We are midway through one of our most exciting projects - a collaboration with Unreal. This is a great opportunity for those interested in game development and design to learn how to use Unreal Engine, gain some experience, add something amazing to their CV and win $500 if one of your designs wins!

We interviewed three of the four winners of the first brief, which asked participants to design and build a sci-fi outpost using the assets provided in the game development engine. Their answers are packed full of invaluable information for anyone who wants to produce their best work for the second brief which is now live

The second brief is more a bit more challenging, but has huge scope for creativity, and really leans in to the fact that UE5 is for building interactive worlds. It asks designers to build an obstacle course to test a player’s platforming skills and you can find the brief with lots more information by clicking here.

Slav Szlempo

An Unreal autodidact, based in Stevenage

- What was the inspiration behind your sci-fi base creation? 

I believe that sci-fi as a topic is an inspiration in itself. There are so many films and games... I just let myself go and let my imagination take over. I did not have specific references. The ideas were coming spontaneously, so I improvised a lot.

- How was the process for you, working on the base?

We've had a lot of time and I was lucky enough to start my project early on. Sometimes I was working on it all day, sometimes only for a moment. But the whole process was a lot of fun and I enjoyed every moment. 

- What are you proudest of in what you've made?

The part I'm most proud of in this project was the destruction of the outpost. Half of it was nearly intact but the other half was partially destroyed. I built the outpost as a whole in the beginning but then I started carefully disassembling it into pieces and scattering them around. I believe that this is the most interesting part of the outpost. Plus the lab I created using some of the assets in Unreal modelling tools. I think there's just lots of detail in the lab. 

- How did you find it, working with Unreal Engine?

I love Unreal Engine. I personally used Unreal Engine 5 for this project. I'm learning every day something about Unreal. It's an amazing experience and I'm hoping to work with Unreal at some point as a primary job (still need to learn a little bit more).


Pietro Da Rold 

Digital artist, designer and developer based in Madrid

- What was the inspiration behind your sci-fi base creation?

When I started this challenge, I was playing Scorn and I tried to transfer on my work the

the feeling of desolation this game gave me. However, the main inspiration was one of my favourite movies, “Alien 3”. The movie is set in a dark prison on a planet far away from every kind of society. The prisoners created a small community where they shared everything. The proper structure of the prison cells is based on the Panopticon, a type of institutional building which allows all prisoners to be observed. Other inspirations were the game Alien Isolation for the sense of claustrophobia and the initial sequence of Batman Arkham City when Bruce Wayne is dragged into the prison. 

- How was the process for you, working on the base?

The first thing I did was look at all the assets provided and just play around with them. I tried to combine different assets and create new shapes that could give me more freedom in the structure. Most of the assets are square-shaped but I wanted to find a way to break perpendicular lines. After a while I came up with a basic structure that I liked. I took some reference from the things I mentioned earlier whilst adding and manipulating new modules and paths for exploration. I finished with the lighting, I tried to create hard contrasts and sharp edge lights to give the feeling of a horror/sci-fi situation. 

- What are you proudest of in what you've made?

I suppose that the thing I am most proud of is that I created a pretty believable environment where you can feel the oppression of its purpose, a prison. And lighting helps a lot to create a narrative or story within the level. 

- How did you find it, working with Unreal Engine?

Working with Unreal Engine was a lot of fun for me because I am used to Maya and waiting for render times is something that kills me every time. Unreal Engine is a pleasure instead and working in real-time gives a lot more space to the creative process.


Yeve Drovossekova

Digital and traditional artist and designer, based in Prague

What was the inspiration behind your sci-fi base creation?

The main inspiration for the sci-fi base creation was I would say the lifetime of playing video games and a bit of a dream of having a house with a cosy balcony with a nice view. The sci-fi game that inspired me the most was Mass Effect, but I didn’t have any specific reference pictures or mood boards for my creation. I was bringing together the assets, running through the base in play mode a million times and moving all the objects by pixel for them to make sense.

- How was the process for you, working on the base?

I didn’t dive straight into building the base. First, I took plenty of time studying the assets to get a full picture of what exactly is available to me and what can I do with that. After getting a clear picture I made a pencil sketch of a rough map of my base. I didn’t stick to this map completely, but it was a good starting point. Drawing stuff by hand is an important step in the that helps me to bring together my ideas. My winning entry was the facility located above the clouds, but I only got that idea a few hours before the deadline. First, I created the base standing fully on the soil and then I moved it upwards. I also added scaled objects such as wires and steaming pipes to create the backstory that the facility has some life support plants pumping energy to it. 

- What are you proudest of in what you've made?

How I was able to incorporate the default assets and Starter Content assets into the environment, music and sounds to create the entire world in a short time. I did not take only the base itself into consideration, but also the surrounding landscape. I created the hills and mountains to give the feeling that there is terrain beyond the base. I researched how to create thick clouds and also set up light for a dramatic look. Sound is also essential for the player experience, so you can hear buzzing lamps and wind howling as you run through the base. Long story short I am proud of the atmosphere that I have been able to achieve with limited resources.

- How did you find it, working with Unreal Engine?

I like working with Unreal. I have a few questions about its interface and workflow, but I love that anything you make inside it looks presentable immediately. It renders things nicely, so basically anything that you drop into the engine has some visual value and a creator doesn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to get that particular light in order for it to look good.



Thanks to Slav, Yeve and Pietro for their time! Some of the key takeaways from what they said in their interviews are to: 

1) Take inspiration from lots of different forms of sci-fi media

2) Plan and familiarise yourself with the task and the assets provided

3) Don’t be afraid to improvise

4) Above all, enjoy the process


Remember, there’s over a month left to submit to brief 2, so plenty of time to put the knowledge you can glean from last times winners into practise. Good luck, enjoy the process of learning UE5, and submit here!