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A Step-by-Step Tutorial on Creating a Weathered House in the Desert

The "House In The Desert Project," despite being Antonina Korkodola's first project using UE5, immerses us in a lively desert scene. At its heart stands a weathered house, enduring both day and night.


My name is Antonina Korkodola and I am a 3D artist at NVIDIA. I'd like to share the serendipitous journey that led me to the world of 3D, which happened completely by accident. 

I've decided that 3ds Max is easy and I can learn it in a couple of days (no). It was like a game that turned into my hobby and then into a job. To be honest, for the first few years of working in the game industry, I thought it wasn't serious and that it was time for me to get a grip and find a “real” job.

After a while, I was hired by a small company that develops mobile applications. One of the first big companies to develop AAA games was 4A Games, where I worked on the project “Metro Exodus.” This really helped me improve my skills.

Then came Wargaming and “World of Tanks.” I also worked at Ubisoft for several months, but the war that started in my country turned my life upside down.

I was hired by the company NVIDIA with the opportunity to relocate to another country, and I am currently working in this company.

The House in the Desert Project

Jumping ahead, I'll say that this is not an example of how it should be done. I wanted to embody this concept in general, so, I decided to choose an alternative way of creating the concept, a faster way that is more focused on the overall idea.

The idea of creating my project was so long that I remember that models and textures in Megascans were still paid for at that time. Initially, I didn't think it would be a scene in UE. I thought I would just do a render and matte painting in Photoshop, kind of like concept art.

After browsing Pinterest and looking for references, I started making 3D models in Blender.

I started creating models that were necessary for my scene, and at this point, I was overcome by laziness. I created several mid-poly models, not very neat but good enough for my idea. 

In the meantime, Megascans models became free, and more and more people started doing their projects in UE. I was captivated by this idea, but laziness, circumstances, and other excuses kept me from starting work. By that time, I had done a few small projects of my own.

Years went by and UE kept getting better. Finally, I decided to install it and do my first project, especially since I had the idea for a long time.

After watching a couple of tutorials  (Unreal Engine 5 Beginner Tutorial - UE5 Starter Course), I immediately started creating what I wanted without any blockout, gradually adding more and more details and coming up with the composition on the fly (which was my mistake). 

I made small dunes in the desert and began creating the environment using Megascan models. And I also used free models from the Mission to Minerva project. I decided to use as many features as possible (animation, simulation, lighting). So for each issue, I delved into YouTube for a long time.

Some of the models I've made very roughly, for example, this bridge, so that it would stand in the distance and for the silhouette:

I also placed a city in the distance for a lively environment and silhouette, a small scene with a car, and a barbecue area:

Again, for the silhouette and detailing, and to give the scene “liveliness,” I added electric poles and old rails, as well as vegetation:

To create the wires using Unreal Engine's built-in plugins, I initially created sockets on the electric poles. The advantage of these wires is that they sway on their own in the wind:

I simulated the sun cloth and curtains in the doorway in UE, fixing the places that will not be simulated:

I added a rotating movement to this antenna:

I created the fog and dust under the train using the Niagara system, by assigning a pre-made material to the particles:

The material for the dust particles under the train:


I animated the flying spotlight, as well as the flying ships, using key in level sequence in Unreal Engine:

I had several cameras, and I made the necessary animations for each one. I think it could have been done much simpler, but I was just learning. So, I did it as best as I could. It was important for me to get a result.


As mentioned earlier, I didn't spend much time on texturing and modeling. I textured in 3D Coat using smart materials and masks, not focusing much on detail but achieving the necessary visuals.


I used a simple material for several of my props. And in the material, I also added a node that helped me add dust over all objects.


Since the daytime scene just uses sunlight, I'll talk a bit about the nighttime scene. I lit the train car with three light sources. 

I also have one spotlight, a lamp by the entrance, and a levitating spotlight.

To correct the image, I used the Unreal Engine tool PostProcessVolume. You can see the result below.

In my portfolio, you might have seen a couple of shots like this. I created such a sandstorm using the Ultra Dynamic Sky plugin, but you can also create it using the Niagara Systems method in Unreal Engine, as I did for the dust under the train car.


As you can see, I used simple methods to create this picture, which might be useful for a beginner who is afraid of complexities… like me.

When making this scene, I ran into a lot of problems. Maybe I was just not lucky, but even YouTube tutorials don't tell me everything. A simple cloth animation took me many nights to work out why the cloth was going everywhere — it was because of collisions. I also had trouble with a camera animation on a track around a car, which didn't work for a long time. But the hardest part was starting to learn UE. 

After a few nights, though, I really enjoyed it. So, I can say while I was doing the project, I got a lot of challenges, and I studied a lot of topics and learned a lot of things. 

For all beginners like me, my advice is simple — always finish what you start.

I would like to thank the art community for their support, as well as the 80 Level for this opportunity.

Antonina Korkodola, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Gloria Levine

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