GAI GAI Bootcamp game art institute modular modular design

Modular Castle & Rubble Rig

Laurence J. Hester did a breakdown of the surroundings made inside Surroundings Artist Bootcamp at Recreation Artwork Institute: modular design, supplies, lighting, rubble rig, Micro normal, and extra.


Hello, I’m Laurence, an Surroundings artist. I briefly labored on Playconomics with LionsHeart Studios and I’m at present on the lookout for my next alternative! I started my journey learning artwork in class and as I neared my commencement I used to be encouraged to decide on one thing within the 3D subject.

I wasn’t fairly bought on this idea until, by probability, I picked up a replica of Bioshock. After that, I knew I needed to work in video games. I gained a bachelor of 3D  Animation at SAE Institute and halfway by means of the course, I found that my actual passion was in creating environments. It’s been my focus ever since!

Learning at Recreation Artwork Institute

I initially began my course at GAI in October final yr, and I’m now finishing up the second course. My objective was to replace my information of software program used within the business and achieve a greater understanding of current workflows. The boot camp begins with everybody concentrating their efforts on one prop, this can be a good probability in your mentor to see what degree you’re at and attempt to give some good feedback in your workflow and pipeline before you sit right down to create a diorama or a scene.

Aside from learning the primary software used presently, it also helped me develop an eye fixed for 3D objects, texturing and the power to guage the item as I’m working on it. I found it essential to concentrate on breaking up edge put on to keep away from it wanting too uniform and using some roughness variation to actually push the look of your present undertaking.

Even if the lighting isn’t my focus, I also found it increasingly essential to ensure my objects are nicely lit when getting ready them for my portfolio. I typically wish to layer up the lights and have a light-weight that serves as a skylight for ambient lighting, one other mild to brighten up the primary focus, dramatic lighting, and a rim mild. I really feel it’s the context of the item you’re lighting that helps determine what shade of lights to make use of. For instance, with my prop under I used brilliant saturated lights which appear to be automotive back lights and colors you may see in a metropolis. For my desert ruins, I stored to extra pure tones.

Damaged Ritual is my fourth setting made while at GAI, I’ve all the time been a fan of the Dragon Age collection so I decided to create a scene impressed by one in every of my favourite places: The Western Strategy. I had plenty of ideas, however to maintain it inside scope I settled on doing one previous tower with some funky magic happening to provide me a chance to dive into some effects. I also needed to chuck a bunch of sand around and break objects so this coated the whole lot I was trying to get into on the time! With each venture, I included Substance Designer into my workflow somewhat extra, so I used to be in a position to make use of it for almost all of the tiling supplies (Tile/Tough Brick/Clean Brick/ All Sand Variations).

Modular Pieces

For these modular items, I grabbed some reference, isolated which supplies I’d have to make and then spent a while in Substance Designer. There have been two most important graphs made for this, one for the ground tiles (which have been later changed with sculpted belongings) and one for all of the bricks.

After this, I solely had another primary material I needed to make. The geometric trim was determined to be modeled in Maya, as I discovered it to be lots faster than making it in Designer.

This design was truly rather a lot easier to model then I assumed, as after I had modeled a portion of it I used to be capable of finding the place it tiled and easily repeat that section till I had the length I wanted. After this, it was baked in Marmoset and textured in Substance Painter.

With my principal supplies made I now targeting making my modular items. I made positive my grid was set to 50cm x 50cm in Unreal models (0.5 x 0.5m in Maya). From here it was a matter of creating items that match the grid, while retaining my reference close. After making, and mapping textures to at least one full wall the simplest approach to make the half wall was to turn on ‘UV preserve’, grab one aspect of the wall and pull it to the midway mark, that is the essential course of for all the elements. As soon as the complete elements are completed I separated some into smaller chunks, while still preserving the UVs, and used these to assemble and create the broken partitions.

Rubble Rig

For the rubble rig, I used to be capable of dust off my animation and rigging expertise! While this doesn’t quite examine to creating a human rig, or animating a bipedal (or quadrupedal!) character, I was in a position to make use of my previous expertise to make some fantasy-style floating rubble. This was all accomplished in Maya.

