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Making The Legend of Zelda-Inspired Environment in 3ds Max & Unreal

Viktor Colpaert told us about creating the Sinking Temple environment inspired by the Legend of Zelda fanwork, talked about modeling the scene, and shared various useful tutorials.


Hi, my name is Viktor Colpaert I’m 21 years old and I’m about to finish my studies at DAE Howest. I haven’t worked professionally yet. So far I’ve only interned at DAE studios at a company in association with my school which had a program in which we made 2 games/prototypes every month. This internship recently came to an end and now I’ve started looking for a job.

The Sinking Temple Project

The first time I saw the concept by Jeremy Fenske was when a friend of mine had it as his desktop background. I had only recently played Breath of the Wild and I thought that it looked very pretty. When thinking about what I wanted to make as a personal project this painting just came to mind, and I decided then that I would make it. The concept was the only reference I really used, and I tried my best to get it as close to that concept as possible.

Blockout and Modeling

I started out by making a small scene with gray boxes and simple shapes to test where the light would come from and get a basic blockout that I could build upon with the finished assets. The assets for the temple were modeled in 3ds Max and textured in Substance Painter, I then vertex painted a moss material on those assets in UE4 to make them match the concept as good as possible. I used the Landscape Editor in Unreal to set up the floor and make the river.


When working on vegetation I mostly worked with tutorials. I found one from Pontus Karlsson on getting nice-looking clumps of leaves, I combined those with smaller modeled branches to get a more natural look and to match the concept a bit better. To create the texture of the leaves I used Substance Designer. The trees themselves were sculpted in ZBrush.

I also used a tutorial from Alexander Novikov to create the base of my grass texture in Substance Designer, that tutorial also helped out a lot when it came to creating the texture of my leaves.

When placing them in the scene I mostly used the Foliage Painter tool and also hand-placed some of the assets in places where it matters, I also made a lot of different color variations of the grass so I could match it with the colors in the concept.


Most textures in the scene were either made in Substance Designer or Substance Painter, using the tools in UE4 for vertex painting helped a lot. I also watched some tutorials on how to make the vertex painting edges more detailed, the tutorial below really helped me out. I also made sure my moss had displacement on, this way it pops out more and adds to the silhouette of the bricks. For the landscape material, I used real-time virtual textures to blend it with some of the assets and the grass.

Rendering and Lighting

To put the final scene together, I used two Directional Lights, one Sun Light, and a Fill Light to fill in dark spaces, as well as a lot of different spotlights to make the materials pop and have the colors match the concept. The Sky Light was also important for making sure there wasn’t too much contrast. I played around a lot with my saturation and gain in post-processing and often also made some changes to my models’ textures when they didn’t exactly fit. The water went through quite a lot.

I started off with this tutorial from Ben Cloward, which I then edited quite a lot, I made it so that I could vertex paint browner water on my water-plane in the foreground, and then I also added some ripples using decals.


Overall it’s difficult to estimate how long I really worked on it, it was made over the course of multiple months in my free time when I wasn’t working on my internship. I mostly worked on it during weekends from the end of February until May. A lot of time went into matching the colors and having the water look good, almost a month was spent just on getting the colors on point and finishing up.

The main advice I would give is to ask for a lot of feedback from people, be it from friends, teachers, or colleagues having someone else take a look at what you’re making will help you a lot to know what you need to work on. Asking for someone’s help will make you see things you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. And try to do it throughout your project, not right before you want to publish it.

Viktor Colpaert, 3D Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin

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