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Creating The Last of Us-Inspired City in Substance 3D Painter, Maya & UE5

Andrei Egorov has shared the workflow behind the Abandoned City project, spoke about working with modules, and revealed an easy way to adjust the light for the scene.


Hello, my name is Andrei Egorov and at the moment I live and work in Portugal in Saber Interactive Porto. I started my journey in the 3D sphere as a Prop and Vehicle Artist. But my desire to do something big and atmospheric was seething in me.

Everything I know, I learned by watching YouTube, analyzing the works of other people, or asking more experienced artists.  I made a big step in 3D thanks to a small Indie team called TALLBOYS, they are really tall...


The idea to create an abandoned city sat in me for a long time. There were several reasons for this. I wanted to improve my modular modeling skills, a city always looks cool, and most importantly, I wanted to try to make an entire scene using only tiles and trims.

So where does every scene start? Right, references. On the internet, I found the work of the artist Devins Lee and I used it as a base. Of course, I’ve checked a lot of references from TLOU and Uncharted.

Then I began to analyze what I need to create a city – like buildings, cars, broken asphalt, vegetation, and some props to fill the scene.

Modeling and Texturing Workflow

One of my goals was to work with modules. Buildings are great for this. The task is simple, we go to the Internet, look for buildings, and split them into modules. Each of my modules equals 2. 2,6,8,10... meters. Below you can see examples of my modules. 

For building creation, I used mid poly with weighted normals. For Maya, I used this script. For 3d Max, the script is here. In Blender, you can use the FWN modifier. In order to use vertex paint, I added some loops for every module.

I took the majority of textures from Megascans and mixed them into Quixel Mixer. For texture packing, I used BR and NOH methods (watch from 20:00).

There are a lot of cars in the city. If I textured each car uniquely, it would take a lot of time. So I decided to create one car, one truck, and one bus, but use masks to create variations. For the correct normals, I used normal transfer. In short, I created proxy models for cars, from which I copied the normals for my cars. In the picture below, I showed how to fix the normals on the object in Maya on a simple model. If you use 3d Max you can use this script.

I followed the same process with cars. Using one car and two masks we can create many cars with different colors and damage.

For texturing cars, I used layered materials. This allowed me to add as many layers as I wanted. The shader does not exceed 200 instructions. You can learn more here.

Creating props was not much different from cars – the first channel is for tiles and the second is for masks. Usually, I use the red channel for rust, blue – for scratch, and green – for dirt.

I modeled some leaves using ZBrush, put together some variations for ivy, and baked it into a tiled and unique texture. The rest of the grass was taken from Megascans.

Lighting, Composition, and Colors


I chose leading lines and rules of thirds as the main types of composition. The main focus was on the bank building and on the building in the background. For the foreground, I used cars. Also, I added water towers and antennas on the roofs to diversify the silhouette.


Everyone said that the new UE5 is cool and Lumen is a super tool and I decided to try it. Indeed, with Lumen, it has become easier to adjust the light. For my scene, I chose the type of lighting in shadow-light-shadow. Classic scheme: cold shadows and warm light source. In my mood, I wanted to get something similar to The Last of Us.

Then I added a few additional spotlights to add accents. God rays on the right, in front of the bank are fake, I made a cylinder and applied a transparent texture to it. You can check how to adjust this here.

I wanted to get a clean picture, without a lot of post-effect interference. Therefore, I only played with exposure settings, colors, and white balance.


I really liked the pipeline without baking normals. Thanks to this, I saved a lot of time. Especially now, with the Nanite technology, we can chamfer geometry as much as we want and forget about baking. Another thing that I thought about all the time is "Whatever we do should be art". Every prop, every light source, everything is art.

Thank you for reading this article and 80 Level for the opportunity to share my idea. If you have any questions, just send me a message on ArtStation or LinkedIn.

Andrei Egorov, 3D Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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