Environmental Design Assets

Jan 2019

I originally posted this on reddit, as a response to a post asking for the best landscape and environmental design assets and tutorials.

As this seems to have been useful for others but may disappear in reddit's constant stream of posts, I thought it would be a good idea to capture the information on the site. So here it is, current as of Jan 2019.

Sounds as if you're on a similar journey to the one I've been on :) It's a long, arduous road but there's plenty of fun to be had, and plenty of people around to help. First off I'd recommend the following discords:

Awesome Technologies: https://discord.gg/jaaDWK2

Nature Manufacture: https://discord.gg/ErYgpDA

Procedural Worlds: https://discord.gg/bMK7s5D

Each of these asset devs make tools that are more or less indispensable for environment design. I've listed them below, plus a few others, along with some pointers of what they're good for and what problems they solve. You won't need them all right away, but you might well come across them at some stage.

I've recently started charting my own progress on a YouTube channel which you might want to subscribe to. It's not particularly slick but I'm hoping that by showing some of the pitfalls I fall into, others can learn from my mistakes. They also tend to be a little overlong but there's a real lack of intermediate (more detailed) workflow videos on Unity environment design, so hopefully they're of use. This playlist is probably the one you'll want to keep an eye on as you progress:

Unity Assets - Tools and Workflows https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNQfQbka5OY&list=PL4p5NRamFPnjpaGRPkdMYQHCf6Vqr11yF

and maybe start with this video:

Gaia, Vegetation Studio etc. An overview of different environmental assets for Unity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfKucBIjc-o&list=PL4p5NRamFPnjpaGRPkdMYQHCf6Vqr11yF&index=2

A final word... I do VR dev too and have a similar passion for world building and exploring the environments I create in VR. It's quite a thrill. However it's not easy to make realistic environments perform well enough to run at a smooth 90fps. You might first want to start by not building for that platform, learn the tricks and pitfalls on desktop, then learn to further optimise at a later date. If you do go straight into VR, be aware that you'll have to make some sacrifices - your foliage will have to be less dense, post image effects fewer, etc. As a tip, look out for @SebastianCmentowski on the Awesome Technologies discord. He's a VR researcher who does a lot of nature simulations. He's super helpful and definitely someone whose advice to trust. @Recon/Dark is brilliant for advice on streaming.

On to the assets:

Nature Manufacture

Meadow Environment (top class, great value environment asset) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/vegetation/meadow-environment-dynamic-nature-132195?aid=1100lMeW

Advanced Rock Pack 1

Mountain Trees - Dynamic Nature (as with the rocks, shaders are VS compatible. This is not the case with all tree assets you'll find on the asset store) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/vegetation/trees/mountain-trees-dynamic-nature-107004?aid=1100lMeW

Advanced Foliage Pack 1 (as above, VS compatible) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/environments/advanced-foliage-pack-1-103151?aid=1100lMeW

R.A.M - River Auto Material (for rivers but also does paths - see the Meadow Environment demo) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/r-a-m-river-auto-material-101205?aid=1100lMeW

World Streamer

  • If you make large open worlds you'll need to chunk it into smaller pieces and stream each part as your player walks through it. Terrains in Unity are heavy in terms of performance overhead. You need to limit their size and resolution. (especially in VR!) Cutting a large terrain into small tiles and only loading the tiles around the player (replacing the distant ones with low poly mesh versions of the terrain) is one way to solve this problem. World Streamer helps you do this and will also stream in the other gameObjects in your scene. (Sectr, below, does the same job) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/utilities/world-streamer-36486?aid=1100lMeW

L.V.E - Lava & Volcano Environment

Awesome Technologies

  • If you're working in VR, you have no choice but to be thinking about performance at every step of the way. It's incredibly difficult to get smooth playing natural environments full of trees and foliage. Vegetation Studio (both standard and Pro) instances vegetation items on the GPU to allow you to display many more items than would otherwise be possible. GPU Instancer listed below does something similar but VS is the defacto solution for most environment artists at the moment - partly because high quality assets such as NatureManufacture's suite of environment packs supports it. It also comes with a bunch of useful utilities (a grass patch generator: takes 2D images and creates geometry for it, automatic billboard generation for trees, and a bunch of other stuff). Pro includes the concept of 'biomes' which allow you to paste onto your terrain areas with different texture rules and vegetation. Imagine pulling in a forest biome for example - this can be resized in the editor by adjusting spline points. Both allow you to procedurally add foliage onto the terrain based on rules (from height/steepness, to textures - e.g. if this part of the terrain is painted with grass and has a slope less than 30degrees, add grass)

Vegetation Studio (recommended if working in Unity 2017) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/vegetation-studio-103389?aid=1100lMeW

Vegetation Studio Pro (recommended if working in Unity 2018+) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/vegetation-studio-pro-131835?aid=1100lMeW


GPU Instancer (not by Nature Manufacture) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/utilities/gpu-instancer-117566?aid=1100lMeW

- recommended. Works with infinite worlds with repeating streaming terrain tiles, which VSPro cannot do easily out of the box. See: https://youtu.be/HmQl95GCNKU

Procedural Worlds

  • you can't really talk about environment design in Unity without coming across Adam Goodrich's assets. The tools he's developed have deservedly grown in popularity over the years.


