Thursday, June 21, 2012

How To: Create Spiral Staircases

(Updated June 23, 2012 for use with layout editor version

This tutorial is for use with version of the layout editor. If you don't have this version, I highly suggest you download it now. Because this tutorial was written before, some of the details on the screenshots may be different than the windows you see. However, the important parts of the windows are the same (the parts boxed in red), so I have not updated the screenshots. If that ever changes, I will update the screenshots to match the most current editor.

I also suggest reading the How To: Use The Diff Button tutorial before continuing further. This tutorial was written with the assumption that you have read and understand the Diff Button as explained by Jazabelle (that would be me).

So, you want to create a staircase. Not just any staircase, but a spiral staircase! You've heard that one of the features of the layout editor can do it for you, (almost) no math required. But no matter how hard you try, you can't quite figure out what all the different boxes on the different tools mean.

That's where this tutorial comes in. And just to make sure you fully understand how this works, there's also a video at the end of this post, showing building staircases in action!

Don't be intimidated by this tutorial's length. The Circle or Spiral tool is a complex, versatile tool. However, once you get the hang of it, it's actually very easy to use.

Our first step is going to be to put all if the items we want to use to build our stairs into the moving crate. That's right, you don't want to have the items out in the house. You want them in the moving crate. In our case, we're going to be making stairs out of "black marble half block"s.

In game, once the items are in the moving crate, we're going to click our WITH macro.

Next, we'll open up the layout editor.

As always, make sure that the UID column is visible on the right-hand side of the layout editor window.

Go to File -> Open, and open your WITH layout.

Once your WITH layout is open, go to Tools -> Create Objects -> Circle or Spiral.

At this point, a very scary window should pop up. There are empty boxes waiting for your input everywhere! But don't worry. We'll go through and demystify this window one row at a time.

The first two lines go together. The Create new group check box tells the layout editor one of two things.

  1. If the box is checked, the layout editor knows to make a new group in the groups tab. The new group will be named whatever you type into the Group Name box.
  2. If the box is unchecked, the layout editor knows to arrange the items in the Main tab. It will not create a group, but will instead put the items directly into the main tab, to be saved as part of master layout file. The Group Name line will be grayed out if the box is unchecked.

I prefer to work in groups, so I tend to leave the Create new group box checked.

You can name the group whatever you wish. Something descriptive is usually a good idea. For this tutorial, I'm just going to leave it as the default name of "New," but usually I would name it something like "Spiral staircase."

Next is the Select the 2D plane box. This one has three scary options--XY Plane, XZ Plane, and YZ Plane. Luckily, Jesdyr has been kind enough to include (floor), (East/West), and (North/South).

XY Plane (floor) means your circle will be on the floor. Another way to think of this is that if you were standing on the floor, the circle would surround you.

XZ Plane (East/West) means that the circle will be on either the East or West wall of a house. This would be good if you were building a clock, for example, and wanted it on either the East or West wall.

YZ Plane (North/South) means that the circle will be on either the North or South wall of a house. Using the clock example from before, the clock would either be on the North or South wall, depending on what other information you put into the layout editor.

Because we're doing a spiral staircase, we're going to leave the editor on its default setting--XY Plane (floor).

The next line contains three boxes. Center Point is the center of your circle. It is the point around which the layout editor will align your items.

If I am standing in the middle of the circle, my /loc is the Center Point. The easiest way to find your Center Point is to stand about where you want the center of your circle (or spiral staircase, in this case) and type /loc in game. The first number is your X value. The second number is your Z value. The third number is your Y value.

I am standing at the Center Point.

In this case, we're going to use the /loc of 20.5, -7, -121.5.

Number of Steps makes sense in this case--it's the number of items that you want to use to make your steps. We want a spiral staircase with 10 steps, so I've input the number 10 in the Number of Steps box.

