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(WIP) Lone Victorian House on a Desert Hill Environment (UE4)

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Elivenger polycounter lvl 2

(7/21/22) Hello Polycount! I have started working on a new environment project and am in the early pre-production/testing and planning phase of development. My idea is to create a Queen Anne Victorian house but with a more simplified American style in a Mojave desert setting. This comes from inspiration that I took from my personal life when I used to live in the deserts of Southern California. In my old rural desert neighborhood, most of the houses looked like your typical California style Mojave desert home. But one house in my old neighborhood had been built in a Victorian style which felt pretty unique and made it really stand out to me compared to all the rest. I thought it would be interesting to make a scene similar to the real thing, while of course taking some creative liberties of my own to make mine even more interesting than my source. I also am heavily inspired by the moody atmosphere of the Red Dead Redemption 1 Soundtrack and have been listening to it on repeat while creating this scene. I think it further influences the vibe I want to go for with this environment, especially tracks like "Muertos Rojos (AKA The Gunslinger's Lament", "Gunplay", and "Exodus In America".

Everything right now is a work in progress, even the PureRef file as I collect more reference. I have some goals with this project too, and I wrote them all down on paper. I have begun to test and blockout the house in Blender and create the actual scene in UE4 as well. For my terrain I have used actual real life satellite height map textures as a foundation! I also am currently using Ultra Dynamic Skies plugin for my weather and lighting.

One thing I realized with my last environment, the California Gas Station Environment, was that I tried to make something way too big in scale for my current skill level. I still find it a miracle that I even completed it at all by myself, even if I did have to use a good chunk of third party assets mixed in with my own custom ones to bring it to the finish line. So with this next one I am keeping my scale much smaller by only making the house and the yard/land around it in the camera's eye view look good. This will hopefully cut down on the amount of things I need to make and polish and will end up with me not taking 11 months to complete this environment like last time. I also am debating how I should go about actually assembling the house, whether I should use a more detailed version of the large blockout or go for modular kits for modeling it. I also wonder what texel density I should target, as I want the house to look fairly detailed even up close and plan to have shots on the porch. Also wondering if I should do tileable materials or go the Trim Sheets route with decals added on top of course to spruce things up.

I haven't quite figured out what story I will tell yet, but I have some ideas. I think the house should look and feel deserted, but not so damaged and deserted that it delves into cliche haunted house territory. I perhaps want to tell a more somber and lonely story with this one, especially on the front porch. Not sure what year I should set it in either, it could be anywhere from the early 1900's to current day. Am still in the process of figuring all that out.

(Feel free to critique my blockout so far and give suggestions on how I could make it better!)

(PureRef File So Far)

(List of Goals for this Project)

(Victorian House Blockout in Blender so far)

(First Attempt. Modeled off of a single image).

(UE4 Scene So Far)


  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger polycounter lvl 2

    (8/9/22) Hello Polycount! I have a small update on this project. To be completely honest, I haven't been working on it much as I want to, as life has been a little busy lately, so progress is pretty slow so far. I am still very much in pre-production on this scene, and trying my best to smartly plan the scene first, before completely committing to making any final stuff.

    First off, I made a little image for now to sort of plan out how many essential materials I need to make and where they'll be on the house itself. I went and collected more texture references for the project as well (slowly, but steadily growing my image reference library for this project over time). I also did some more 3D modeling work on the backside of the house for the time being. It still needs a lot of work of course, but it looks a little more fleshed out now, and I of course will keep making revisions till I really nail down the blockout and can begin making it as an actual fancy looking asset. Next up, I started playing with Substance Designer, and tried to make a first iteration of my Sun Bleached Exterior Wall Siding Material, I think I am gonna redo it and polish it much more as it definitely doesn't look good yet, but it was good to get my hands dirty and play with Substance Designer more. I also put it on a plane with a UE4 parallax height map shader to test it on the side of the house with mixed results IMO.

    (I think at the moment I'm having a bit of trouble striking a balance with working on this project. I'm trying to avoid what I did on the California Gas Station Environment where I basically went on an 11 month death march to get it done and burned out multiple times, but I think now I sort of have the opposite problem where I am not crunching, but I am so far dissatisfied with the pace at which I am progressing. and want to speed things up (but without resorting to unhealthy working hours and having no life) (I guess this is something you get better at balancing with more experience over time)

    I'll just keep chipping away at it bit by bit. And of course I need to grapple with my perfectionist tendencies too, I want to make the best art that I am currently capable of, but in a healthier manner than last time. Longevity is key, and I learned first hand that burnout is not fun (the racing game franchise is though haha)

    Anyways this is what I got so far, and I will keep this thread posted when I have another update. Any particular critique of what I got so far is more than welcome and highly appreciated :)

  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger polycounter lvl 2

    (9/25/22) Hello Polycount. I don't have a big update on this scene really, as I have been busy with a lot of real life stuff lately and haven't worked on the project very much. Development is very slow so far, and I completely restarted the design of the house since the design didn't feel right to me. I am currently playing around with finding a new layout/design for what this Victorian house will actually look like, and to be honest, it's been far from easy to change it to something that makes more real world sense and that I am happy with. Sorry for no real update since it's been a good while since my last post, but I will try to come back with more when I am ready. To tell you the truth, it's kind of up in the air whether I will actually finish this project and see it through to the end. I need to go back to the very beginning stages and do better, smarter, more efficient planning first I think. Hopefully I actually see it through to the end like my gas station project. (That was incredibly hard for me to do, I reckon this one will be too, but having an amazing end result eventually could be super worth it of course)

    Anyways, that's kinda where I've been lately and why there's no new update yet.

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