Elective | 3D Classroom. CG Master Academy
Organic World Building in UE4
Registration Starts On
Monday, Feb 26th 2018
Class Begins On
April 28, 2018
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Anthony Vaccaro
Environment Artist

Anthony Vaccaro is currently an environment artist working at Naughty Dog in Southern California. He started his career at Bungie working on Halo Reach after graduating and obtaining his bachelor degree in Video Game Art & Design. After leaving Bungie he joined the team at Naughty Dog where he has been for the last 7 years working on critically acclaimed titles such as: Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and most recently, Uncharted: Lost Legacy. While at Naughty Dog Anthony has specialized in creating the largest and most open organic levels from the ground up done by the studio.

Course Description

In this course, students will create a game level from scratch in UE4. The course will cover UE4’s object placement and layout basics, foliage systems, and lighting systems. The course will help students better understand level and environment workflows, as well as how level designers, game designers, and environment artists fit into the game pipeline.

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Pre-reqs: Intro to Environment Art and UE4 Modular Environments; must have a solid understanding of environment art creation

Course Format: Standard
Duration: 10 Weeks
Lecture Type: Pre-recorded
Assignment: Deadlines each week.
Feedback: Individual Recordings
Q&A: Once a week. 

*For classes with fewer than 6 students feedback may be provided during the live Q&A session.

Estimated time for course work: 10-20 hours per week

Course Outline


Understanding the world we want to build

  • Overview of what an environment artist's role is
  • How to build a plan for our environments
  • Figuring out what reference will help us achieve our goals
  • Understanding the importance of PST (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary elements)
  • Breaking down reference material into required assets
  • Planning our large-scale environments


Creating a terrain that is truly Unreal

  • Introduction to Unreal Terrain
  • Brushes and techniques to achieve your goals
  • Terrain shader
  • How to create Terrain in Maya


Rocking Out

  • Intro to Zbrush
  • How to utilize hero rock asset
  • Creating a 360 hero rock sculpt in Zbrush
  • Building out low poly in Zbrush
  • Proper UV techniques in Maya
  • Sculpting boulders from zSpheres


Chip off the old rock

  • Sculpting tiling rock texture in Zbrush
  • Creating rubble texture in Zbrush
  • Rock shader creation in Unreal
  • Unique vs. tiling textures for rock assets in Unreal


Planting the seeds

  • Learning Unreal's Foliage system
  • Foliage volumes and creating procedural foliage
  • Unreal's foliage painting tools
  • How to break down the needed foliage for a scene
  • Create multiple variations of a tree asset utilizing the same shader


Where nature meets man

  • How man-made objects can be incorporated into your scene
  • How to highlight or de-emphasize the player's goal within man-made assets
  • Connecting nature and man-made objects


Clump it, then blend it

  • How to apply the technique of PST (Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary) to assets in our scenes, and how this can help connect each area of our environment
  • Clumping our details into specific hot spots to either draw attention or fade into noise
  • Drawing the player with the clumping of organic and man-made assets
  • Blending out harsh contrasting areas of our environment, creating smooth transitions of visually appealing gradients
  • When and where to create areas of rest with our foliage and detail


Keep them hooked

  • The importance of story in your environment
  • Different ways to create inter-linking stories throughout our environments
  • Show, don't tell. How to tell a story in our scene without the need of characters
  • Creating necessary story-driven assets that will give life and something for the viewer to become invested in


Sunshine and rainbows

  • Learning Unreal's Lighting for an outdoor scene
  • How to nail a mood that will help our scenes stand out
  • Creating atmosphere with fog, lighting, and particles
  • Utilize our understanding of mood to dramatically change the look of our scenes for multiple looks within the same environment


The icing on the cake

  • Going over the final polish needed for our scenes
  • Discussing what can help push our scene further
  • Rendering out our final beauty shots
  • How to show off your environment and its break downs in your portfolio


  • Game Environment Artist
  • Environment Modeler
  • Game Designer
  • Texture Artist