[Tutorial] Modular Rooftop Offices Environment

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Hey everyone!

I’m a professional environment artist with over 8 years of experience in the industry and I’m here to share a work in progress of a small playable environment I’m currently working on that takes place on the top floor of an office tower.

The main reason I started this project was to record my entire workflow, from the very first second to the last finishing touches. I think this will be a very valuable resource where I’ll show time-saving techniques that I learned throughout the years to make better looking environments fast and painless. I’m focusing on very simple solutions, harnessing the raw power of Unreal 4’s material and lighting system, instead of getting bogged down with complicated material setups. If you are like me and hate looking at complicated materials you are going to enjoy this :slight_smile: I want to show that less is more and that you can be a much faster artist by trusting the process instead of trying to get things right on the first time.

I also “developed” (more like put together a bunch of separate scripts and plugins :P) a very comfortable workflow that enables me to export with only one click modular pieces from Maya and texture maps from Photoshop (complete with several rules like automatically flipping a normal map green channel and saving metallic and roughness maps together). This way instead of spending a lot of time finishing assets early on, I get a good base down early and then utilize my time smartly polishing what needs to be polished - sometimes a 1 minute prop is more than enough to sell an idea. This process makes iteration very painless and fast, enabling your imagination to fly instead of being stuck trying to figure out how to make something.

To show the power of this workflow, here’s what I had last week:

I couldn’t work on it at all during the week because I’ve been hella busy at work, but here’s yesterday’s progress to show how much you can get done in very little time using smart techniques:

I still got quite a bunch of props to make and polish to do, and I’m planning the release all the footage + the source files on Gumroad and on the Unreal 4 marketplace when I’m done. If this is something that interests you please subscribe to this thread or follow me on twitter :slight_smile:


You said that you’re using Photoshop to make textures. Why not Substance Designer or Substance Painter? They could help you to simplify workflow as I know.

Hey Kelheor!

Substance can be a doubled edged sword, and in my case would only slow me down since I’m not very experienced with it. I’m pretty sure I would end up spending weeks just noodling on materials before I got any work done. :stuck_out_tongue:

With simple clean materials like this you can get stuff done much quicker in pure Photoshop just by using the right PBR values. This is something I want to show with this tutorial, that you can get realize your vision with the least amount of work possible, so you can spend the rest of the time polishing and making stuff look good. This doesn’t mean my workflow doesn’t accommodate Substance though. If I were to use it on this piece I would use it at the end, to polish what I have and add that extra 20% of definition. :slight_smile:

So far I think I’ve got about 20 hours of content in total and I’d say textures only account for less than 3 hours of the total time.

Hey Minos!

This looks really cool. Are you planning to release video tutorial or just the content?

Best Regards

Looking forward to seeing your workflow and tutorial!

Hey Sgt.Wulf!

I’m recording every single step so people can watch absolutely everything that I did in the map :slight_smile:

@ZZ: Thanks! :slight_smile:

Here’s another update. Polished stuff up quite a bit since the last update, I think the architecture is mostly done (except for the skybox) and now I only need to dress this with props. Some materials still need another pass too, but I believe I’m getting close to being done (don’t want a 200 hours long tutorial hehe). I also made some plants, they are not the best ever but they do the job. For this environment I’m not polishing stuff to perfection, since the point is to show the viewer my workflow and process, and not have hours and hours of me working on a single asset.

I think that instead of narrating this I’ll end up just writing a log for each video, explaining what I was doing and my reasoning behind each step. This should make the videos much easier to follow!

Let me know if you guys see anything weird, I’m going pretty fast on this so I might be missing some obvious mistakes here and there :wink:

Anyways, pics time!


Spent the day making props and working on the small office room. Getting close to calling this done, still need to polish a bunch of stuff and make more props, but at least architecture wise this is about 98% done now.

Pretty :smiley:

Is the tutorial over what is in the photos?

Great scene and the mood is really cool :wink:

What bothers me is the scaling of your carpet, too big imo. Well, it is less visible in the corridor but in the desk, it is really noticeable imo. Also, i think the normal map of the carpet is too strong at this place (desk).
Perhaps, change the material of the trash to ‘metal chrome’ to be able to limit the brown aspect of almost all the assets in the desk. You could also make the monitors black i think…well, i guess it could be a matter of taste of course :slight_smile:
My two cents…

Thanks for sharing your workflow and ideas!

Nice :wink:

@_cDub: Thanks! I recorded every single step when making this environment, from modeling, to texturing to lighting, and the tutorial will be broken up in chapters. I estimate I’ll have over 30 hours of content :slight_smile:

@macoll: Good points! I’ll totally change the scale on the carpet, that shouldn’t be pretty easy :slight_smile:

Alright everyone, the environment is finished and I created a hotsite with more information of what you will get with it and ultra high res pictures. Also, if you subscribe now I’ll send you a nice discount code when the tutorial launches :slight_smile:

Thanks everyone who supported me through this and for all the constructive feedback! I’m now editing this and will get it done as soon as possible! I still don’t have an specific date but it shouldn’t take long I hope.

TLDR: For high res images and a discount when the product launches, head over here:

Yep we stay tune, thanks for the infos :wink:

Hi Thiago,

Very nice to see this. I’m curious to see how your workflow evolved since zest foundation, which I still consider one of the best insights on doing modular environments.

****, this made me want to play Sim City 2000 again!

Any idea on when the tutorial will be released? I am really looking forward to this! And i subscribed to the news letter already… :smiley:

Thanks everyone for the nice comments :slight_smile:

@MilanVanDamme: Hah thanks man! Yeah it’s crazy how that tutorial is still going around. The modularity on this map is not radically different from Zest’s, afterall modular is modular, however my methods have evolved tremendously since that time. Imagine Zest multiplied by years of working in the games industry and you can have a better idea of what’s in here :slight_smile:

@majorcyto: I’m shooting to get the editing done asap, if I can get that done quickly it should be out very shortly (matter of weeks not months).

@Stavaas: haha yeah I get that everytime I see anything SC2000 :stuck_out_tongue:

Great news! I’m releasing a playable demo of the level today for free. Now you can run around it and see things up close. Everything you see here (minus some minor blueprint work to get it running and some sounds) has been recorded and will be available soon on a big tutorial on gumroad and cubebrush!


I’ll see if I can get a first person VR version of this up soon :slight_smile:

I would say the lightning is pretty much perfect. And nice airport carpet :slight_smile:

Ohhhhhh that is very nice :smiley:

Thanks for the demo, nice mood and great lighting indeed :wink: