), the game is still sold by id and the game media is NOT free. This means that you'll need a Q2 CD to get the media files (pak0.pak, which contains the maps, models, textures, sounds, ...) for the game. While you could just install the game from the CD and start it (using the original engine by id), this is not recommended -- especially if you want to play multiplayer games. Apart from security issues, you won't be able to connect to most modern Q2 servers. Here's some common and modern Q2 clients: You should install Quake II from your CD, then install one of the clients listed above (for most of them, simply copy the executables to the directory where you installed Quake II, but see the readme files for details).

I wrote articles on how to do this on Linux that may come in handy if you're using that OS:

You may also want to have a look at some of the mods that are often used with Quake II. You don't need them, of course. Here are a few:

Ok, now that you've installed the game, let's have a look at creating levels for it. :)

Quake II mapping tools

Map Editor

The first thing you need is a proper map editor. There are several editors available and many discussions on which one is the best have been started in forums, I won't repeat them here. My opinion on it: the best editor is the one you like best.
  • qeradiant -- Improved version of GtkRadiant, available for Windows, Mac and Unix.
  • GtkRadiant -- Available for Windows, Mac and Unix.
  • QuArK -- the Quake Army Knife. Native Win32 only afaik, but reported to work under Wine.
  • Tread3D, Tread 3.0 -- Another Quake 2 Editor, win32.
I use GtkRadiant, but it's your choice.

IMPORTANT: You need to install the Quake 2 example maps seperately if you're using Radiant >= 1.5! Get them from zerowing at idsoftware! The file you need is called Q2-Example-Maps-2004-07-18.msi (Windows) or q2-example-maps-2004-12-06.tar.gz (Linux).

BSP compiler

You'll need a compiler to create the bsp file from your map file. id Software released q2map (which comes with Radiant), but it's common to use improved versions of that tool today. While q2map does all compile stages (BSP, VIS and RAD), the functionality has been split in the modern tools.

All of these tools are command line programs, so you'll have to run them from the command prompt of your OS ("Start => Run Command..." for Windows users). I've written some shell scripts to simplify this (usage info is in the scripts):

You could also install a compiler GUI like the Q2Beaver( on windows.

Pak tool and map distribution

Quake 2 uses pak files to distribute media like maps and textures. You'll need a program that can open these files. You can use the command line tool 'pak' that comes with Radiant on win32 and linux, but a GUI utility never hurts on Windows. You can use one of these:

Note that is common to distribute Quake II maps as zip archives directed at the quake2/baseq2/ folder (instead of pak files) though. If your map is called 'mymap', distribute a zip archive named '' that has the following structure and files (you only need the bsp file if you didn't use any custom textures/sounds/whatever):


Texture editor / converter

Quake 2 uses its own texture format, textures are wal files. You can use Wally to edit wal textures or to convert other textures to the wal format. It's a windows-only tool, sorry.

Ok, you should be ready to create your Quake II map by now.

Mini FAQ

  • Q: There is a very ugly thing on the ground at all of my spawn points and teleporters! How do I get rid of it?
  • A: That's a spawn pad or tele pad, it's automatically placed there by Q2. Sink your spawns and teles into the ground by 10 (ten) units. Less makes you still see that thing, more will lead to a strange effect in-game when spawning, looks a bit as if you have to free yourself from getting stuck. You'll see what I mean if you mess it up. :)

  • Q: I placed a wav file I want to use for a target_speaker in the sounds directory but Q2 won't play it. What's up?
  • A: In Q2, the directory where to put your sounds in is sound, not sounds. :|

Where to go from here

Here are some Quake 2 websites I recommend:

That's it for now. :)