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.


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

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.


(Bio-area for crops?) (Animal restraint area?)



Final Year Concept Art

Ok, so out of the blue I’ve been thrown in to the Lion’s Den…(do Lion’s have dens?)…

A group of final years approached me and have asked me to produce some concept art for their final animation. I am completely blown away, and I feel a little intimidated but also excited that they’ve asked me! Apparently Alec told them that I was good at this sort of thing which is only half true… Concept Art? Can’t get enough of it. Robots? …oh jeez..

Usually I struggle with anything mechanical and prefer more organic designs which took this a little outside my comfort zone but I was still willing to give it a shot.

My challenge was to create a robot design that was:

  • Humanoid in Appearance
  • Able to emote without traditional facial features (eyebrows etc.)
  • Appeared like it worked in a factory-type industry.

James Dalton began by showing me an animated short rendered in Unity called ‘Adam’.

It looked awesome; absolutely insane. I loved the design work behind the robots within it. James had said they were focusing on something close to the main robots, which look like this:

Image result for adam unity

So the challenge was to emulate this without blatantly ripping it off, essentially. The team were kind enough to include a few mood boards to point me in the direction they were looking which I will spam here:

Displaying masks moodboard.jpg Displaying More character stuff [R].png Displaying robot body moodboard.jpg Displaying robot face shapes.jpg Displaying robot.png
Displaying 1402012_551466404937851_1860601873_o.jpg

Art by James Dalton

From the looks of the mask ideas they were sending me, they were inclined to go without certain key facial features so as to perhaps take away the human feeling of the face while still allowing it to linger. I started throwing together a chassis to house this worker robot just to have a base to work from. Along the way I started fiddling with a head idea. This was the first round of sketches I came up with, the first taking a few minutes and the second a little longer as I played around with design.


Initial body silhouette scribbles.


While drawing these designs I looked at different sources of machinery and humanoid robotics to understand how it would kind of work “under the hood”. The head design could be used to emote by way of a small triangle that can reposition and project symbols on a screen to show basic mannerisms to portray emotion. A bit of feedback was that the body was too “bodybuilder” and not enough “athlete swimmer” so I slimmed it down slightly as seen above.

I looked at examples of robotic arms so as to understand how the head would move. As for the tarp that covered up this machinery on the neck, I had remembered about a video by Marc Brunet at Cubebrush.com that I watched a few years back and decided to revisit it.

The head design with the emotive screen was inspired by ‘Zer0’ from Borderlands 2, a Japanese assassin who speaks only in Haiku and hides his face behind a hologram projecting helmet.

‘Zer0’, Borderlands 2

The team seemed to like the ideas and thought it was going along the right path. James liked the head idea, but felt it was slightly too simple for their story and had suggested I take a more humanoid approach. Professor Maguire later informed me this was due to it being easier to do motion-capture when the design resembled a model.


The final render sketch for the design.

So with this feedback I went and did a bunch of sketches with different bits of inspiration flaring in every so often. The team had asked that I put more of a focus on the head design as that’s the part the audience would be focusing on. They were pretty happy with the torso so far, so I made a few variations.

With the base design hammered down I was able to duplicate and tweak to come up with a few different ideas for the team:


After getting a few good and bad ideas down I took them back for another round of review. The head shape they were most interested in was the top-right (The most human-shaped) and so I decideed to run with that. I produced an alternate design along the same shape but cleaned it up a little and decided to explore emotion and function. Around this time the team informed me that they had modified their plot so that the robots would now work with partners in the story and so I drew up a partner design that coupled with the original.

MF Faces

I looked at exploring function within the design

3D Generalist Research – Ally Albon

So for the first week of term we were asked to research a 3D artist that we liked and for the longest time I sat wondering who I was going to choose. I didn’t want to find someone generic or a huge industry professional, I wanted to find someone who’s work truly had inspired me or made me think “Huh, that’s cool!”. And I found her.

Ally Albon is a 3D generalist and texture artist that I found after I had suddenly remembered an image I caught a glimpse of that really caught my eye. This artist had taken a concept for a fish tank and completely re-imagined it to fit seamlessly in to the Borderlands universe. The reason I loved this piece so much was because of my love for the Borderlands comic-like style and how perfectly Ally had matched it with her re-imagining.


The initial Fish Tank concept

The Borderlands inspired 3D model

Official Borderlands 2 3D model of a Refuelling Station

I’ve included the last image shown above as a reference for style from the Borderlands 2 game to show how close the style is.

Ally has captured the essence of Borderlands perfectly and I would not be surprised to see this featured in the game. Upon looking at her other works I found a model she did of two ‘Mudkip’from Pokemon which I like simply because they are Pokemon (stylistically they’re a little off but they’re still cute):

Two Mudkip swimming by Ally Albon

The works I have highlighted here are definitely areas I would wish to further specialise in once I become more comfortable with 3D work. The ability to turn a concept drawing in to a beautiful model is something I look forward to achieving.

Link to Ally’s ArtStation and Website:



Alolan Exeggutor

So for our third Maya experiment we were allowed to model anything of our choosing. If you read my last Maya post you might remember me saying that if I wanna make something fun I’ll usually try to incorporate Pokemon in it somehow. I was going to try something a little more complicated but I went for the guy above because of his simple shape and that I want to attempt to rig him. I feel like rigging him won’t be as hard as something with a few limbs so I’ll see how that goes when I’m finished modelling him.

I started by downloading the official art of him from Bulbapedia and taking it to Photoshop to create an orthographic turnaround. From there I took each individual plane and created image planes in Maya. This allowed me to get an accurate representation of scale and shape. Previously when attempting this model, I was going about it by creating a flat cylinder and removing the centre vertex…horrible idea. Instead, Becca Blair pointed me in the right direction and whipped up a quick step by step to get from a cube to his body shape.


Becca Blair’s Quick Step-By-Step

At this point I was ready to attempt my own, so this was my Exeggutor Body:


Soon after I modelled the tail and made a start on his leafy afro. I made one of the leaves (Seen on far right) and duplicated it with a few transformations to create a variations.


Today I finished the Exeggutor model and set up some lighting to render a few stills. I kept one model in it’s default ‘T-Pose’ for later re-use and duplicated it so I could pose the second one for a more interesting image. I’m fairly happy with the result but will inevitably find more and more wrong with it as I learn Maya; but for now I consider it a success.