  • a difficult asset to explain. At heart it's a system to allow you to shape (terraform) your landscapes. The default Unity terrain tools are blunt instruments compared to the stamping and procedural generation tools that gaia provides. If you think of the starter terrain as a piece of dough, the stampers allow you to mold the terrain using a cookie cutter approach; stamp in a mountain, stamp in a river bed, that kind of thing. On top of that, you can then texture the terrain using procedural rules (e.g. land higher that a certain altitude and at a steep incline should be rock, flat terrain should be grass, anything below sea level should be sand). Similar rules can then be used to cover your terrain in foliage (trees, grass, plants) and other details (rocks) - very much as VegetationStudio does. You can even spawn Points of Interest, for example, add villages (groups of gameObjects; houses, props) where the terrain is suitable (i.e. fits the criteria you've set). https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/gaia-42618?aid=1100lMeW



  • designed for easing the placement of details on your terrain, e.g. rocks, fences etc. Whereas Gaia does this across the entire landscape procedurally, Gena is more of an artistic paint brush - it's about manual placement rather than blanket spawning (although it does that too). The rules you set allow you to paint prefabs onto the scene in a semi-intelligent way. (See below for similar alternatives)

Sectr Complete

  • Like World Streamer, Sectr aims to solve the problem of needing to split your large open world into smaller chunks. Only recently bought by Procedural Worlds, integration with Gaia is hopefully on the way soon. Currently documentation is pretty thin on the ground, which makes it difficult to get started with, but Adam an co. are promising great things... https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/utilities/sectr-complete-15356?aid=1100lMeW


Terrain shader alternatives to CTS...


Relief Terrain Pack v3.3

Alternatives to Gena...

Polybrush (Beta)

Octave3D-Level Design

Alternatives to Gaia...

  • Truth be told, working exclusively inside of Unity for terrain generation has its limitations. The real pros use external tools to shape and chunk their terrains. They then import that into their projects. If realistic landscapes are your thing (especially ones based on real geo-locations) then you might consider these, if your budget allows...

WorldMachine https://www.world-machine.com/ Expensive professional tool. Has workflow for importing into Unity.

WorldCreator2 https://www.world-creator.com/

  • don't get the World Creator Unity asset. The dev has said that it won't be getting any more updates. He's now concentrating on the standalone version. As with WorldMachine, not cheap. I'm told that Z-brush is an alternative for terrain sculpting too.

Gaea https://quadspinner.com/gaea/

  • The new kid on the block from developers that make add-ons for WorldMachine. Very early days, and a bit buggy in parts but free for small 1K terrains (commercial use allowed) or one-off $99 cost for 4K exports. Node-based approach. Demo overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21mFsshqc2s

L3DT http://www.bundysoft.com/L3DT/



While thinking of external tools... Quixel's MegaScans is a library of photogrammetry assets and substance-based textures for realistic environments. Assets come LODed (different levels detail, more or less polys, are rendered depending on the player's distance from the object) however they're still quite 'heavy' and probably not suitable for VR without some optimisation (i.e. remove some of the higher LOD levels and reduce texture size/downgrade shaders etc.) https://quixel.com/ Subscription model, gives you access to the models and texture library. Any assets downloaded (except the free ones) can be used even after your sub expires.

Mad Maps

  • Think of this as a copy/paste utility for sections of your scene. Unlike Gaia which allows you to 'stamp' a part of the terrain, this copies everything - terrain, textures, and any gameObjects. A bit like cutting out pictures from different magazines and pasting them together into a collage, this enables you to easily bring together different parts of an environment. Can be useful if an asset has a demo scene that is small (maybe a tower on a hill) and you want to paste that into your environment. You may not need it now, but trust me one day you will :) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/mad-maps-111524?aid=1100lMeW


TurboScalpeur Grasses

  • You really will need Vegetation Studio for these. They're just 2D images, but VS will create the meshes for you and get them ready to add to your terrain. High quality scans.

