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A level editor (also known as a map, campaign or scenario editor) is a software used to design levels, maps, campaigns, etc. and virtual worlds for a video game. An individual involved with the creation of game levels is a level designer or mapper.
In some cases, the creator of a video game releases an official level editor for the game, but other times the community of fans step in to fill the void. The level editor can be integrated into the game; for example, a track editor for a racing game. Other times (and most often), the editor is a separate application, as are most fan-released level editors.
One of the first 3D games which became popular partially due to level editors and fan-made content was Doom. The creation of various third-party editors led to the birth of an online community trading fan-made maps.
A level editor is often limited to creating levels for only a certain game engine. Developing a level editor takes a lot of time and it is more time and cost efficient to release multiple games using the same engine instead of developing a new engine and level editor for each game. Level editors offer some limited scope of content creation, but in the case of gaming industry solutions the scope is very large allowing an entire game to be created without the need for much support from a programming team. To make larger changes to a game than simply adding new levels, a software development kit (SDK) is sometimes needed.
In the early years of video-gaming, some games came with a utility called a "construction set". This was similar in many ways to a level-editor. Some games used them to create extra levels, whereas others (like the Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit) used them as a means to create a game rather than be a game in itself.
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- Herwig, Adrian; Paar, Philip. "Game Engines: Tools for Landscape Visualization and Planning?" (pdf). CiteSeerX .