Temple Jar

Environment Breakdown

Florian Elie


Florian Elie

Lead Environment Artist


Hi! I am Florian Elie, I am 26 and I currently work at Shiro Games as Lead Environment Artist on Wartales.


My goal was to build small lore around a series of dioramas featuring different stylized landscapes inspired by my favourite influences. The temple jar is the first diorama I made in this universe and I hope to have time to make more in the coming months.


I didn’t have a precise concept on hand, instead, I was inspired by different references that are important to me. The main ones are Shadow of the Colossus, the comic book Adrasté by Mathieu Bablet, Andrew Porter’s concept which was the starting point for the jars and Kena Bridge of Spirit for the rendering style.

I made some sketches for the general shape, the framing, etc. I also took a lot of photographic references for the foliage, and architecture.



I used several different methods depending on the asset I was working on. For example, the jars and the bell were made in ZBrush using boolean operations and sculpting with a base mesh quickly made in 3dsmax. I mainly used Orb brushes and the trim smooth border with a square alpha to flatten some borders.


I did the retopo in Maya and the baking in Marmoset, and they were textured in Painter using different materials I had prepared in advance in Designer. The temple is composed of different parts each modelled in 3DS Max. I built it with the different materials and trim sheets I made.

I just exported it with simple material color IDs so that Unreal could recognize the different materials directly once imported.



The texturing was an important part of the project. I first made several basic albedos in Photoshop and Designer to texture the assets in Painter. Once applied, I could easily tweak it, as I added an HSL to change the tone if needed. I added some AO variation, highlighting the edges, and the texturing of the jars was done!


I then sculpted different stone patterns in Zbrush that I baked on a plane in Marmoset and then textured in Designer and Painter to get my trim sheets and tileable textures. This method allows really optimal control of the material shapes and is easier in my opinion than doing it procedurally in Designer for stylized rendering like this one.


I made four different walls and trim sheets for the project, and I made some modular props to help to build the temple.



The whole vegetation was done in SpeedTree. This software is extremely useful to generate procedural vegetation. I first looked at the opacity maps of the different vegetation types that I needed on Megascan, to see how they were made, etc.

Megascans is very helpful, even for stylized scenes because it allows seeing in detail how a plant is. I drew the opacity maps on Photoshop and generated the rest of the maps on Designer and Photoshop.

I then started working on the vegetation models in SpeedTree. The small vegetation is very easy to make, just a few nodes. Speedtree is very powerful because, when your graph is done, you can generate a lot of different assets, just by clicking on the randomize button.


Trees are always essential elements in an environmental composition but are a real challenge to achieve. I optimized the trees so that they would not exceed 30k tris per tree. Except for the giant tree in the temple which requires more.

To optimize the foliage, the “frond” nodes are really useful and follow perfectly the curve of the branches.


Thanks to the very handy mesh force, it’s easy to import a mesh and grow the vegetation on it. It’s a very powerful tool and it’s very helpful for creating organic and natural foliage.


I made different kits of foliage of different sizes to have enough resources and to be free to make the composition and populate the scene.
I knew I would need a lot of vegetation in my scene. To optimize it, I made three LODs for the grass. Only LOD 0 and 1 cast shadows.

For other foliage assets, Speedtree is very helpful to generate the LODs of the foliage.

A small example of foliage compo is below:


I spent some time making a grass shader that I liked with the vegetation of Kena Bridge of Spirit as my main reference. I added a slight white gradient on top of the grass to make the silhouette stand out better.


I don’t like when the RVT color is too strong on the grass, so there’s is the structure I made for my grass blades. I just used the RVT to have a more natural blending with the ground.

Below is also the Final result of the grass in-engine:


To enhance the undergrowth aspect of the scene, I also made a volumetric fog in Niagara following this tutorial:


An important element to give life to any scene is of course the wind, I followed this very interesting tutorial to have a uniform wind in the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27Gr2RRhtNM

The longest part of the implementation was the vegetation, I used the foliage tool from unreal. It allowed me to make natural groups of vegetation and manage their density. I also used vertex painting on the assets to bring diversity to the textures.

I used the Designer’s «Material height blend» node to generate two versions of the materials, one with and one without moss.


Lighting & Rendering

The lighting is quite simple, but I asked myself many questions about the colorimetric aspect of the scene. I finally opted for a green/blue color scheme to accentuate the “undergrowth” effect. There’s just a dynamic light and an exponential height fog.

I used the volumetric fog function of the exponential height fog to get the god rays through the trees.


I then played with the post-process volume to modify the auto exposure and bring some color nuances to the scene, enhancing the contrast and saturation.



To conclude, I was really happy to finally test out Unreal 5 and to take the time to create a small scene inspired by my favorite influences. For the time being, I’d like to continue working on the textures of my assets, add some hand painting and of course, create many more little dioramas set in the same world as this one!

Thank you very much GamesArtist! 🙂