New Environment: Preproduction

As I finish up Models and Textures and get ready to start on Shader R&D and Lighting on the Deli, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do next with the goal of getting myself a portfolio that says “Environment Artist” as quickly as possible. I’m, so far, very happy with the Deli even if months of only sporadic work culminating in an overwhelming desire to finish and move on ASAP resulted in severe cutbacks in scope and redundancy in the assets.

However, there are definitely some things it didn’t cover that I’m seeing in a lot of Environment Art job descriptions:

  1. Bland Architecture: The Deli is basically a square room with little exciting architecture except for the rafters and the moulding. If I go back and do an exterior facade, that will help, but [the style of exterior I would want to give it] would lead to an awkward sense of isolation unless I went on to give similar treatments to several surrounding buildings in a crowded neighborhood, and that doesn’t sound expedient to me. The Deli Exterior will be pushed farther back on the To-Do list, for now.
  2. Not many interesting Shaders. With only a few exceptions, the Deli has mostly been handled with Diffuse, Alpha, and Spec maps and little else. One of my goals going into the Deli was to learn shaders, but there’s very little that actually need fancy shaders in that scene.
  3. Interior: There was no way around this. The Deli could only really be an interior. That means that, upon completing the Deli, my portfolio will still only contain an interior environment and no exteriors.
  4. Limited Lighting Opportunities: Like shaders, lights were something else that I’ve only ever rushed and not gotten terribly intricate with. The Deli, using just a couple point lights, is still not a very interesting lighting opportunity.
  5. Too Many Models; Not Enough Everything Else: Anyone looking at my portfolio will see a confident, competent modeler, and the Deli got bogged down with a bunch of little props, more than I originally estimated. I spent way too long modeling everything and didn’t really do much else.
  6. Not enough Sculpting: Due to time constraints, I only really sculpted one thing in a project that was ostensibly supposed to enable me to start learning Zbrush. Everything that I ended up most enjoying on the Deli was Hard Surface, and all the organic stuff is hidden behind dirty glass where you can’t really see the lack of detail.
  7. No environmental storytelling: I toyed with a couple ideas for how to incorporate environmental storytelling into the Deli, but I never really implemented them because I didn’t want to add more time to a project that had already taken longer than it should have. I guess you could say there’s a little bit with the Deli’s decor, but it’s pretty minimal.

So, as a contrast to the Deli, this new project needs to be an exterior with interesting shader opportunities, interesting, organic architecture, and without an overwhelming number of models.

To keep the number of models down, I decided this project should probably be set somewhere without a lot of foliage, which led me to the idea of a desert environment. Last night, I started pulling reference, sketching thumbnails, and categorizing the pros and cons of a variety of different desert locations with potential to be my next environment project.

Disclaimer: You’ll notice my thumbnails (if you can interpret them at all) are very similar in composition to my reference images. That’s because I’m shamefully out of practice when it comes to drawing. I fully intend to rectify this eventually, but for now, copying is a good way to get back into the swing of things. Getting into 3D will help with the originality because it’s less constrained by my atrophied skills…


1. Mission


  • Interesting Architecture
  • Dynamic lighting opportunity
  • Relatively unique
  • Modular, easy to change the scope


  • Lots of foliage
  • Not many interesting shaders

Crazy Southwest Shrine:


  • Road would be a fun addition/break up the monotony of endless desert
  • Stuff in the shrine presents opportunities for interesting shaders possibly.
  • That crazy fence is something I really, really want to make.
  • Interesting geography.


  • I’m concerned it might be difficult to make that wide horizon interesting.
  • The architecture is pretty minimal and not all that exciting.

Indian Temple 1:


  • Elevation changes add interest to the area and the camera angles I can show it from.
  • Indian architecture is really cool.
  • “Exotic”, could look “at-home” in more crazy geography than the previous ideas.


  • The architecture of India is very intricate and detailed.
  • I’m less familiar with Indian architecture and religion. This would be a lot more research than the previous two.

Rock-Cut Cave Temple:


  • Such a cool style. I fell in love with it right away.
  • Very unique style as well.
  • Easy to relocate to a different environment and take this principle in a surreal or fantastic direction.
  • Elevation changes again.
  • Would be easy to include both interior and exterior elements.
  • Stuff in the shrine presents opportunities for interesting shaders possibly.


  • Lots of organic sculpting. In spite of being a goal of this project, needing to sculpt that much organic detail is still very daunting
  • The architecture is basically all one asset.

Wrecked Tower:


  • The verticality is very interesting.
  • Again, easy to transplant into a more fantastic or surreal setting.


  • This looks almost too simple. I’m concerned some unforeseen complication will jump out halfway through.
  • Again, not much shader interest.

Just a couple inspirational images in terms of feeling and lighting ideas:


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