Recreating TES III Morrowind's Seyda Neen in Unreal Engine 5

Technical Artist Mica Olsson shared the workflow behind the Seyda Neen project, explained how the scene was set up using Megascans assets, talked about making Fargoth with MetaHuman, and shared the lighting setup.

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Hello! My name is Mica Olsson and I’m currently working as a Technical Artist at Goodbye Kansas Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve always enjoyed video games and level creation as a kid, playing games and tinkering around with different level editors and game engines that were included. Such as Valve's Hammer Editor, creating maps for Counter-Strike 1.6 and Left for Dead, also Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Heroes of Might and Magic III, etc. And, of course, a lot with Bethesda's Construction Sets (The Elder Scrolls series) and Creations Kits (Fallout series). Then, I started creating my own 3D content and mods using Photoshop and Autodesk Maya, which led to Unity and Unreal Engine.

Later on, in my late teens, my eyes opened up that this is an actual profession, so I studied a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Computer Graphics at Luleå Technical University, Sweden. With a personal focus on game art, I created my own small horror game called Contemp as a final exam project and got an internship position at Ubisoft Massive in Malmö as a Junior Environment Artist. After that, I jumped to Goodbye Kansas Studios Realtime Department in Stockholm as a Technical Artist.

As for personal projects, I get inspired by iconic scenes from games and movies that help me remember feeling excited about traveling a world of mystique and unique designs. Also, I enjoy looking for smaller scenes planned based on time and energy I can either go for a small section or keep adding for a larger scene.

I prefer finishing a project rather than being over-ambitious and never completing it. From there, the music, sounds, and environment designs are what inspired me to rework the Seyda Neen environment.

The Seyda Neen Project

To gather references, my first step was to load up the game and walk/play around in the environment to get a feel for the atmosphere and scale but also look for interesting camera angles and take screenshots of different props, foliage, buildings, both close-up and wide angles. After that, I opened up the Morrowind Construction Kit (level editor) for clean top-down screenshots, mapping out buildings and the environment's main pieces for a general match to the game environment.

When working on personal projects, my main motto is to do it for myself and enjoy it as art while trying not to overthink it by having to push technical boundaries or handcrafting everything unless that is something I wanna work for at the moment. Currently, I see Unreal Engine as a playground for ideas and Megascans acting as paint for the picture.

Blockout and Assets

After gathering references, I blocked out the environment with Unreal's landscape tool, using basic geometric shapes to get the right scale and positions, tweaking and trying out some quick compositions with a cinematic camera and some basic lighting along the way to get direction and feel of the scene early on.

Then, I started creating assets, focusing on tweaking the main landscape, having the ocean and river blocked out, and then creating the buildings. The main parts of the buildings consisted of Megascans' modular house parts with the roofs coming from the Megascans Medieval Village level, tweaked with Unreal Modeling toolkit, and detailed with smaller assets such as poles and planks. 

On this project, I enjoyed a lot looking more into Unreal's latest modeling tools when working with Megascans assets to quickly edit and customize environment pieces. I used Warp and Lattice deformers to bend wooden poles and walls and quickly sculpt variations of the same asset. I also tried out Packed Level Actors that allow you to select a bunch of KitBashed pieces and easily create a Blueprint prefab that is easy to transform and rotate for good composition tweaking but also duplicate and reuse for the background buildings.

Also, I deformed assets using Spline Deformation Blueprint which allows you to get easy control over bending and setting the length of some foliage actors such as the tree details. I KitBashed different foliage pieces together with Spline Deformation and then combined them into a prefab which I duplicated and transformed to further dress the tree.

The modeling toolkit also works well if you want to use basic shapes such as cubes and spheres to quickly sculpt shapes and attach Megascans surface materials such as specific house pieces or environment ground coverage and rocks.

The Landscape

As for landscape coverage, it consisted of one main landscape material with about three different material blends, a main forest ground material with a blended mud on top for the trampled traversed parts of the town, and a stone material for main town roads. It was blended with Megascans' larger coverage assets of scanned ground modular pieces with a final layer of foliage with about two different grass densities and some extra variation grass pieces of different heights and then lastly plants, mushrooms, scattered twigs, and rocks.

The water shader is pretty basic, it uses two water Normal Maps overlaid with different Panner animations added together for some movement, a Depth Fade node controls opacity and fade distance towards geometry edges for a smooth transition blend and simulated depth and Water Color parameter with a fresnel effect on the Refraction. 


To create Fargoth, I tried out the latest Mesh to Metahuman feature which felt pushed to the limit by using the actual face geometry and Albedo texture from Morrowind as a scan base (very low poly and texture resolution) which I cleaned up and smoothed a bit in Maya before processing.

Here’s the base “scan” head mesh with texture as a Template Mesh in Unreal Engine:

Here’s the rough result in Metahuman Creator:

The magic happens when you add skin and hair and then sculpt and blend facial features based on other faces and tweak the intensities of the base head scan in MetaHuman. For me, this workflow helped to get the main facial features and head shape closer to the reference.

The final result in MetaHuman Creator:

And here's the in-engine model that I got after tweaking the eyes and shaders back in Unreal Engine:

Lighting and Composition

When working with lighting and composition I have a couple of cinematic cameras already set up for screenshots to always compare changes and results.

The lighting setup is rather simple, it is based on a Directional Light as the main light source and a Sky Light for ambient taking information from a Sky Atmosphere. On top of that, there’s an Exponential Height Fog and Post-Process for grading. On the final renders, I used Ray Tracing to tweak the settings a bit more when rendering. The reflection method was Lumen based.

There were also additional Point Lights and Rectangular Lights to make certain details pop more or fake some more GI on darker areas for better control. I used Fog Cards in the background to get more separation and atmosphere control based on game references.

As for post-processing and grading, I tweaked the temperature, added some contrast, had a LUT with about 20% intensity, slight film grain, vignette, and chromatic aberration towards edges. I always used a Convolution-based bloom method as I think the standard method is a bit hazy.


The biggest challenge is always to keep going on the project as you always compare it to others and early on it's difficult to see the end result and vision. But as long as you got some inspirational cinematic cameras and a basic light setup, taking screenshots during development helps to stay motivated and see progress focused on the final images as the result. Keep it simple and focus on the enjoyable parts and don't spend time on stuff that won't be close up such as background details and shapes. Remember, color does more than high detailed assets.

I recommend you to plan your projects to something that you will finalize, keep the core idea simple and small but also modular where you can extend or limit the scope during production, and always have references and progress screenshots to stay motivated and only compare to others if it keeps you inspired to push yourself further.

Mica Olsson, Technical Artist at Goodbye Kansas Studios

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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