After sculpting and texturing each bit I organized my bricks into an appealing form, it will serve as the bind pose and will have an appealing silhouette. As soon as this is finished, the item is mixed as one mesh and all the historical past is deleted, it can be given a rig and some movements!

From right here it’s time to maneuver into the ‘Rigging’ tab. Choose Skeleton > Create Joint, then place that joint on the origin level (zero,zero,0 on the grid). That is your root joint and it gained’t move as the other joints do. To make this a bit easier I modify my shading mode to ‘X-Ray Joints’ which can permit me to see all joints in entrance of and behind meshes. In case your joint is just too giant or too small you may as well change their measurement within the ‘Channel box/ Layer editor, through the use of the slider on the backside.

Then I chosen ‘Insert Joint’ and altered the digital camera into Orthographic in whichever angle showed each bit of my rubble greatest. I stayed in this digital camera angle till I had made a joint for each separate piece. Insert the joints wanted with the ‘Insert Joint Tool’ by clicking on the basis and dragging the joint out to one among your pieces of rubble. I continued this until every separate piece had its personal joint.

After that, it was time to modify again into the attitude mode, choose every joint (not including the Root) and move them into the mesh. Here I might examine the Root Joint every now and then as typically in the course of the joint creation half I’d by accident create a joint and never drag it out, or just miss-click. The simplest approach to see if this has occurred is to verify that the whole skeleton highlights once you click on the basis if this doesn’t occur there’s an additional joint there. As this rig doesn’t have an enormous hierarchy I decided not to identify every joint.

At this level, I made positive I had a espresso as it may be a bit tedious. I selected the Root, THEN chosen the mesh, went to Pores and skin and Bind Skin. You’ll be able to look into the settings in case you like however for this, as I was going to re-paint all the weights, I stored the Bind Skin settings at their default.

Presently, if the joints are moved, the rubble will stretch in a weird trend, and it might even have affect over surrounding pieces, relying on how close the rubble is. When painting the rubble my objective is to offer one joint complete affect over its corresponding piece of rubble.

To get into the Painting Pores and skin Weights menu its Pores and skin, Paint Skin Weights, and after clicking this open the Software Menu. I now proper clicked on one joint and chosen ‘Paint Skin Weights Tool’. Now it’s only a matter of creating positive every joint has 100% influence over its piece of rubble, and that it also doesn’t have any influence over another items of mesh. As we don’t need any softer values I maintain the Worth and Opacity to 1.

After this, the easiest way to ensure my items have the amount of influence I would like is to pick every joint and transfer them somewhat. This can help see if it stretches at all or takes items of different geometry with it. If this doesn’t occur then the skinning is completed! At this stage, I hold reminding myself to not delete the thing’s historical past, as this can erase the bindings and weights.

Once that was achieved all that was left is animating these items. First I went to the start and the top of my designated timeline, pressing S to keyframe my rubble with all joints selected. After this, I chose a spot close to the center, selected some joints and moved them down, then continued to pick teams of joints, move them and keyframe them till every joint strikes. I’m cautious here to not choose a joint twice; doing this on this stage may make it transfer quicker or in a jerky trend.

I’ve exaggerated the motion within the gif above just to make it simpler to see what’s occurring. It’s already wanting good at this stage, for those who had time and needed to do another cross or two on it the subsequent things can be including barely more variation to their movement, fixing any items that ’pop’ and adjusting the velocity if wanted. For those who’re feeling fancy you can even dive into the animation curves and so on. and simply go wild!

Once I was completed I exported it, imported it into Unreal, and populating my scene with it. I didn’t step into using the physics much so I positioned these the place they wouldn’t clip into any walls or other objects.


The sand effects have been one thing I needed to do early on, however when beginning out I had no concept how I might achieve this. I’d labored a small bit within the cascade system and was making an attempt to wrap my head round how I’d make these results in that system, nevertheless, after some ideas I used to be capable of finding a a lot simpler strategy to make both the sand falling/rising impact and the sand vortex above the temple.

