According to the text description, I collected a large number of real picture references and artwork references, and sorted them out in Pureref. These references have their own advantages; some are atmospheric, some show routes, some focus on details, and others involve model modeling. Keep several in mind.
The overall goal of the project is to create a realistic and mysterious scene with an epic feeling. It should feel real but not boring so that players can sense a story, plot, and background setting. #
For example, imagine a scenario where a war, virus, or unknown force causes an entire village to decline, and the player must explore the secret behind it.
The key model in the entire scene is the thatched house, which requires a highly detailed and accurate model to be competent. I recall seeing a set of scene assets for medieval villages and Medieval Game Environment officially released by Quixel Megascans several years ago.
To blend it into my environment, I generously used several thatched huts and adapted them.
Due to limited time, I did not create custom assets. Instead, I used 3DMAX and the new Boolean function of UE5 to deal with broken furniture, add damage and aging effects, then projected it to BOX UV, and finally entered the engine with seamless mapping and Decals to quickly achieve the desired effect.
Most of the materials were already available, and for the few lacking materials, I searched for them in the Bridge library.
I added a flying bird tour, fluttering scarecrow rags, fluttering rags in front of the door, swaying grass, and slowly drifting clouds in the sky to enrich the dynamic effect of the whole picture and increase the feeling of a declining and lonely environment.
The scene contains a large number of fences, so to avoid a sense of repetition, I created two kinds of fences: one more damaged and the other more complete, which can be used interchangeably.
Additionally, I added some rags and vines to break the monotony of the scene and reduce the sense of repetition.
I envisioned the overall level as a passage point (perhaps with some small soldiers) to guide the player to the destination. So, it was crucial to provide route guidance and Points of Interest (POI).
I considered having some NPCs near the thatched hut to give information or provide rest points.
I used Worldcreator to make a fast terrain route and then quickly imported it into UE5 to test the actual effect.
For variety, I planned the route with varied terrain relief instead of having a straightforward road. Some roads are flat, wide, and bright, creating a sense of safety and strong guidance for the player, while others are narrow, shaky, dark, foggy, and more dangerous, resulting in weaker guidance. The purpose is to immerse players, enhance their experience, and prevent monotony.
This phase did not include lighting and atmosphere; it mainly focused on assembling assets to quickly improve scene completion and lay the groundwork for future work.
Designing the player’s flow experience, I roughly designed three POIs, each with different levels of detail. The distance and route of each POI were also planned, taking into account the terrain and lighting conditions.
Some areas are well-lit, while others are darker, creating a rich and engaging player experience in the scene. This will enhance subsequent missions and gameplay effects.
To avoid making the entire scene very dark, I aimed to reflect loneliness and death while also showcasing the thatched house illuminated by the sun. To achieve this, I set the sky environment to a sunny day with scattered clouds.
This contrast creates an epic atmosphere and allows for better visual clarity.
To depict an open field, I made sure the terrain did not provide excessive shelter. The distant mountains serve as a natural boundary, and I added some decayed trees for decoration. A slight amount of fog was used to create a visually engaging and durable setting.
Creating a sky ball involves using an HDR map (not HDRI) pasted on a mesh of a half sphere. This allows me to control the lighting and atmosphere as per my ideas without being influenced by the environment.
For the video shots, I utilized Hitchcock’s lens, incorporating various perspectives like overhead, looking up, panoramic, and localized shots. This comprehensive approach effectively showcases the scene’s production level.
Focal length setting: I aimed for a unified focal length of 12 to capture rich angles in the nearby scenes, highlighting multiple layers for better results.
Considering the clouds in the sky, I portrayed a previously rainy environment with small puddles on the ground. Most of these puddles had dried up due to the sun’s exposure.
The dark areas have puddles that best reflect Fresnel reflections, while the brighter areas exhibit dried stones and grass. To depict a lived-in village, I added some ruts and topography to recreate traces of previous life.
Conclusion and Creating a Story
To create a sense of story, I integrated elements such as skulls, ropes, rags, dead trees, dead grass, broken scarecrows, broken furniture, carts, sacks, and other objects in the scene.
These elements enrich the scene’s narrative and resonate with players.
The Fog asset used is Easy Fog, created by a notable artist on the station, and it is very user-friendly. The string was made using the UE Store plugin ProInstanceToolsPlugin.
Considering the project’s material limit of four (including water), I adhered to this restriction. The thatch roof was made using the bottom model as the base, with thatch pieces inserted along with poles, stones, and vines to complete the look.