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World Building Projects 2022 - Land and Sea

World Building Projects 2022 - Land and Sea

Kayla Cardona
by kaylac on 4 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

A lush tropical island and an atmospheric underwater cave, these land and sea themed projects are a combination of my 3D generalist skills. Featuring techniques I am using to convert the scenes to immersive technology, this series of projects demonstrates how we can use 3D art to build unique worlds.

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2022 World Building Projects - Land and Sea

The unlimited creativity behind 3D art allows us to design worlds that invite exploration. Inspired by the contrast between land and sea, these projects feature a collection of skills condensed into two projects. I combined various techniques in Unreal Engine to create environments that could adapt to different mediums such as film, interactive visualization, and VR/immersive technology.

Interactive Tropical Island

Currently designed as a first-person experience, this interactive tropical island uses foliage from Quixel Megascans to create a lush paradise. I designed the environment to encourage exploration. The goal was to reward the viewer with a relaxing experience.

Introductory videos for the day and night phases are shown below.

Daytime ~

Nighttime ~

The butterfly shader uses subsurface scattering to mimic the glowing effect of sunlight passing through the wings. Each photo taken on the island is unique due to the unpredictable movement of the butterfly particle system. The hammock was modeled in Blender 3D. I added the finished model to the scene for a vacation-like ambience.

For the nighttime phase, I wanted to experiment further with particle systems in Unreal. Glittering fireflies add movement to the starry night sky, and the fire uses four different emitters in Niagara. In the background you can hear the distinct call of the coqui tree frog. This audio was downloaded from and is a nod to my Caribbean heritage.

The photos and video included in this project were taken without the LODs applied. In the process of converting this scene from a film perspective to an interactive/immersive one, the short video below shows how the scene could appear with LODs set up for the dense foliage.

Underwater Cave Scene 

Inspired by my fascination with online diving videos, this underwater scene is one of my earlier projects in Unreal Engine. I made the majority of the models myself in Blender 3D, and the ambience was carefully designed to "submerge" the viewer in an underwater atmosphere.

Vertex displacement shaders are used for the watery movements in the jellyfish, eels, and seaweed. Light rays, exponential height fog, and caustics were added for a nearly authentic underwater effect.

The underwater audio was downloaded from I used my minor knowledge of music composition to create the simple background music in GarageBand.

The original film uses complex shaders, but I wanted to build an optimized version that could be implemented as an immersive application. Making good use of Unreal's various features allows us to easily modify projects for use in film, interactivity, and visualization. The photos below illustrate how the shaders could be optimized for VR and immersive technology.

Below: original shader and shader complexity view.

Optimized shaders for better performance.

Interactivity is often described as an experience. Emerging technology gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in beautiful 3D worlds. Designing environments that adapt to the needs of film, interactivity, and visualization is part of this enriching educational experience.

A selection of the meshes created in Blender 3D.

Tropical Island

Materials, foliage, and firewood from Quixel Megascans with textures edited in GIMP. Special thanks to the artists who provided these audio files on anraana (soft seaside waves), hargissssound (spring birds loop), dashatron (coqui), damsur (creaks), greysound (frogs and crickets), AJ170193 (fire ambience). Hammock, fig trees, and palm trees created in Blender 3D. Scene made in Unreal Engine 4.

Underwater Cave Scene

 All meshes made in Blender 3D with the exception of rocks from Epic Games. Some textures made in GIMP. Special thanks to the artist who provided this audio file on Tim_Verberne (underwater ambience). Music composed in Apple GarageBand. Scene made in Unreal Engine 4.

Special thanks to The Rookies for this opportunity to share my work and learning experience. If you enjoy my work, please feel free to drop a high five!

Thank you!

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