Stylized Gnomeregan Gate Breakdown

Recently I finished my stylized environment in Unreal Engine 5. It’s my take on the gate to Gnomeregan, the Gnome capital, in World of Warcraft. Let’s start by taking a look at the video and some screenshots.

The mission was not to create a 1:1 replica of the gate in-game, but instead to use it as inspiration and create my own version of it I’ve always thought it would be cool if the Warcraft universe was expanded into more games, kind of like the Warhammer franchise. My dream game would probably be an action RPG (like Skyrim or Fallout) set in the Warcraft universe with Overwatch stylized graphics.

The breakdown

The whole scene was created with the following tools and software:

  • Blender for modeling
  • Substance Painter for texturing the models
  • Substance Designer for the Snow
  • Unreal Engine 5 for assembling everything and rendering

Modeling in Blender

If you’ve been on this site before you probably know I love Blender, so it was a given I had to use it as much as possible for this environment scene. I mainly used it for modeling all of the assets in the scene, except for the foliage, which was from the Stylized Forest pack in the Unreal marketplace.

I’d say most of the gate is pretty straightforward modeling. Since everything is supposed to be a stylized and hard surface, I tried to keep the bevels extra large and exaggerated features like the pipes and bolts.

Here’s a neat little way to create pipes with “hard” edges:

  1. Create a plane
  2. Go into Edit mode and delete all vertices but one
  3. Select the last vertex and extrude it into the shape you like
  4. Bevel some of the vertices for more rounded corners
  5. Convert it into a curve and give it your desired depth in the Curve properties
  6. Done!

For the large rocks/cliffs, I started out with a quadsphere that I sculpted into something that resembled a rock. I actually struggled a lot with this part, I think I redid the model at least 5 times. While I can sculpt decent-looking rocks, doing hard jagged cliffs was something new for me, and sculpting just didn’t do it.

My solution was to create a simple and stylized elongated rock with sculpting, then I used the decimate modifier set to “Planar”. That gave me a smooth, flat and stylized look. I then copied it several times to create a large “clifflike” object.

Copied and pasted, stretched and rotated into something that resembles a cliff

I then duplicated it, remeshed it, and brought it to sculpting mode AGAIN. I liked the look, but it needed to be a little softer to match the style I was going for, this looked more like a low poly asset than something stylized to me. I used the scrape brush and some stone brushes for the textures, all these high poly features would later be baked into the final model.

It might seem a little excessive, but since all these details would be baked, I had control over how much they would show.

I also ended up duplicating the high poly and decimating it with the planar setting and it provided some really good-looking results, however, it had some shading issues and the topology was really bad. But seeing as this was not going into a game and the rocks wouldn’t be shown up close, I decided to just go with it.

Looks good overall, but there are some shading issues and the topology is not good.

For the rest of the models, I used standard modeling techniques for hard surfaces, mainly extruding and beveling all corners.

Texturing

I wish Blender was good for texturing, but at the moment it’s far away from being as capable as Substance Painter. Luckily I am eligible for a student license for both Painter and Designer, so that’s what I used for all the texturing.

The snowy rock texture is pretty straightforward. The first base layer is just a dark purple fill, with no generators or anything else. Second layer is for the color variation and for that I used a “Dripping Rust” generator along with the “Slope Blur” filter. Third layer is edge highlights, this was done using “Curvature” generator with a slightly lighter color. The final rock layer was a simple “Ambient Occlusion” generator to give it a little bit more contrast. For the snow I just took a slight off white fill layer and applied it with a “Light” generator, since the snow is so far away from the camera I didn’t bother texturing it.

Here’s a breakdown of the snowy rock material.

For the snowy ground material, I used Substance Designer, with the help of Daniel JR and his tutorial. I did some slight tweaks to it since I didn’t want to have too much ice in the material.

The snow texture in its entirety.

And for those of you who want to take a little peek at the node setup, here it is:

The ground tile texture comes from Texturecan.com and was originally planned to be used as a placeholder, but since I was running out of time and it looked pretty nice, I just decided to stick with it.

Assembling it all in Unreal Engine 5

In the past, when UE5 was still in alpha/beta I tried doing a couple of stylized environments but always ran into issues with something, whether it was lightning, glitchy textures, or compatibility issues with plugins. Well now that it’s released, most of the things work properly.

I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to do, so I did a quick and sloppy sketch in Photoshop of what I wanted in the scene.

I started by blocking out a rough scene with the landscape tool and basic shapes for the rest of the scene. There were several different ideas that I had, one of them included some kind of bridge going over a steep ravine, lava, or some kind of toxic waste.

I really liked the lava/toxic waste concept, I wanted to use fluid simulation and have it pour into the pool below the bridge. But I was struggling to get it working correctly, so after a few attempts, I ditched that idea. I finally settled on having a simple slanted road leading up to the gate, which is quite similar to what it’s like in WoW.

As for as lightning goes, I didn’t do anything in particular. I think the standard lightning goes a long way in UE5, the only real adjustment I made was changing the direction of it. You can probably see in the timelapse video that the lightning direction was constantly changing.

I wanted the environment to be in a state between sunshine and a snowstorm, I’ve experienced it several times during the winter before, so I thought it would be a great fit for my winter-themed scene. Achieving this wasn’t too hard, I mainly used the exponential height fog with volumetric enabled, colored it slightly and voila it was done.

Here I started playing around with exponential height fog.

The next step was to get a somewhat stylized look on the clouds. I think that the default volumetric clouds in Unreal are boring and flat, they don’t really have any distinct shapes or any sharp edges. You can import custom cloud presets from the Engine folder and I tried several of them, but I just couldn’t get the look I wanted. I settled on using the “SimpleVolumetricCloud” material and adjusting some of the parameters there, mainly the “BaseNoiseExp” and “BaseNoiseScale”.

The last thing was to do color correction, I did this inside the CinematicCamera rather than using a PostProcessVolume. The adjustments here were mainly temperature, saturation, and contrast, important to note here is that adjustments are very slight to not overdo it.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this simple and brief breakdown of my stylized Warcraft scene in Unreal. If you have any questions or need some tips, feel free to leave a comment down below!

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