IMPORTANT! Make sure that the Number of Steps does not exceed the number of items you're planning to use and have in the moving crate! If you make the number larger than the number of items in the moving crate, the game will randomly use items of that type that are already out in the house. For example, you built a spiral staircase out of Black Marble Half Blocks. You want to build a second staircase out of Black Marble Half Blocks. If you have 10 blocks in the crate, and set your Number of Steps to 11, the game will pull a block from the staircase you'd already built. This can be a pain in the rear to fix.

total angle is how much of a circle I want my staircase to be. If I wanted a curving staircase in a half circle, I'd put 180 in the box (half of 360). A spiral staircase that winds around twice would have a total angle of 720 (360 * 2). In this case, I just want the spiral staircase to go around once, so I'll put in a total angle of 360.

A positive angle in the total angle box will create a staircase that goes up counterclockwise. That means if I run up a staircase made with a total angle of 360 degrees, I will wind up running counterclockwise.

negative angle in the total angle box will create a staircase that goes up clockwiseIf I run up a staircase made with a total angle of -360 degrees, I will wind up running clockwise.

Quick and dirty example of a 360 degree total angle.
Spirals counterclockwise.

Quick and dirty example of a -360 degree total angle.
Spirals clockwise.

The next box causes no end of confusion for some people. The Start Angle is where the first item in your spiral starts at. The most confusing aspect of this is that there is a typo. The layout editor tells us that if we leave the Start Angle box with an angle of 0, the first item will start to the North of our center point. This is untrue. A 0 angle actually starts us to the West of our center point. As of layout editor, this typo has been fixed. It now correctly displays W = 0. 

West = 0
South West = 45
South = 90
South East = 135
East = 180
North East = 225 or -135
North = 270 or -90
North West = 315 or -45

For the purposes of this tutorial, we're going to set the Start Angle at -90, so that our staircase actually does start to the North of our center point. It will spiral counterclockwise since we have a positive angle in total angle.

This is a screenshot of layout editor version
In layout editor version, "N = 0" has been replaced.
It now correctly shows "W = 0."

Now we come to our Radius. This is how far each item is from the center point. Remember that an item's location is determined by the point it rotates around. So an item like a half block of marble (the item I'm using for this tutorial) has its rotation point on the bottom of the block, in the middle. An item like a painting usually has its rotation point on the back of the painting, near the top. This spot is different for almost every item type, so you may have to play around with numbers until you figure out the distance that's good for you.

Keep in mind that one unit is equal to the length of a normal crafted tile set to scale 0.5. So if you set your Radius to 1, the distance from the center point of your spiral to the center point of your item will be 1 unit. The edge of the item won't be 1 unit away. The point it rotates around will be 1 unit away. For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll set our Radius to 2 units.

Just like total angle, if you choose to make this number negative, the layout editor will create the circle in the opposite direction from default. Default is to build counterclockwise. Putting in a negative Radius will cause it to build clockwise.

Because we're doing a spiral staircase, the next box is very important. The Z increase is how high we want our spiral to go.

There are two ways we can do this.

The first is to put in a total Z increase. This is the default setting for the circle and spiral tool. That means that if we put in a number (10, for example), the layout editor would take our original Z and add 10 to it. In this case, that would put it at 3. Then the layout editor would space your items evenly from -7 (our original Z) to 3. It doesn't matter how many items we had, the layout editor would evenly space them between those 10 units.

If we had two items, the layout editor would space them evenly between -7 and 3. The distance between the two items would be large, but the layout editor would do it.

If we told the layout editor to build a spiral with 100 items, the layout editor would still space those 100 items evenly between -7 and 3. In that case, we might wind up with something almost more of a ramp than a staircase. So many items spaced in so small an area would raise only a tiny bit from item to item, in order to fit all 100 items between -7 and 3.

This method is good if we know exactly how tall we want our staircase, but we don't care about how high each step is.

