Source SDK basics

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I covered the process you need to go through to access the unreal engine editor in my post ‘UE3: Your first level’

In this Tutorial I am going to show you how to access the editor for Valve’s Source engine, for games such as Portal, Left 4 dead and Half Life 2; The editor is a set of tools called ‘Source SDK’


As you are using a copy of one of valves games, it will not surprise you that you can access the source SDK via the steam window.

Open up you steam games list. (Games > View Game library)

This is where steam will list all the games associated with your steam account – installed ones in white, non-installed games in Gray.

At the top of the list you should see a search bar and a drop down menu. In the drop down menu, select ‘Tools’ to show a list of tools available to you.

This is where you are able to install the SDK’s and editors for a range of games available on steam – only useful if you have the game in question!

We are looking for the Source SDK.

Currently you will see a few available ‘Source SDK’ options. Just choose ‘Source SDK Base’ Double-click or right-click and choose Install.

Steam will then begin to download and install the program for you.


If you can’t see any ‘Source SDK’s’ in Tools – If this is the case then steam doesn’t think you have any Source engine games. Re-install your source engine games and try again.


Once the SDK is downloaded run it like you would with any game or tool from steam > double click or right click and choose play game…

This will bring up the Source SDK.

If a full screen application starts, with a menu like in half life 2, portal etc… you are running one of the updated SDK base’s which is just a stress tester.

The source SDK will look like the following image:

Source SDK window

Source SDK window


  • Hammer editor – Hammer is the Source SDK map editor. In this tool you will be able to build custom maps using the techniques I discuss on this blog.
  • Model Viewer – As the name suggests, this application allows you to view  in-game models and animations.
  • Face Poser – The face poser tool is used to create choreographed sequences. a correctly rigged character allows you to use audio to create facial and skeletal animations, position actors in the world and add triggers to the scene.


These two links will lead you to the documentation available for the Source SDK – Release notes and reference documents (The Valve developer community wiki). Here you can find some great information and support for the use of the source SDK.


  • Create a Mod – Unfortunately this is does not make your MOD for you, but rather it sets up the required files and folders that you need to start a Mod.
  • Refresh SDK content – If you have some configuration problems with the SDK, this option re-copies the original files from the source SDK steam cache.
  • Reset Game configurations – This resets all the game configurations to default settings, if you are suffering from configuration errors.
  • Edit Game Configurations – Change game configuration settings


  • Valve Developer Community – Link to the Valve developer community website
  • Softimage XSI Mod Tool – Link to the tool required to create 3D models and import them into the source engine.


  • Engine Version – Which version of the source engine you wish to use. Valve have updated and changed the engine with a game release (HL2: Episode 2 had quite a few changes).
  • Current game – Which game you wish to edit, mod or map for. Select the game from the drop down – this list changes depending upon the ‘Engine version’ selected.


Thats it…

Now that you have the Source SDK, you can begin looking into mapping for source engine games – check out the very active communities and beging playing around.

More tutorials will be coming to soon, so come back soon!

One Response to “Source SDK basics”
Brandie Zawadzki Says:

thanks for this super information ill recommend your wordpress blog to every single one of my class mates as we have been looking for this since i can remember.

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