Expressive Environment

The assignment

Create an expressive environment you can explore in first person.
It can be a virtual monument or a wandering game with narrative elements.

  • The scene must be navigable in a standard first person fashion.
  • You have to come up with a title and write a one-paragraph (or more) statement describing what the expressive goals are. It can’t just be “a tree house”. Think about the emotional state, the artistic statement, the world you are giving a glimpse of, think about who is the player and what they are doing there, even if it’s never made explicit. Post it on the discord.
  • It must have some kind of soundscape or soundtrack.
  • The experience should not last longer than 1 minute. If it takes longer you are overscoping.
  • Sky, lighting, post processing effects are all part of the environment’s mood. Don’t keep them default.
  • It should have some kind  of conclusion or exit to communicate there is no more to see and to give the experience some kind of structure.
  • You can use non original assets but you have to credit the creators. They should not be prominent features of the space, they should be generic (trees, rocks, water etc), and they should look visually consistent with the rest.


We are going to do some brainstorming sessions and develop some ideas before we start working on them.

A Pattern Language for Expressive Environments

Virtual Monument presentation
Virtual Monument brainstorming

The Speed project: Mood Place

Block out a minimalistic expressive environment to be explored through a first person perspective.
The experience should about 1 minute.
It’s meant to be a separate exercise but you can use it to try out some ideas for the actual project.

Pick a prompt:
Cathedral in the Desert
Frozen Planet
Alien Ruin
Retro Cyberspace
Dead Mall
One room
Flying island

What is the emotional and mental state you want to evoke in the player?
What are some visual and spatial strategies you can use?

Your toolbox:

Blockout tools: Probuilder can make simple 3D volumes within the engine but they can’t be very detailed, no organic forms, no easy way to make holes (booleans). Check out #blocktober
You can blockout with blender as well, use the .blend file directly for fast iteraction.
Landscape tools: you can sculpt reliefs from a plane, can’t do caves and islands. Can’t do anything realistic.
Sound: you must add some kind of sound. You can add a looping soundscape and looping localized sounds.
Materials: don’t use the default blockout grid. You can apply materials with “seamless” textures to the blockout. You can use material from the asset store or tweak the provided ones.
Environment: you must change default skybox (I recommend to use the stylized skybox and just change the colors).
Open Window > rendering > lighting > environment and adjust the environment lighting color (I recommend color and a light grey). From the lighting panel you can adjust the fog as well.
Light: you can tint the whole environment by changing the environment light and the light colors and intensity.
Post processing effects: you can add post processing effect like color correction, bloom, grain, etc.
Particle effects: you can play with particle effects
Imported assets: like in the virtual sculpture you can use 3D models found online, but try to not rely on them for the general layout and save the detailing it for part 3

The template

Download the package here

Start a new project, give it a name, and import this package.
You will have to import TextMeshPro
Import probuilder from the package manager, see video below.


How do I move around in first person?

How do I interact with things in first person? How do I add simple narrative bits to an environment? How do I add dynamic behaviors without programming?

How do I block out a level? Can I make models inside the engine? What is Pro-builder?

How do I make mountains and hills in engine? What is the terrain component?

Follow up question: how do I make the terrain not look like shit? What is Microsplat? What is height blending?

Get Microsplat from the Asset Store

Download my Abstract Texture pack

Download some realistic PBR terrain textures

Download additional terrain brushes


What is a particle system? How do I make atmospheric effects? How do I make fire? Smoke? Explosions? Fountain? Dust? Wind? Sparks? Magic? Special effects?


How do I play sounds in unity?



Assignment part 1

1- Develop a project idea:

-Make a mood board with reference and inspirations
-Draw a map of your environment explaining all the pathways and the things a visitor will encounter.
-Come up with a title and write a one-paragraph statement describing what the space is and what the expressive goals are.
-Put everything in a miro board. Example 1 Example 2
-You can collaborate with one or two classmates.
-If your proposal is underdeveloped, I might assign you to a team

2 – Read this chapter from Robert Yang’s WIP book about level design: layouts

3- Watch this video

Assignment part 2

1- Play at least two of the games mentioned in the pattern language presentation and write a report from a developer perspective (ie not just what you liked but also what you can learn from it).

2- Complete the exercise Mood place

3- Read these chapters from Robert Yang’s WIP book about level design