Game Environment/Level Art (Real-Time) Winners Interview — Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms

1st place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Sophie Rose Stübinger

For this next installment of our Dragon’s Rise interview series, we spoke with the top three winners of the Game Environment/Level Art (real-time) submission category, Sophie Rose Stübinger, Antonio Bravo, and Yinuo Chen. Don’t miss out on their helpful advice for future challengers!

2nd place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Antonio Bravo

Why Did You Decide To Enter the Dragon’s Rise Challenge?

Sophie: As an artist, I feel like community Challenges are a great way to push yourself to the next level and even go beyond the artistic aspect of it. Because of the time constraints, you’re forced to prioritize and pay special attention to time management and efficiency. With personal projects that have no set deadline, I sometimes find myself struggling a bit with deciding when to stop polishing. So my main goal when entering the Challenge was to see what I could achieve in the given time and focus on the bigger picture of the project rather than small details. 

Antonio: Because I thought that was a good opportunity to improve my skills and learn from other artists. All of us are creating different scenes from the same idea and you can see different tools or techniques that you didn’t know or are not used to. With this and the deadline that pushes you to have as much quality as possible, it is a good exercise for learning.

Yinuo: Having not finished any personal projects since I started working, the idea of entering an ArtStation Challenge seemed appealing as it set an external deadline for myself. However, what really convinced me was seeing Jessie Jiang’s concept art. I loved the design of the fans and really wanted to recreate the scene in 3D.

3rd place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Yinuo Chen

What Was the Inspiration Behind Your Submission?

Sophie: Throughout the concept stage, I was already playing with the idea of joining the production phase once it was open for submissions. So, I regularly checked the progress of the many gorgeous concepts in the Environment Design category and eventually stumbled over Delphin Casado’s entry. Her Gnome Village concept really inspired me and immediately made me wonder what it would look like in 3D. I have a soft spot for different types of architecture and with Delphin’s concept being inspired by small Mediterranean towns, I instantly knew I wanted to translate it into 3D. What I loved the most about her concept is the shape language, vibrancy of the colors, and whimsical atmosphere. I wanted to see if I could achieve a similar effect in 3D.

At first, the size of the environment seemed a bit daunting, considering the time constraints. But it also seemed like a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and push myself, which was exactly what I was seeking in a concept. After breaking down what needed to be done, I figured that Delphin’s concept has a lot of repeating elements which allowed me to work with modular pieces, trim sheets, and tileable textures which saved me a lot of time and was something that I wanted to showcase in a personal portfolio piece for a while.

Antonio: I really love a realistic style for my scenes. There were a lot of inspirations, but the main one for me, in this case, was Monster Hunter‘s environments. The main idea was to create something similar to a camp of people hunting dragons and using the skull of one as cover. Other inspirations and benchmarks of quality are scenes from God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn, I really love how they create organic scenes with all that quality and the amazing composition for the pictures that they create.

Yinuo: The concept itself was very inspiring on its own, but to supplement some details I looked at the Zhangjiajie rock formations, kite festivals, and Toraja buildings in Indonesia.

Sophie Rose Stubinger's Dragon's Rise submission. A shot of a gnome village island against a brilliant blue sea, with more villages and a boat in the distance.

1st place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Sophie Rose Stübinger

What Was Your Favourite Part of Participating in the Challenge?

Sophie: Having this sense of community was definitely my favorite part of participating in the Challenge. Seeing other artists’ submissions not only motivated me to work on my own entry but I also learned a lot by following others’ progress and seeing how they tackle certain parts of their environment. Plus, it’s always great to connect with people, receive and give feedback, and just generally motivate each other throughout the process.

Antonio: The pressure that I felt of, “I need to work for this and end it,” I think that is something that makes me work harder and use more time on the process. Also creating the idea from scratch, I always love imagining the scene that I want to create, searching references, and just thinking about the story, the people, or the animals that are around there.

Yinuo: I really liked submitting progress screenshots every week. It’s difficult to remember how much progress you’ve made in the past week, re-evaluating my work on a week-to-week basis felt very rewarding and helped me to stay on track.

Antonio Bravo's Dragon's Rise submission. Close up of a campfire set underneath a giant dragon skull.

2nd place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Antonio Bravo

What Advice Do You Have for Future Challenge Participants?

Sophie: I think with Challenges like these, the process matters more than the final product that comes out of it. So don’t stress out too much about completing it in time. First and foremost, you should have fun with it. Use it as a learning experience and as an opportunity to connect with other artists. Especially as a student, I think it’s great to join and test your own skills, improve, and expand on it.

Antonio: Don’t do changes at the end of the Challenge because usually that doesn’t work, it’s important to have better organization in all the process and post more things on the submission. Ask more questions and use new tools as much as possible to learn how to use them.

Yinuo: Cliché advice that still holds true is to just have fun! Although it is nice to have a portfolio piece that you’re proud of, I think the way to make the most out of the Challenge is to experiment and try something new.

Image of Yinuo Chen's Dragon's Rise submission. A windmill town with flowing waterfalls is framed against a bright blue sky.

3rd place Dragon’s Rise: The Forgotten Realms – Game Environment/Level Art (real-time): Yinuo Chen

Read our previous Dragon’s Rise interview with the Prop Art (Rendered) category winners >

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