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Level Design in Unity: Blocking Out a Cyberpunk Scene with UModeler

3D artist KKamjang discussed the process of designing a simple level entirely in Unity using UModeler.


Hello! I am KKamjang, and I am currently working as a 3D Modeler (3D Artist) at Tripolygon. I am writing this article to share some tips with you and discuss what I experienced while creating the Cyberpunk background.

I joined Tripolygon last October. At that time I learned about the modeling tool called UModeler, which was developed by our company, and I have since taken on the role to create “Levels” to share it during Blocktober, which is an event that is held in October.


Blocktober is an event at which the first step of level design called “Blockout” is shared. The inaugural event was held in 2017 and has since been held every October. People can participate by sharing their Blockout levels using the #blocktober hashtag along with their unique experiences on Twitter.

If you have worked in the game industry’s “Level Design” or “Environment Art” fields before, you may be more accustomed to the terms “White-boxing” or “Grid Box Level” rather than blockout, but they all carry the same meaning. If you set up a zone through a plane and configured a space for buildings or props with boxes/cubes or simple models when making the level for the first time, then you did a blockout.

Blockout does not have a set configuration that is primarily intended to be presented to the user. It is simply intended to form the gameplay or level you have in mind. Therefore, I used blocks without textures, and even if they had them, I labeled the function of space (road, water, non-moveable areas) through colors. Or I simply used textures to check the size and function by writing down units (m, cm).

While making the Cyberpunk project with UModeler, I had two purposes in mind – learning and event-sharing, so I endeavored to choose the right direction for the concept based on the current trends.

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The Neon City: Concept

Regarding the concept, I chose the Cyberpunk theme, which currently has rising popularity. Not only is it a genre that I personally enjoy, but it is also suitable for producing a more descriptive blockout, that's why I selected it.

Cyberpunk falls in the same genre as Medieval Fantasy and has a big context, so I decided to choose another sub-theme for the level and reviewed many topics. From those I reviewed, I chose overpass. A building designed as an overpass that consists of several floors seemed suitable for the direction of the level, and I also thought it would be fun to express that.


The first step is the rough layout. I decided to make a long narrow-looking road as opposed to a wider one in the concept. Although the road is the main aspect of the scene, I thought it would be better to make it narrow to better convey the twisted shape rather than a long stretch.

I placed the largest buildings at the beginning and end of the road, and I added a structure that moves the floors to carry each transportation. Also, the upper surface of the building was slanted to help the reflected light emphasize the building. Ultimately, however, the light was not reflected because the scene had a dark background.


Following the blockout stage, I then embarked upon detailing. I decided to make the buildings more detailed because I plan to include the blockout, details, and environment settings (lights, cameras, effects, etc.) in the demo making-of video.

However, since the purpose was just to convey the general atmosphere of the level, I decided to leave only the large shapes without many detailed parts and add more expression through simple materials without any textures.

We drew out the overall process of the blockout step separately on an A4 sheet and then I made a sketch based on the process. Usually, I make direct sketches for those parts that were not expressed in the concept or design or when there's no concept art at all. This can be effective when giving instructions to someone or communicating with other departments like concept/2D artists.
When many departments gather together to create content there are situations when conversations do not go well. In those cases, the communication will flow faster and more accurately if there are diverse means of expression, such as 3D conceptualization, writing, or gestures.

Problems in Level Design

There was a problem with the narrow deep composition of the level as mentioned above. I modeled the buildings in another Unity scene, and when I checked them in the scene where the road was placed, I saw that in some cases the two were overlapping.

The costs of relocating the overpasses (in terms of my time and effort) became higher as the production progressed, and I did not want to change the layout. This is because it was difficult to reposition the road because the overpasses were located between buildings and placed just above or below each other. Therefore, I resolved the situation by modifying the buildings themselves, not the road.

Camera Installation and Animation for a Demo Video

We used the Unity Cinemachine to install the Track and Dolly Camera.

Previously, I had to set up a separate script for these camera configurations and it was great that it was now provided for free. However, I didn't utilize the Cinemachine system to its full capacity, because no objects in the scene move so there aren't many dynamic elements. I will try to make more dynamic scenes using UModeler and Cinemachine functions in the future.


All 3D modeling was done only using UModeler within Unity. I used HDRP, and the Post Processing and Skylight settings were managed through Volume.

I only created one shader this time, and I used the built-in Unity Shader Graph. I created texture coordinates according to the world position and affixed the values to create a pixelated or mosaic effect.

One advantage of doing modeling within the game engine is that you can check the results of the applied shaders and modify them in real-time. Also, mesh-based FX production becomes more convenient, because you can modify UVs inside the engine.
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If I had used a more standard workflow, I would have otherwise needed to return to the 3D modeling software to modify the buildings and bounce back and forth to see the changes in the engine. So it was nice that I could make quick adjustments and modify only a certain part of the building while working within the engine. 

I think that this approach can be beneficial when working with others because the changes are immediately visible and there is no need to separately check the results in the engine.

There are many cases in which other industries outside video games apply game engines. The engines that are based on real-time rendering, are used when rapid responses are required due to customer changes. 

In an era when industries are becoming ever more closely connected with real-time, I believe these systems will prove to be efficient and effective, particularly if the workflow can be reduced.

These are just some notes I took on my experience of making a short one-week level. Although it may not be perfect, I hope this information was helpful.

Thank you for reading.

KKamjang, 3D Artist

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