[WIP] Medieval Monastery - Environment diorama

Hi! This is my first time posting here, but I just wanted to see if I could get some feedback for my current environment project.

The concept of this project is entirely original, mainly inspired by some places visited on holiday and environment art in Warhorse's Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The ultimate goal for this project is to learn more about Environment production, specifically, Asset density, composition, textures & lighting and colour. 
The environment dioramas created by Anya Elvidge have really motivated me to have a crack at something similar  :)  

I'm still warming up to Substance Painter (I'm enjoying it immensely so far! =) ). For reference, I have around 4 years experience in Autodesk Maya and UE4 and 2 years in Mudbox.

My main inspiration for the design of this environment came from Kingdom Come's Sasau monastery. I really liked the way they portrayed the realism of medieval architecture but i also wanted to apply a slightly fantastical/stylized twist to the overall Silhouette, as can be seen in the Tower diorama reference above. 
The photos are some references from my holiday where I got the initial idea to make a medieval monastery environment. 

Here is my concept! I am not going for a flat-shading style in the material style, I want more realistic textures (see Kingdom Come: Deliverance) against the simplistic, stylized geometry/silhouette seen in the concept. 

So far I've already produced a block out of the building diorama, I wanted to figure out a way to create a 'dynamic' silhouette which can look effective from 360 degrees. 
For me, one of the biggest challenges of this project is the addition of an interior to the exterior of the building. At the moment, I have two detached meshes for exterior and interior walls.  

I then went into sculpting the large-scale silhouettes of the scene. At the moment I have sculpted the tower and chapel meshes (Mudbox). 
When I had high poly sculpts for the tower and chapel models, I went into substance painter to get some materials down. As I said earlier, I want the materials to be more realistic than completely 'stylized' but to maintain the 'medieval' aesthetic, aiding the simple low poly geometry. 
For now, this is what I have (in UE4). 

Next phase is finishing off the smaller silhouette assets (final geometry, sculpting and materials)

Would really appreciate some feedback, personally I think the overall composition (also outside of the building) is lacking. 

Thanks for reading, I will try to post as regularly as I can! 


  • JesseL
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    JesseL triangle
    Looks cool! Are you going to create the interior or only exterior?

    Also off topic a little, how do you rank mudbox compared to Zbrush personally?
  • stefanWilliams_C
    I'm trying to do both interior and exterior. So far I have the interior walls as a separate mesh from the exteriors and i'm hiding the edges with wooden support beams.

    Personally, I've only had experience with Mudbox but from what I've seen, Mudbox provides transferable skills that are expanded in Zbrush. I do enjoy Mudbox a lot though :) 
  • 7bajwa
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    7bajwa polycounter lvl 5
    Hello Stefan,
    Really nice concept.
    I saw you are sculpting the hole building. I would suggest to break the building into tilable textures. those you can sculpt and texture with SP. Then make a low poly model and apply the textures to it rather than sculpting and texturing the whole structure. Woods and other long assets you can make through one way tiling trims. On top of that you can make the variation by splitting the mesh and placing the different textures or by vertex blend which I strongly recommend. It will save you a lot of time. Look at my WIP thread in my profile just to get the understanding.
    Let me know if you have any doubt.
    Keep going!! :D
  • stefanWilliams_C
    Thanks for the advice 7bajwa! 
    That sounds like a good solution for the interior as well? If I instead made modular walls?
  • stefanWilliams_C
    Hi again! I've had some time to produce some props over the past two weeks. As stated in my first post, next I wanted to finish off some of the smaller silhouette exterior assets. I took this a few steps further and worked on developing the interior walls and materials for that (which are, at the moment, kinda temporary). I also went back into the block out to look into the composition, which I felt was lacking at the time of my last post. So far I have determined that there should be more verticality and direction from busy 'clutter', which I have addressed with wooden construction poles and a circular base. 
    Although I'm not paying too much attention to post-processing, for the purpose of composition elements, I have removed the skybox to adjust the saturation and colour values of the scene (this is something I noticed in Anya Elvidge's dioramas, but I don't intend to leave the skybox blank). 

    Here are a few screenshots of the fully-lit scene in UE4 (without block out assets). 

    This is what the scene looks like with block out and detail lighting. 

    Again, all of the assets are being modeled in Maya, sculpted in Mudbox, then textured in Substance Painter. For the high poly sculpts, I have tried to maintain a fairly high level of detail in terms of surface texture but I want the texture to put the overall aesthetic towards a good mid-ground between stylised and realistic. 

    I also revisited my original concept design to explore the overall mood a little more and get into ideas for colours and post-processing later on.

    That's all that I have for now! There's still quite a bit to do, but right now I want to get everything modeled and at least (possibly temporarily) textured. 
    For the next phase, I'm will be implementing the interior assets as well as the flag. 

    Thanks for reading! Any advice or criticism is welcome!
  • stefanWilliams_C
    Hello again! 
    Here are the final screenshots of this project!
    In terms of change and development, I decided to look into the overall composition of the scene again as it all seemed very empty. To correct this, I switched the original concept fence models out with a new, taller fence model, filling out more screen-space and directing the attention towards the main focal point a little more. Alongside this, my work in UE4 was mainly centered around post-processing (lots of color correction and Y-channel saturation modifying) and VFX (i.e particles). One thing I did pick up in this stage was particle-based fog. I have played around with world-space fog particles before when it was implemented into UE 4.20 (i think) but never looked into actually applying similar particle effects. 
    Finally, I changed up some of the textures just to put more weight to the models. Thanks for reading! Critique is very welcome!

  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    Hey Stefan! Sorry, I think my crit would have been more valuable earlier on. You're on the right track, but there are some major problems in your workflow.

    - You need to work on texturing a lot more. Your bricks aren't lining up, same with the thatching on the mini tower in the back. The red spots where the white paint is missing look soft and fuzzy. The roofs and the overhang in the back of the church seems to be a plane with a random wood texture applied. I'm not sure how you're texturing your building, but if you're texturing the entire building in Substance Painter, you should actually be texturing in UE4 with tilable textures and trim sheets. Unless, of course, this is for some birds eye view or off in the distance piece, but that isn't the case for this portfolio project.

    - You spend a lot of time sculpting things like the front door and a ladder, and I can barely see them in these images. If you're proud of the work you did with the door, you should include a close up of the door. I'll point out your wood sculpting looks really blobby; I'd search up some tutorials on sculpting wood.

    - You've used a bunch of polygons making the fence beams all one object. Why not separate them and place them one by one? You could get a more interesting fence that way. I think you could also be more liberal with poly count.

    Keep pushing forward! Your presentation is pretty neat (I'd turn the bloom down in the second image though), and there are aspects like the flag, silhouette, vines and such that I like.
  • stefanWilliams_C
    @Ashervisalis Thanks so much for your feedback! Yes, I did actually texture all of this is Substance painter, would it be more appropriate to have set up a vertex paint for the materials in UE4?
    I'll also focus on developing my sculpting skills more aswell (the learning resource is actually really helpful, thanks!)
  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    Yes, for sure use vertex painting combined with tiling textures. Good luck on your next project!
  • stefanWilliams_C
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