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Level Designer Eugen Zvonimir Čanić wanted to create a game-ready modular scene from start to finish, not only to boost his portfolio, but to gain full understanding of the production line. Using his architecture background, Eugen created a ethereal, Gothic library. Check out his detailed breakdown, including…

  1. Medieval References
  2. Blocking
  3. Manchester Architecture
  4. Three Kinds of Assets
  5. Organically-Created Books
  6. Mood-Setting Lighting
  7. Gothic Library Unveiled

Hi, my name is Eugen Čanić and I am a 3D artist from Croatia. During my college years in Zagreb, Croatia, I started learning 3D modeling aimed at architecture. Only after my 3rd year of college did I discover the wonderful world of programs that make game production a reality. I started experimenting in 3ds Max, Maya, Substance Suite, ZBrush and so on… and could not stop myself. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in game development. Since then, I’ve worked with a few local indie teams on several games and worked at various studios as a 3D modeler. This project for CGMA class was an important stepping stone in my portfolio to launch my entrance into the games industry. Since taking this course, I’ve worked as a 3D Artist at LGM, Digital Nomads, and Gamepires.

1. Medieval References

When I took this course, I was constantly playing Bloodborne on PS4. It was an inspiring and meticulously crafted game; the environment art and levels are beyond exceptional. I have always had a thing for libraries, so naturally, the Cainhurst area really stuck with me, especially its grandiose library. I knew I wanted to do something with the elements of gothic, medieval, and fantasy.

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I started by collecting images and references for the project, looking for anything ranging from gothic and medieval architecture to video games with fantasy and medieval atmosphere and design. I stumbled upon a small medieval library in Manchester – the Chetham’s library – which seemed perfect for the job. It has been preserved almost intact since the time it was built and had a dark and gloomy gothic vibe about it. I used the Manchester library as the basis of the scene layout but added some elements and details from other examples I found, like the Gloucester cloister and the Oxford college hallways.

Enroll in CGMA’s Unreal Engine Modular Environments course taught by Environment Artist, Art Director, and Studio Head Clinton Crumpler.

2. Blocking

I started making a blockout with some basic meshes just to get a feel for space.

After a few iterations, I was satisfied with the layout and the scene I would be working on. The final layout was a combination of the real Manchester library with the addition of some custom spaces from various inspirations.

Swipe to see Eugen’s library blockouts.

3. Manchester Architecture

One of the first tasks I had concerning the library was to break down the interior into sizeable modules. I went through all the images of the Manchester library I could find on the internet, also using archive footage and several documentaries online to see a video walk through the interior. Video footage helps even better to see and feel the chunks, nooks, and crannies of an architectural space that you just can not see in one image.

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I listed and defined all of the possible modules, their respective materials, and details. Besides the modules that come directly from the Manchester library, I also used some pieces from other examples of English Gothic architecture, using vaults, corners and some window details from other period pieces.

Making gothic architecture and ornaments for detailed models was a first for me. I started by collecting a lot of old architectural illustrations depicting gothic details and even construction references. This way I was able to mimic the process it would take to make the arches and vaults in real life. Using the same mathematical principles and going through the same steps you would take to make them in physical form, I achieved it in the digital medium.

The key feature of all the modules was to make them reusable in different situations, being able to rehash them in any way and still get a decent gothic library level.

Explore CGMA’s Fundamentals of Architecture Design course taught by Concept Artist and Illustrator Tyler Edlin.

4. Three Kinds of Assets

The meshes and asset packs were determined by the aforementioned reference list. The assets were divided into several groups: modular assets, unique assets, and hybrid assets. The modular assets had shared textures and were generally lighter on the poly count. The unique assets were all of the little details like the books, candles, chairs and so on that had a separate texture set and a very simple material setup. The hybrid assets are something in between the two previous types, having joined textures but being more polygon heavy. Those were mostly the trim sheets used around the environment.

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Most of my time went into unique assets simply because they required more technical work: making a low-poly, then a high-poly asset, combining them in baked textures and placing them in the engine. The biggest challenge arrive in preparation. I had to make sure the UVs were correct and not overlapping, the lightmaps that the Unreal engine creates were OK, and that the mesh hasn’t got too many polygons.

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Read “How to Use Impactful Decals in a Modular Environment: SanXia Street” for another historical scene.

5. Organically-Created Books

Since the planning phase, I wanted to make the books procedurally. Not only would it make the book placement more interesting and organical, but it gave me a chance to learn more about the Unreal’s Blueprints. The books are actually randomized from one single mesh that had 2 to 3 texture variations mapped in the material editor.

This way I could place a stack of books anywhere in the scene and then adjust them to the needed situation. The result was getting a randomized row of books for the various shelves in the library but it also gave me a possibility to place them freely around the place – giving way to a more organic scene which could feel as if it was used by the old librarians.

6. Mood-Setting Lighting

Lighting in the scene went through a lot of iterations. I knew from the start that I wanted the place to be dark and gloomy but to also have highlights of candlelight that catch the viewers attention.

First came a light blue directional light which was to mimic the moonlight. The interior was made very dark from the start with individual point light being added gradually to liven up the scene. The point lights are combined with several light meshes.

The individual candles, candelabra and wall lights all got a light source of its own in their own separate blueprints. This time I used blueprints to have more control over the whole scene, changing simultaneously the properties of light in all of the linked assets. The light assets were then scattered around the scene to not only highlight the architecture but also to get a sense of place being used.

The candles were completely made in polygons, with the fire being animated and textured through the material editor. The flame flickering was achieved using the vertex world displacement with mathematical nodes in the editor like a sine wave and the panner. To finish things up, volumetric fog and dust particles were added to give the place the feel of an old dusty library.

Don’t miss out on CGMA’s The Art of Lighting for Games course taught by Blizzard Entertainment’s Lighting Artist Peter Tran and First Contact Entertainment’s Lighting Artist/Art Director Omar Gatica.

7. Gothic Library Unveiled

Final Thoughts

  • A friend of mine recommended CGMA classes to me last year during the IFCC festival in Zagreb. I had been doing Props and Environment Assets in 3D for some time and wanted to take my art to the next level. I knew I wanted to specialize in Environment art and Level design so when I found the UE4 Modular Environments class by Clinton Crumpler I thought it to be the best option. Especially because I also wanted to improve my UE4 knowledge and skills.
  • But most importantly I wanted to create a game-ready scene that could be used in a game level. I really wanted to experience all of the production phases needed to achieve such a goal. With this project, I was given that opportunity: to create a coherent environment that was intriguing and mystical but also explorable and could be fun to play.
  • This course has been a great experience for me. Not only did I get a chance to learn from the industry professional like Clinton Crumpler, but also to communicate with other artists during the course, get their feedback and share experiences and knowledge.
  • I am glad I participated because of all the new stuff I learned concerning the level and environment production through all of the phases – from start to finish. I am proud to start my portfolio with this piece and hope to make it one of many in the upcoming years.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Check out the rest of Eugen’s work on his ArtStation.

Enroll in CGMA’s Unreal Engine Modular Environments course taught by Environment Artist, Art Director, and Studio Head Clinton Crumpler.

Explore CGMA’s Fundamentals of Architecture Design course taught by Concept Artist and Illustrator Tyler Edlin.

Read “How to Use Impactful Decals in a Modular Environment: SanXia Street” for another historical scene.

Don’t miss out on CGMA’s The Art of Lighting for Games course taught by Blizzard Entertainment’s Lighting Artist Peter Tran and First Contact Entertainment’s Lighting Artist/Art Director Omar Gatica.