Nearly all of the work for this was creating an alpha masks in Photoshop. When painting this masks I opened a file at 2048×2048 (or any of the standard resolutions), made three tips, and commenced to layer up the grunge while retaining the directionality in mind. So maintain the types flowing downwards or upwards and never aspect to aspect. As that is sand I attempt to use a number of noisy brushes to get that small particle look.

After I was proud of the grunge shape, I used Filter > Different > Offset, and moved solely the vertical slider to make adjustments to the streaks till it tiled.  For the rising sand, I made three falling ‘clumps’ and for the sand vortex, I made one bigger one. As these are all just black and white masks you’ll be able to place each into a unique channel to optimize it in the event you’d like.

Then in Maya, I shortly made 3 planes, made positive their UVs have been according to the clumps from the alpha, and placed their pivots proper at the prime of then. If you realize the dimensions of your area you’ll be able to scale the sand aircraft to the length wanted.

After I used to be proud of that, it was time to arrange this material in engine. I initially experimented with inputting a subsurface scattering shade, however ultimately settled on a quite simple set up for my material.

The fabric mode is Surface, Translucent and Two-sided. Then I plugged my sand diffuse into the Base Color, my alpha map into the Opacity channel, and a Panner into the UVs of the Alpha map. For the slowly rising impact, I set the ‘Speed Y’ to 0.1.

With the material accomplished it was just a matter of choosing the important thing points round my scene to put these, I scaled the width of them, rotated them, and overlapped them slightly to offer some variation to them.

The Vortex was virtually the identical, as I made the alpha horizontal it simply required a special input in the Panner node.

General these parts added a little bit of interest to the scene, particularly the sand which I felt helped body the inside facet of the temple.

Micro Regular in Unreal

I’d heard individuals speak about Micro/Macro normal quite a bit but hadn’t seemed into it until I noticed how low-rez my rocks have been wanting, as a consequence of how much I used to be scaling them. Fortunately Micro regular (and a Micro diffuse) could be handled by one node within Unreal Engine!

The node I used was ‘Detail Texturing’. Right here I wanted a Diffuse, Normal, a Detail Regular and a Detail Diffuse (non-compulsory). I also found it helpful to make one Parameter every for Scale, Normal Depth and Diffuse Intensity. For the Detail Normal and Diffuse, I used extra detailed textures that tile nicely, as I discovered this late within the undertaking I just chosen some from I edited the color of the detail diffuse in Photoshop, simply to permit it to match my present rock.

As soon as I had all my parameters organized and named accordingly, I right clicked on the fabric and created a cloth occasion. From there I utilized it to my rock and tweaked all three parameters until I achieved the end result I was after.


Originally I had a depressing night time lighting scheme, nevertheless, that wasn’t working for me. Considering back to the reference degree I designed my subsequent lighting scheme to mirror the dramatic warmth of mid-day in the desert. I also discovered, as I used to be taking notes on suggestions given to me, that I’d need to create a couple of totally different lighting setups for this degree. They labored like this:

  1. Lighting for the primary dramatic inside. Right here the lighting path is from the rear of the constructing and shining down into the inside. This provides the delicate directional God rays that also point in the direction of the focus. There are also some point lights to scale back the severity of the shadows inside.
  2. Lighting for the floor above the inside. On this shot, not quite a bit modifications are occurring, nevertheless, the point lights mentioned above brought on the interior to be too mild at this angle. So for this shot, those have been removed, some comparable point lights have been added to deliver some shade into this upper flooring space.
  3. Lighting for the façade of the Temple. Right here the primary change was that the sun path moved, this allowed the entrance of the constructing to be in the solar and have some fascinating shadows.


My foremost objective was to realize a better understanding of packages extensively used within the business, which I didn’t know the complete potential of earlier than. This allowed me to create environments of better quality and larger scope as my method and information of workflows improved.

The suggestions offered throughout the course allowed me to concentrate on areas that had more potential. Whereas I still have so much I need to study I’m very thankful for all the time and endurance my mentors Ryan Kingslien, Simon Fuchs, and Alexis Boyer devoted to helping me improve my understanding of the business and its methods.

Laurence J. Hester, Surroundings Artist

Interview carried out by Kirill Tokarev

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