Both areas below were created in UE5 for the Unreal Engine Workshop, a class I took in Fall 2023.
Pastoral Village
With this area, I set out to create a comforting, homely village nestled into rolling hills. I wanted the village to be small and dense, lush with foliage and small environmental storytelling elements.
I began by creating a mood board in Miro and a basic map of the area, followed by blocking out the terrain and buildings.
The village's layout is intended to lead the player around the lake,  past the houses, and to the tavern. Its layout is vertically stacked, with one row of houses directly on the lake's shore and another behind it on a hill.
Assets for this project were sourced from various places, here is a document crediting everything I used.
While creating the village, I kept in mind the people that live in each home and how to represent that in the environment. For instance, the fisherman was once a soldier before settling down in the village, and that is represented by the shield and sword leaning against his home.

The fisherman's home, a shield can be seen leaning against the wall.

Cliffside Village
After creating the pastoral village, I wanted to take what I had learned and do the tonal inverse. Rather than aiming for comfort and warmth, I wanted to create an area that felt unsettling and cold. In addition, I hoped to create a more overt narrative that could be uncovered by the player as they explore the area.

Basic map of the area

I started with a very basic map of the area. The player begins in the forest, with a fallen tree blocking the path behind them. When they reach the treeline, a church or abbey is visible atop a hill, naturally drawing the player in.
The road to the church leads the player through a small village, encouraging them to investigate each home and uncover the stories hidden within.
As I developed this map, I began crafting the story behind the area. The church atop the hill holds some spiritual significance and draws pilgrims up the mountain throughout the late spring and summer. The town grew around the church and benefits from the pilgrims and merchants that travel along the main road.
Being so near a forest, logging is important to the village, followed by ice harvesting and fishing in a nearby lake.
From there, I began gathering inspiration and reference material in Miro, being sure to focus on the core themes of the area: silence & cold.
Through several iterations of blocking out the area, I arrived at something quite similar to my original map but with a few notable changes around the village itself. Rather than making the entire village centralized around a single point, I decided to create a more interesting and effective layout. As the player exits the forest, they may decide to just continue along the main road and avoid the village entirely. To draw the player back toward the focal point of the area, I placed houses along the main road and additional paths that lead toward the village center, which connects with the church.

An unlit top-down view of the area showing its layout, including blocking volumes (the purple boxes)

In building this area, I almost exclusively used assets from Quixel Bridge -- except for the trees, which are from Landscape Pro 2.0 by STF3d. This, along with time restrictions, resulted in most of the homes in the village being very similar. To remedy this, I made each distinct using props.
The addition of props also allowed me to communicate much of the village's story, which had grown in the time since I made the original map.
The church, though once the destination of many pilgrimages, has fallen into disrepair after the death of its last priest decades prior.
The first home players tend to encounter is the one closest to the forest, the Fisherman's. The Fisherman lived in the village along with his two brothers until one died of illness and the other left town, now he carries his boat to the nearby lake to fish alone. In secret, the Fisherman worships a pagan goddess that he believes has caused the village's misfortunes.

The Beekeeper's home, the church, the Blacksmith's home, & the Carpenter's home (left to right)

The next homes, gathered around the village center, belong to the Carpenter and Blacksmith. The two are lifelong friends, though there has been tension between them since the Carpenter's wife died in the unseasonable blizzard that has struck the village. The Blacksmith lives with his child, whom the Carpenter makes toys for.
Last is the Beekeeper, who lives in a home on the southern outskirts of the village. She harvests honey to make mead and various sweets.

The ever-burning effigy in front of the Blacksmith's home

In his grief, the Carpenter begins to worship the pagan goddess and builds the effigy found in the village center. This sparks a fight with the Blacksmith that ends in his death, causing the Carpenter to realize what he's done and attempt to destroy the effigy (hence the axe in its head). The Carpenter goes after the Fisherman, killing him as well. 
In the meantime, the Blacksmith's child and Beekeeper escape the village on the main road. It is unclear what fate befell them, but some footprints and their things can be found along the road.

The decrepit church and its cemetery, with graves both old and new

Alone in the wake of all this, the Carpenter buries the Blacksmith and Fisherman next to the fresh graves of his wife and the Fisherman's brother before disappearing.
Back to Top