3D Artist Hota Aisa shared a short breakdown of the Unreal Engine 5-powered Castle environment, discussed the workflow, and explained how Demon's Souls inspired the project.
Hello everyone! I'm Jon Gómez Aisa (Hota Aisa) a 32 year old 3D Artist from Basque Country. I got a degree in 3D Animation and a Games and Interactive Environments degree at Ceinpro in San Sebastian back in 2013.
From there on, I worked in Dibulitoon Studio from 2013 to 2017 as a 3D Environment and Prop Artist. I worked on various TV shows and movies for kids, such as Elcano & Magellan: The First Voyage Around the World and Yoko and His Friends.
I moved to Tokyo in 2017. In Japan, I worked on some PS5 projects in a studio called Soleil until last month as an Environment and Prop Artist.
The Castle Project
For the Castle project, I used a concept I did back in 2020. I made a folder on my PC and filled it with references and castles I found on Pinterest, and then before I started modeling, I chose the parts I liked the most, being careful not to be too eclectic.
For modeling, I usually choose 3ds Max and then brush the borders in ZBrush to make everything look more organic and less mathematical. Then, I bring the asset to Substance 3D Painter to create the textures.
I prefer to use Maya for UVs since, in my opinion, it is a more powerful program than 3ds Max for this task. 80% of the project was baked in SP because I like the control it gives me. As for the rest of the parts like walls or towers, I used Quixel Mixer to create a cool wall material with a Displacement Map.
Since I was trying to find a good balance between realistic and stylized, I decided to make even the castle roof tiles in 3D, so I could make them look a bit more the way I like, and since it's a portfolio piece, I was not so worried about polycount of the roof. The environment's stones, rocks, and mountains were made using a single asset from Megascans. I tried to find some rocks that would match shapes and colors with my own wall texture to be coherent.
As for the composition, I did different tests, changing the shape of the mountains, making the castle on an island, etc. Also, I tried many different lighting scenarios. Unreal Engine 5 is such a powerful tool, so I didn't need too much work to make the illumination look the way I liked. I also asked my friends and family for feedback about which composition they liked more before choosing one.
Normally, I don't use real-time renderers because I always thought the quality of Iray in KeyShot or Substance 3D was higher, but then I discovered a whole new world of potential with UE5, and I'm sure I will use it much more from now on.
It took me around 70 hours over five days to complete the project. My main challenges were to learn how to set up lighting in Unreal Engine 5 and how to make textures made in Substance 3D Painter and Quixel Mixer look good in UE5. For this, I had to learn how to make shaders and adapt my workflow to go back and forward, tweaking textures here and there.
Finally, my humble recommendation for other artists is to play many video games and find inspiration in them. Make video games your Ikigai. I was playing the remake of Demon's Souls from Bluepoint Games, and while playing, I got so inspired that I couldn't stop working on the castle until I finished.
Also, I like to check ArtStation and art pages every day to get inspiration and motivation and sometimes to get super jealous (in a positive way) when looking at other people's art. I think inspiration is the key to being motivated enough to finish big projects like this. More heart and less brain.