Environment Design: Patterns, Architecture and Movement

Environment Design: Patterns, Architecture and Movement

Jeryce Dianingana gave a little talk about his environment and explained how he modeled the place and created the water.


For the first time I left my family to move to another country, I’ve been recruited by Ubisoft Quebec 6 months ago to work as a 3D Artist for an AAA unannounced game so sadly I can’t talk about what I’m doing out there yet. I love discovering a new country and it’s better when it happens thanks to hard work. The people from Ubisoft received me well, all the things they do to make you feel comfortable is amazing. Working with the artists that you follow on Artstation is weird, I want to thank them by the way for encouraging me with this challenge, I’m learning a lot by working with them. 

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The first thing that I had in mind was “Originality”, so something that we don’t see a lot, I like the idea of taking a concept but I don’t like mirror fights and “Africa”. This Challenge was a good opportunity to show and explain that one of the things that I love the most in my life and I always wanted to do an environment based on my origins.

It’s the first time that I make something that my family can relate to, something that can talk to them and it was a hell of a motivation for a Challenge.  I had this idea of a peaceful, beautiful and powerful, at the same time futuristic, city in Africa and not a grunge dark and dirty cyberpunk futurist one. Wakongo is a city dedicated to the people and their culture, a little bit like a big museum city which worships art from all Africa. 

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My main inspiration was first the African Art, like the carved statues or mask, the Adinkra symbols from West Africa, these symbols are really important to me. Each symbol represents something and I easily identify with them, I tattooed an Adinkra for every big event in my life.

The work from the artist LAOLU SEBANJO who uses the Ori art from the Yoruba people inspired me a lot for the textures of my masks.

For the overall look and color, I asked my little cousin to take some pictures of his house for me in Congo Brazzaville, I want to thank him too cause I used him like a Pinterest for one month.


The blockout was hard, this is the first time I made an open environment, and especially a city, it was really difficult to have interesting shapes, but not too many cause it can affect the readability of the scene. I think I changed the blockout 6 or 7 times. I almost gave up at one moment. You have to choose one position for your camera or you will construct buildings and reshape thing forever. In the challenge you have a deadline so you have to manage to stay on your position and see what is really important, to be efficient. It’s something that I learned with pain.

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I wanted to search a concept art but it is a little hard to find something for this subject without falling on Numbani from Overwatch or Black panther. I figured out by sleeping and looking at the pictures of my cousin and pictures of houses carved by Ghanaian people.

It was hard to stop making crazy shapes — it’s not easy to do a simple thing. 

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Decorative elements

The masks and statue are done in Zbrush and hand-painted with Substance Painter.

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I tried two different workflows for the trims, one with the high poly made in 3DS Max and baked into a plane and another made in Substance Designer, both of them are efficient and easy to do with the shapes that I have, it’s just triangles, rotation, symmetry and squares.

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The skyscrapers are a composition of the different Trims assembled in 3DS max and Lightbaked in Unity. The difficulty was not to put too much trim on it like usual for the readability. 

The torch thing is a mire made from glass in Zbrush with an animated point light affected by the translucency map inspired by the fire of Miss Liberty.

Most of the assets are real objects inspired by different tribes in Africa.


The river was also the main idea. I always loved the view from the Congo River when I was young. The shader is really simple, it’s based on a Mirror reflection script right here.

And I added some fresnel and UV movement on two noise texture that I made in Substance Designer.

I used ShaderForge when creating the shader. There are a lot of tutorials or people talking about water in the ShaderForge forum section in Unity. 


I used sprite sheets that I found, tweaked a little and put it on the particle system of Unity with a noise to simulate a swarm movement. Some people find it too weird but I like it. Sometimes I just wanna have fun and don’t do things 100% realistic.

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I think I know every word of the song that I put in the video (music performed by Zoe Mthiyane – Opar). I love this music, the voice goes right into your soul.


My directional light is using the new mixed Baked from Unity in “shadowmask” mode a little bit like the ” Static” mode of Unreal. It keeps the real-time specular impact and bakes the bounces of it. I used the basic fog of unity with the new post-process stack V2 that you can find here. The color grading is amazing and super easy to tweak to have nice color in your scene.

To have nice color and spec on the building, I put big emissive spheres in the scene hiding from the camera and I captured these points with the reflection probes all around the scene, a little like a photography setup.


I used Fog Volume 3 by David Miranda for the clouds.

Really nice scripts that can allow you to set up a box in your scene to add volumetric clouds, there are a lot of options. It’s a little hard to understand at the beginning, but with time you can manage to have a good thing.

Jeryce Dianingana, 3D Artist at Ubisoft

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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