To do this, we would input our number into the Z increase box, and leave the Per Step? check box unchecked. The Per Step? box does not appear until we input a number in the Z increase box, and then navigate to another box.

The second method is to put in a Z increase per step. That means that we put in the height we want each item to be above the item before it. This is my preferred method, since I find that steps of about 0.5 make for a comfortable balance between height and item count.

To do this, set your Z increase to the distance you want between each individual step. Click in one of the other boxes so that the Per Step? box appears, and check the Per Step? check box.

For both methods of using the Z increase box, a negative number will cause the layout editor to build down instead of building up. For example, if I wanted to build from my second floor down to my first, I could instead put in a Z increase of -0.5, and check the Per Step? box.

Radius increase works the same way as Z increase, except instead of telling the editor to move your items up and down, it tells the editor to move your items further away from the center point. In this case, we want a simple spiral staircase, so we're going to leave Radius increase at 0. If we were to change it to a number other than 0, other options would appear. Since we're not doing that, we're not going to concern ourselves with those options.

For a simple spiral staircase, just ignore this option!

Next are the two lines that tell you and the editor which items to use.

Item Name does not matter. I repeat, it does not matter. You can put anything you want right here. You can copy the name of the item as it appears in game. You can put in a descriptive name, like "spiral staircase steps." You could call it George. It does not matter. This is just for your benefit, so that you know what goes here. The game doesn't care, and neither does the layout editor. I've put blocks as an easy, descriptive name letting me know what item I used as my steps.

Item ID is the important line. The easiest way to find out the Item ID of the items you want to use is to go to the Crate tab of the layout editor. Find the items you want to use. Look at the left hand column. That column is the Item ID column. If you copy that number, you can then paste it into the Create Object - Circles and Spirals window.

The next box tells the layout editor whether to use the UIDs of items from the crate, or to just create "fake" UIDs. I tend to always make sure this is checked, since I always make sure the items I'm using for my stairs are in the moving crate already. This way, the game won't steal other items from around my house when I load the layout.

The last several boxes are very similar to normal layout editing. Item Start rotations are just to inform the layout editor whether you want your items pitched (X), rotated (Z), or rolled (Y) from their default locations when placed in game.

If you look back up at the images that show the quick and dirty spiral staircases I did to demonstrate spiraling clockwise and counterclockwise, you'll notice that my blocks have created stairs that are longer than they are wide. Traditional stairs are wider than they are long. With that in mind, I know that I need to have all of my stairs rotated 90 degrees more than they are now.

Instead of doing that manually, I can tell the spiral tool to do it for me. I just have to change the Z (rotate) number to 90.

I also felt that my steps were a little bit small, so I'll change my Item Scale from 1 to 2. This is the size of your item. For most items, this number can be anywhere from 0.5 - 3. Floor tiles usually go from 0.5 - 6. Some items, like building blocks, go from 0.5 - 12. A very few items go as small as 0.3. A few may even go as small as 0.1, but I'm not positive. For the most part though, chances are your items can scale from 0.5 - 3.

These four boxes are the boxes you'll most likely have to play with a bit to get your items to do what you want. Experimentation is key here, and don't get frustrated that the staircase doesn't do what you want the first time you try. I've been using this tool to build spiral staircases for as long as Jesdyr has had it in the layout editor, and I still need to play around with numbers a little bit to get the stairs I want.

And with all that said, we can now click Create!


If we've done everything properly, our layout editor should have something that looks sort of like this:

If it does, then we can go ahead and hit the Save Group button, then hit our LOAD WORKING macro in game.

And then we should finally have a spiral staircase in game!

Oh thank goodness. I'm so happy it's done!

Here's a video of building a spiral staircase, just in case the picture tutorial didn't quite convey how to do it.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. everytime i go to load it it says could not load file. ive followed all your other steps in your tutorials but im still having no luck? any ways you can contact me and be able to help me out?

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  4. Followed the instructions to the letter but my stairs are not spiralling....