Building Orcish Forge in UE4

Building Orcish Forge in UE4

Catherine Zinovieva talked about her Orcish Forge inspired by World of Warcraft which was created with the help of UE4, Substance, Maya, and ZBrush.

Catherine Zinovieva talked about her Orcish Forge inspired by World of Warcraft which was created with the help of UE4, Substance, Maya, and ZBrush.


Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Zinovieva and I’m a 3D artist from Moscow. I’ve always dreamed of making games, but at first, I did not understand what I had to start from. After taking my undergraduate degree as a graphic designer I have started working in this industry. But after a while, I decided to return to my childhood dreams – making games. I have started my way in 3D three years ago when I have been enrolled in ScreamSchool at the faculty of Game Graphics. Creating a demo version of arcade racing «Hades Mashines» with a team of excellent guys was a result of studying there.

During the second year there, I started working at the Mail Group, creating environments, levels, and mechanics for the tank simulator Ground Wars Tanks. Working at this company, I get a great practice in the level design, lighting, and modeling. I get great pleasure from what I’m doing so I also devote much of my free time to building my own worlds.

The project

I was born in a small town in the south of the country where was not much amusement besides the stunning nature and mountain air. So Warcraft was my parallel universe, with lots of interesting and fascinating things. I always dreamed of creating such world or, at least, a part of that world. Therefore, I had no questions about what I’m going to do for my first personal project. I realized my dream, so I created a small part of the World of Warcraft.

I’ve decided to connect the main idea of the project with the Horde because I played only for that faction. Also, I wanted to concentrate on the orcs, mixing various styles of buildings. For example, when making a roof, I was inspired by buildings from Orgrimmar, also one of the main locations was the Blackrock Foundry, etc.


The first stage of development was a little bit protracted because I didn’t want to make something similar to already existing objects from that world, but I wanted to create my own. There were no props, materials, and textures for this topic before the start of the project, everything was created in the process. I worked for a long time with a blockout looking for the right form and composition, working through history. I explored a lot of references on the Warcraft, HotS and already made fanart for these games. Also, I was looking for references to textures, materials and sculpting for the whole composition.

I had a pretty specific pipeline, at least it differs from what I was taught but it was more comfortable to me. My first step was to create a blockout which took quite a long time. In it, I was searching for the proportions and composition that I needed.

The next step started with props modeling and preparing them for further sculpting. Here might be some differences from the standard pipelines. I did not work on the props separately, conducting them through all stages (blockout, sculpting, low poly, texturing), but I took the entire set and conducted all the assemblies together. So at first, I made all blockouts, after that – all sculpting, then all texturing and in the end, I took the whole pack into the Unreal Engine.

Blockout, low poly, and UV’s were made in Maya. I used ZBrush for the sculpting part. References are the most important thing in all process. I searched for the best solutions in this style, processing them for my needs. A good blockout is the key to success, all final forms were formed during that stage. I like exaggeration of proportions in this stylization – barrels are more swollen, beams are more bent, it’s pretty cool and creates the atmosphere of the Warcraft. Reading the silhouette from the form is also a priority. As I said earlier, at the beginning of each phase, I worked on a single object, achieving the desired result, and only after that, I started to drag all the other meshes into this phase. The first object I started with was a barrel. There were three basic materials that I used in my project – wood, metal and stone. There were not many problems with the sculpting. I came to the desired result almost immediately, being quite pleased with the brush pack by Orb which helped me.


Textures were the most interesting and difficult part for me. I immediately decided that I wanted not just diffuse textures, but, as I call them, stylized PBR, so my textures had the properties of these materials.

My first prop, which I experimented with, was a barrel. I worked through almost all the materials using it. I worked for several hours and got the result which practically suited me, but I was not fully satisfied with the result. So I began to show it to my friends asking: “what is wrong with this barrel?” Almost all of them answered that everything is ok, someone suggested to add some stains, which I eventually tried to do, also I played with the properties of the materials. But still, it was not appropriate. In the end, I asked one of my friends, who got great skills and whose opinion is very important, and he told me a simple phrase: “Kate, you just ended up with a full color with cavity” and gave me links to Battle Chasers. From that moment it became one of my leading refs for textures. I analyzed each prop, looked at how the ordinary stone shimmered with colors, what seemed to be like a gray-green stone, turned out something with red, blue and violet colors. I tried to add all of it to my textures. All textures were made in Substance Painter. I used different generators, a lot of work was with masks, and also I made some fine handpainted details.

After adding my props to Unreal Engine and assembling the scene, I started to set up the master material and it came out pretty simple but fully suited my tasks. I had several different parameters, with the help of which I changed props to suit my idea.

For example, roughnes and spec were taken out, so that it became possible to change the balk holding the platform using vertex paint – it allowed to make them wet from water.


The lighting was quite problematic. At the first iteration, I absolutely did not like the light, all the objects looked terrible and made me upset – “What have I been doing for the past 4 months?” I tried various options, applied some of the experience from school, but it was all wrong. Then my good friend, which was a ligthing artist on Skyforge and Armored Warfare, came to rescue me. With his excellent feedback, I managed to achieve the final result. There is one key light on the stage, a fog for the atmosphere plus, because the scene is rather small and a simple fog did not give me such a planned distribution, I used the plains with a special material which creates the effect of a fog along the water. Further, more point lights were placed on several key points.

Initially, there were more lanterns, but I removed them later, because I wanted to illuminate the most important parts, focusing the attention of the audience on certain points. The lighting itself was built on the so-called “blue hour”, the term used in photography when the sun goes down, but still illuminates the sky, it’s about an hour after sunset. It ended up being a twilight with a very pleasant and warm lighting, which beautifully emphasized all of my assets and created that very atmosphere of seeming peace and quiet.


The most difficult part -was to actually start making my own project. When you are already working in the industry and you have very little free time (I could spend not more than two hours a day on the project), it’s difficult to tear yourself away from coffee with cookies and watching various videos. But you should always remember that if you are wasting time such way absolutely nothing will change in your life and if you want to develop, you need to lift your ass off the couch and make something worthwhile. The second difficult stage in this work was to move from a blockout to working on the main content. Even with an artistic education, it’s hard to think through the progect in whole. And you can not neglect the feedback! Get it from cool dudes, and even if they suggest completely redoing everything, it’s worth it. Because at each step you become more steep. So if you are doing something, show everyone what you’re doing! And never give up! If you want to make cool projects – do it!

Catherine Zinovieva, Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Artyom Sergeev

You can also get the pack with the scene and tons of assets on Gumroad

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