HQ Photographic Textures Grass Pack Vol.1 https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/hq-photographic-textures-grass-pack-vol-1-32656?aid=1100lMeW

HQ Photographic Textures Grass Pack Vol.2 https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/hq-photographic-textures-grass-pack-vol-2-37585?aid=1100lMeW

Tropical Forest Pack

Advanced Foliage Shaders v.5

Next-Gen Soft-Shadows (Contact shadow solution for performance)

  • Shadows are a frame-rate killer. If you've done previous VR dev (interiors) you'll know that you should bake all lighting to a lightmap and delete everything except your main directional light. Open worlds can't be lightmapped in the same way (and by the way baking reflection probes is a bad idea for performance in VR). For best results turn off shadow casting on all you smaller details - e.g. grass, flowers, plants. Anything small. Add a contact shadow effect (I use NGSS) on your main camera and get the visual benefit of shadows without the hit. https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/vfx/shaders/next-gen-soft-shadows-79454?aid=1100lMeW

MapMagic World Generator

  • I've talked about the problems of streaming large open worlds. Another way to deal with this problem is to procedurally generate your landscape. This is a node-based landscape generator - you set up rules in your node graph then you can go for miles. Nice integration with Vegetation Studio. https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/tools/terrain/mapmagic-world-generator-56762?aid=1100lMeW There's an evaluation version of the asset (something I wish more developers did) so well worth a try to see if it's your kind of thing: http://www.denispahunov.ru/MapMagic/eval.html This is a bit buried in this list of assets, but my instinct is that you'll probably get a lot out of MapMagic - it let's you do some very cool and impressive landscape generation very quickly and easily. It's not cheap but definitely add it to your wishlist and wait for it to go on sale.

Manufacture K4

Rock and Boulders 2 (FREE) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/props/exterior/rock-and-boulders-2-6947?aid=1100lMeW

Pirates Island

Coniferous forest


Weather and environmental Effects:


Wet Stuff

Kronnect I'm a big fan of this developer. He's really approachable on his discord and has an obvious passion for the assets he makes

Global Snow



AI / Animals

Bird Flock Bundle


  • The asset links above contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click on and purchase something that I've recommended. It won't cost you any more money but it'll help me fund my own development projects while recommending assets I personally use and endorse.




Yughues His paid assets are good too, but these are good to get you started

Yughues Free Rocks https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/environments/yughues-free-rocks-13568?aid=1100lMeW

Free Bushes https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/vegetation/plants/yughues-free-bushes-13168?aid=1100lMeW

Free Ground Materials https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/floors/yughues-free-ground-materials-13001?aid=1100lMeW

Free Nature Materials https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/yughues-free-nature-materials-13237?aid=1100lMeW

Free Stone Materials https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/stone/yughues-free-stone-materials-12962?aid=1100lMeW

Book Of The Dead: Environment


Medieval Buildings

Finally,...you mentioned working in a fantasy/medieval vein. I haven't really touched on any of what I would consider more of the architectural assets. There's a ton of them from 3DForge's excellent modular Interior/Exteriors to Aquarias Max's assets (which I personally haven't tried but I'm told are recommended)

Here's a quick list of some of my favourites

Medieval Village Environment

The Dark Dungeon Kit

Multistory Dungeons

Make Your Fantasy Game - Fantasy Environment Assets


  • A great dev who really cares about his customers. Gaia comes with some of these assets as demos. Very modular, but also uses the idea of blueprints (ready-made collections of these modular assets which can be shared. e.g. ready built houses and variations)

Village Exteriors Kit https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/38045?aid=1100lMeW

Village Interiors Kit https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/17033?aid=1100lMeW

TaD - Sewer Kit https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/12867?aid=1100lMeW


Viking Village https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/29140?aid=1100lMeW

Orc - Watchtower https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/90048?aid=1100lMeW

Humans - Watchtower https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/97217?aid=1100lMeW

Palace of Orinthalian https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/7075?aid=1100lMeW

Coastal Gun Battery https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/?stay#!/content/1951?aid=1100lMeW

Sun Temple https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/environments/sun-temple-115417?aid=1100lMeW

Flooded Grounds (not medieval but some good vegetation. A high quality asset that's recently gone free) https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/3d/environments/flooded-grounds-48529?aid=1100lMeW


... maybe you can tell from my sprawling post that people get quite passionate about this kind of world building once they get going! Be warned :) It's a bit of a black hole for your time and finances! Please feel free to reach out to me by PM, on the various discords or on YouTube. I'm quite happy to share my findings. The way I see it, we're all learning as we go along, some have more expertise than others but you never stop learning and having others to share ideas with can be incredibly beneficial and a source of motivation. Unity let's you get very far very quickly but you do eventually hit performance issues and other roadblocks. Exteriors are not easy, especially for VR!

TLDR. In case you skipped past it, my gut feeling is that Map Magic may actually be the best asset for you to get started with, if you want large environments to explore. Get that and Vegetation Studio, and a Nature Manufacture like the Meadow Environment and you could quite quickly make large immersive worlds (like Skyrim) to explore. What you lose is the ease of crafting your own landscape, and easily placing of Points of Interests like houses /castles etc. It can be done - in MapMagic terms you pin the terrain tile to make it static rather than dynamic, but this starts to work against what MapMagic is good at, i.e. the procedural landscape generation. If crafting is more your thing then Gaia is probably more the asset for you. Just make sure you start off with smaller terrains.)

  • The asset links above contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click on and purchase something that I've recommended. It won't cost you any more money but it'll help me fund my own development projects while recommending assets I personally use and endorse.