Art Spotlight: Monument Forge Diorama - A World of Warcraft Scene

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Quick Ambient Occlusion Bake

In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

Hey there!

My name is Ayhan Aydogan; I am a student at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. As you can probably assume from my designs, I am a huge fan of Blizzard. Before going any further I would like to thank my teacher Jamin Shoulet who has helped me from the very beginning of this project and also want to thank Kelvin Tan for always giving great feedback.

First of all, I like to begin my projects by thinking about the story behind the environment. It is important to tell a story with your design because story is the thing that makes people believes that your piece is actually alive and has a history. In this piece, I imagined that some human dudes found this half buried dwarf statue and decided to turn it into a forge. That is why I tried to craft pieces that look similar to human race from World of Warcraft around the dwarf statue.

While I am designing I usually make a finished 2D concept and then begin to build it in 3D. However, due to time issues I followed a different work flow. I made a couple of very quick sketches to give me a starting point. I did not work on these sketches too much; it was just a doodle on paper. However it kind of gives the first impression that I want to build at the end.

Pencil sketch

After a while I did not like the idea of the house coming out of the Dwarf’s mouth and decided to change it.

At this time, I decided to make some block outs really quickly in Maya and tried to figure out how I can tell the story that I want to tell in the best way possible. For me sometimes making block outs in 3D is one of the fastest ways to see if my ideas are going to work or not.

After this I made quick sketches in zBrush for dwarf head and the arm. I did not go in detail because at the end, these pieces were made for low poly and I will be painting all the details with hand-painting techniques.

Quick Sketches

From this point on I just retopo the zBrush objects automatically – I did not worry about the topology at this point since I was still trying to find out what I want to put in Maya.

One of the most important things about any kind of art work is its silhouette. After I put my objects in Maya, my main concern was establishing a good silhouette which would make my story stronger. At this point, my workflow consists of making a quick block out in Maya for screenshot purposes, which I then use to make sketches in Photoshop.  This allows me to brainstorm new ideas for when I return to Maya.  I repeat this process several times. One of the things that I always kept in my mind while I was working on this is the rule of three and how my silhouette was leading the eye.

Here you can see some of my block outs that did not work very well.

Block outs

In my opinion the main problem of the screenshot above is that you cannot understand that this is a forge just by looking at the silhouette. So I make some sketches on those pieces and come up with new block outs;

New block outs

After doing this I like the one which is at the top left corner. Putting a giant chimney in my scene seemed to improve the story. However it was still not a good example in terms of how it leads the eye. So I continue to work on this and after a while I came up with a more defined scene. In order to understand the scene better not only in terms of silhouette but also in terms of depth, I put it in 3D coat and made a quick AO bake of the scene.

Quick Ambient Occlusion Bake

Leading the eye around the scene

Primitive shapes that are constructed by an artwork are also very important because it makes the silhouette stronger. Creating a triangle is a very efficient way to lead the eye to the point you want. As you can see I create two different triangles which support each other and help to lead the eye. The chimney can be seen clearly in the silhouette which tells that this is a black smith. To be honest, putting a giant chimney was a big dilemma for me because the main part I want to use to sell my scene was the statue. However at the same time I should be able to tell that this is a black smith. With this dilemma in my mind I stick with the silhouette that has a giant chimney.


At the end I have ended up with the scene which is above. After this point I begin to texture my scene. My aim was to make hand painted textures for the scene which would fit in World of Warcraft. I was lucky to have great mentors, one of them was an ex-Blizzard veteran Jamin Shoulet and one of them was Kelvin Tan who is currently a character artist at Blizzard. They really helped me to figure out the hand painted style. I still have lots of things to learn about hand painting and I am far from being a good painter. However, I still want to share the screenshot below which shows some of the steps that I have followed while I am painting.

Hand painted texture progression

Here are some of the textures that I have used for the scene as well;

Texture maps

Lastly even though I tried to consider all design options in order to make this scene better, I have also had some design problems at the end. In this last part I want to talk about them. For example the mouth of the dwarf was a big problem for me. If someone decides build a structure around the dwarf statue they might not decide to carve the mouth. The second problem about the mouth is that it should be the entrance to a mine, but since I made this in a limited time I could not decorate the inside of the mouth very well. You can see the final product below.

Final image of Monument Forge

Finally, before finishing this writing I want to thank the Sketchfab Team for giving me the opportunity to share my workflow with you.


Monument Forge Diorama
by ayhankin
on Sketchfab

Thanks so much Ayhan!

You can see more of Ayhan’s work on his Sketchfab portfolio and on his ArtStation.

About the author


Bart Veldhuizen

Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.

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