Gabs Hega discussed the workflow of making an environment in Unity and shared some important knowledge about making vegetation textures.
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Hi, I'm Gabs Hega and I am a 3D artist. I love bringing incredible worlds to life and telling stories through them. I have always been fascinated by textures and how they change through the years.
I have collaborated on diverse projects and have always learned something new from each experience. I did modeling, textures, rigging, and animation for the video game Deep Sixed by Little Red Dog Games studio. I also made assets for The Shadows Lengthen, a video game created by Feral 3D.
After that, I worked on the animated short film Cardboard Wings, directed by Mauricio Revuelta and Javier Avendaño, in which I did modeling and textures. The short film was part of the Official Selection of the Chicago International Children's Film Festival 2019.
Last year I won a Sketchfab challenge, where the participants had to texture a 3D model already given by the platform, that is how the Victorian Monobike was born.
I also really enjoy sharing the knowledge I have with other people, that is why I am creating free tutorials available on my YouTube channel, and I have courses on other 3D platforms such as Artstation and Udemy.
Currently, I am working as a freelancer and also developing personal projects while studying new tools and software to keep myself aware of the industry’s updates.
I majored in Cybernetic Engineering and Computer Systems at the La Salle University in Mexico, where I was lucky enough to study a course focused on graphics animation. That was the moment when I clicked with my inner artist and met my first 3D software, Maya.
I got my degree in 2012 and then I started to work in network technologies, but I kept thinking about Maya and started to wonder about all the amazing things I could create using that tool. So one day, I decided to quit my job and study a 2-year specialty program in 3D Modeling and Animation. So far, it has been the best decision I have made in my life, besides marrying the love of my life of course, who is a Concept Artist by the way.
After finishing the specialty, I embarked on a self-learning journey to get fully into the 3D world and grow as an artist, so I started to enroll in courses, learning from online tutorials and work experiences, while constantly asking for feedback from the artists I look up to and have learned from.
The Legend of King Arthur Project
Back in 2019, I saw the "The Legend of King Arthur" Artstation challenge, and I wanted to participate because I knew that I could always learn something new from involving myself in different projects and seeing the work of other fellow artists, furthermore, the great thing I knew about these challenges, was that every time you upload your progress, you can receive feedback from more experienced artists.
At that time, I was playing Rise of The Tomb Raider, so my mind began to devise an environment with references from the game, like destroyed columns, vegetation, water… So I took some screenshots to better study the architectural structures.
Until then, I already had my construction references, but then I realized that I was busy trying to solve out the environment, techniques, and workflows, rather than taking care of something very important that sometimes we forget: The Story. So I asked myself: What do I want to tell? And right at that moment, I decided to focus on the story and forget a bit about techniques and workflows.
The story is about a minstrel who traveled around by boat, singing poems from town to town, until he got lost in one of his trips, and found this abandoned sanctuary that inspired him to sing about a lady of a lake who gave a magic sword to a king, that as he got older, returned the sword to the lady, who transformed into a statue, waiting for the next chosen one.
After studying my references, I started with the blocking of the environment in Maya. At this point, it was very important to check that the scales and proportions were correct, so I placed a model of a human with real scales. Then I defined the footprint measurement of the modular pieces such as arches, columns, floor, and walls.
After blocking the modular pieces, I took them to ZBrush to sculpt the details of the cracks, noise on the walls and columns. After I finished, I proceeded with the retopology of the high-resolution parts with Maya tools to obtain the low poly models.
Textures are my favorite part of the workflow! For this, it is very important to have the references present all the time, so I started looking for stones with moss. Then I worked the stone with a set of layers in Substance Painter, and after that, I worked on the color variation of the moss and its roughness.
Then I worked on the textures of the hands, it was important to highlight the volume of the hands with the ambient occlusion generator, looking for color variation and making the texture look like a stone since this asset was part of the focal point of the scene.
I used the Unity tools to create the vegetation like the trees and plants that were entangled in the columns. I made 5 groups of long branches for the sides, for the front arch, and the end wall. Unity has several texture options for the bark of the branches and the leaves.
Setting the branches was challenging as I had to think about the environment’s composition to place and direct the branches. After placing the branches and their leaves, I had to add the air factor, so that the leaves would move with the wind.
The water in the environment was the easiest. Unity has a folder called standard assets where you can find several water prefabs. So you just have to select the type of water you like and drag it onto the scene. It has several settings where you can set up the turbulence of the water, the direction of the wind, the transparency, and the color. I didn't really have to do much to achieve the effect.
Lighting and Rendering
Lighting is very important, it contributes to the mood of our story and helps our composition by indicating the focal point, which in this case, is the hands with the sword. To achieve this, the highest intensity of light is found in a directional light that simulates the sun, this light enters through the windows of the dome that surrounds the hands' sculpture.
The hallway was very dark, so I added some point lights with a very low intensity to simulate the bounce lights so that the columns and the boat could be seen. For volumetric lights and fog, I used Aura 2, it was easy to install and very intuitive to use.
In the beginning, I wanted to use Unreal Engine but I did not because at that time, I was teaching environment modeling at a class using Unity, so I wanted to do this project at the same time that my students were doing theirs, so I could encourage them to get better results.
To obtain the animated sequence I used Cinemachine, a free tool that is very easy to use, since you simply indicate where the camera path starts and where it ends, and the speed of the animation.
One of the challenges that I faced, was to stop thinking that it was not worth participating in this challenge because there were more capable and experienced artists in it. Sometimes we are just afraid, and it is very important to overcome our fears since it is thanks to these experiences, that we manage to level up our knowledge and art. And the best part is receiving feedback from artists that you admire.
Another challenge I faced was to figure out a good organization scheme that would allow me to teach my classes, and make progress in this project. Sometimes, due to lack of organization, we just leave projects incomplete.
What I want to do next is to create another environment, but this time using Unreal, since I have been reading and collecting a lot of information about this tool, and I certainly know that the best way to keep learning and improving yourself is to get down to work.
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