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Level Design - Simple Practices To Improve Your Environment Art

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

It's been 10 years since I first had contact with 3D, and in those years I haven't taken many courses, because pretty much everything I know came from many hours in front of the PC screen, testing and trying to learn what I wanted. Although my learning is probably slower than someone who takes a course, I learned a lot, and the best, I learned to turn around, ways to develop myself and solve mistakes without much help. And that's what I'm going to quickly go over in this post.

Beware of Rules

What's the first thing we think about cutting back when we encounter a heavy game? Triangles! But in Unreal it is normal that a heavy scene is not like that because of the triangles, there are many other things that can affect its performance, such as shadows, excessive amount of objects with specific properties, high resolution textures, code with problems, excessive calls , among other things... The important thing is to know how to analyze and filter what is causing the problem, and evaluate the best way to solve the overload, and be careful here, not to remove the error from one place and just move to another.

Scientific Method

Ever heard of the scientific method? And does it seem a little strange to you here in design? The point is simple, the scientific method works for any verification you want to do. In practice, I can guarantee that to study on my own (Autodidactism) and improve your work works perfectly.

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It may seem exaggerated or too complex to practice, but it's actually quite simple and part of the process, most people already do naturally, the point is to add some things and take note of others.

Basically, you can do it like this:

Watch your scene for a mistake, something to improve, that will be your fact. Ex Fact: A shadow fragment in a corner of a wall.


  1. Light compilation error;

  2. Material Shader with problem;

  3. Object generating unwanted shadow;

Whenever you need to check something, you will do it by eliminatory, so which of these 3 hypotheses is weaker?

In a quick analysis, we can come to the conclusion: Option 3 (Object generating unwanted shadow) would be the weakest, then option 2 (Shader of material with error) with a condition, and the lights are of type "Static" , otherwise (If the lights were"movable") that couldn't possibly happen.

Finally, now that we have one or two plausible hypotheses in hand, we can start testing. In the case of the example, we could go in search of checking option 1, change the light compilation settings, from which some options would be easier to eliminate, such as:

  1. build quality

  2. Object Lightmap

  3. Object Lightmap Resolution

  4. Static Lighting Level Scale

  5. Num Indirect Light Bounces

If none of these solve the problem, we go for a more complete analysis and test, looking for something less logical, which may be indirectly affecting. How to simply close Unreal Engine, shut down the PC (To clear memory/Swarm Agent), restart and recompile light. Something that may seem useless, but has already saved me from confusing mistakes.

My name is Alisson Almeida, I'm Environment Artist (ArtStation) and I hope these simple tips can help you! Remember what I describe here is what I've already tested, but that's not why it should be taken as a rule.


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