Viking Settlement Ruins Production Guide

Viking Settlement Ruins Production Guide

Joe Farkas discussed the environment project that he worked on during the Intro to Environment Art course at CGMA, shared his workflow with textures and talked about the biggest challenges he faced during the production.

Viking Settlement Ruins

Introduction and Career

Hello all, my name is Jozsef Farkas, and I am an aspiring environment artist currently looking for a role in the industry. First of all, I’d like to thank 80.lv for this opportunity, I believe it is an incredible platform for sharing industry knowledge, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

I first started gaining interest in 3D art back in college doing a game design course. This progressed deeply as I went to Leeds Beckett University, where I was learning everything involving game design from programming to my favorite, environment art. 

Once I graduated from the university, I understood that my skills were not good enough to get me a job in the industry, which is why I decided to do the Intro to Environment Art course with CGMA taught by Peyton Varney. Peyton taught me and many others on the course everything we needed to know to start creating environment art, from concept to the final product. 

Gathering the Reference

Once I got the brief from Peyton (An abandoned gateway), I started gathering research and reference. This entailed looking at Artstation, Pinterest, and google images, as well as watching video games and movies that inspire me.

Upon gathering sufficient reference, I went and quickly drew out some silhouettes just to find the main shapes that I liked and continuing with detailed versions of my two favorites. 

The Blockout

Once the concept was done, we got to what every environment starts off, blockout. It’s quick and easy, just need to get the general shape of each asset not incredibly detailed but enough to understand what’s what. 

After the blockout, I started with the biggest shapes first, so creating a better floor plane, getting the path that follows on top as well as the main walls. When working on the smaller assets such as different bricks, we created the main shape in the low poly and then brought it over to ZBrush to sculpt and get the high poly details. I have done this with most of my props such as the axe, shield, etc, which worked well as you’re getting assets done pretty quick.

Megascans were used in my scene but only for small details such as decals for mud on the wood as well as blood on the floor and also some weeds in the grass areas to add a bit more variation. Although these are small details, you can really see a difference, this is something I’ve worked on with my most recent project, where I had to expand my use of decals as they a key part to any environment.

Texturing

There were two parts of the texturing phase, the first generally started with tiling textures made in Substance Designer. These were used for the ground material, walls, and wood. We did it this way, so we could very quickly get a feel for the environment. The good thing about having the tiling textures done in Substance Designer is that it allowed us to clean them up, flatten them and import into Painter, which meant that there weren’t excessive layers for every asset and in turn sped the texturing process considerably. Then, once the core materials were in, and on the meshes, we went on to create the medium shapes such as the door, columns, and archway, which were textured in Painter using the cleaned versions from Designer. 

All in all, there wasn’t done too much to create the environment, there isn’t an overabundance of assets instead there’s about ten different props, small variations in vegetation and then the main architectural pieces. I don’t believe you have to over encumber yourself with the feeling like you have to create so many different things, instead, you can create variations and then duplicate them to fill out your world. This goes for my environment, especially, depending on what you hope to create, you have to determine what you need early on and go for it. 

Lighting

When working on the lighting, I went and got an HDRI from HDRI Haven. Then using directional light, I rotated it, so I got the direction I wanted and played around with a few of the parameters. Typically, I try and go as close to real life as possible, so in the temperature, I set it to around 5800, so it’s close to the temperature of the sun. In my project, I brought it down as per my preference. 

When baking the lighting, I try and get the best quality as possible without having it baking for too long and digging into my work time, however, this highly depends on the specs you have for your computer. So, for Indirect and Sky lighting bounces, I normally set around 100, Indirect Lighting Quality is set to 5 and then the smoothness to 3.

Some point lights were used to give highlight in areas, especially. in the darkest areas for the courtyard, where the light wasn’t getting in enough. This helped to brighten the area up a bit, otherwise, without it, it would have been way too dark.  

The fog and god rays were taken from different projects in the Epic Games Learn section. More specifically, the god rays were from the Blueprints project and the fog was from Particle Effects. This was to advance my storytelling aspect of the environment. In a way I wanted it to feel both abandoned for years and years from the destruction and overgrown vegetation but to also feel that a presence is still there through the sinister low-lying fog.  

Biggest Challenges

Every part was quite a challenge, after all, this was, what I consider my first proper environment, so this was all very new to me. Not only in terms of environments but even prop creation as well, I was learning new workflows and techniques that I hadn’t used before, so in a lot of ways, every part was a little challenge but felt great to learn as I was learning from someone, who is not only in the industry but someone, who has a superb portfolio, great knowledge and is 2018’s Rookie of the Year in Games Development. 

After the course was finished, I wasn’t quite done nor happy with, where my work was, and I knew I needed to push myself a bit further and create a whole environment instead of a diorama. The biggest challenge from this decision was learning Unreal Engine as a whole, I needed to figure out the integration side of things, materials, and lighting. Then, I also had to create the illusion of a full environment, so creating hills surrounding the core area and simulate a world. This was also the point where I had no deadlines, the course was, and I had to work for myself to achieve what I wanted and, thankfully, everything turned out pretty good.

At this moment in time, I have just been accepted for a role with XR Games of which I am extremely excited to start. Most recently, I finished my latest project of a Drug Enforcement Administration Office under mentorship with Thomas Walker, the result which you can see on my Artstation. I am already in the progress of creating a new environment but, at this moment, I am just in the concept phase of it and generating ideas that could work well with what I hope to achieve. I’ll be more focused on my lighting and composition techniques for my next environment as well as some hard-surface work as I feel that is where I lack the most and want that to change.

Overall, I was very happy with how my environment came out, and I’m growing as an artist, day by day. Thanks to everyone, who took the time to read, I hope it’s been helpful! 

Joe Farkas, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Ellie Harisova

For more information on CG Master Academy and the Intro to Environment Art course, please visit the CGMA website, or email 3d.registration@cgmasteracademy.com.

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