3D Environment

Space Vikings

The Task

So this is the first meaty project of 2nd Year; hitting the ground running. Our task is to create, model and UV unwrap a 3D scene of our choosing. We have complete creative freedom, so we needed to settle on an idea quickly to begin the pipeline. Our main goals were to try to be unique, choose something the team will enjoy and create a narrative to go with our scene.

Our team and their blogs can be found here: [Update Blog links to posts when available*]

Dermott *              Glenn               Michael *              Jack

Below you can see our brainstorm of idea generation. We began with listing all of the fun environments we could think of. When this was done, we all chose a few examples we liked and went off to do some sketching and research to pitch ideas the following day.


[Insert Pic of Sketchbook Drawings]

Eventually, we had narrowed it down to either a space station interior, or a viking longhouse interior. In the end, we picked both.

The narrative we decided to keep simple. These vikings were blessed with the knowledge of intergalactic travel (but not much other knowledge), and had set off to pillage the stars. However, the sea serpents they thought they’d left behind had suddenly become very real.

This meant we wanted to show our interior hull breached by a large space kraken’s tentacle, meaning there would be a vacuum created and things would be floating/violently flying out in to space. To illustrate this ironically within the scene, Glenn suggested a tapestry foretelling the events up to this point, and did a fantastic job creating it using reference from real viking tapestries:



The Ship

Below are some moodboards gathered by the team of various inspirations and theme directions to grip a feel for the designs we would create.



We looked at various reference images of replica viking longhouses, concept art of viking homes, themes of rustic futures as well as fantasy and sci-fi explorations of viking origins.

Two of the main artists I have looked at for this project are Adam Adamowicz (Late concept artist for Bethesda’s ‘Fallout’ and ‘Elder Scrolls’ franchises), and Ian McQue who has a great way of making industrial machinery look used and lived with; improvised by those who only know about 60% of what they’re doing and that’s what we needed.

Here are some of Adam Adamowicz’ environment sketches for Skyrim, a very nordic themed videogame:


And here is a link to a flickr album containing a vast quantity of his concepts.

Here are some relevant examples of Ian McQue’s work where he’s managed to capture a sort of “improvised junkyard” look while still retaining the precision required to build such machines:



Jack created two great, solid concepts for the ship’s exterior as seen below, influenced by Dermott’s designs which you can see belowerer.

Jack_ShipJack_Ship_2 Dermott_Ext_1

The general idea was that the ship was gonna be like a viking longship, but the bottom was duplicated and flipped upside down to seal it from the vacuum of space. Inside, the hull would replicate a lot of the key features of a longhouse.

The Crew

To get an idea of the look of the kinds of props and the environment we were gonna be crafting,  we needed to know who lived there. What size are they? Are they intelligent? What kind of clothing do they wear? (If any?) Below are some sketches I did to explore these ideas and see which direction we were going with this. I explored different exaggerated features to accentuate the bulkiness of the barbarian brutes, and looked at the idea of crude armour being fashioned (Stop sign embedded in helmet). And I know what you’re thinking and yes, we know vikings don’t have horns. We’re doing it anyway.


Initial_Sketches Character_Concepts

Exploration of colour, looking at rougher fabrics vs. more refined cloth and plate.


An exploration of holo-shield designs, incorporating traditional shield designs with sci-fi materials and function.

[GIF of Shield Spin]

[Render of Shield?]

The Hull


Tradtionally, vikings had a lot of key traits when it came to their architecture. One of these traits was their use of pillars and arches to build their structures, and so we felt that this would be necessary when creating an authentic environment. Above is a concept I put together of the interior hull, but I don’t feel it had a very viking feel to it. The large window is something we want to include as a way to let the viewer know that this environment is in space. Initially when proposing this, I had mentioned that vikings didn’t use windows in their buildings but I was then informed that “yeah, but they didn’t fly spaceships either.” Fair point.


Above I’d thrown together a rough isometric layout map of the hull, so we could get a rough idea of the kind of areas we would have and the sorts of things in them.



The Breach

So a main part of the narrative of our scene is that the hull has been breached by some tentacled, cosmic horror; causing the props around the environment to begin to move toward the vacuum. Dermott has done a few illustrations to show a few concepts of this event:


I have modelled a tentacle, initially to be part of the scene as perhaps a food source in a kitchen/prep area, but we may use it for the purpose above. Tentacle was sculpted in ZBrush, ZRemeshed and then imported to Maya for UV Unwrapping.


Experimented with texturing also:

[Insert Picture of Textured Tentacle.]


The Hearth

In my research, I discovered that a key part of the viking longhouse was the large hearth they placed in the centre of the structure. This hearth was mainly for heating and cooking, and a large hole was left open in the roof for smoke to escape. We wanted to adapt this idea, but firstly a fire pit seems very primitive for these starbarians and secondly would surely burn up more oxygen that the crew would rather have in their lungs. So how could we incorporate this design without losing functionality and/or necessity? I suggested we create a sort of “plasma exhaust port” that jets excess heat through the ceiling. Below are a few concept sketches to visualise this idea.




Below is some experimenting in Unreal Engine 4 where I made a rough prototype to simulate the motion of the exhaust that a drawing couldn’t capture.


Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


Here is a finished model of the Hearth done in Maya. Below that you can see the detail sculpt I added in ZBrush and then implemented with a Normal Map in the final scene.

Hearth_1 Hearth_Sculpt

Plugins, Scripts and Tools

[Nightshade UV Editor]

[UV Transfer etc.]


The Props

The props are gonna be the key to making our scene look alive. Most of them will be flying through the air or lifting off tables. Others will be hanging on walls, or bolted down. Below is the list of props I’ve worked on concepts for or modelled.

Tools and Utensils – Concepts and Modelling

Cutlery Cutlery_Mesh

UV Unwrapping


Cleaver Detail sculpted in ZBrush



Metal Bowl – Modelling


UV Texture Testing – Right bowl has obvious seam on the underside (right).


UV Map – 1st Attempt on the right, second corrections on the left.

Chains and Sconces

Chains Jack_Torch Torch

[Insert Gif of Fireball Test]




Final Renders

360 – VR Experience


Interior Fly-through


Reflection on Task

So as this project draws to an end, I can say I’m quite happy with what we’ve accomplished. I knew when we put this team together that we were all going to try to make an ‘outside-the-box’ project, and that’s exactly what we did. Through redos and refinement through constant feedback and inspiration from each other we managed to construct a scene that stayed true to our original vision and stay fairly coherent in terms of style. I also went in to this project with the hopes of getting to practice a little more VFX I’ve been learning and was able to get an opportunity to display some and practice this new tool.

Ranging from basic Maya Modelling and some fun ZBrush sculpting, to learning UV Mapping, Texturing/Normal Mapping and being able to implement VFX and 360 degree cams; I would definitely say this project has taught me quite a lot. If I could redo it, I would try to pull the style back more to a viking theme as I feel like we slightly lost the original vision slightly in the sci-fi. The Space Vikings was definitely my favourite team to be on so far in the course, both for the project and the team mates I had. I look forward to more.