Inspired by the crumbling ruins of Whitby Abbey in the UK, this real-time environment highlights a location forgotten by time. The creation of this environment took place within a 7 week period with a focus on lighting and achieving visual realism.
Rendered in Unreal Engine 4.
Tools: Maya, Zbrush, Substance Designer, Substance Painter, SpeedTree, CrazyBump, UE4
Responsible for all aspects.
Video Sound Suggested
When challenged to create an exterior environment, larger than anything I've done before, I immediately took inspiration from a Medieval Art and Architecture course that I took. Thus, the creation of a cathedral and its surrounding grounds was an obvious choice. However, in order to push the art direction and make this environment unique, I looked through various concept art and history books. Early on in my research, I discovered a beautiful, but unused piece of concept art from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. It depicted the shell of what was once a grand cathedral, exposed to the elements.
I remembered the haunting and somber mood conveyed in the Scotland levels in Uncharted 4, but this piece of concept art was truly unique. It was tragic, yet beautiful, forgotten, yet still relevant. It was bold to show something once regarded as holy, overtaken by nature. With this in mind, I sought to recreate this concept and its compelling mood. Later on, additional concept sketches from A Thief's End were utilized to establish the overall color palette and compositions, while the ruins of Whitby Abbey were used for architectural reference.
With the visual direction established, I utilized the English lore of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to drive the narrative of the space. As a result, the Cathedral became more than just a normal church, but a mythical and religious space rooted in tradition. While being purposely ambiguous, I determined that this site may have once held the Holy Grail or perhaps it was a pilgrimage site for those longing to discover its mythical powers.
A selection of pages from my process book.
In order to efficiently create the large cathedral structure, modularity was utilized wherever possible. In order to break up any obvious repetition, variant sculpts, decals, vertex painting, and inlaid stone meshes were added.
PROPS & FOLIAGE
The main props were the various headstones, which were referenced from actual graves found throughout Europe. I made it a priority to make the tombstones feel as unique and old as possible in order to push the narrative and define the space as specifically European.
All the foliage was created using SpeedTree.
The stone materials were created in Substance Designer and served as the base for any additional texturing done in Substance Painter. While this unified the structure, iterations were made to avoid repetition.
Above is a selection of images from my mood boards and process book. I referenced art from David Caspar Friedrich, ruined cathedrals, European cemeteries, and Gothic architecture. Screenshots from Uncharted were also referenced in order to achieve a similar level of detail akin to Naughty Dog's environments.